A Psijic’s Measure: Third Moon

Spoiler Alert: References to and quotations from ESO story quests.

Author: Mike/@Shishwick

Aliasandrya

The trek north to find the siblings Tythis and Nevena has me hopeful, for if I can reunite these two my chances of finding my sisters… Wait, sisters? Yes this rings true yet I do not know them…. How in Nirn did that happen? No matter, what is, is. I shall delve deeper into that matter at a later time.

I briefly jot in my journal about Tythis and Nevena:

A relic hunter told me of a young Dunmer who fled Vivec City after committing murder. Her brother has gone north to search for her in the Forgotten Wastes. No one has seen either of them since.

ESO: Echoes of a Fallen House

So a day’s journey away. I stock up on food, potions, and a magic scroll I found deep in an ancestral tomb… Can’t wait to see what it does. On my trip north I go out of my way to clear the roads and surrounding areas of trolls, nix hounds, cliff striders, and hive golems. One, because I  might end up helping those I seek , and two, it feels good. Feels good to burn  and zap that which seek to feed on me. 

As I stop for the night I feel my chin taken gently in an invisible but comforting hand. My head is turned to the side and two names are lovingly whispered into my ear. “Cat. Twig.” My eyes behold the eternal chase of  Secunda and Masser. Yet the proper names as I have learned them seem out of place… The gentle hand, the loving whisper: “Jone and Jode.” This breathy recitation leaves me with goosebumps. For in my perfect recall…

According to Varieties of Faith, “Jone” and “Jode” are the names of Aldmeri deities of the moons, but in Khajiit cosmology they are parts of the ja-Kha’jay, the Lunar Lattice and the core of their religion. In their creation myth, Fadomai gave birth to the Moons and their Motions around the same time she gave birth to Nirni and Azurah. No connection to Lorkhan, except that Lorkhaj is also a child of Fadomai.

The Unofficial Elder Scrolls Pages

However, Lorkhaj’s body is indeed a moon in Khajiit tales, but not Jone nor Jode. It’s a third moon, one that can’t be seen except under very special circumstances. As explained by a candidate who walked the path:

“We’ve walked the Two Moons Path, the path of Jone and Jode. But there is a third moon: The Dark Moon, the enemy of the Khajiit. Lorkhaj, the Missing God.”

Shazah

It’s the Missing God that chills my soul.

I fall unconscious.

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A Psijic’s Measure: Cutting the Pattern

Spoiler alert: From here on out, this story contains numerous references to ESO story quests. You’ll learn who’s who, their outcomes, and much about the main story quest, alliance story quests, and province story quests. Be forewarned!

Contributing Author: Mike/@Shishwick

My experience of time isn’t chronological.

I heard the Golden Knight cry “Stand behind my shield” before I met Darien in Camlorn. Valserrin led me through the Dreaming Cave before Varen sent me to Cold Harbour. I performed favors in exchange for an introduction to the proxy queen before I fought beside her cousin, my own Queen Ayrenn.

And I knew Meridia’s golden love before I drew my first breath.

Oriandra warned me this would happen, when she learned the task Loremaster Celarus had set me on.

“He won’t tell you, and neither will Josajeh, but sealing time rifts has consequences. You won’t be the same, my friend. Neither will reality be the same for you. You won’t know what has come before, and what comes after. With each rift you seal, the Now embeds itself in you, and that destroys all sense of the passage of time.”

But I am getting ahead of myself.

After Twig was taken, I wandered the docks of Vulkhel Guard, looking for signals, talking to anyone who might know something. Some said the Argonian trading vessel had set sail for Black Marsh, others for Elsweyr, still others for Hammerfell. But one merchant told me, “She has been all those places, that ship, the Chub Loon. No, she sails now a short ways–to Summerset, to the port of Shimmerene.”

He told me they had few weapons on board, which they’d need to fight off the maormer if they were heading to a more distant port. They lacked the supplies, too, for a lengthier sail. “No, they are skipping across the small sea, to Shimmerene!”

For the next few days, I listened and watched until I uncovered the next ship set for Shimmerene, and then, at dusk, while the sailors turned to their cups, I stole on board and hid inside a crate packed with ginger, saltrice, and rose-of-archon, with just enough space left over for a small wood elf girl like me. And there I stayed through to the next evening, when the movement of the ship settled into the slow rock of a boat at port, and the songs of the sailors faded to a distant chant.

The air in Shimmerene, even down at the docks above the odor of marsh and seaweed, carried the perfume of the pink cherry blossoms of Summerset.

I stepped out into the night, with stars dancing around the twin moons. Even here, even in an island far from our home of Haven, Jone and Jode stood witness to all that happened below.

“Which one am I? The little one?”

“No. You’re the one in front because I am always following you.”

I ran up and down the docks, looking for the Chub Loon, asking every merchant if they had seen the ship–had they seen a girl like me, only younger?

“It left five days ago.”

“No, it was never here.”

“Isn’t that it? No, wait. That’s some other Argonian vessel. Can’t tell them apart, these trade ships, nor the stinking ones aboard them. Cannibals. Reptiles. Cats. Better to have sea elves ravaging our shores than the likes of you!”

I spent my first night in Summerset wrapped in burlap bags in an unused corner of a warehouse near the docks. I had fear aplenty, and I felt the rough edges of being unwanted there on that land the Altmer had claimed, but an ember of hope burned, too. I would ask the dockmaster; I’d look at the logs.

The dockmaster was Bosmer, like me. I didn’t tell him why I needed know if the Chub Loon had come, nor did I ask if he’d seen my sister. But we know: we can feel the family pull, the old connections, when we are with each other.

“Looking for kin, are you?” he said. “Then, quick. Look through these. No one will bother you, while you do, that’ll I’ll ensure.”

I didn’t have to look far in the dock logs, only back two pages. Two days ago, the Chub Loon had unloaded merchandise and taken aboard more, heading south around the island to the Port of Alinor.

I didn’t know if my sister had stayed on the ship or snuck off, with the crates of moon sugar and ancestor silk. But I would look. It was the only thing I could do.

I spent my days running, through Shimmerine, through the countryside, along the roads, the paths, in valleys and mountains.

One day, I came upon a gryphon’s nest, larger than a Bosmer home, made of rough branches–logs, to me–lined with the hide of deer and welwa. I hid behind a spruce bush, to watch. I had never seen a gryphon but in my mind’s eye, listening to the stories my father told me.

I heard something chirp, a chatter and a warble. Beneath the nest, a solitary chick, larger than a senche cub and with four legs, each ending in an eagle’s foot with yellow talons, cocked its head at me, then cried.

“What? All alone?” I asked. “Where is your mother? Your father? They will want to eat me! Where are your clutch-sisters?”

A single arrow lay on the ground beside the chick. I made my way cautiously to the young gryphon. He chuckled and cocked his head again. He let me run my hands over his feathers and fur–no wounds.

Another arrow lay a few meters from the nest. I followed a trail of arrows until I found the adult gryphon, slayed.

We would not leave prey to rot in the sun. We would use every part. We were not Altmer–even those, like me, who had broken with the Green Pact, had ancestral ties that would not allow us to kill for sport.

As I headed into the valley, leaving the scene of slaughter, I heard the chirp and chuckle. The gryphon chick followed. I led him to a stream, where he drank and bathed. He caught a fish with his talons, and we both ate.

Gryphons live for centuries. The chick’s parent would have been hundreds of years old, and the chick would stay a chick for decades. He wouldn’t make it long in these hills and valleys, thick with wolves, welwa, lions, and sport-hunting Altmer. I let him stay with me. I would protect him and feed him, and, in exchange, I would not be alone.

He’s with me still, though he’s larger now–an adolescent gryphon! More fledgling than chick! And we will see which comes first, my time to leave this form to rest or his to fly to mountains to nest.

Deep in the mountains of Summerset, near Eldbur Ruins, with my gryphon hopping behind me, I came upon a tall and quiet Imperial woman with dark hair and grey eyes. She stood in the shadows of a pine, stepping out as I approached.

“You are looking for something, for someone, and your journey has brought you here.”

She led me to her camp in a hollow behind the ruins. She fed me stew and gave me meat for the gryphon chick. We drank sweet water from the creek. She spread blankets beside the fire, and she let me sleep.

When I woke the next morning, she motioned for me to stay. I had already raised myself to one knee, wanting to get an early start.

“Who are you looking for? Where are you going?”

I told her all, about the maormer’s slaughter of our parents, about stowing away to Vulkhel Guard, about Twig’s abduction, and about my journey now to follow her.

As I spoke, she listened with a quality which I had not yet encountered, but which I’ve since come to know as the Psijic’s way, for it has become my own patterned habit of listening. She listened within–within me, within the energy behind my words, within the intention and the feeling, and she reached understanding.

“Your journey has value,” she said. “I want you to understand this, at its core. Will you come with me? I will take you to a place where few are invited, and those few who are all possess what you have.”

“What is that?” I asked confused.

“It can’t be easily put into words,” she said, looking past me. “But, for now, let’s simply call it earnestness.”

I went, because I didn’t know where else to go, because I felt that, following her, I might be led to someplace that could bring answers, or, at the least, could help me to find them myself. I went because mystery touched me, through her eyes, and something–something deep within me–responded to that, realizing that it would be only in following mystery, wherever it might lead, that I would have the chance of finding Twig again.

She led to me to a ruined fortress in a hillside guarded by imps.

“Don’t get within fifteen meters of them,” she cautioned. “Stay down low.” So we crept behind the boulders and gneiss outcroppings, up the crumbling marble steps and down into a cellar of the keep where a golden shimmer hovered in the air.

One’s first time through a portal is disorienting. It wasn’t until I’d traveled through them fifteen times or more that I grew accustomed to the squeeze and following dissolution of form, then the instant rejoining of every cell and molecule into the shape that is me, now on the other side.

Artaeum stretched like a Summerset of Aetherius, shimmering in light, buzzing with the high frequency of energy, life, thought, love, and magic.

“Where are we?”

“This is the Psijic’s island, Artaeum.” She took me to the tower and introduced me to Loremaster Celarus. They walked a few paces and spoke in hushed tones, turning often to look back at me.

His eyes were like hers: quiet, still, shining.

“As long as you’re sojourning through Tamriel,” he said when he approached, “you might as well put your peregrinations to good use. Close the rifts you find.”

“But I’m looking for my sister,” I protested. “That’s my purpose. Will I find her?”

“You will search,” he replied, “and that is what matters. Along the way, you will be part of great things. You will meet great folk. You will be part of the story. And you will help us.”

Some have told me that Loremaster Celarus and the Psijics used me to perform their tasks, but what is our life for, if not to be of use? Who knows what pattern was cut from the broadcloth of my life when our parents were killed, when we stowed away, when Twig was taken, when I began my search? What is our life for, if not to be changed by the pattern cut in the fabric through which our paths are stitched?

And it was their eyes: that stillness, that calm, that light. It was their eyes that convinced me.

So I left the island with a satchel full of seals to place on rifts in time, and my search for my sister became intertwined with the search for breaks in time, and that search became interwoven with the stories of those I met along the way, with Darien, Valserrin, Varen, and Ayrenn. With Razum-dar. With the Mane, the Silvenar, the Green Lady. And with Prev, Talanie, Darkpaw, and Aliasandrya. My search for one sister led me to many kin.

At times when I felt most unsettled, adrift in a story without a beginning, middle, and end, I would confess to Ally, “I don’t know how I fit. I can’t find where the fabric starts and where it ends.”

And she would reply, “‘Tis temporary. We have a goal. Remember it. If you cannot, take my hand and I will anchor you.” She spoke with complete conviction, an absolute certainty paid for by the love and blood of her adoptive parents.

Sometimes I feel, in this great Nirn, that we are all orphans, and that it is only the hand of another, in ours, that keeps us here, with two feet on the ground.

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Author’s note: Elements of this story are collaborations with friends who play ESO. Mike/@Shishwick, whose Aliasandrya (Ally) is a key character, is a co-writer and collaborator, providing Ally’s backstory and main plot, her character and motivations, and writing most (and possibly all) of her lines of dialogue. I’ll do my best in these chapters to note the contributors, writers, and co-writers. Of course, if you play, we’ll love to have you join us! And if you play with us, we’ll love to have you contribute to and become part of this story! 🙂

Spectrum: What Is Friendship?

My ideal in-person friendship works like this: Every three weeks or once a month, my friend and I meet on a weekday afternoon for tea or coffee at a café, preferably one where we can sit in a bright garden or cozy indoor corner facing the door. My friend shares their current interest, talking without interruption for as long as they want. I don’t have to ask questions–I just listen and respond, drawing connections between what my friend says and my current thoughts and observations about life. Then it’s my turn, and I get to talk without interruption–even for ten minutes, if I want to–about my current special interest, and after I’ve said all that’s begged to be said, my friend can ask me questions and draw connections. And then, we can talk more, or, better yet, sit in companionable silence while the birds sing around us and the sun shines and the light bathes our eyes and quiets our minds.

I had a friendship like that! It lasted for about three years. During that time, my current topics of interest were cello, gardening, and life-patterns in romantic relationships (and the intersects of those three interests) and those topics engaged my friend’s attention. Then, my special interest shifted to the Sims, artificial intelligence, and SimLit, and my friend grew restless. I have a dread fear of boring people, and I learned in early childhood that it’s not always possible to talk about special interests with others because they find the topics boring and the details overwhelming. So, I made the effort to talk about things of mutual interest, and so, while it doesn’t fit my rather high and specific ideal, this friendship still offers me enjoyment. I’m used to keeping my special interests to myself.

For my friend, though, this friendship doesn’t come close to her ideal or her expectations. Its limitations frustrate her, and she’s in the process of letting it go. She would like a friendship that fits her expectations for the “normal” progression of a friendship: Meeting each other’s partners; having meals at each other’s houses; doing things together on weekends.

Those requirements don’t work for me. I become confused and overwhelmed when I’m with my boyfriend and another that I’m close to: there’s just too much for me to process, and I don’t enjoy it. I don’t want to have others over. My home’s my sanctuary, and I count on being able to keep the space filled with only the feelings and thoughts of my boyfriend and myself. And my weekends are taken with restoring my energy from the busy week, doing my online teaching activities, taking care of all the household tasks that wait for the weekend, and playing (which means, cello, writing, gardening, video games, and daydreaming).

What I liked about our friendship was that it didn’t fit “normal” expectations: it was special, and it fit me, and for a while, it fit both of us.

My coworkers spend time in the evenings and on weekends with their friends. Since I know that work takes as much of their capacity as it does mine (around 90-100%, more, if they are mothers of young children), I wonder how they are able to manage this. From what I gather, it’s because, for the most part, their time with their friends in leisure hours refreshes, fulfills, and engages them. It’s not a hardship or sacrifice: it’s a treat. In a few cases, some may get together with friends because it’s expected, and then regret it later because they’re tired and drained–but for the most part, they seem to enjoy it and it adds something to their lives.

I’ve tried this–honestly, earnestly, sincerely, arduously, and prodigiously. I’ve had times when I’ve invited people over for supper or afternoon tea, held small house parties, tried to get together with others for hikes or outings (which, somehow, I’ve never been able to find takers for), and even accepted a few of the few-and-far-between invitations I’ve received. It’s left me exhausted and more than unhappy.

The requirements for this type of “normal” friendship do not fit me and detract from my ability to function, handle all the aspects of my life, and be happy.

Friendship has been a life-long puzzle for me. My mom tells a story about my social interactions in preschool: I would welcome every new child, showing them around the room, explaining when we could use the toys, describing the schedule, letting them know some of the less obvious rules, enthusing about the delicious graham crackers and warning about the overly sweet apple juice. The new children would think that, in me, they had found their new best friend. After showing them around, I would head off alone for one my favorite activities (either painting on the easel or working on the tracks for the train set). My mom said that this behavior confused the children, who expected that I would play with them. When I first heard this story and reflected on my own thoughts and feelings during those times, I remember feeling that we were a community. In my mind, we were all friends, and I wanted everyone to belong. And once everyone felt welcome, then I wanted us to be free to do what we wanted to do. And what I wanted to do was to paint, without interruption and without having to talk.

I had friends in kindergarten and first grade whom I played with and walked home from school with. After we moved to a new town when I was in second grade, I could never figure out the social rules and remained on the outside until I made few good friends in junior high and high school. During those lonely days in elementary school, I thought about friendship a lot. I studied Joan Walsh Anglund’s book A Friend is Someone Who Likes You. The only part of it that really made sense to me was the part about how sometimes a tree could be your friend; for all of my life, trees have been some of my best friends.

I didn’t, and still don’t, equate “someone who likes you” with friendship. Yes, I want my friends to like me. But not everyone who likes me is my friend. I have had former bosses and retired coworkers come up to me and say, “You are one of my favorite people!” It has always puzzled me, as much as it’s gratified me. If I’m a favorite person of theirs, why aren’t we friends?

I have “friendliness” down: It’s how I treat everyone, and this brings me great happiness. I am still much like that child in preschool who wants everyone–literally everyone and every living thing on the planet–to feel that they belong, they are valued, they are part of the community.

Friendship, I’m still learning about.

There was a time last year, after a few intensive years of striving to find an approach towards developing and maintaining friendship that fit me, when I decided “I don’t do friendship.” I do friendliness. I had read an article from the New York Times called “Friendship’s Dark Side: ‘We Need a Common Enemy” which reviewed studies on friendship, emphasizing its exclusive nature. During the time I read it, I was in the process of being excluded in the office. Early morning gossip, before I arrived, drew together some of the coworkers at the expense of leaving me outside the circle. One of my coworkers, who’d been a close work partner for over ten years, stopped initiating greetings and conversations. I still greeted her–because of my commitment to friendliness and cordiality, but as the lines of connection between her and another coworker grew taut, those between the two of us were snipped.

It’s possible to see this almost physically. When I walk into a gossip session happening in the office across the hall, I can see lines of light and energy stretched tight between the circle of gossipers. It shimmers and glows the more energetically they talk about someone else, actually feeding off of the energy of meanness and exclusion. This brings them closer.

I’m not willing to engage in that, though I can see how much pleasure and emotional satisfaction it brings them, like a feel-good drug for their brains and a social cement for their relationships.

For me, that’s not friendship. Or if it might be called that, I’m not willing to pay the price.

So what is friendship?

One of my online friends, Mike (@Shishwick at ESO), shared this definition with me:

“Friendship is a quest, a goal, and a lifelong commitment. For me it begins when I desire to know someone, for whatever reason. If the feeling is mutual then I willingly learn about that person, the whys and hows if you will. Once I know the person I can begin to understand the reasons behind the whys and hows. Once understanding is attained, love happens. Through love we become better people and closer to our true purpose here on Earth in my opinion: Truth, Beauty, and Kindness. What is brotherly love if not friendship? “

–Mike/@Shishwick

Substitute “sibling love” for “brotherly love”, and most of this definition works for me! I don’t expect or require my friends to make a lifelong commitment: I realize that circumstances, needs, and life-demands change, and so I am happy to let go of the friendship when the other person realizes that it no longer fits or satisfies them. However, when I examine my own feelings, I realize that I do make a lifelong commitment towards my friends. I’d welcome back any of the friends who were once, but are no longer, in my life, and, in fact, I still count erstwhile friends as friends.

The part of the definition which resonates most strongly with me is that it rests on understanding and the feelings of goodwill–the love–that flow from that. This love is caritas, αγάπη, core to the type of friendliness which welcomes others into the circle. This inclusive friendship views the world and the cosmos as one community, of which we are all parts. There is always room for one more.

This is friendship. One of the aspects I love most about this definition is that it leaves room for online friendships to qualify–and that’s a subject for a future post!

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Spectrum: Immersion, Transitions, and Executive Function

“I wish I could feel that,” my mom said to me a few winters ago when I visited her in Florida. We were standing near a willow thicket by a marsh at the Gulf Coast’s edge, and my ears were alert to a flycatcher’s chatter. It was a common state for me–my senses keen and my attention focused on finding and identifying the bird. I didn’t know what my mom was referring to. But it was the joy in being connected and engaged with the world around me through the gift of immersion.

My New Year’s resolution this year is to give myself permission to experience immersion.

Part of this project in exploring, identifying, and embracing my neurodivergence includes incorporating the gifts, as well as the challenges.

I’m realizing now that the capacity for immersion is a gift.

For decades, I’ve felt that I couldn’t afford to become immersed in an activity or hobby because it seemed to interfere with daily life, and, I wrongly suspected, with my mental health.

My maternal grandmother experienced manic-depression, and at one point, when I’d been blissfully high after becoming immersed in watching the sky, I began to suspect that this high led into hypo-mania, and that, by indulging in it, I was wiring my brain in a way that might leave me susceptible to full-blown mania. I decided the smart thing, the responsible thing, to do would be to reel it in, play it low-key, and keep myself as balanced as possible.

I’m realizing now that that’s, likely, nonsense.

I also put reins on the experience of immersion because, when I was a young adult, it interfered with my ability to manage the daily tasks of running a household: getting supper made, doing the dishes, cleaning house, washing laundry. It was too easy to get lost in a novel, a movie, a video game, painting, writing, gardening, bird-watching, or playing the guitar and forget everything else.

I sometimes found that my immersion in a project, activity, or novel would make me late for work, miss a buss, or skip an appointment. And sometimes, I would not be able to fully transition out of the immersed state, so I would move through the day with 60-80% of my attention and focus still within that novel, painting, or piece of music. This made functioning challenging, and, when we lived in the bustling city of Seattle, potentially dangerous.

So, I limited my experience of immersion in exchange for learning to manage daily life.

And somewhere along the way, I picked up the idea that immersion, in and of itself, was bad and dangerous and unhealthy: an indulgence I couldn’t afford.

I am now declaring that notion to have outlived its purpose!

Immersion has a place in my life, and it has the potential to bring joy, to facilitate the development of gifts, and to allow me to be fully, wholly, engagedly me.

For example: I’ve been playing cello for nearly nine years. This means that I can, sometimes, actually play in tune, and that I can play some pieces well enough that I can lose myself in them and allow the music itself to be expressed through me. Right now, I’m working through (for probably the fifth time) Bach’s first cello suite. There is something there! When I become immersed, it feels as if something external–this concept, this structure, this pattern that finds resonance within our own neurological patterns–enters through the music and I align with it. The intonation of my instrument becomes an intonation of myself. This experience is healthy, healing, invigorating, pure, and in alignment with something beyond the reaches of this universe. I would not trade this experience for anything. It is, to me, what life and what being a human being are all about.

I am learning that the way to handle immersion so that I can benefit from my gifts is to approach it, not in the hedonistic way I did as a young adult, but with maturity and planning.

The interference that my immersion caused in my daily life happened when I had trouble with the transition from the immersed experience into the next activity or when I became upset at interruptions.

So this year, I will approach transitions consciously and strategically. I am writing this half an hour before I need to head into the office. I know, then, that I will need to put a bookmark in these thoughts and ideas, especially if I don’t have time to complete this draft before I leave, so that my focus and attention is freed up to engage with (and immerse myself in) the projects I need to do at work today.

A few minutes before I leave, I’ll close out my browser, shut off my laptop, and fold down the lid, signalling to myself that this writing session is over. Then I have the routines of dressing in my office clothes, packing up my lunch, and saying goodbye to my boyfriend to close out those synapses that have been opened through this writing session.

On the drive into the office, I’ll listen to classical music to engage the busy part of my brain while immersing myself, with as much presence as I’m able to summon, in the act of driving, an activity which is challenging for me and my capacity for attention, information-processing, and physical coordination.

These transition activities, and the routines associated with them, should help me emerge from the immersion in writing so that I can engage fully with my responsibilities at the office.

With cello practice, it’s much simpler: The practice itself has clear boundaries. First, I take my cello out of its case and adjust the end-pin. Then, I rosin my bow. Next I sit with the cello, adjust my hold, and tune the instrument. By the time I begin scales, I am in it.

Practice sessions have a clear beginning and ending: When I complete what I’ve set out to play and practice that day, I’m done. And then, the closing process: Put in the end-pin, wipe the cello, put the cello in the case, loosen the bow, set aside the music. These simple actions pull me back so that I can attend to what comes next.

Interruptions are challenging. I often don’t hear–or can’t comprehend–what’s been said, if it’s a spoken interruption, which, it seems, most interruptions are. I find that putting my attention into my body helps. First, I feel the soles of my feet. Then, if I’m sitting, I feel where the chair presses against me. Then I breathe and tell my mind that it is time to be verbal–time to think in words again. It sometimes takes a few moments, and I usually need to ask the person to repeat themselves.

This is, generally, an uncomfortable process, and I think this may part of the reason that I decided, years ago, to forgo the immersive experience, at least if there were danger of being interrupted, and, since I live with someone else and work in a busy office, there is, nearly always, that possibility.

So now, I’m going to take a different approach: I’m going to attempt to approach my response to interruptions mindfully and with kindness, towards myself and the other. I will realize that the interruptions from a state of immersion are a bit painful–or, at the very least, uncomfortable–so I’ll be gentle with myself as I make the transition into a verbal state again. And I’ll be kind and understanding of the other person–the one who caused the interruption–realizing that they are simply interacting with me in a normal manner. It’s not their fault that I experience some discomfort as I move out of my immersed or focused state and back into a state that allows me to respond to them.

Along the way, I’ll be watching to see if mindful compassion is enough. I may need to develop or learn some specific strategies to help me with interruptions.

With some projects, I need to realize that I have to stop them before they are finished, and so I am the one interrupting my immersion. For example, it’s now time for me to head to the office. But I want to stay and finish this post, and I can feel that my brain is longing to complete these thoughts.

And yet. My goal in allowing myself to become immersed is to do so in a way that I can manage with my responsibilities and the tasks of daily living.

So I am going to tell myself that these ideas will still be there when I return. I can put those bookmarks in, I can let my attention shift to writing HTML code, and when I return to complete this post, I will be able to re-immerse myself. (I will let you know how this goes!)


It is the next morning. Yesterday’s practice of immersing myself in writing, emerging from that state, and completing a productive day at the office went well, in part because it was a very busy day at the office, so I was able to move from one immersed state to another.

Overall, I feel that if I trust the structure of my life, the routines of work schedules and my own schedules for tasks, I will be able to engage successfully with the immersive experience. Each morning, I review for myself the few things that must get done and the things that I want to do. I identify options and times where I have flexibility: for example, I don’t have to practice cello after I do the dishes; I can do it in the afternoon, if I prefer, or even skip the practice altogether, if yoga, spending time in the garden, or simply daydreaming better suit the needs of the day.

In other words, within structure, I can give myself the freedom to become immersed. It doesn’t have to be one or the other–I can live responsibly while still living rich.

Author’s note: Many of the ideas in and the inspiration for this post were spurred by an amazing series of articles I found on “Hacking Your Executive Function” by autofspoons, one of my new favorite bloggers.

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12 Epiphanies

xii. It has everything to with a spark of the divine.

All of the guests had left, except for Ishaan who slept on the love-seat. Kate wrapped a quilt around him, pulled on a winter coat and stocking cap, laced her running shoes, and headed out to the wharf.

It was that strange, quiet time between night and dawn.

What had it all been about?

What had she sought, all those days ago, when she’d called her mother to see about Christmas?

Had she sought this?

She had sought something more…

More than a vacation in Hawaii.

Certainly more than the media’s hype of buying things to fill that void.

She had sought to discover what it was that the void was, in actuality, and what might, actually, fill it.

And she had discovered that it could be filled with music.

With the longing for magic, and maybe with a bit of magic itself.

She had discovered that turning towards was easier than turning away.

She had discovered that other people, too, have this impulse towards generosity, towards sharing, towards coming together.

She had discovered that all are welcome.

All is welcome.

Every part of being human is part of Christmas, even the brokenness, even the hurt, even solitude, and even company. All are welcome, the man sent to kill as well as the girl who stashes her gifts and the old woman who forgets to take her meds.

Christmas embraces all-that-is.

Her phone chimed with a text from her boyfriend.

How was your Xmas, babe? Miss u. Next yr, I’ll be home. Data-crunching. Report writing. I’ll be back. And then we can have a real Xmas. Make it up to u.

That would be nice next year to have Christmas with her boyfriend. But it wouldn’t be better than this year.

If she were lucky, and she resolved to be, she’d store the twelve gifts she’d received, so she could open them throughout the year, so that she would never forget what she had learned, what she had felt.

We have Christmas because we need it. We need to discover what is real, what we truly are, what it means to be human, which includes all-that-is, which contains, inside of us, this great immensity of it all–the spark of divinity within a human form.

Christmas acknowledges the birth of that spark, and Kate resolved that night to keep it burning all the year.

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Author’s note: How fun it is to collaborate with The Sims 4! I had a general idea of what I wanted to express in this series, which is my understanding of Christmas,that it can represent to us what it means to be human–all of it, including pain, loneliness, joy, bliss, and that at its core, our longing for Christmas magic is our longing to experience our true humanity: a corporeal form through which the spark of consciousness flows, and the alchemy of consciousness, in “turning towards,” as it infuses our being.

I wanted to tell this story, initially, through Kate’s encounters with the people she met. I’d planned that she’d meet vendors and, possibly, homeless people in the parks and squares of San Myshuno. But all the vendors were pre-mades! So, I just played the game to discover what Sims the game might generate. (Kate is the only CAS Sim–all the other characters, except for pre-made Geeta, were game-generated Sims.) The game created wonderful characters for this story, especially Bertha, who, for some reason, always showed up in bathrobe or night-gown and slippers. She had the dazed moodlet much of the time, too.

In my imagination, Geeta Rosoya was the neighbor who’d left the boxes of decorations, but Kate never met her until the Christmas party. You can imagine how excited I was when Geeta finally came to the door, with that neighbor-interaction of claiming that something smelled delicious!

Writing SimLit contains such an element of magic–it never ceases to astound me how, somehow, the game seems to pick up on and expand upon our intentions.

12 Epiphanies

xi. Stefan’s Story

“You’re cooking rice!” Stefan said.

“I am,” replied Kate. “It goes with everything.”

“I haven’t had rice on Christmas since 1968.”

Stefan grew quiet while the others ate and chatted.

“Do you like the meal?” Ashaan asked Bertha.

“Oh, yes. Indeed,” replied Bertha. “I don’t know when I’ve eaten so well.”

“Any special reason you haven’t had rice on Christmas since?” Kate asked Stefan.

“Oh, no,” he replied. “Just circumstances. You see I was in Vietnam then, 1968.”

“What did you do?” asked Ashaan, for whom that war wasn’t part of his personal history, only something he vaguely recalled having read about a time or two.

“Special ops,” said Stefan. “I was one of the guys they sent to fix things that needed to be fixed. That year, they sent me to fix a target that was, so they said, at some little Buddhist temple out in the jungle. He was supposed to be this big key figure behind a lot of really bad things that supposedly were happening.”

“That sounds like something out of a movie,” the fashionable guest said.

“Oh, they can’t make movies out of this stuff,” said Stefan. “The screw-ups. Nobody would believe it. They screwed up this time. Big-time. Bad intel. This was the wrong target. The little Buddhist monk really was a little Buddhist monk. I mean, you could just feel it. This zen-like stuff–this quiet–it just seeped out from him. You couldn’t be in his presence without feeling it. Without feeling calm, somehow.”

“This was the guy you were supposed to take care of?” Sofia asked.

“To kill. Yes. In a matter of speaking,” replied Stefan. “I couldn’t do it. It was Christmas. We ate rice. I couldn’t do what I was sent there to do. Their intel was wrong anyway, I found out later, though I didn’t know it then. But I couldn’t do it. We ate rice together. We sat. It became quiet. It was Christmas, and in the jungle, in this little temple, we ate rice and sat in quiet.”

“That seems so far away,” said Ishaan. “How do things like that even happen? Is that even the same world that we live in? What’s the connection between that and now, here, eating rice?”

“Everything,” replied Stefan. “The connection is everything. That’s what I learned from that man. He was the most Christian man I’d ever met, though, of course, he wasn’t a Christian. He was a Buddhist monk, just filled with peace. Quiet. Consciousness. The little guy actually shone. Radiated. Bliss and happiness. Pure joy. I didn’t go back. I couldn’t do what I was sent to do, so rather than just say I couldn’t find him, which meant they’d just send somebody else, and then send me to take care of the next target, I just never went back.”

“You never went back?” Ishaan asked.

“Nope. I stayed with that monk. We traveled. We went from temple to temple. He knew if we stayed in one place, they’d send someone out to find him or to find me, so we traveled. Those were amazing years.”

“You must have learned so much,” said Ishaan.

“I did,” said Stefan. They ate silently for a while and the room settled into a deep feeling of peace.

“Like a movie,” said Ishaan, at last, speaking into the silence.

“I lived in that jungle for years, going from temple to temple, until finally Jimmy Carter offered amnesty to all the people like me, and I came back home. Only I discovered that I wasn’t me anymore and home wasn’t here, not in this place, but here,” he said, placing his hand on his heart. “Inside. Where I am is home. Who I am is here.”

“You were one of the changed,” said Bertha.

“I was,” said Stefan. “I was changed by those years.”

“Power to the people!” yelled Bertha, suddenly jumping up onto the couch.

“Woot!” yelled Stefan. “The power of peace!”


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12 Epiphanies

x. Sofia’s Story

“I was the kid who always kept her presents,” said Sofia when the neighbors were swapping stories at Kate’s Christmas feast.

“What do you mean?” the raccoon asked.

“I didn’t open them on Christmas morning.”

“And your parents let you get away with that?” he asked.

“We had a big family. No one noticed, or if they noticed, they didn’t care. We all had to open our stockings, but after that, it was a free-for-all.”

“You didn’t, like, each take turns?” Kate asked.

“Nope,” replied Sofia. “So I took them up to my room and stored them in my closet. They were my… what-do-you-say… security. My coping strategy. My lifeline.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” said the raccoon. “It’s not like I need a coping strategy. It’s not like this big furry suit is the only thing that gets me through the anxiety of being in a room with actual people, actual people I don’t yet know or might have to actually talk to. Oh, no. Coping strategy? What’s that?”

“And it’s working really well for you, I see!” said Stefan. “Every Christmas party needs a furry! Am I right?”

“Did you ever open them?” Kate asked.

“I did,” replied Sofia. “I kept them for the really bad days, and then, when I felt like I couldn’t stand anymore, I’d open one of them. It got me through the bad days.”

“But what if you had more bad days than presents?” the fashionable guest asked.

“That’s where the strategy came in, you see,” replied Sofia. “You see, I had to allot the number of really bad days I had to the number of presents I received. So, for example, if I got twelve presents one year, that meant that I could have twelve bad days, one per month, maybe.”

“How would you know if it was bad enough to warrant a present?” Ishaan asked.

“I would ask, ‘Is this bad enough for a present?’ And if I thought I could get through the day without one, then I would. But if the day was so sad or so hard or so stomach-twisting that I just couldn’t get through it, then it was present-worthy.”

“But what if you had more really bad days than presents?” Ishaan asked.

“Oh, that would never happen, would it, Sofia?” Bertha said. “These things have ways of evening out.”

“Bertha’s right!” replied Sofia. “One year, we were so poor that I got only one present. I was so worried. How would I get through the year? But you know what? That was my best year ever! Each day that was hard, I told myself, ‘It’s hard. But it’s not so hard that I need to open my gift.’ So I got through. It was like… I don’t know. It was like hard days were just part of being alive, right? Part of being a kid. So I would just say, ‘It’s not present-worthy. I can get through it.’ And I did. Christmas Eve rolled around, and I still hadn’t opened my gift, so I did. I opened it.”

“What was it?” Ishaan asked.

“It was a bar of soap!” Sofia laughed. “I told you we were so poor that year! A bar of soap! It’s a good thing I hadn’t opened it on the bad days or I might have been so disappointed!”

“Was it nice soap?” asked the fashionable guest.

“Oh, yes!” replied Sofia. “Lavender! I’d never had scented soap before. So I took a Christmas Eve bath, and I smelled so good all night!”

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