Another Legacy 1.29

Unlike the stressful and glitchy gameplay during Kiki’s toddler years, the gameplay during her childhood years felt fun, focused, and successful. The only point of gameplay stress was managing Ira’s university tasks–but we figured it out and fell into a pattern that worked.

I tried the skilling hack that JordanNicoleJJ and I discovered during legacy-play back in 2015, where mental skill is developed through the arithmetic game and creative through Keyboard commander, but the glitch that allowed for rapid simul-skilling has been fixed, so the hack no longer works.

Nonetheless, Kiki knocked out all the childhood skills well before it was time for her to age-up, and she managed to complete all the childhood aspirations, too, and she still had time to play, draw, and ponder mortality and eternity.

Man, I love kids in The Sims 4.

When she comes downstairs one morning in the bear suit she wore for a school play, Ira and Case don’t mind. They don’t even ask her about it.

Her voice sounds muffled and echoing when she speaks from deep within the suit, so Case needs to focus extra hard to make out what she says. Ira just figures Kiki will repeat herself or speak a little louder when they don’t hear her.

“Bears are solitary animals, right?” Kiki asks. “I mean, they like to be alone best?”

“Bear cubs like to play with each other,” Ira says, “wrestling and such. And they like to hang out with the Mama bear.”

“I like hanging out with grown ups,” Kiki says.

“I like hanging out with you,” Ira says.

“Bear cubs don’t really understand each other,” Kiki says. “That’s why they’re always wrestling.”

“Would you like us to invite some of our grown-up friends over more often?” Ira asks.

“Yeah!” replies Kiki. “That would be great!”

So on the weekend, Ira invites over Aadhya, the other Father Winter, and Knox. It’s just the right amount of people for the llama game, but not so many as to make it feel crowded and noisy.

“I didn’t realize you’d adopted a bear,” Aadhya says, “and one who likes fruit salad, even!”

“All bears like fruit,” Case replies.

But Kiki feels a bit awkward hiding behind the bear mask, so she braves a party dress. After all, Aadhya has changed into a party dress, too.

They all settle down at the game table, and the grown-ups take the game so seriously. Kiki tries to crack them up, grabbing her hand, as if it had a life of its own.

“No!” she says. “Mustn’t pull the stick! Must. Not. Pull. The. Stick.”

Aadhya chuckles. But the other Father Winter and Knox are deep in analysis. Which stick? Which speed to pull? Does velocity make structures more stable, or will it topple?

Knox wonders out loud, and Kiki learns about how the balance of force produces equilibrium, which then leads Aadhya to speculate on the right approach to living, and whether the secret of life might not be found in a simple game for children. But the other Father Winter says that there’s no such thing as a simple game–that all of life’s complexities and secrets can be found in any game, no matter how limited, and the more seemingly simple, the more elemental the truths.

They talk for hours, pulling out sticks, toppling the llama, making jokes, telling stories, growing somber, talking politics, sharing stories about their parents, all of whom have passed.

And after they leave, long after it’s grown dark, Kiki sits alone and lets the conversation roll in and out, like a tide, and she picks among the shells and colored bits of glass washed up on the shore. It’s an amazing thing to be a person, she thinks, and we’re all so much alike. Even those of us who are so very different, we’re really all alike.

If only the kids at school could get that.

<< Previous | Next >>

GloPoWriMo – Day 22

Loneliness is My Companion

Wherever I go
it’s there
my quiet shadow

so I’m not alone
sun on my back
my companion behind me

Through all this
change, my one
constant. A lonely

person is at
home everywhere.

Daily Prompt:  “Find an idiomatic phrase from a different language or culture, and use it as the jumping-off point for your poem,” from Na/GloPoWriMo.

The seed for this poem: “A lonely person is at home everywhere” – Russian proverb.

<< Previous | Next >>

12 Epiphanies

iv. Loneliness is part of the human experience.

When Kate woke, she felt a stitch in her heart, in that scarred part that had torn when her dad died. She thought it must have a fissure in it, that hadn’t properly sealed, because when the weather was cold, it still hurt.

She missed her boyfriend. He was out at the far station, so his Internet access and cellphone coverage were spotty at best. He might be out there for weeks.

She missed her mom.

She wasn’t supposed to be alone at this time of year. Was this loneliness? Was that what this feeling was?

Kate pulled on her winter fleece and fisherman’s knit hat. The apartment building’s furnace had been wheezing lately, and though the landlord kept promising to fix it before the cold set in for good, it hadn’t been fixed yet, and her place was cold, especially near the single-pane windows.

What was loneliness, anyway?

She decided to google it.

It was, apparently, quite common, and quite commonly perceived as a fault.

Every self-help article she read made it seem like she was to blame. She should spend time with family. She should get together with friends. She should volunteer. She should engage in a hobby. She should exercise. And if she did all that, and still felt lonely, then she should get it checked out. Maybe it was anxiety. Or depression. Or some sort of social disorder.

She began to suspect that she wasn’t correctly handling the job of being human. So now, in addition to feeling lonely, she felt guilty, and a little bit ashamed.

Turn toward.

And then she found a post on facebook from last Christmas by Lee Harris, the Lee Harris, guru-and-all-that, about “Christmas Weirdness.” Which he felt. And which, judging from the 3.5K likes, 1.6K shares, and 682 comments, struck a chord with thousands.

And he confessed to feeling this way even when he was with others. And it wasn’t his fault. It was simply how he felt. For whatever reason.

The big shift came for me several years back, when I realized I should just EMBRACE that ‘weird’ feeling if it hit me. Not judge it, or try to get away from it. Just acknowledge it was there, and own it. Either sit with it for a while, breathe and let it move through me, or change my focus and do something else.

(Harris 2017)

Turn towards.

The feeling hurt, actual physical pain, around her heart. And her pulse began to race a little bit, and she wished she could cry to release the pressure somehow.

She felt it, sitting there in her chest, the cold having entered her and settled. She breathed around it, without trying specifically to talk herself out of feeling it or to distract herself from the pain and discomfort. She just sat with it. So this is what loneliness feels like, at this moment.

And the next moment, it felt different, a bit lighter, a little space around it.

…close your eyes and connect with anyone else who feels lonely this christmas. 

(Harris 2017)

She saw her mom, walking barefoot along the beach, thinking of her, thinking of Kate’s dad, and, even though her new husband grilled steaks on the lanai, she felt that her mom, too, felt lonely, just then.

She saw her boyfriend, analyzing trends that his measurements revealed. He missed her, too. He was lonely, too.

A girl in London played with a doll in a cardboard-box dollhouse, and, at that moment, the doll was lonely, taking the girl’s pain. A lonely boy in India sat beside the river. In Africa, an old woman watched a single cloud’s slow progress against the dry sky.

And Kate, through the fading ache inside of her, felt connected with them all, joined in this shared experience. Even as the pain dissolved into warmth, Kate thought it wouldn’t be so bad if it remained, for it joined her with everyone who lived, and everyone who had ever lived.

Loneliness didn’t mean that Kate wasn’t being human right. It meant that she was fully human, for loneliness is part of the human experience.

<< Previous | Next >>

12 Epiphanies

i. Christmas isn’t about family.

Kate’s boyfriend was in Antarctica studying ice.  He couldn’t make it back in time for Christmas, and she couldn’t travel there.

That left her mom and her mom’s husband.

“Oh, honey,” Kate’s mom said when she called. “Steve and I are going to Hawaii for the holidays. I’m sure we’d love to have you come along. We could set up a cot on the lanai.”

That was all right. Kate didn’t want to impose on her mom and her mom’s husband’s time in paradise, and, besides, she didn’t really like her mom’s husband, or even, if she were completely honest, her mom when her mom was with her husband. Kate missed her dad.

It never felt like Christmas without him, and it had been five years since he’d died. That made five years with no real Christmases, and it felt like this would be another, bereft of the holiday spirit.

Kate had two full weeks off. The university where she worked as assistant to the dean of students closed over the holidays, and she, like all the other classified employees, received time-off with pay. It made everyone cheerful.

Except she didn’t know what she would do with herself.

City Life Network aired a “Zombie Holiday Marathon,” complete with a zombie boy-band singing Christmas carols. If Josh were there, they’d fix buttered popcorn and spend the night cracking jokes and singing along while pretending their arms fell off and their heads twerked.

It wasn’t funny without him.

Another network showed old crime movies that had nothing to do with Christmas.

Kate didn’t know what was better and what was worse: Pretend that Christmas didn’t exist or try to celebrate it anyway, without Josh, without her mom, without her dad.

At any rate, she had two weeks off, two weeks to do what she wanted.

In her dingy apartment, in a crowded city, alone. For Christmas.

Next >>

Spectrum: Invisible Friends

Picture of CT with friends

If you were to ask me if I had friends, I would answer, “Oh, yes! Hundreds. Thousands. Millions, even!” 

Can you be friends with an alder leaf, a November cloud, a drop of rain slowly traversing the windshield, an arpeggio in E-flat major played on the cello, the man in the white sweater with frayed sleeves who smiles at you as you pass each other crossing the street, the spade-foot toad on your patio, the magenta pansy smiling from the garden border? A stone? A tree? A path? The planet? Angels?

I feel friends with everyone and everything, and I always have. 

But this doesn’t seem to be the common definition of “friend.”

A 2013 study by Gael I. Orsmond, Paul T. Shattuck, Benjamin P. Cooper, Paul R. Sterzing, and Kristy A. Anderson, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, found that:

– almost 40 percent of youth with ASDs never got together with friends;

– 50 percent never received phone calls or were invited to activities; and

– 28 percent were socially isolated with no social contact whatsoever.

(as ctd. in Heasley, “Study: Nearly 1 In 3 With Autism Socially Isolated“)

Though I’m not a youth and haven’t received an official diagnosis of autism, I fit the remaining criteria for the first two categories: I never (or very, very rarely) get together with friends, and I never (or very, very rarely) receive phone calls or am invited to activities. I don’t consider myself socially isolated because I live with my boyfriend and, Monday through Friday, I interact with five to twenty people daily at my place of employment.

However, a review of the study in disabilityscoop, interpreted social isolation in this way: “almost one-third of those with autism qualified as socially isolated because they never received telephone calls or went out with friends.” I haven’t tracked down the study (only an abstract was available for free reading online), so I don’t know if that’s the definition the authors provide; but it’s the definition used by the reviewer.

So here’s a spot of significant cognitive dissonance in my life. I was born feeling connected to everyone and everything. This state of unity which yoga practitioners yearn for and practice a lifetime to achieve has been my birthright and is always available to me. I feel I am friends with everyone and everything on the planet–we are all cells in the same system, right? And yet, by common standards, I don’t have friends and may even be considered socially isolated.

Yet how can I feel isolated? I am connected to all-that-is, and this connection never leaves me. On my own terms, looking within at the state of my spirit and soul, I am healthy, whole, resilient, well-adjusted, and lacking nothing. I live in the full abundance of energy, of life. 

“Difficulty navigating the terrain of friendships and social interaction is a hallmark feature of autism,” states Paul Shattuck, in a widely quoted interview about this study he led (as qtd. in Heasley).

It depends on how you define friendship, I suppose. 

I am only lonely when I try to fit my social interactions into a standard definition of “friendship,” and I’m not even sure what that means. When I operate within my own lexicon, I am never lonely. I am never even alone, for always, there’s a breeze, a sound, dust motes, sparkles of light, a leaf, a cricket–always, there are friends.

Works Cited

Heasley, Shaun. “Study: Nearly 1 in 3 With Autism Socially Isolated.” disabilityscoop. 8 May 2013. www.disabilityscoop.com/2013/05/08/study-socially-isolated/17905/. Accessed 30 Nov. 2018.

<< Previous | Next >>