14 April 2014

The "Wasn't vacation supposed to help?" Blues...

  Greetings, folks.  I am severely upset with myself for having let so much time go by since my last post- it's not like I haven't had any creative thoughts or fun experiences or nifty gaming ideas hit me over the head in the meantime, but I learned a frustrating lesson.  I'd spend a very long while looking forward to the cruise I took the first week of March.  A long time.  Like, counting the days down on my desktop every day when I logged into work.  I was certain that a quick spin around the Gulf of Mexico would be the magic pill that would ease my woes.  I had already pulled the loud handle on my State Guard commitment for the time being, I had a month off between semesters, I would be able to enjoy this cruise without fetters.  Kaylee stayed with my grandmother, Zane with his teacher Ms. Tina, all was set for a great vacation.

  Oh, was it a great vacation.  A GREAT vacation.  Within minutes of getting on Carnival Triumph we had drinks in hand and were toasting leaving life behind for five days.  We ate, we drank, we played games, danced, gambled, ate some more... the kind of stuff you do on a vacation.  It was glorious.  I'm so glad there's no camera footage of me lip synching "Baby Got Back" during the music trivia competition.  I have a nice Carnival medal for that performance, plus my obligatory ship statue trophy for kicking ass in a trivia competition.  It was awesome.  We're going again in January to celebrate Mary's 40th.  Zane at least is coming with us this time, possibly Kaylee as well.  What the hell, we want our kiddos to have fun, right?

  Anyway, we got home, hugged the kids, and jumped back into most of life.  I say most of, since I still had weeks until I was back into my graduate studies.  Even so, just getting back to work almost immediately sucked the benefits of the vacation out of me.  I once again felt lethargic and unmotivated.  It got worse.  Just before the cruise, author Aaron Allston had passed away- someone I had met, talked to, and even hosted in my home.  He was my mom's age, and his sudden passing bothered me on a persistent subconscious level.  Then my great uncle Frank passed, and at the funeral I took some photos of old 1800s tombstones to pass the time, since my grandmother insisted on getting to the funeral an  hour early.  I was moved by the recurrent lamb motif I had never before noticed- and then made the connection that every single on of those little lamb tombstones was a child, usually no more than three years of age.  That was like an emotional sledgehammer right in the gut.  I felt a sort of panic mode where I wanted to drive straight back to Round Rock, hit the daycare, and scoop my kids up into a big hug. 

  I've spent a lot of time, sadly, contemplating the finite nature of our existence.  I find that a belief in the afterlife holds little comfort, since every depiction I have seen of the afterlife seems incomprehensibly boring.  I find that I don't really want eternal peace and harmony, I prefer spending time with my children, my friends, and creating compelling stories and adventures both in writing and around my game table.  I've read that people of higher intelligence are more apt to contemplate death and mortality - and I'll take that as a backhanded sort of compliment.  I was just starting to try to push past all this morbid speculation when one of my coworkers, with whom I had shared an officer for two years, died unexpectedly last Wednesday.  He was 42.  Now, in full disclosure it turns out he had been diagnosed with diabetes about five or six months ago, and refused to believe the diagnosis.  In retrospect, his current office mate described symptoms from Tuesday that would be easily recognizable to those familiar with diabetes as dangerous warning signs.  In any case, he was only slightly older than I am, and now he's gone. 

  This kinda shook me to the core.  I find it terribly surreal.  I also find it a strange sort of wake-up call.  On one hand, it drives home the lesson that we should treasure every possible moment with family and friends.  That's something that just being a father has taught me.  Mary gets upset with me a lot because I'll let the kids snuggle up in my lap when it's bed time.  I'm not giving in to the kids not wanting to go to bed...  I'm giving in to my own feelings of paternal inadequacy by giving myself bits of additional time with my kiddos snuggled up with  me.  I know when it's game night my players get a bit upset with me when I let the kids climb into my lap instead of just popping in for their good-night hugs.  If I could get Zane or Kaylee to just snuggle in and listen to the stories, I'd happily run games with a child in my lap.

  One of the other things all this has brought to mind is how futile certain things are.  I'm watching petty political maneuvering rend friendships and cause turmoil in my little corner of STARFLEET, the International Star Trek Fan Association.  SFI used to be very, very important to me.  I left from 2009-2012/3 to avoid the politics, then some of us decided to come back and start a new chapter.  Now, most of us are regretting that decision due to the politics.  We want to have fun, roll dice, and maybe do an honor guard or two.  A lot of the mess that's going on, firmly anchored in this Region of the organization, just makes us want to leave.  So... do we stay and try to uphold the values that have recently been publically called na├»ve by some of our local leadership?  Do we pull out of the organization as quickly as we joined and leave the club to the jackals?

  I just don't see, at age 38 and with the life experiences I've seen recently, the point of batting over titles and accolades in the club.  I think member recognition is very important to any organization - but it's important for recognition and retention of the membership.  The leaders should seek no such accolades, and should never seek leadership for the sake of the title.  The higher up you go, the more work you're going to do for the organization.  It's work and service, not a path to influence and having your butt kissed.  Sadly, for some folks that's what the whole thing has become- and they're willing to do underhanded things to achieve those goals.

  Why?  Since becoming a father I've realized that there are things that are a whole lot more important and validating.  Parenthood is the chief of these, scholarship is another.  I had put a big portion of my self worth in the concept of soldiering- but after spending time in the Guard I realize that it's a worthy endeavor as a volunteer, but soldiering (as any soldier can tell you) is surrounded by just as much frustrating crap as civilian life is - sometimes much, much more.  I found that my endeavors as a student and as a father eclipsed the value I had put on soldiering- and so I put soldiering on hold until I can finish my Master's Degree.  My priorities have changed so much, there was a time where my #1 goal was to get into uniform, followed closely by being published as a gaming author.  Now, there's a massive re-arrangement of priorities where Zane and Kaylee are on top, my graduate studies are right below them, and they're both wrapped in staying sane while I complete my degree.  Anything below that is priority only until my MA is in my hand.  Family, School, everything else.

  My caveat to the above is, as always, everyone telling me to take care of myself.  To enjoy myself, to stay sane because I can't take care of the family if I don't take care of myself.  The death of my office mate from Round Rock has REALLY driven this home.  I restarted my attempts to control my weight in earnest, finding to my frustration that I had regained 80% of what I had lost to get into the Guard.  I must get back to where I was, and then further down the weight scale until I hit my goal.  I've got to get back to exercise- even if it's just WiiFit.  I want to be fit and healthy as long as possible to be here for my kids as they get older.  Bodily health is going to be an ongoing process, and so is mental health.  I've got to keep setting time aside for Mary and I to have couple time, and setting time aside for me, myself.  I need alone time to clear my mind, and I need friend time to actually relax.

  So there we are.