Balancing the Nine Alignments

If you are reading this blog you are most likely my friend, which in turn means that one or more of these three things has happened:

I have talked to you about tabletop roleplaying games

I have asked if you play tabletop roleplaying games

We have played tabletop roleplaying games

Simply put I love them and will have a conversation about them whether the other individual kindly listening is a willing participant of my T.E.D. talk or not. So for those of you who know me, it means that it was only a matter of time before I ended up writing about tabletop roleplaying games as well.

For anyone who isn’t familiar with them; welcome to my T.E.D. talk.

RPGs or Role Playing Games are better known as Dungeons and Dragons or Pathfinder. It is a cooperative game that allows you to build a character from your imagination to take on a story that has never been heard and will never be told again. As a player, you make your character and play through different scenarios within a story that the DM or GM has brought to the table. The role-playing comes out when your character must interact with a character within the adventuring group or the world the storyteller is sharing with you.

Now it is not common to play yourself ( I wouldn’t I spend to much time with me as is) in these games but a character you have brought to the story. That character may have a different personality than you, as an example I can use my current character Woodwort the gnome druid. Why we have some similarities (mainly hooch) we also have our differences (he’s a gnome). When building Woodwort I gave him an alignment from the alignment grid in the book; which is true neutral.
The nine alignments are Lawful Good, Neutral Good, Chaotic Good, Lawful Neutral, True Neutral, Chaotic Neutral, Lawful Evil, Neutral Evil, and Chaotic Evil. Now, these alignments are used primarily for two things, various perks in the game for your character and a helpful roleplaying guide. Woodwort is a druid a timeless ancient of the forest and a representative of mother nature, he has seen more than he lets on and is surprised by little. He strives to find the balance between all perspectives and feels a tilt in any direction can have rippling consequences.

This is not me, or anyone for that matter. We may be able to relate to that way of thinking but we will eventually tilt in one direction or another usually due to factors of some nature and the choices we make responding to them. The factors that change our moods are too many to count individually but can be summed up to external and internal factors. I could go on and attempt to define these categories but that would lead to a tangent no one is prepared for, what is important is to realize that we are not constants no matter how hard we try.

We shift our views of the world around us from moment to moment. One moment we can be lawful good and pick up the trash in the street to chaotic evil when we find out that trash was a twenty-dollar bill and pocket it. We can’t base our lives as a whole on the nine alignments because we are a mix of all nine within our lifetime, but what we can do is use these nine alignments as guides.

I know that this constant shifting of alignments and views makes us all sound unstable and that’s because we are. Instability is one of our greatest strengths as a species, it can bring horrible things; I will never say it is all positive but it does help us a great deal. The ability for us to judge a situation not only by what we sense in front of us but also by past experience makes us somewhat unique. Other creatures can do this but the deep thoughts between pros and cons that we can use to outweigh instinct are invaluable.

Now I will let you all off the hook because I am not going to be going into any of the alignments in-depth with this post (This is where you sigh in relief). But what I plan to do for my future posts is dive into all 9 separately significantly extending my T.E.D. talk (this is where you groan and leave the site).

I’ll be starting off with Lawful Good and working my way through leaving what people believe are the juicy ones for last. In my next post, we will explore the good and bad of the first alignment and how you must even balance between the extremes within it. Trust me, lawful good does not mean lawful nice.

I’m looking forward to this series of posts and hope you will too. Now for a shameless plug!

You all can meet Woodwort and the rest of his friends on Edge of Legend on Twitch every Wednesday night at 8 pm pst. Nat 20 Productions is run by my friends both behind the scenes and on-camera 24/7 so a huge shout out to them for all the work they do. If you would like to join us for an original story with battle, intrigue, and funny moments then please tune in and become legends right along with us.

Small Tasks

My life has become a little hectic as of late. Between the move, my partner being called back to work 300 miles away, and the little bumps in life like the pet guinea pig chipping a tooth; things start to fall by the way side. Unfortunately, the thing that got pushed back was my hobbies which includes this blog. The weeks were I can update it on time and make sure I have time to write are great ones. Although its brand new I did feel like I was letting myself down when I didn’t write. Those feelings start to wear you down, it’s not the big things that may have a chance of not working out. It’s the little things that you set out to do with the thought “I will accomplish this today”. I’ve talked about starting something and picking something back up after a hiatus, but what about the time in between?

I handle these little let downs by journaling; full disclosure I started recently and have missed a few days as well. I always liked the concept of journaling; I would search for the perfect notebook and be eager to fill its pages with the goings on of my life. I’m a history nerd and one thing you find out is you never get the account from the layman. The person who is just trying to get by and be as happy as possible with what is happening around them. I wanted to be that guy, the one who journaled so extensively that 200 years after I’m dead and gone some student would be able to find my journal preserved in a library and base an entire paper off of it. That was my thought when I was in 8th grade.

It turns out I suck at it. I can never commit the time I feel it deserves and I am never content with my writing. So I usually get about a month into a new notebook and miss a weekend, which turns to a week and then a month. Which is when I give up and pick the hobby back up at the beginning of the year (a horrible cycle). You might be thinking ” Wait, didn’t you say you conquer the small missed tasks with journaling?” or you could be thinking “Get to the point and off the soapbox”. Either way here it is.

I bullet journal and have been for 4 months now, a new record! I miss days here and there but for the most part I stick with it. When I wake up in the morning I fill in what tasks I need to get done for the day and check them off as I go. Simple. But here’s how I use it keep track of the little slips. Bullet journaling is basically writing down short blurbs about your day with a different symbol at the beginning of each entry denoting what it is about. A common example its using the exclamation mark to denote an idea, insight, or inspiration.

I also mark the tasks I don’t get done with an arrow pointing to the right from writer’s perspective (stage right for the nerds). This means that I will get to it tomorrow or in a literal sense on the next page. By keeping track of the little slips I realize they have been set aside before my mind thinks “what’s the point now”. It’s basically setting a reminder for myself to get around to it sooner rather than later.

I also use it to keep track of things like self care, something I think everyone struggles with at times. This lets me see the last time I did a small action that made me happy, like writing for the blog. It’s important not to let to much time pass in between these small acts, without them easing our minds the small pains can grow. In the long run it will help you get to know yourself; you’ll see a task written down that starts to match up with your self care actions. Seeing them paired allows you to identify your stressors, which can lead to eliminating them or at least working toward easing them.

So while bullet journaling isn’t for everyone, it’s the way that I deal with small stressors and planning out my day. If your like me and want to journal but don’t have a lot of time or will stress about missing days, go ahead a try it. Maybe I can break down my journaling process for you all, if anyone would like. In the meantime, I would love to hear from anyone who reads this how they deal with the small missed tasks in their life. What are the tips and tricks you all have that I can learn from?

Pack It Up, It’s Time To Go

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many changes to our daily life; hell it could even be said that daily life has been so significantly changed that we have a new routine that we should start considering daily life. I went back and forth on writing about the pandemic at all; there are enough perspectives, facts, and guides out there that one more opinon wouldn’t help, so whats the point? Maybe I was avoiding it to protect myself from the reality of my new situation; which I should start calling my life. Maybe I avoided it because I have already taken in so much about what is going on that going through it all again makes me want to scream ( I hate repeating myself ).

Either way its time to pack up those uneasy feelings and move on because, well, I’m moving. COVID-19 has brought a lot of changes to everyone’s life some more drastic than others. Coming back from a spectacular trip to Japan in January I saw my first glimpse of the pandemic. A flight before ours was called to the gate and asked to form a line in front of the check in desk. I saw the airline stewards with the poise and patience that Japan is known for, tell everyone of those passengers that they we’re not going to be going home to China.

I never knew watching that moment unfold that it was the beginning of something. I definitely didn’t assume that it would affect my life plans to the point that now they are unrecognizable. A plan I never saw coming was going back home to live with my parents. I have been on my own for years now and have dealt with multiple moves, multiple jobs, highs and lows that come with life and come out just fine on the other side.

I don’t see moving back as a negative in my life, it is just a move I need to make to better my situation and step toward a goal. I think that saying “moving back” feels negative because the word back is being said. Saying “I’m moving” feels fine, I’ve done it a numerous times already, this will be my third move in the last year. But the word backā€¦ it has a gravity to it in these times. (Feel free to picture me with a thousand mile stare out across the horizon after reading that last sentence)

I want to remind myself ( maybe you too ) that the word back isn’t a negative one, and its the omission of the word home that makes it feel negative. Back home, isn’t negative in anyway; even if your childhood home wasn’t great or your home town isn’t someplace you care for, home doesn’t always refer to those places. As cliche as it sounds home is where you claim it to be and is what you make it.

Times are hard, there is no doubt about it. Some of us have to take steps to ensure we have a chance at a future we want and some of those steps will feel as if they are backwards. But allow yourself to take that step back and give yourself the chance to look over where you are going from here. Without stepping back you can only see a portion of the bigger picture.

There is no Failure in Trying

I started a blog like I do with every other passion in my life: with reckless abandon. If you asked my friends (anyone who actually reads this blog) about the projects I have done in the past, they would say that I am always starting something new. I start new projects all the time; but my passion for them fizzles out, and they are abandoned to be half-complete ideas. I don’t find anything wrong with this; in fact, I would encourage others to do the same. It’s not that I can’t complete a project–I am just willing to try anything that catches my interest to see if it can become a life’s work.
I joined a local writer’s group in my area (although I need to go to more meetings to really call myself a “member”), so most of my friends come from that group. Those I see and speak to most often are all accomplished writers, which is a huge boon to someone just starting out. They put up with an endless stream of story ideas that I talk about passionately and want to pursue, only to abandon them after a month. But no matter how many months of story ideas go by, they are always eager to hear my next idea.
This has taught me a few valuable lessons, all of which can be applied to daily life:
1. Any idea, no matter how unlikely, is worth exploring.
2. Just because you abandon the idea does not mean you have failed. It simply means you are continuing to search for your true passion.
3. All steps you take towards a goal are forward. Even the setbacks have something to teach you, and abandoning an idea all together does not mean you have given up on your goal as a whole.
No one in history ever set out to do something knowing with 100% certainty that it would work. Yet they still tried. Going against the odds is a remarkable human trait, a trait we take for granted. All projects, no matter how small, start off as unlikely to succeed, due to our lack of experience, knowledge and confidence. Yet we witness so many successes that started off this way. If you don’t explore the chance, you never know if it will be your next success.
Moving on from a potential passion does not mean you failed. You have simply come to the realization that it was not for you. You should be proud of that fact! You’re willing to step out of your normal routine and put a little bit of yourself on the line to pursue an idea. That’s no small task. You willingly opened yourself up to the possibility of defeat to broaden who you are as an individual. The best part of this practice is that it will become easier with time: you will build a tolerance to “failure” and strengthen your resolve toward your goals.
All steps show your forward progression, even the setbacks. That is a hard concept to apply to your daily mindset. One of my favorite quotes comes from a deplorable person (a topic for another time), Thomas Edison: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” I try to apply this quote to every project I start with a few modifications: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 pursuits that don’t work for me.”
So when you start a new project or explore an idea, remember that failure is not on the table if you look at it from a different perspective. You are instead taking the time to learn more about your interests and what your true passions are, no matter the outcome. Trying out your ideas is a form of self care and working on yourself. All knowledge you gain on who you are as a person is good knowledge to have–it allows you to make more informed decisions on what you need and what you need to avoid.
So go pursue a project, something you have your doubts about finishing or even getting past the planning stages. No matter the outcome, you will have learned something about yourself. I can guarantee that the next idea or passion you pick up, no matter the outcome, will be your life’s work: finding out who you are and what you need.

Smartphones: Intolerable Convenience

I hate smartphones. They keep me distracted from what I want I need to get done with hours of endless entertainment and the internet at my finger tips. I’m reachable 24/7 through a text, a DM, a call; my alone time is never truly spent alone. I have a constant stream of information in my pocket that society tells me I need to keep up with to stay connected with people around me. With all these connections how is it they seem to interrupt every connection I make at one point or another?
A casual glance down at an incoming message, a need to look something up right in the middle of a conversation because it “relevant”, an important email coming in that takes you away from your friends even though its your day off. They connect us to everyone we don’t have in front of us and pull us away from those who are with us here and now.
What can we do to mediate this? Having no cellphone get together with friends? Has it come down to us having to set aside a specific time where we swear to only interact with those who are directly around us? That promise use to be intrinsically tied to seeing someone in the first place.
I’m not coming from a morale high ground to these statements. I’m mad at smartphones because they conveniently let me make these mistakes. They make it easy to give my attention to something that has no relation to what I am doing in the moment. They make it easy to pass up a hard conversation for something that is more lighthearted. They make it easy for me to find something I am more interested in elsewhere, when a conversation drifts from a topic I care about.
They make it easy to ignore anything and everything around me.
Are smartphones worth it? Are they worth the time they can steal from us with being more convenient than what is happening around us?
They are, smartphones are amazing tools of knowledge, fun, and protection wrapped into a pocket sized device. While writing this I realize that all the things I hate about cell phones are actually personal choices I have made that I regret. Glancing at my phone during a conversation, checking out of a discussion for something more appealing, answering an email that could have waited. I have let convenience win over connection.
Do I truly hate smartphones, no. But I do hate that I have at times allowed myself become lax with responsible use of my phone. While its easy to blame an object in most cases it is to divert blame to keep from having to do work on our self. We all can take a look at our relationship with out devices and make sure they are not removing us from the personal relationships around us.

Why I’m a Minimalist.

Fumio Sasaki (author of Goodbye, Things) said in an interview with Hiroko from Asian Boss, “Well, a lot of people may not know this, but minimalists tend to be people who are messy and have developmental disorders. So these people, who dislike tidying up, take care of themselves through decluttering to create a clean environment.”

This statement sums up why I have taken a minimalist approach to my life. I have been diagnosed with manic depression, seasonal depression and attention deficit disorder. Now, that makes me far from a special case–many people struggle with these conditions and more on a daily basis (my hat’s off to those who do). But some of what makes us unique as people is how we go about dealing with what we’re handed in life.

I’ve made to do lists since 5th grade–a specialist on ADD taught me that they could help keep me on track. But those lists have also brought their own problems. Check lists at times have made my depression worse by enabling me to see in writing all the things I haven’t done. They have brought anxiety as the lists kept getting larger and were clearly too big to fit into a single day. Last but not least, the thing that has affected me the most is dread. I look over the list and avoid the task I really don’t want to do, while always thinking, “I should get that over with.” At times, I would try and put all things I didn’t get done over the week on one day, thinking I would rather have one bad day than deal with it throughout the week. However, you can only do that until you end up with a multitude of self-inflicted bad days in a row that break you. And I did indeed break.

I was single and living in a three bedroom apartment with two other roommates, who were fighting at the time. I sequestered myself in my room to avoid both of them because, frankly, I thought they should just talk it out like adults. But my room came with its own issues: it was a mess all the time, and I still hadn’t unpacked all my boxes from my last move (even though it had been several months since I moved in). I kept it dark because the one window led to a courtyard, and I didn’t want strangers to judge me by what they saw. None of these factors make an environment worth living in, if you can help it.

One day, I got home from work, went directly to my room, and before I could shut the door, I saw it. The box I didn’t know quite what to do with. It didn’t fit in my closet, and I didn’t have space to put it up against a wall, so it floated around on the floor in front of my dresser. I had to move it to open the bottom drawer and move it back if I wanted a book from the bottom of my bookshelf. I dropped all my things, grabbed the box, left the apartment door open as I headed to the trash chute, and threw away the box with everything in it–no questions asked.

The clang of metal and the sound of breaking glass from inside the box was the most satisfying sound I had heard all day–a normally distressing noise brought me so much calm. I went back to my apartment and grabbed another box, and by the third trip back, my roommates caught on. For the first time in a month, they were unified under the thought of, “What the hell is wrong with him?” They asked questions, and I simply replied, “I’m taking something off my to do list.”

My reply became a truth I live by now: take whatever I can off my list. I don’t approach my daily tasks as something I have to check off, but instead as striving to remove it from ever showing up again. My to do lists are much shorter now. By letting go of my belongings, I have less to clean, less to dread and one less opening for depression to creep in from not finishing a task related to the items I own. Minimalism has become my coping mechanism: I’ve removed that which caused me stress, and I make sure not to invite it back in.

What can you get rid of? Nothing big, just some small things, like the second spatula you don’t like as much and that jams the drawer. Maybe the college textbooks that you kept because they were too damn expensive, but you haven’t opened them in….. how long? Or my personal favorite: the one million dead pens jammed back into the holder, or hell–the ones sitting next to it that work but don’t fit because you decided to keep the dead ones anyway. Eliminate a stressor–just one–and let me know how you feel.

Starting Somewhere

A few years ago, my parents gave me a beautiful notebook for Christmas: a special edition hardcover Hobbit Moleskine. Cream-colored pages wrapped in burgundy leather with Smaug and the map of the Misty Mountains embossed on the front cover. At first, I was hesitant to use it. I didn’t want to sully the pages with my meager writing attempts or a quick sketch. This book was made to contain art. I still own it today. After multiple moves across multiple cities, this notebook was kept on my bookshelf for me to admire, hoping I would write something worthwhile in its pages.

I had the same fear while trying to write this first post. I made the website, got the layout just right, picked a palette I enjoyed and then…. I had to write. Writing was always the goal obviously, but actually doing it? I was struck with the fear of defining this blog with a poorly thought out first post. I knew going in that I would make spelling and grammar mistakes, those I could live with; but content is everything. I bummed around the house for a day thinking of content and possible titles for a post I had yet to write. Until I realized that I couldn’t be alone in this feeling.

The fear of starting something new, to forever be judged on your first attempt, is a common one. Even though we all have been told, “failure is how you learn,” “No one gets it right on the first try,” “Third time’s the charm.” Why don’t we take those sayings seriously? I know plenty of people who produce amazing work in a wide variety of mediums that all started by making mistakes. Just like the rest of us.

Those first steps into anything new define everything and nothing at the same time. For the time being, this post will be the only one on my blog–front and center is my first try. But it will also be the first thing forgotten, lost in the posts to come, buried beneath my new and improved work (hopefully). The first failures being buried are the foundation of your experience in whatever new thing you take on. They become the work you can look back on and say, “Look how far I have come.” To which people will say, “Wow, you’ve worked really hard at this. Good job.” We’ve all had this conversation at least once in our life, even if it was with ourselves.

So now what? The fear is still there. I may have acknowledged it, but facts don’t always change feelings. What now? Well, for me I write, not only this post but more to come. Learning and letting my first few steps be stumbles as I try out this path. I choose to immortalize this fear of starting something new and use it to help people around me, supporting them as best I can with encouragement to get past their own fear. The best thing we all can do is acknowledge that we have all felt this and can help others overcome it, simply by giving the one thing we all wanted: a little support.

As I sit here in the morning with my laptop and a freshly poured cup of black coffee, I realize I can’t fail at this. I’ve already accomplished what I set out to do. So what’s holding you back? You know you can do it, or you wouldn’t even think about the attempt. You have at least one person rooting for you, even if it’s the strange guy on the other end of this blog.

So go out and do the thing. Make the mistake knowing that this may be your first attempt, but it won’t be your last. I want to hear all about it!