The Structure of Gratitude

The Structure of Gratitude

StructureSometimes I’m just really so grateful for my life.  And though everything is ultimately all in God’s hands, I also know that God doesn’t want us to sit around and wait for Him.  Going forward with faith, it’s really clear to me that there’s so much I can do to create what I want my life to look like.  And so much of that has to do with attitude and structure.

I can chose to be apathetic, bored, isolated, or depressed about my life or I can choose to be excited, engaged, connected, and grateful about my life.  And then I need to put that into a structure that reminds me and helps me fulfill on how I’m choosing to be about my life.

To give a concrete example, here’s what I’ve been doing recently.  I’d been wanting to change how I’m being about my writing in my life.  So now, most every day (six days a week), I get up and start my day at 8am by checking in via Skype with my writing buddy Yudit.  In our conversation, we talk about where we are with our writing and what we are going to write next.  We also talk about what’s going on in our lives and how we want our attitudes to be for that day.  We put how we are going to be into words.  For instance, today I’m my attitude has to do with being in touch with divine light in humanity, joy, and connection.  Then we write until ten-thirty when we check in again to see how each of our writing projects went.

Sunrise in CappadociaAs a result, not only has my relationship to my writing transformed, but my whole life has transformed.  I’ve gone from inconsistently writing about a thousand words a week to writing nearly a thousand words a day consistently.  I’m now rapidly approaching the end of the first draft of my second novel, The Particulars.  Things have shifted in my life as well.  I start out the day now feeling so accomplished that my productivity has increased in every area of my life.  I’m getting more website development done.  I’m making more progress on the Alternate Reality Game I’m designing.  I’m fulfilling on my spiritual goals by reading my scriptures and doing my callings.

AttitudeAnd life is just plain good as a result.  No, good doesn’t even begin to cover it.  Life is wonderful.  Life is miraculous and awesome.  And I can’t help but feel so very grateful for the wonderful blessing of being alive to enjoy it.

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Living Up to Teenage Expectations (Ten Years Later)

Living Up to Teenage Expectations (Ten Years Later)

My High School Graduation (2001)

My High School Graduation (2001)

Last night I went to my ten year high school reunion, and it has put me in a reflective mood.  It was fun (though somewhat strange) to see everyone after ten years apart.  I was impressed by how friendly everyone was and how genuinely happy everyone seemed to reconnect with everyone.  It has me thinking though about my seventeen year old self and who I thought I’d become verus who I’ve actually become.

When I was seventeen I had a lot of expectations for myself and everyone.  The other day on Twitter I mentioned that I was “Trying not to compare myself to the me my 17 year old self thought I’d be by now.”  My friend (@nerdgoddess) replied, “Don’t worry. I don’t think any of us live up to our teenage expectations.”  I think this must be true.  But I sure had a lot of them at that age.  At seventeen, I thought that by ten years later I’d have made my first film, have a husband or at least a serious boyfriend, and be living on my own.  None of these predictions were accurate.

At first I was feeling kind of bummed about what my seventeen year old self would have thought of me now, but on further reflection I’m really rather happy with where my life is at as unpredictable as the last ten years have been.  It hasn’t all been great; don’t get me wrong.  No one predicts or wants to think they are going to end up with a chronic illness.  But there have also been so many wonderful things that have come of the last ten years of my life.

When I was seventeen, I was headed to the University of Southern California to study film.  I wanted to be a director.  Or at least I thought I did.  And although I’m sure I could have found happiness pursuing that line of work, my real love is for the written word – specifically the novel.  At seventeen, I never would have considered that I’d have it in me to write a whole rough draft of a novel by the age of twenty-seven or that I would be doing freelance graphic and web design.  Or that I’d be designing Alternate Reality Games.

When I was seventeen, I was in the middle of a serious depression.  My perfectionism consumed my life and made me miserable.  Thanks to meds and therapy and a lot of hard work, I have found so much happiness in the last several years.  And that is something I certainly didn’t expect at the time.  In fact, at the time I didn’t even know what it was to be happy.

When I was seventeen, I was essentially an agnostic Jew searching for some meaning and connection to something larger.  I NEVER would have dreamed in a million years that I would have found it in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  But a little over a year ago I did.  And becoming Mormon has brought me a level of joy, comfort, and perspective on life I never anticipated was possible.

The last ten years have been a roller-coaster ride that my seventeen year old self never would have imagined.  Sometimes the sudden drops and loops make me want to throw up, but all in all I wouldn’t get off the ride for anything.

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Back in the (Alternate Reality) Game

Back in the (Alternate Reality) Game

Tonks Costume

Geek Exhibit A: My handmade Tonks costume for Harry Potter.

There’s no denying that I am a bona fide geek.  If you want evidence, you need look no farther than my Nymphadora Tonks from Harry Potter costume that I made from scratch and then wore to every movie and book party.  Or perhaps the role playing game campaign online I run every week.  Or the fact that I like to learn new software for fun in my free time.  The list just goes on and on.

So yes, I’m a geek, and I love that I can call myself one.  Geeks are some of the coolest people I know.  They are uber intelligent, interesting, adaptable, creative, resilient, fun, and talented.  In fact, geeks are in high demand in today’s culture.  We have certain skills that others don’t.  For example, many of us love games, codes, and puzzle solving.

One of my geekiest (and most favorite) activities utilizes all of these skills – participating in the world of Alternate Reality Games or ARGs.  So what is an ARG you might ask?

An Alternate Reality Game is a unique storytelling format that uses the whole world as it’s platform (but mainly things like internet sites and blogs, tv, print, email, chat, phone, and live events).  Often involving clues, hidden evidence, codes, and puzzles, the story is initially broken up and hidden in these various mediums, and it’s up to the players to collaboratively piece it together to progress the story as it plays out in real time.

An interesting puzzle.

So how does it work?  It all starts with a trailhead or rabbit hole – the initial piece of information that leads you to the rest of the game.  This for example might be an email you receive from one of the characters in the game asking for you help in locating his missing sister.  The email might have a cryptic message at the end of it that leads you to his sister’s blog which in turn might talk about a sketchy company she got involved with before she disappeared.  This takes you to the company website.   Eventually the pieces start to come together and the story begins to unfold.  And what the players do matters to how it all turns out.

I got involved with ARGs back in April of 2008 when I started getting more seriously ill with multiple autoimmune diseases.  ARGs gave me something fun, creative, and intellectually stimulating to do from home in bed all through the magic of the internet.  It also gave me an amazing community of fellow geeks who were just generally really smart, kind, wonderful people in my life.

Under the pseudonym IneffaBelle (or Belle), I played lots of ARGs and made lots of friends, both real and fictional.  I also attended ARGFest the last two years in Portland in 2009 and Atlanta in 2010.  I hope to attend this year’s ARGFest in Bloomington, Indiana.

Eventually I started working behind the scenes developing ARGs for others to play, and I’ve been working at that rather intensely over the last few years.  I have several projects in development now, and I’ve found the development side even more fun and rewarding than the player side.

Sadly, I haven’t had (or made) the time to actually play an ARG in quite some time.  But the other day I received this to my ARG email:

Villain Training Invitation

Geek Exhibit B: A trailhead for the Villain Training ARG

My curiosity was peaked by this cute sort of whimsical concept.  The email led to http://sotanaht.com/ (how is detailed in this forum post on the ARG community site Unfiction).  The first mission opened up today asking us to “mask ourselves” with masks provided on the site.  Here’s mine:

IneffaBelle Villain

Geek Exhibit C: IneffaBelle (aka writerfly) as a masked villain for the Villain Traing ARG

How this particular ARG will unfold remains to be seen, but it’s certainly good to be back in the Alternate Reality Game!

Further Reading on ARGs:

Alternate Reality Gaming – A Definition – Brooke Thompson’s excellent and comprehensive definition of an ARG.

Alternate Reality Gaming – A Quickstart Guide – Brooke Thompson’s funny and informative guide to getting started with ARGs.

ARGNet – The best source of ARG news.

Unfiction Forums– Excellent forum for finding and playing ARGs.

IneffaBelle.com – My ARG website and resume.

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