The (Current) Sims 3 Saga Continues…

When we last saw our heroes, they had just taken the Sims University Aptitude test and received 6 credits toward the completion of their respective degrees! Will they get too juiced to take their exams? Find out today!

So yeah… this and a lot of my playing The Sims 3 is all about wish fulfillment. I want to do well in school and actually complete my degree! And I want Fox to do the same. Upon graduating, I want us both to have fulfilling careers that pay well.

Spending quality time together and with friends is important to us both. I’ve always loved Halloween and the traditions associated with it, especially carving Jack-o-Lanterns and dressing up. I haven’t been able to dress up for Halloween the past few years, so I take dressing my sims up for Spooky Day very seriously.

I’ve also been questioning my and Fox’s ability to complete our degrees and enter our careers of choice. We can’t just take the classes we still need because I have to wait for mine to be offered again and he needs to fulfill prerequisites. While I’m waiting I need to recover from my anxious depression enough to get through a class without thinking I should hurt myself.

We both need to complete an internship and neither of us feels particularly confident in that department. (Honestly I don’t think completing the internship will be an issue. The problem is acquiring it!) I don’t even want to think about finding paid employment while we’re still in school.

Reality is just really gross, I want nothing to do with it! I feel like I have no control over my life. I don’t really have a lot of control over The Sims 3 game either, but at least I get to tell the sims what to do!

Escape to Dragon Valley Pt. 2

I started out my The Sims 3 game with a recently-married young adult couple and their small dog. They initially moved into a small apartment in Bridgeport, the most city-like of the available worlds. It seemed the most thematically appropriate 1) for the careers I intended them to pursue (Music and Styling) and 2) because the low cost of the apartment enabled them to afford a better quality bed and a laptop. (I think on some level I wanted it to mirror my experience of sharing the equivalent of a one-bedroom apartment with Fox.)

At first I played my couple more as two individual sims than as a coherent family. They each had a career to pursue: Carina dove straight into the Music career track and Jason found his way into the Styling profession. Carina spent several hours most days per week at work, requiring minimal attention from me; she also spent a lot of her time home from work practicing violin and guitar. (The game requires guitar skill for both the rock and symphonic branches of the Music career, but I thought violin was more appropriate to the symphonic branch – which I was having Carina pursue. My solution was to have her improve both skills at the same slow pace.)

I thought I’d have fun controlling Jason during his work days as a stylist; I actually got to change the outfits and hairstyles of other sims in town! Unfortunately his clients kept missing appointments and I lost interest in giving makeovers to random sims. So, I had him decide to quit his job and try to find work in a more conventional career track. He tried Business first and quickly received an opportunity to pursue a career in Politics, so I had him change jobs, thinking it might be interesting. He sold his drafting table (required for the Stylist profession) and got an easel instead, which enabled him to paint many valuable works of art. I think he’s made more money selling paintings than going to work.

There was added pressure on Jason to work in a less-than-ideal career track because the couple desperately needed to save up money so they could afford a larger home. The apartment was too tiny and there was no door to the bedroom, so it was often impossible for Carina to practice her instruments without disturbing Jason. (In real life I go for long stretches of time without playing music because I don’t want to disturb Fox.) They had a short time when they weren’t getting along – and even spent Snowy Day apart from one another! – largely because Carina kept practicing when Jason was trying to sleep. The rush to move became even more urgent when Carina became pregnant with their first child; there was no way 3 people could live there comfortably! (In real life Fox and I will also need to find a larger home before we can start having children.)

Eventually they were able to move to Dragon Valley, the new world I’d acquired and was eager to explore. They received a grant to fix up and live in a fort that had been destroyed by dragons. (How wonderful would it be to receive a grant enabling one to buy a nice house in a good neighborhood?) It provided them a far more spacious home, where Carina could practice at any time of day or night and Jason could go in a different room (with a door he could close!) to sleep. Their baby, Aaron, even had his own bedroom.

It was a slow process, but they were able to make the space their own. I had a lot of fun finding creative ways to keep the living-in-a-fort feel while also dividing up the space into usable rooms and making it a functional home. My favorite thing about it is the very open layout on the first floor, which makes taking pictures for memories easy from almost any angle – no walls in the way or awkwardly being able to see inside the bathroom. I’ve also enjoyed having the space change over time, documented in their memories. It gives me a sense of continuity and accomplishment: look how far they’ve come!

I’d wanted this to be a much more essential story element than it ended up being: Carina found dragon eggs in the basement of the fort-turned-home! Way before she (or I) expected, the eggs both hatched: the first into a green-thumbed treasure-seeking dragon I named Kes, and the other into a death-themed logic-oriented dragon I named T’Pol. (No, I’m not a Trekkie. What ever gave you that idea?) They’ve helped the family out a great deal – Kes by providing useful resources and T’Pol by equipping each family member with a death flower, which will save their lives once should a tragedy (fire, drowning, electrocution, being hit by a meteorite, etc.) occur. My sims love playing with the dragons, talking to them to learn gardening and logic, and carrying them around, but the dragons require a lot less maintenance than I’d expected. They’re more like other household objects than pets. It works well enough, I guess, but it’s a little bit disappointing. (That won’t keep me from trying to acquire and raise the other kinds, though!)

Having Aaron kind of forced me to play my sims more like a coherent family. Jason really loved teaching and playing with his son, but wasn’t really getting anywhere (or anything out of) his job. I was also struggling to come up with a career-related goal for him, but I loved watching him play with Aaron and wanted to give Aaron the best possible start. So I had Jason quit his job and become Aaron’s full-time caregiver, while Carina continued to advance in her career and make plenty of money for the family to live on (especially since they’d been responsible with the money from their grant). It was a little bit frustrating because I wanted Carina to be more involved with raising her son while also excelling in her career, but – as in real life – that’s extremely difficult to pull off in The Sims 3. Fortunately, I had a way to express that within the game memory system: Carina had a mid-life crisis! It was a wake-up call for her (and me) to become more involved (to involve her more) in Aaron’s life.

It was kind of rare for the whole family to experience things together, except that I had them attend each season’s festival. My primary purpose for doing so was to have them take a family picture, which I used to keep track of the family changing over time. They also got to have some season-related fun together and with other sims from town. As time has gone on I’ve had them spending more time together. The deaths of their two dogs were very sad, but were also shared experiences. Jason, Aaron, and Ryan shared the experience of sightseeing in Egypt, while Carina played guitar for tips. (I’m not crazy about her excluding herself from their adventures; I feel like I’m struggling to really integrate her into the family while also advancing her career.) Most recently, the family got to come together for 2 birthday parties!

When they’re not directly engaged in activities together, they’re each doing whatever is immediately necessary to keep the household running smoothly. Whoever has gotten the most sleep (or is closer) gets up to care for the crying baby. If there is no prepared food in the fridge, a hungry sim cooks a group meal so the others can also eat – possibly even together! Whoever is closest / in the best mood / is not immediately engaged in skill-building takes out the trash, helps the child with homework, reads a bedtime story, repairs the broken sink, etc. It’s tempting to have whichever sim is best at something (e.g. cooking or gardening) be solely responsible for that task, but I’ve found playing that way to be quite frustrating. This game has taught me that maybe it’s better not to have roles, but to have everyone equally responsible for everything – at least to some degree.

Jason has developed an interest in photography and decided to pursue that as a possible career – despite the fact that his paintings are currently worth a lot more than his photographs will be worth for quite some time. I finally decided to make it his goal to raise both the painting and photography skills to level 10. He just grew up into an elder, so his time is waning. He feels very accomplished to have raised his son, Aaron – now a young adult – and continues to be invested in his second son, Ryan’s, development. He hopes to have grandchildren to help raise as well.

Carina has achieved her lifelong dream of becoming a hit movie composer! She’s getting close to elder-hood, but still has plenty of time to enjoy the career / position / job that she worked so hard and sacrificed so much for. She is also very proud of her sons, especially Aaron who has graduated high school and become a young adult. Investing in businesses around town is a way to ensure future generations of her family will have income, and I’ve used a good chunk of Carina’s lifetime happiness points to acquire objects that any sim in the household can use even after she dies.

I guess, due to the nature of her main goal, Carina has been more focused on her own individual advancement and career success than on being part of the family as a whole. She’s still contributed in her own way by carrying, giving birth to, and financially supporting her sons, even if she’s been less involved in raising them (and it’s not like she hasn’t been involved at all, just less than Jason). Her success has paved the way for them and future generations to have a much easier time in life. And dude, being a hit movie composer who can play guitar and violin in her sleep and whom everyone trips over themselves to photograph is quite the accomplishment! I’d say she has a great deal to be proud of.

For the record, she has NOT given in to demands that she exercise in order to shape her body into what people think a celebrity should look like. She’s an older woman and a mom and an extremely successful musician; people can accept her as she is or go harass someone else, thank-you-very-much.

Aaron has picked up the torch as my new young adult, with all the excitement and opportunity that suggests. His lifetime goal is to be a Renaissance sim – to raise 3 skills to level 10. He’s well on his way to that with painting. I haven’t really decided on a career for him yet and I kind of have notions that he and his brother might open some kind of shop (toy or otherwise; this possibility was unlocked by a recent purchase, so I’m eager to enjoy what I paid for). I’m getting frustrated with failed attempts to make his imaginary friend real (the game didn’t register the first step I took toward the relevant Opportunity). It seems most likely I’ll have him marry and raise a family with his high school sweetheart.

Finally, Ryan has decided he wants to become a world-renowned surgeon. That should be a fun and interesting career track to pursue; I’m not sure I’ve had a sim complete it yet. I’m also thinking of having him be a chess prodigy. For some reason I’m loving the idea of having the youngest member of the family be a genius and quite unlike the rest of the family, yet still a loved, respected, and integral part of it. I like that it’s safe for him to express himself freely and pursue his dreams, even if he doesn’t fit in – no, especially because he doesn’t fit in.

(Barely) Holding It Together

I never got around to visiting Mom in the hospital. On Wednesday I thought I’d go after taking my rats to the vet (by the time I got up the resolve it was almost time for their appointment) – but when I got home I was too exhausted by the whole process. Someone flipped a switch: while I was at the vet I was quite cheerful, but as soon as I walked out my face fell and I was tired and grumpy again.

Yesterday I seriously had a hangover from playing The Sims 3. My witch turned my inventor into a werewolf (using a potion an elixir); turns out werewolves are much better at finding rare gems than, well, anything else in the game. On her first night as a werewolf, the inventor easily found the gem I’d been searching for in multiple versions of this game – countless hours wasted (noisily) digging holes, exploring underground, and nearly getting eaten by zombie bears in the catacombs. The game said it was “an okay hunt” for my sim; to me it was the best thing that could have possibly happened ever in the whole world!

Yeah, my obsession is that bad.

Anyways, I couldn’t stop there. I got and turned in all the other materials she needed in order to acquire the core to her ultimate invention! And then she made the ultimate invention! Mwahahaha!!! It was the most satisfying The Sims 3 playing experience I’ve had since I started with this whole messy business.

I finally decided to save and give my computer a rest at 3-something in the morning. I dragged myself to bed; Dog woke me at 7am. I fed him and let him out and then went back to sleep until 2pm. Well, crap. There was pretty much just enough time for me to take care of pets, feed myself, prepare for class, and get to class – early! I was early for class! I couldn’t believe it! It was fantastic! And class itself was pretty awesome. The last meeting of that class; next week is the final. I’m going to miss it. 😦

I’d intended to visit Mom after class but once again, I was too exhausted. Completely emotionally drained. I thought eating something would help, but no. I needed to talk to Fox and Banji, to take care of pets, to be amused by pets, to relax. I still haven’t even started on my paper, but I think I know what to write about and the instructor gave me a couple extra days before the penalty for lateness starts kicking in. I fell asleep on the couch, then felt inspired to try writing down a melody that was frolicking around in my head, then couldn’t get back to sleep when I moved to my bed.

Dog woke me up at 8:30 this morning. Enter zombie, stage right.

Mom seems to be taking this whole thing very well. She called me this morning (I didn’t answer because I didn’t realize it was her!) and left a message reminding me that she’s moving to the rehabilitation center this afternoon and asking me to bring her stuff there “whenever is convenient; after dinner is okay.” Great, now I know what time she wants me to visit; I don’t have to angst over whether the time I think is okay will be good for her! She didn’t complain about me never coming to see her in the hospital. Maybe it didn’t really bother her or maybe she didn’t want to stress me out any more or maybe she just didn’t want to bring it up over the phone. Whatever the case may be, I appreciate it. It allows me to be a bit less horrible to myself regarding this whole mess.

My apartment is a mess. Dirty clothes and dishes everywhere; I don’t want to think about how dusty it must be. I was unable to brave the dreaded hospital to bring Mom the stuff she’d requested (and, you know, offer some emotional support during her initial recovery). I’ve been neglecting my schoolwork.

But I’m not starving and neither are my pets. They get some love and attention every day. I even cleaned the rat cage yesterday. The house hasn’t burned down. I’ve been keeping appointments and I went to class last night. When things as basic as going to sleep and waking up again are a serious struggle, I’m willing call the other stuff I’ve been managing to do a success.

What If …

“I am in the present. I cannot know what tomorrow will bring forth. I can know only what the truth is for me today. That is what I am called upon to serve, and I serve it in all lucidity.”
– Igor Stravinsky (1936)

Igor Stravinsky’s quote above expresses a major component of what I aim for this blog to be: a kind of snapshot of how I’m doing on a particular day, what I’m thinking about or struggling with … or how I’m succeeding. If depression has taught me anything, it is to live one day at a time. The joy I feel today might be replaced by anguish tomorrow. A day it takes all my strength to get through (probably because I didn’t get enough sleep the night before) might be followed by one of the best days of my life.

My emotions are intense, but they are also temporary. In the worst moments of my life, survival can take the form of remembering, “This too shall pass.”

from dreamstime.com

from dreamstime.com

In the moment I might feel like ripping off my skin, but knowing it is (probably? … hopefully!) temporary allows me to be in it. I can breathe. I can keep myself from doing something impulsive and stupid and … irreversible. I might even be able to learn from the experience.

There is great power in feeling the full force of one’s emotions, including the compulsion to act on them, and knowing that – as unpleasant as it may be, and that’s a terrible understatement – it’s okay to feel this way. I don’t have do whatever it takes to make the bad feeling go away. I might hate it – that’s okay too – but I can be in it. And if I can be in it, then I can get through it … whether through my own strength, or by calling out for help, or by going to sleep and hoping things are better in the morning.

But on Wednesday I read something, and now the “What if …” bug is buzzing around in my head. I asked for feedback on the look and feel of my blog on The Daily Post‘s post, Branding Your Blog: Let’s Get Visual. In one day I had 86 visitors to and 154 views of my blog, blowing my previous records out of the solar system!

I want to thank everyone who dropped by, particularly international visitors, and especially those who signed up to follow my blog, commented, or liked a post. Your engagement means the world to me!

It's so inspiring to know people from all over the world are reading my blog!

It’s so inspiring to know people from all over the world are reading my blog!

I would especially like to thank two fellow bloggers who helped me out with a day with depression. Wander One Day suggested that I change the background color to the lovely bluish-grey it is now. She also put into words an aspect of my experience that I wanted to convey through my title, but hadn’t quite put into these terms:

I think the fact that it is a “day” with depression, rather than “life” with depression or something more permanent, shows that you are not content to live with it forever – it is something that is transient.

Somehow I doubt it’s realistic to expect to walk away from depression completely, but I can come to a point where it no longer has a significant impact on my daily life. I need to develop and will need to maintain better habits, such as my efforts to overcome codependency and getting 8 hours of sleep every night. I might have to be on medication for the rest of my life. But yes, my hope and my goal is for my current experience of depression (as an illness that limits my engagement in society and sense of self-actualization) to be transient. This is what I mean by my (current, as of writing this post) tagline, “… and hope for recovery.”

from focusonrecovery.org

from focusonrecovery.org

In a somewhat similar but more provocative vein, Sandra Conner really got me thinking about what I’m striving for – and succeeding in. Her reply to my request for feedback is a bit long to quote in its entirety here, so I’ll share the parts that inspired the “What if …” bug:

[…] As I read over some of your posts, I feel [that] your sense of taking hold of life bravely and moving forward at every opportunity are two very strong elements in your personality and character. They seem to identify you much more than the depression. I keep feeling you should focus on your success in moving forward toward recovery.

[…] what I read on your site indicates that you are well on your way to not being imprisoned by depression at all. I would let the title celebrate that fact.

[In a follow-up comment:] I definitely do see in your writing and your lifestyle a great deal that is positive and indicative of having overcome depression.

I don’t always see myself in such a positive light, so it’s very helpful, inspiring, and motivating to receive this kind of feedback. It’s easy to get trapped in seeing the aspects of my lifestyle that are unhealthy, to the exclusion of the ways in which I’m doing the things Sandra describes.

What if  instead of seeing myself as a person who struggles with depression, I see myself as a person who successfully lives with depression – one day at a time?
(This is a component of narrative therapy.)

Somehow, suddenly, “the road to recovery” seems a lot shorter! I’m already doing what I just said I want to be able to do … perhaps just not quite as consistently as I would like. That is to say, some days I live with depression more successfully than others; I’d like to – and can! – increase the percentage and frequency of “good” & “okay” days.

Which brings about another question; this one is a bit more hypothetical. But we’re in the land of “What if …” – where anything is possible!

What if  I have recovered from depression?
(This is kind of like the “miracle question” in solution-focused therapy.)

… … …

My shoulders relax; it is as though a weight has been lifted from them. The corners of my lips creep upward – a hesitant, but growing, even glowing smile. I feel a sense of peace come over me as I breathe in more deeply. I am tired, but not sad.

I know I will be able to handle whatever tomorrow brings … especially since I’ll be practicing my maintenance habits and getting 8 hours of sleep tonight!

… … …

Now that’s a good feeling …