just don’t look at it.

This is what my kitchen table looks like at the exact moment I’m writing this. Chaos. Things that are currently happening in this space: printing shipping labels, taking photographs of new products, printing color palettes for new designs, writing two postcards and one letter, paying bills (which should all be automated, but two things mysteriously showed up on paper this month – I will need to investigate), and packing the bookshelf. And writing this blog post. And half a glass of iced green tea. It looks like beer, but it’s not, more’s the pity.

I hate chaos. My impulse is to clean this up and empty the tabletop, but honestly, there’s nowhere to put it. If I move this chaos, I will create another chaos a couple of feet away. My living/working space is small and hard to manage under normal circumstances, and it’s in full-blown activity and transition mode just now. I find it hard to relax or be at all productive in chaos, but the last few months have been so hectic and uncertain that I’ve been working on learning a new skill. Instead of managing the chaos, much of which is out of my control, I am trying to manage my awareness of/response to the chaos. It’s really hard to do. At least, it’s really hard for me to do. Working out helps. Retreating to bed, which is the only non-chaotic space in my apartment, with my computer or my book helps.

I started to feel like a lot of things in my life were out of my control in January, so I’ve had nearly six months to work on this skill. I’ve gotten much better at it, but nothing really succeeds in taking that background anxiety all the way away. I think it’s going to be some time before things feel calm again, so I’m continuing to look for ways to just leave the constant mill of thought and planning and wondering that is the inside of my head.

My friend scrufflibrarian and I have been emailing back and forth about video games for a while: what makes them appealing, how they’re different from other types of entertainment (I’m not sure the word entertainment is even the right one, but I’m neatly sidestepping that rabbit hole for now), how they test you, how they’re designed, what different people look for from play, what types of play interest people, what ideas are embedded in them, etc. It’s fascinating. He’s described several of his favorite games to me, and the more I learned the more appealing it sounded. After the car accident last weekend, I just wanted something to step into that wasn’t related to work or moving, and that would take my concentration and attention. Scruff suggested Kingdom of Loathing, an online RPG of visual simplicity, magical silliness and thorny, embedded complexity. It was the perfect suggestion. First off, it’s soothingly simple to look at. See? No chaos:

It’s also reassuringly simple to play. Basically, it’s read text, assess options, click to complete action. But there’s a ton of information and options and places to explore and complex goals for playing (for which my friend is kindly providing me tutorials and hints so I don’t waste all my game time mindlessly hitting things). So while it doesn’t feel overwhelming at all, there’s plenty to keep my mind occupied. It’s also incredibly clever and funny. Basically, it’s perfect. I’ve only been playing for three whole days, but so far it’s doing a nice job of keeping my eyes and my anxiety off the things I can’t control. Thank you, Scruff.

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