Monday, January 27, 2014

A Sims Kind of Life

I have a confession, and it is this.

Well, first of all, I love computer games. This is not my confession. I don't play them but I love them. I love them and video games. Back in the day when Windows '95 arrived, I was all over that business.  Several years ago I told Sean I kind of wanted The Sims game.  This is the confession. It is pretty embarrassing but it is what it is.

What is The Sims, you ask?  It's a computer game that simulates life.  Yes, I know what you're thinking. Jen, that's a horrible idea. And you're right, it is. I acknowledge.

When you try it for the first time, you see a man, or a Sim, in his house.  You learn his needs-- eating, sleeping, entertainment, social activities, bathroom, etc. You know, like a person.  And you can control his actions or watch him putter around his house, living his life, doing what he wants or needs to do. When he changes his activity, a little action bubble pops up to inform you of his intentions. He will tell you what he needs using the same sort of speech bubble. If you are controlling him and you don't address his needs he will get angry and might grumble and Sim-swear, or be sad and weepy.  If you refuse to let him use the bathroom, he will wet himself and be humiliated.  Yes, this game has a kind of sick sadism to it.  But the goal is to keep him happy. You feel rotten and out of control if you don't. 

So, you help train him to get a job. With his job he earns money and you can buy furniture, appliances, electronics, supplies to build onto your home, or landscaping supplies.  Like real life. You can meet other Sims and cultivate relationships by calling them on the phone for a chat or inviting them over, or going to town with them.   The game is highly addictive because their life never ends.  They wake up, do what they do and go to bed and when that's done, it's a new day and you feel like you need to keep them going.  They rely on you.  There's no endpoint.  Eventually I had to shut it down for good because it got to be too much.

Every once in a while I kind of feel like I'm living a Sims kind of life.  I wake up, take care of my needs, dress myself, feed myself, etc. I go about my business. I take care of the day's tasks.  Some days are busier than others.  I shop some days, I do the things I'm expected. Some days are creatively fulfilling. Other days I am just shy of brain dead.  Some days I find myself lacking and I'm not sure why. I have to look at all the things laid out that I'm to do in order to be happy and I try to figure out what's missing.  In Sims, your happiness level is determined by several factors including a clean house, physical wellbeing (getting enough sleep, for instance), social interaction, and FUN. And this is sometimes I forget to have, in my Sim-simulated life (I just got that).

Sometimes in my busy-ness and obligations I forget to have fun. This is extremely sad for me because I am a fun-loving gal by nature.  But as adults, we are preoccupied by duty, stress, and stupid adulthoodedness that we forget to enjoy ourselves and be kids and play.  And I'm surprised.  Just like I was surprised when I used to play the game, and my character/avatar would suddenly stop what he/she was doing and stand there and cry and I was like, what? You're fed, you're dressed, you go to work.  What'sa matter? OH! you're bored. You're lonely.  I haven't let you play any games or read any books or let you have any human interaction. :(

I feel like i have to be very calculating with weighing all of the things of my life so that things don't get off kilter, that the scale isn't unbalanced.  This can feel far too constructed for my taste. Do I really need to make sure I a) eat b) sleep c) read a book d) sing a song, etc? But yes, sometimes I do.  One of my life goals is to know myself the best that I can. I do this so i can :

a) keep making lists, because I love them, and I know that I love them, and no one can make me stop making them.
b) work on stuff, like being better and progress as a human.
c) identify things within myself. Things like needs, weaknesses, tendencies, etc. Then I can address them more efficiently.  All of this has created a close friendship with myself since I spend so much time and attention with me, and as a result I live a much more deliberate life which makes everything meaningful and stuff.  To read more about me and me, click here.

In somewhat related news, this January has not been the worst.  I think I'm finally coming to an understanding of winter.  It's not that I love it. And it's not that it's getting any prettier.  What I do love is the balancing out of things it provides. The opposition, so as to enjoy the good seasons, the beautiful things.  I'm enjoying this so much that--what the hey??-- I guess I do, I almost love winter!  In a sick, self-torture kind of way.  But it does help me enjoy the good things, even during the season within the season. (that almost made sense)

For example:  Winter = bad.  Winter = ugly.  But turning onto a road facing east in the early hours and suddenly being greeted by the bright tangerine sunrise was like being kissed by a friend, the happy morning sun bringing me promises and reassurances that there is, after all, still beauty all around. It's just in spots and moments, and the contrast of Ugly Winter provides that awareness. And heightens the beauty. Do I care as much about a glorious sunrise in the summer? Do I? I'm not so sure. Then again, I probably never see the summer sunrise because i'd have to get up at 4am to see it instead of 7am nowadays, and no one's going to do that. No one should, anyway.  But I do know that I love to see a glowing tangerine sunrise in a black and grey dreary world.

(Also: I have touched on this already.)

Here is a list of things I need to be happy. If I don't do them, particularly the fun things which is easier to forget than the others, I am sad in a kind of numb, robot kind of way.

1. Eat good food. This means healthful food and also food that makes me happy. For instance, on Saturday I went out with friends for dim sum, for the first time.  I loved it so much, I'm pretty sure I said so, emotionally and with fervor, in 5 minute intervals (not annoying).

2. I spend quality time with my family. This winter has been unbelievably cold. for me as well as for others, I suspect. So this means lots of extra time indoors. And it's been fun. Crazy at times, sure. But we're starting to "Anne Frank it" and we live in a winter palace full of countless diversions. Also, I will add that I have chosen to love my child and it has made such a difference. Deliberate love is powerful. And he is a gem. We really are best friends.

3. On that note, I see friends. This one is a biggie. I NEED this. If i don't see friends, don't interact with other adult humans, and talk about interesting things, I am sad.  I sent out an invitation/plea a couple of weeks ago telling friends my brain is quickly atrophying and could they please come over with a topic to discuss. It went well and I was rejuvenated.

4. I be creative.  I need this. I haven't written much this month and it makes my heart wither like a sad balloon. My computer is located near the window and with the A/C still inside, this corner has been dubbed the Arctic Annex during this Polar Vortex of a winter (love these names) and it's just too cold to work. This needs to be rectified and I'm working on it. For example, right now there are towels shoved in the cracks. Also, today is 40 degrees and I could cry. Such a happy relief.

5. I play.  I just need to play. I need to read and think about interesting things and have meaningful discussions, but I need to PLAY.  Games, or whatever.  Last week Julian and I went to the Brooklyn Museum and saw the scariest show I've ever seen. Truly an art horror show. It was a fashion display featuring designs by Gaultier and they projected human face video onto the mannequins. So they have faces and they blink and smile from time to time.  NIGHTMARES.  Julian and I were both totally scared but tried to downplay it. Like, "hah hah...that's a little weird..." nervously.  If I ever want to open my own house of horrors, I'm using this. AAAHHH! I've found video of it! Watch at your own risk. I was, of course, tickled in a terrified way and totally glad we saw it, but again: AAAAH! Anyway, we spent the rest of the time running around the museum, seeing every possible thing you can look at (Julian is the BEST museum-goer. Love this little metro, cultured kid) and my favorite thing: experimenting with the awesome acoustics by whistling and singing every chance we got. 

6. I take winter trips. Getting out of town is so invigorating. What I like to do is find some small town close'ish by that it's drivable but not too close so that it doesn't feel like we're getting out.  It should be a mildly exciting place with at least one featured thing to do. One year we went to a hotel that had an indoor waterpark. It was so weird and kind of creepy which added to the fun.   The most important thing is that the hotel has an indoor pool (of course).   Everything else is secondary.

This blog post is hecka-long, and I apologize. But at least I'm writing.  And at least you got to see that Gaultier show. You can't unsee that, can you.  Your life is now changed forever.   And my question:

What are some things you do when you've forgotten to be happy? What must you do to stay happy during the winter? Or anytime? I'd love ideas. (And comments, but mostly ideas!) 


Alanna said...

I've been surprised to discover that I need to keep my house relatively clean and clutter-free to be happy. This is weird because I grew up in a house that was VERY cluttered. (For example, my Mom subscribes to three newspapers and hates to throw them away unless she's read them all.... 'Nuff said?) But clutter drives me crazy now. I get really angry when the house is a mess.

I also need my blogging and reading and hanging out with Craig time. And I need some "hang out with my friends and just talk" time. If I get all that, I'm usually pretty happy!

Britta said...

I love this post. LOVE LOVE this post. It reminded me of ME, which delighted me. (is that weird?) I've been going through the same analysis of my life for the past year or so. Living in a small town with practically nothing to do sometimes feels a LOT like being shut in for winter. Except now we live in a small town AND we're shut in for winter, so it's MAGNIFIED.

I love lists. I make them every day. I make them about all sorts of topics: pictures I want to draw, things I want to bake, subjects I want to write editorials on, ways to play with my kids, ways to improve myself. I have a whole 3 ring binder called "personal development" where I essentially make lists about topics I'm interested in.

One thing I MUST do to say happy is exercise, or I get the whole chemical imbalance depression thing. I also must be creative. And game nights. I'm much happier if I play games with friends, or even just with my husband.

The Gaultier show was awesome. And creepy. Thanks for sharing.

)en said...

Britta, bless you. Love your binder! Will you make me one? :D

Winter is such an unusual thing. I'm getting rather obsessed. Exercise--yesss. I don't walk as much as I normally do and I've missed it bad. I went for a winter walk in super frigid temps the other day and never felt so happy, which felt contrary to everything i've ever known up until now.