My Inner Worlds
John Denver’s song never made much sense to me when I was younger. At one point someone mentioned the high was from drugs, but I didn’t grow up in an environment that explained drugs and didn’t understand the connection. My family listened to John Denver because the lyrics were clean and safe for our conservative home.
Now that I’ve been in the Rocky Mountains for over 24 hours, I understand what John referred to—altitude sickness. I’m weathering it better than Matt is, but I still have to catch my breath if I walk too quickly while wearing my backpack. Last night I woke in a panic unable to breathe, but after realizing it was just the lower oxygen level creating that feeling in my body, I fell back asleep. Matt barely slept and isn’t handling the high very well.
This morning we drove down to Longmont to meet a friend for lunch at Sakura Japanese Cuisine (amazing food and wonderful owners). We were amazed at the difference in mental clarity and the ability to breathe. Estes Park, Colorado lies 7,500 feet above sea level. Longmont is at 5,000 feet. My precious husband and I are used to oxygen levels found at an elevation of 315 feet—a huge difference.
We are supposed to hike in the morning with another friend. I’ve already warned her that we need to enjoy a nature walk or a mild hike. Matt thinks we can handle a real hike, but I’m not so sure. Maybe I’ll get to post pictures of one of us fallen to the dirt trail or having to be fed oxygen in the back of an ambulance.
Four years ago we successfully climbed the Alamos Vista Trail near Santa Fe, New Mexico, a hike that began at 10,000 feet above the sea and ended at 11,100 feet. So what has changed? Does age make that much of a difference? Are we really that out of shape compared to our 44-year-old selves? My goodness, but this makes me rethink my lifestyle choices. I work at a desk (and love my job), I write in a comfy chair, I play Dungeons and Dragons once a month—again in my comfy chair. And I practice yoga two to three times a week. Possibly I don’t have enough cardio in my physical activity.
Tune in post-vacation to see how I mix it up exercise-wise. Something has to change if Matt and I are going to hike Machu Picchu next spring. We have seven months to kick it into gear so we aren’t passing out in the Andes.
Last week I took vacation time from my day job to visit Denver, Colorado for a consulting assignment. I had a blast doing my normal work in a different environment, making new friends and experiencing a potential I’ve not yet explored—being an independent consultant and traveling for my work. (Note: I’m not saying I’m going to do that. It was just fun to feel the possibilities as I wore that hat.)
The eight-block radius I experienced downtown was amazing, and yes, that’s about all I saw for four days. My colleague and I worked long, hard hours, and we accomplished a lot. It felt great, but was intensely analytical, as you would imagine for a CPA. So I’m devoting this week to my fun side.
Most of you know I’m a gamer chick—formerly into Neverwinter Nights and World of Warcraft. Now my gaming consists of monthly Dungeons and Dragons tabletop role-playing sessions, hosted in my living room for the past six years.
As you may imagine, I take my CPA skills seriously. At work, I’m good at my profession. In play, I will organize a group until people beg for mercy. Last month my adventure notes were six pages long. Typewritten, single-spaced. It was actually a feat for me—normally my notes are only four pages. This past Sunday I spent the entire day editing those notes down to six pages and collating all our stuff into a massive Excel workbook I keep so we all know what the heck is going on when we play.
And what do we play? Pirates! Who knew you could dungeon crawl underwater? My character was voted captain of our ship a year ago, and I wasn’t happy about it. I game to get away from life, and being a pirate captain seemed too similar to being a manager of people. How would that be fun for me? After a while I found my sea legs (ha-ha) and now play Captain Lia as I want. Lia acts like there are three captains on board ship, much to the annoyance of my two friends who remind me there can be only one. I don’t care. I’m the captain and get to do what I want.
Speaking of getting to do what I want, I am exploring a barbaric, physically strong nature. In real life I’m your typical CPA, although I’d like to think I have some personality. On gaming days, I’m a barbarian and hear me roar! Literally. Lia roars and intimidates the crap out of those who need to surrender. Our crew family doesn’t like to kill anyone we don’t have to, so Lia gets a lot of opportunities to improve her scary voice.
Which is quite helpful to me. I’m learning how to let myself be heard. Using Captain Lia as a sandbox, I can explore that side of myself in a safe environment with friends. If you are looking to grow certain aspects of yourself, I’ve found my many years of Dungeons and Dragons transformative.
Now off to plunder…Arrr!
Before my morning yoga class I found seven feathers in the parking lot. I gathered them with care and gratitude. Feathers often come to me, and I see each as a gift from the unseen world. I treasure them all and keep them in a special blown glass vase. Since my heart is filled with blessings and thankfulness, I’d like to share that energy.
One year ago I began my yoga practice at Raleigh Yoga Company and have transformed my body and mind into something I wouldn’t have imagined back then. I’m far from where I want my physical and spiritual forms to be, but I’m on a path that works for me.
One year ago I also began writing this blog, starting the journey to find my voice and let myself be seen and heard. It’s been scary, and I’ve had to struggle with the whisper in my head that tells me I’m not good enough, I’m not clever or interesting enough, or—you get it. Each of us has a voice or two that says different things depending on who we are and what we want to become, but the effect is the same. We can listen to it and not break through our imagined limitations, or we can fly free and see the world through new eyes.
Almost six years ago Matt and I started hosting a monthly gaming day with a group of friends I’ve grown to cherish. Not only has our friendship blossomed and intertwined among the five of us, role-playing Dungeons and Dragons characters has helped me break out of the Sarah construct and explore new ways of expressing who I am and who I can become.
Ten years ago Matt and I traveled for the first time to the United Kingdom and Ireland with two of our dear friends. Since that initial voyage, the four of us have traveled twice more to those magical lands. We are now planning our next trip, to hopefully occur in spring 2019 to the mystical site of Machu Picchu.
These are four of the gifts for which I’m grateful, yet I found seven feathers. Does that mean I have three more beautiful things coming into my world? I certainly hope so.
Thank you for being part of my journey. May the feathers that bless me also bless you and your path in life.
Spring seems like it’s already here, not necessarily because of the weather (although it helps). But because my job has eased up. I don’t have to run on pure adrenaline, and my body has mostly recovered from that spike that got me through the winter busy season. My creative brain is wakening. I feel it perking at the oddest times, usually when I can’t sit down and write. The frustrating part about art—my muse and my schedule don’t often align. But when they do, it feels like magic.
Magic, did you say? I haven’t gotten back into my stories or fiction yet, but my monthly Dungeons and Dragons role-playing game has burst with renewed fun. Captain Lia is not a magic-user, but her two best friends and pirating buddies are. The D&D world is steeped in monsters and enchantment and sends me to a place where I can play with aspects of myself. It’s not always safe to try something new in real life, but a fantasy setting where harm really can’t occur is the perfect way for me to try on different hats or perspectives.
Consider the pirate stereotype…salty, villainous, greedy, most likely missing some teeth. However, my friends and I have created a way to play pirates that doesn’t go against our real-world principles. Lia leads a ship whose crew is considered family. She would die before allowing harm to befall anyone aboard the Skull fleet. She also won’t allow raids on villages; instead, we seem to give our bounty to those in need. Definitely not a pirate thing to do. I get to be a barbarian and a bad-ass in battle. It feels empowering to kill two monsters with one swing of my mighty sword. Historically, I’ve played magic users and always had to stay in the background during fights due to my delicate constitution. Now I get to play a physically strong character and stretch those muscles within myself.
Do you have a space where you can experiment with who you are and feel safe doing so? I’d love to hear about it.
A good friend of mine gifted me with a raven and skull statue earlier this week. I love crows and ravens. While in Dublin, Ireland in 2008, I got a crow tattoo on my breastbone, inked by Zsolt at Zulu Tattoo in the Temple Bar district. I call it “downward flying crow” and will not post a picture due to its location. As a junior in high school I wrote a parody on Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” and won an award. My love of the large black corvid goes way back.
I’m so excited about receiving this present that I had my own photo shoot yesterday in two different locations: work and home, although the backgrounds look similar because I have the same decorating taste in both spaces.
Without further ado, I introduce Ravenskul, guardian of the Wolf living room, protector of all who lounge on the not-so-comfy sofa. He will also be a great prop tomorrow for my Dungeons and Dragons pirate game.
Ahoy, matey! The captain has a new friend to keep lookout for merchant ships to board and plunder.
Each month my friends and I meet for a full day of Dungeons and Dragons, a roleplaying adventure game that I’m sure you’ve heard of. They arrive at my house around noon and sometimes don’t leave until 9 pm. It makes for a tiring day, but one filled with tons of fun. Our current group started gaming together in 2012 with Rise of the Runelords, a Pathfinder adventure that took us four years to complete. Last fall we started Skull & Shackles, a pirate escapade on the high seas that has taken us out of our comfort zone.
I first began roleplaying in 2003 or 2004 with a homegrown adventure written by SJ, my current GM (gamemaster). Roleplaying stretched me. In the beginning I was terrified of making a mistake, of letting others see me, of drawing attention to any aspect of myself—you get the picture. Being with loving people who have become dear friends gave me a space to explore possibilities. Why couldn’t I be more outgoing like my selkie character Lyra? The charismatic druid I created and played mirrored aspects of myself that I didn’t feel safe expressing in real life. Over time I learned to relax more, to have fun, and to slowly incorporate the traits I liked in Lyra into my own experiences.
Matt and I moved to the mountains in 2008 and couldn’t realistically participate in tabletop RPG (role-playing games) from a distance. When we returned from our three-year journey into the wilderness, our friends suggested reforming our group to play Rise of the Runelords. Life had felt a little rough for me outside my beloved urban Raleigh-Durham area, and the sorceress I crafted for this adventure helped me learn to embrace my inner power. Elliana was a strong-willed, not-very-wise, magic user who shot lightning bolts from her fingertips. Playing her over the course of four years was illuminating, and with the help of Matt, I learned how to think outside the box. Several times Elliana used magic in an intensely creative and non-destructive way that impressed the heck out of me. Since those ideas came from me, I learned that I can express my creative side in real life and not fear it.
I grieved last summer as we completed the Runelords adventure, knowing Elliana had to retire to her hero afterlife. To help compensate for that loss, SJ allowed me to create my current character Lia as the daughter of Elliana and two other characters from the Runelords game. She is a combination of four different races, but the sorcery used in her birth went haywire, giving me a great roleplaying opportunity for times when Lia feels stress.
It was difficult to shift to this strong physical fighter, who is now also a pirate captain. We’re still learning to play our new roles in Skull & Shackles, but I can see a parallel in Lia’s physical abilities and my new interest in practicing yoga. Playing a pirate captain is stretching me, but our group has decided to be “good” pirates. We don’t prey on the innocent and will only take the life of an enemy when necessary. I look forward to seeing how the next three years will transform Lia and me in our tandem worlds.
A look at Lia's portfolio via the Hero Lab app (shown on an iPad Mini):