My Inner Worlds
High school biology changed my world when I learned about genetics. The science came easily to me, and I wondered how my classmates could have difficulty with the concepts. Although I pursued a non-science career, I lived vicariously through my sister Lisa, who chose the genetics route and worked for a time at Yale, doing research and co-authoring academic papers. I visited one summer and got to meet the dominant male lab rat and see where the drosophila flies lived and bred for their keepers’ experiments. While my knowledge capped at A, C, G, T (the chemicals that make the nucleotide bases of our DNA), my mind spun fantasy worlds founded on genetic manipulation. Every story idea I’ve fleshed into a potential novel since 2011 contains elements of genetics and the exploration of what makes us who we are.
Enter AncestryDNA and five sisters who think it’s cool to explore what binds us into the strange world of Webb. What makes us the weird, creative, and strong-willed women we’ve all grown into? Is it the heritage encoded in our blood? The way we were raised? As a CPA, I have no clue. As a fantasy writer, I’ve got plenty of potential answers that are fun to explore.
Just over a year ago we gathered to celebrate my niece Freya’s 21st birthday. As a gift, I decided to run a tabletop role-playing game based on the Pathfinder Dungeons and Dragons world. We dressed up as our characters and enjoyed an afternoon of magic and creative play. It’s an incredible memory (and picture) to have. It also highlights our tendency to be weird.
Below are the results of our tests. I’ve been drawn to our Celtic heritage since my early twenties…the mystery and magic of druids…the nature myths that I want to believe are true…Avalon…swords, definitely swords. Is this because 23% of my genes are from that area of the world? Or is it because my family has played dress-up throughout my life? This picture is from our Scottish Mother’s Day in 1998, where we all chipped in and bought Mom a bagpipe, her heart’s desire that we could make a reality. And yes, we all dressed up and adopted a Scottish or Celtic persona. I even did a sword dance (alas, there’s no pictorial evidence).
What about your family? Have you ever wondered what makes you who you are? Do you have stories you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them.
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.