Immersing myself within game worlds, with people I could probably never see face-to-face, whom I didn't even know the real names of, was incredibly like the early Usenet in some ways. Handles like MonkeyMasterB8, Synchronous Heartbeat, ExtraOrdinary, Randomizer, ToastGhoast, and my favorite EvilDeath1234 were all a part of it. Most people felt it mildly rude to be looking for real names, though, eventually, with all the time in conversation, we would start to talk about our real lives.
Pursuing, if not perfection, at least excellence, with those whose sole purpose was to get better at the game, was intoxicating, and playing with people who did little but play video games for all their time off filtered for those for whom this was their life for now. And it turns out a lot of us really are walking away from life for a while, for various reasons.
Many of which I couldn't really write about at the time, as this is now the Internet, where everyone searches for their name, and nothing really stays compartmentalized away. Suffice it to say that the ending of my time as the moderator with my church was rough, given that a junior pastor had just left, and the senior pastor had to go amid all kinds of personal conflict afterward.
The conflict really hurt a lot of people in our church, and while a few of the relationships were damaged beyond repair, most of it went well with most of the people. And the Rocky Mountain Conference's minister, Rev, Sue Artt sent us an absolutely fabulous interim pastor, Joanne Buchanan Brown. She's been a Godsend in the most literal sense.
She took the whole congregation in hand, and dealt evenhandedly with our staff, and Joanne's been instrumental in getting everything back on track again with the help of the two co-moderators of the present, Wayne and Allyson. They did a really fabulous job of putting the church back together again, and it includes a lot of things that, in my heart of hearts, I felt that I had had a hand in breaking.
There's this quote in one of the Door books by Diane Duane which says something close to the Goddess saying, "Your broken heart healed crooked, so we'll have to break it again to get it to heal straight."
I had to break some really fundamental things in order to get the church to heal straight.
Which is a very me-centric thing to say, as the breaking really wasn't just me, and it wasn't my fault in some sense. Yes, this is all horribly vague, but it's as true as I can get to without bringing in debts and consequences I don't really want to deal with. But I felt the guilt of having been the one to destroy what was wrong in order to let the whole get back up on its feet. I still remember Ross telling me, once, that he considered himself a priest in the sense of building up the structure of the church; and that I was like one of the prophets, who excel at bringing the Temple crashing down. He was more right than he knew.
After I quit being captain, I finally talked with Joanne, for the first time since she'd started as our pastor nearly a year ago. The church is now doing quite well. It's healthy, growing even in this interim period, as she's very very clear about how long she's going to stay, when she's going to leave, and what an exciting time it is for our church as we figure out how to define who we are, what we're for, and where we're going in order to do the rightful work for calling a new pastor. We can't Call someone if we don't have a Call.
And we talked through the whole situation, and as I was describing what happened near the end, she started asking me, "Did you have a Moderator Elect then?"
"Well, no, I couldn't bring Allyson and Wayne on until a lot of this had already happened, and then I spent a whole three hours explaining what was up and gave them a day to think over their answer about taking it on..."
"Did you have a co-Moderator?"
"Did you have a Moderator Past?"
"Well, yes. Linda was at all the Cabinet Meetings... but she wasn't really in on the interactions..."
"So you were holding all of this up by yourself."
I blinked at Joanne. "Uhm... I... I never thought of it that way."
She laughed in the kindest way imaginable and hugged me. "No wonder you were so worn out and no wonder your ran as soon as you could."
I ran away. The gaming and the competitive dive kept me away from church, away from the people that I really didn't want to see for a while, and kept me away from interfering with the recovery. And doing it with something like a first person shooter video game made sure that the church people who were dedicated to peace and non-violence would shun me and my habit as much as possible. That amused me for a really long time, but then I started talking about what I was actually doing, and they came around even when a few started out disdainful about my terrible new habit.
But I finally couldn't run anymore.
And it was actually going off the team as a substitute that really broke it all open for me in that way that I, as an INTP, kind of have to get at feelings, i.e. it has to be something completely unrelated.
I haven't been good about taking care of my hands since I went off as a main/captain. Some of it was being able to indulge in the games I'd forbidden myself when my real focus was solely tf2. And then the team had a surprise no-show by their medic, so I stepped in and we not only got stomped, but the self-admittedly toxic guy went into a rage and quit the instant the game was done. He later said that it wasn't about me at all, that it was about their medic not showing, and another player just not showing; but in-game, he made some really sarcastic comments about various of my decisions.
One of which had been really dumb, but instinctive, two of which were just through sheer ignorance on my part. But I'm not that experienced at 6's and I don't really know, a lot of the time, everything that I should be doing. And I really have relied on my teammates to help me figure out what it was that I needed to do.
I took it badly.
And I took myself off the roster that night. And then the next day, when I saw that the UGC's software had made me a "former member" instead of "former leader" because their interface and software is stupid about keeping track, I just lost it.
I cried for probably four hours straight, and about half an hour into it, I said to John, "Wow, this is so not just for a stupid title on a stupid competitive organizational site, is it?"
It was all the grief I'd just been avoiding for all that time, really.
There was a whole lot of it. And I hadn't let myself feel it for so long that when it finally broke out it broke out thoroughly. I read a bunch of stuff to let me feel it, too, and it just flattened me for a couple of days.
And when I was finally done with all of that, I went, sought out the new team, sat with them and played with them and had such a good time with them that I finally accepted the fact that I'm done with comp, but not done with them. I still have my friendships with them, and I can still just play with them for fun. And afterward, I had a long, several hour talk with the toxic guy. He'd pulled something, laughing and coughing at the same time, during the game, and I expressed sympathy and we just started talking from there. He was in so much pain he just couldn't sleep, so we talked instead of him doing nothing but lie in agony.
But at one point, I thanked him 'cause during the not so great conversation after the bad match, he'd said that it was all right if I wanted to play other games, but that if I wasn't going to concentrate on tf2, then he wasn't comfortable with me being a sub for the team. And I finally realized that what he'd really done was given me permission to go. And that I hated giving up, hated letting them down, hated putting down a responsibility.
His reply was that we all had our demons. And that his was the perfectionist, that everything had to go perfectly, or he would get angry and depressed and upset with things as they were.
And I realized, then that his demons fed my own insecurities about my supposed inability to play as well as they needed. I actually played just fine, according to him, for steel he wasn't expecting someone who could play the way his friend, the ex-plat player, could. But his need to be perfect, and some of the others on the new team who really truly hated losing, were all feeding my demons that keep getting on me about not being 'enough' for the people I was with.
And I finally came to grips with the simple fact that while I really cared about the guys, for themselves, I couldn't play with them in competitive game play.
So I was happy I was completely off the team, and happy that I could leave them to do what they needed to do while I went off to do what I needed to do to heal my upper body.
I haven't made great progress at that, in all honesty; but I've cut my hours in about half. That's progress of a sort. And, perhaps most importantly, I haven't been playing with the intensity that I play when I'm actually doing a scrim or a match. So the sheer amount of stress and tension I'm holding has gone down. Both the chiropractor and massage therapist have said that I'm making some progress.
Another thing that has helped has been that Joanne has been doing discernment workshops on Saturdays from 10 am until about 3, and today until 4pm, so I haven't been able to PUG with the guys. I just can't play while I'm away. So I don't do the six hours straight and then go and do ultiduo as well.
I'm finally listening to my stretchware, too, and taking breaks and stretches and doing things that I haven't done for nearly half a year. Since Christmas, I've been going at it so hard I've even changed my sleep habits for the worse. The adrenaline of playing at the usual scrim hours and then after until nearly midnight keeps me up until 1 am on a regular basis. I've phase shifted until my body wants to go to sleep at 1 am, and that's been harder to shift earlier than I want it to be.
I'll get there.
I hurt so badly most nights now it's hard to sleep anyway. So I'm icing, and making sure I make my chiro and massage appointments. I'm also lifting to take care of the bees, taking more time to cook real meals for the family and so happy I can just be there at the usual dinner time instead of always having to demand that dinner be early.
One healing thing was that a mid-open medic who is trying to learn how to be a pocket soldier offered me a slot as a substitute medic on her team. She really liked me and wants to help me learn at my own pace, so the offer included demo reviews and instruction as well as just being a friend with her and getting to meet her team. I really liked that idea, and said yes; and then fretted so much about what time I'd have to set aside or how much I felt obligated to be available on match nights and times that I finally faced the fact that I'm really not willing to get back into that pool just yet.
So I told her that I couldn't do it, and she replied, simply, that if I ever changed my mind, I'd be welcome.
I cried again, but it was the good kind of crying.
So I think I'm over some things, through a few things, and getting back on the church governance horse again, as I've now done the four discernment workshops and someone's now signed me up to be on the search committee for our next pastor. Everyone's pretty excited, so we'll see how it goes. It'll be a good deal of work and prayer, but that might be what I need.