How One Introvert is Trying to Survive a Pandemic

These sure are uncertain times, aren’t they? I didn’t expect for us to be in a full pandemic within the first quarter of 2020. But like many in these uncertain times; I’ve been trying to find new solutions to dealing with overwhelming problems. 

Now here’s where I have to say I’m not a doctor, not a professional and little more than a person who has been given a microphone because of the vast power of the internet. So listen to local authorities, listen to experts and all that jazz. Here are just a few of the ways I’ve been coping so I won’t be giving any medical advice or anything whatsoever. 

So: how have I been coping?

Well, routine. 

I’ve been working from home and I’m incredibly lucky to be able to do so. But working from home means that I have to be even more strict about my routine. Anxiety loves routine and I had one in place. Get up, get dressed, go to work, leave work, come home, chaos. 

Having that routine disrupted by working from home (which I know is a huge blessing) has not been the easiest on my mental health. So I’ve been getting up, getting dressed, having breakfast and signing into work from my dining area to mimic as much routine as possible. I go to lunch, and I relax as much as I can when I’m done with my work day. 

I’ve also been trying to get out of the house responsibility. I’ve been taking walks. Those walks have featured an old anxiety-friendly favorite: Pokemon Go. The goal-driven game is nice as a distraction as I take small walks around my neighbor to get some fresh air after my work day. 

Speaking of: I’ve been playing a lot of Pokemon. It’s nice to just sit and make curry and work on shinies as a means of distraction when I have downtime or am spending time at home over the weekend. I’ve also been playing Just Dance because of course I have. 

I think there’s something about social distancing that I wasn’t expecting which is how instantly lonely I felt. I’m an introvert, sure but I also love human interaction. I spend hours on the weekend at the local card shop talking to friends. I podcast with a dear friend. I go out to eat with friends. I’m out quite a bit considering that I don’t get a ton of power from people. I’m an introvert in that I don’t get a lot of power from random people. But I also love my freedom. I love being able to go to the mall, the fabric store, the card shop. I love being able to leave my home as a means of distraction from when my thoughts turn cruel and overbearing. 

I can’t do that in a pandemic. 

The existential crisis over what is essential has been incredibly distressing and being “encouraged strongly” to remain inside has been less than ideal but let’s go over a few of the things I’ve been doing to fill my time when I’m not working.

  • Talking to friends. Not just online but physically talking. Carlos and I have a standing weekly call and it’s been great to hear his voice and talk about what we’re doing and how we’re holding up. I’m also doing more on Discord and rejoined my friends on Gendou there. It’s like being home again and I love it. 
  • I’ve been doing a lot of reading. Fanfiction, books for the podcast, articles, everything. I’ve just been consuming content and it keeps my mind busy when I start to get nervous about the whole pandemic thing. It’s a good time to go through my backlog which is…too many damn books. 
  • Exercise is something that I hate doing but honestly playing Just Dance and being able to go for short walks has been a glorious thing to do in my down time. I look forward to being able to get off of work and go for a short walk around the neighborhood or change and play a few songs on Just Dance as a reminder that I am very out of shape but it’s still a fun challenge. 
  • I watch a scary amount of television and movies and Youtube videos so here are a few of the things I’ve been watching and I will accept no judgement. This is a pandemic; I’m allowed some questionable watching choices: 
    • ER
    • House
    • Air Disasters
    • Beastars
    • Criminal Minds
    • Deadly Women
    • Forensic Files 
    • Avengers: Endgame
    • Live: PD
    • Law and Order: SVU
    • It’s Alive with Brad Leone
    • Binging with Babish
    • The Take’s deep dives on Game of Thrones
    • Lindsay Ellis videos
    • Gourmet Makes
    • Monstrum
    • Crash Course

I set some goals for this whole thing which was to get back to cooking. I’m doing more shopping than I ever have and eating at home more in my entire adult life. I’ve been talking to friends and staying optimistic. I am trying to stay informed and continue to do the things that make me happy. 

We’re going to get through this. I believe we’re going to get through this. 

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay healthy. 

Unfortunately, Required Reading: Episode 31- The Stranger

Greetings from self-isolation.

Enjoy this episode on The Stranger by Albert Camus while Tori and Amanda drink at home and talk about existentialism.

What Bejeweled Taught Me About My Anxiety

In the days when my mother had a job and did work in an office, there was one interesting constant that I remember and that was the game Bejeweled. The gem matching game was installed on her desktop; likely something to do when she had down time in the office. Mother was a receptionist and she did inevitably have down time; it was also great for me because on the few days I had to be in office waiting for her to get off of work after school. I loved the game as it was mindless entertainment and my mother loved it as it kept me quiet as she finished out her work day. 

My relationship with video games is a complicated one. I like things that help me escape the realities of existence. I like mindless things. I like distractions. I like to escape. It’s one of the reasons I obsess over games like Pokemon and Cooking Mama. I am a neurotic little monster so anything that lets me escape into a world that has fewer problems, idealized people and simple tasks that can distract me: I’m all in. There’s a reason my CurryDex in Pokemon Sword is as stellar as it is or why I have such a great high score in Cooking Mama. It’s easy to want to keep trying to make the same thing over and over again but if I fail; it’s difficult to beat myself up over. If I don’t become champion of Galar, it’s okay; that’s not tied to my self-worth (but let’s be real; I easily defeated Leon and I am proudly Galar’s champion). It’s one of the reasons I like playing fighting games alone; the stakes are low. I don’t have to worry about losing to someone else, the only person who stands to lose or stands to be affected is myself. 

So when my mental health recently became the worst it had ever been and I found my phone once more devoid of all games after finally giving up on Pokemon Masters; I downloaded Bejeweled on a whim and the process of playing Bejeweled has taught me a lot about myself, my anxiety and my mental health. 

Bejeweled is a puzzle matching game so it’s great to keep my mind on something that isn’t the futility of life, how many errors (most likely imagined) I made during the day, how miserable I am, how alone I am and how much I miss my parents. I responded well to the patterns, the colors and the need to continue to feed my starved brain some dopamine when I felt I did a good job or cleared a level. It mostly became a mindless thing to do while laying in bed and waiting for sleep to take me. 

Bejeweled recently added a feature that was fascinating to me which was a Zen mode. Zen mode is an endless, you cannot lose version of the game that allows the anxious to just swipe jewels forever in hopes of easing worried minds. In Zen mode there are ambient noises and something I did not expect; positive affirmations. Now, many know that positive affirmations don’t always work for the anxious. It was hard to believe that I was worthy of good things or a magnet of success when I barely felt like leaving my bed. 

Recently, I’ve been taking my mental health more seriously and those steps mean taking a good hard look at myself and my thought processes and Bejeweled has brought to center all of the things I can’t stand about myself. One is the negative self-talk and worthlessness; not being able to believe those positive affirmations. Another is getting lost in the forest for the trees; I’ve noticed that I’ll get stuck on a level only to come back to it hours later and find that the solution was right in front of me. And a third was impatience. I get ahead of myself easily and I get easily discouraged because I don’t feel a great deal of self-worth. 

I didn’t think that a simple game would be better at shining a light on my emotional issues than years of therapy would be. I didn’t think I could find so much comfort in a simple gem matching game would help me find something to do when my mind raced and when my thoughts turned cruel and hateful. I didn’t think that Bejeweled would be the thing that distracted me and kept me grounded when I was stressed out and miserable. It became something to keep my hands busy, my mind focused and my soul at ease. 

And as my mental health improves (albeit, slowly) it’s easier to find those little affirmations less disingenuous and more relatable. It got easier to sleep. It got easier to teach myself to let my thoughts wander to other things that weren’t self-loathing. And I do hope it continues to get easier. The last few weeks have been complicated. I faced a lot of backlash over a post I wrote, honestly, one of the first times that’s happened on my blog. I had the anniversary of my father’s death as well as work stress and other personal things that make my already hectic life more hectic. 

There’s a place in the world for mindless distraction. There’s a place for the anxious for mindless entertainment and a certain comfort in routine and simple pleasures. It’s nice to let my mind wander now as I play Bejeweled to calm down, I feel less hopeless and less strange. Remember when I mentioned that I quit playing Pokemon Go? Maybe I was hasty. There’s nothing wrong with having something that gives you an anchor. And if my relationship with Bejeweled ever becomes such that it is a distraction from people, then I’ll delete that game from my phone as well. But for now; it’s a nice vacation with ambient sounds, positive affirmations and an endless sea of colorful gems to keep me occupied in my darkest hours. 

Unfortunately, Required Reading: Episode 30- Lord of the Flies

In which hosts Tori and Amanda discuss the collapse of civilization and Lord of the Flies from scenic Amanda’s Apartment.

An Ode To Camp

The 90s were a hell of a time, weren’t they? Think about it. It was a halcyon era for animation and for comic books that people look back at with some shame. I, however, being a real life Disney villain look at this time with pride and joy. So let’s talk about the grim-dark comic book era, camp and why I secretly love Joel Schumaker’s Batman

Here’s the thing: I love how absurd comics are. Orphans become gods. Super heroines are created out of a love of BDSM and feminism. Villains fall into acid and make excellent Kierkegaardian arguments about the nature of good, evil and the absurd. One of my favorite comic books characters is Booster Gold who is literally from the future and uses time travel to be a hero in the past because of his ego despite being a normal regular guy with no powers; just future information. What’s not to love? 

So knowing that about me, it may be a shock that I do not like Christopher Nolan’s trilogy of Batman movies. I get it, it’s a good movie. But when I grew up and my rooting in the lore of Batman is Batman the Animated Series. With that preface in mind, you may now see why I find those films to be a grim foretelling of movie trends to come. While many praised Nolan for “grounding” Batman and his world; I personally felt it was too much of a departure. I was horrified by a Joker that was an “agent of chaos” and a Bruce Wayne who looked bored in every scene he was in. I was horrified by a Raas a’Ghul who was in a dreary outfit and a Batmobile that looked like some reject Stark Industries project. 

Needless to say; the grim dark method of superhero movies just doesn’t do it for me. When I say grim dark; think of a Zack Synder DC movie. Not that those aren’t valid but they’re certainly…an aspect of comic books. And the grim dark vs. camp debate is one that goes back decades in comics. 

Comics are weird. I say that as a person who loves comics but the absurdity is one of the things I love the most about comics the most. And while many comics are dark and grim (look at literally anything Frank Miller has done) they usually manage a brightness and camp and color that is still fantastic and elements that are still usually hilarious or campy to offset the darkness of the piece. 

It’s always been important to me that most superheroes have a rooting in either propaganda (like Superman and Captain America) or as nearly unrecognizable versions of themselves decades ago (like Batman and Green Lantern) and many of them were incredibly campy. Now, I’ve used camp and campy a few times and let’s back up and do a little defining. Campy is a word that does get thrown around a lot but at its core: camp is humor, expression and style that is extravagant, at times tasteless and tacky and at its pure foundation is pure self-decadence. When I say superheroes are campy it’s because…well, think of Batman in the 1960s. Surf boards, gadgets and strange cars. Think of The Avengers in the 70s and 80s fighting villains that are either powered by rock and roll or cocaine. 

But the late 80s and 90s brought a desire for comic books to be serious and then everyone got different costumes. Color vanished from costumes. Everyone had guns. Jason Todd had to die. Superman had to die and thus any optimism or joy. Comics got serious. 

I feel this most when it comes to comic book movies, especially the early ones. Think of the original X-Men slate of movies that was so offended by the color that they even had the nerve to make a jab at it via a sly comment made by a boring actor trying to play Cyclops. I was shocked. I grew up with the X-Men having iconic and colorful costumes and to think they wouldn’t “photograph” or “film” well just need to look at their local comic book convention to realize that if done correctly: color can still be fantastic. Really only a few major directors and franchises seem to have this issue mostly because for better or worse the MCU seems fine with embracing somewhat comic accurate costumes while shunning color in backgrounds aside from a few noted exceptions to the norm. 

Where I feel the most annoyance with grim and dark is in the storytelling. Now, comics have some dark storylines but in the movies, there’s just no room for levity or joy.  Honestly, the character I see this most in may shock you but it’s the Joker. The Clown Prince of Crime comes up a lot on this blog and every time I go out of my way to mention that for me, the true canon version of this character is in Batman The Animated Series. To me, the animated version is the perfect mix of humor, darkness and being absolutely terrifying to a young mind. Which is why its always a shock to me when they make him such a humorless character in live action adaptations as of late. Why take a character with such an iconic design and make him just simply a chaos agent or a mentally ill person. And in many of these instances, nothing is added to the character by taking away his humor or charm. Making him just menacing or just scary or just mentally ill takes away what makes him as a villain so damn fascinating. The Joker’s appeal, in my opinion, is that he has a warped view of the world and of how things should operate and if you need an example of how to balance menacing and funny just look at The Killing Joke

I could go but there’s one more example I want to bring up before I wrap this up and that’s where I feel this trend has negatively impacted characterization and that’s Superman. Now, I’m not the biggest Superman fan mostly because he’s always been a blue boy scout to me and as an alumna of the Bruce Wayne School for Successful Orphans you can probably tell where my allegiance lies when it comes to the DC Trinity. But like Bruce Wayne, I’ve always admired Clark’s optimism and ability to find good in humanity. Which is why Man of Steel was such a damn disappointment. Now, this movie wasn’t the first to want to tarnish the reputation of the Blue Boy Scout like InJustice but Man of Steel just took a character with so much hope and so much joy and made him a sad, moping mess who at the end of the film ends up as a murderer. What is gained by doing this? Is he somehow more relatable? He’s a buff alien who is a Jesus allegory. He’s not supposed to be relatable. And why does making him moody and dark and brooding suddenly make him relatable? It’s just weak writing. 

I miss camp. I miss optimism. I miss color. I miss superheros havings dumb adventures and villains with silly plans that affect only a city block and not the entire world. I fell into comic books to escape the realities of a world that is dark, random and full of violence. 

There has to be a way to balance humor, action and tension and seriousness with color and jokes that make sense. There just has to be.

Wait, didn’t we start by talking about Batman Forever?

So, Schumaker as a director is a hot mess and I cannot and will not say this movie is good but it did something that now I find rare, beautiful and curious. It gave us a Batman that was strong, a Riddler that was hilarious and a Two-Face that was over the top. This was superhero drag and its best and dammit it was good. And I think what makes it so good now is looking at the movies we got after it featuring Batman. So many of them are dark, brooding and take themselves too seriously but it took someone willing to disrespect a narrative like Schumaker to ignore lore, canon and anything else and see the series for what it is: a campy, vaguely homoerotic romp.

I think we fear humor and camp in comics because many of us comic book fans are defensive. We’re used to having to rationalize our hobby as not for kids and that means running away from anything that could “de-legitimize” the thing we like. But camp is what got me to love comics and I have no issue explaining that at the same time as being serious and strong of a narrative there can also be humor and levity.