Underneath my yellow skin

The magic of pants that fit

the room of doom.
Striking fear in my heart.

Today was errand day. My new progressive glasses were ready, and I had to pick up my meds, too. On my way to Target, I heard the beginning of a discussion on sleep on MPR. I sighed because every other time MPR did something on sleep, it was how important it was to get seven to nine hours.

I FUCKING KNOW THAT. STOP TELLING ME THAT. TELL ME HOW TO DO THAT INSTEAD.

Apparently, this show was going to include that pertinent information, but I missed it because I was in Target. I’ll have to look it up later and listen to it to get the pearls of wisdom. I did catch the tail end, and the advice was to put an ice pack on your eyes. It does something to slow the heartbeat (probably ‘coz you think you’re about to die and everything shuts down) that makes it easier to sleep. I did wonder if you’re just supposed to leave the ice pack on your eyes as you fall asleep, and I wear a sleep mask, so what about that? But the doctor said you could use a frozen pack of veggies, which I have. I may have to try it. I’ve tried everything else, so why not?

Anyway, I got my new progressives, which the doc warned me would take time to get used to. He was a month into his first pair, and he was still adjusting. He said the trick was to really focus on whatever it is you’re doing, which is not easy for me to do. I have a tendency to multitask and scan things rapidly, so this will be an exercise in getting me to slow the fuck down.

It’s strange because if I move my head too quickly, the object I’m looking at sort of bends in the middle. I imagine it’s similar to what being on hallucinogenics is like. In general, though, everything is crisp and clear. It’s actually strange because it’s been ten years since I’ve had my eyes checked, and my left one has gotten really bad, apparently.

I also love that there is no line on my glasses. I remember the days when if you needed bifocals, you got that nice line on the glasses. Yes, I’m that old. I chose lenses that were a bit bigger this time with a black half-frame. I like them, but it’ll take getting used to as well.

I like them, though, and I take it as a sign that I’ve done something to take care of myself. It’s a big deal for me because I tend to put these things off for forever. See not getting my eyes checked in ten years. I probably would have left it off even more but one of the nose pieces fell off and one of the handles was broken. I had taped it together, but come on. I’m a grown woman. I should not be jury-rigging my glasses, damn it. I also had toothpaste around my mouth when I went to pick up my glasses. Mortifying! It’s from not looking in the mirror, and I need to start doing it because it was the second time it happened this week.

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Depression is a tricky bastard it is

I’ve been experiencing a medium-grade depression for roughly six months, and it’s time to admit it isn’t going away on its own. I gutted it out the first few months because I thought it was temporary, but now, I fear it’s not true. I want to mention that I always have a low-grade depression. Always. Some days, it’s very minimal. Some days, it pushes the line between low and medium, but it never goes completely away. There is an argument to be had whether it’s depression or anxiety or a combination of both, but whatever it is, I’ve come to accept it in my life.

I do not want to accept the medium-grade depression, though, because it’s actively hindering me. When I have a low-grade depression, I can still go about my life and do what needs to be done with little problem. With medium-grade depression, the intrusive thoughts are more intrusive, and it’s harder to ignore them or brush them away. In addition, the depression knows me and my weaknesses very well, and it uses the knowledge against me. Once I catch on to its manipulations and become immune to them, it changes its tactics.

For example. When I used to be severely depressed, an entity I called The Dictator would tell me that I was toxic, worthless, and no one would care if I died. It told me that the people I thought were my friends weren’t really, that they were just being nice. Why would anyone want to be my friend? I didn’t have any redeeming qualities. I was fat, loutish, uninteresting, and unattractive. I firmly believed this, and no one could tell me anything to the contrary.

Now, I don’t believe any of that. Well, I am fat, but that’s just a descriptor and not a pejorative. I also think I’m boring, but I’m willing to believe that’s just me being hard on myself. I no longer think The Dictator is a part of me, but I haven’t gotten rid of the depression. It’s changed its attack, however, because it’s a sly and sneaky bastard. Now, instead of telling me the above, it tells me that I’m worthless because I’m not doing anything with my life. I don’t have an office job. I’m not moving up in the world. I don’t have many friends. I’m not putting out content in a way that is meaningful, and no one gives a shit about my writing. I’m never going to be published unless it’s self-published. Maybe ten people will actually give a shit if i die, and I’m not counting online people in that number. Not because they’re not real and not because I don’t care about some of them (and they probably care about me in return), but because it’s simply not the same.

All of this is true. Well, most of it is true. Some of it is more a feeling thing than an actual thing, but it leans on the side of being true. It’s hard to argue with any of it, except for the content part. That’s on me. I haven’t done what needs to be done to even have a chance of being a known content producer.

Side Note: I hate that phrase, ‘content producer’, because it’s simultaneously pretentious and antiseptic. But, it’s become an accepted phrase, especially for YouTube/Twitch.

I don’t like the term ‘creative’, either, for someone who produces artistic content, but it’s better than content producer. I like artist, but I understand that it’s not very inclusive. In general, I just like to say I’m a writer.


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Sekiro: epic boss fight is epic

Ed. Note: This whole post is basically one major spoiler so be forewarned. 

halfway there!
His sword is definitely bigger than mine.

Hello. The last we spoke, I was facing Owl (Father) at the end of my second trip to the Hirata Estate. I had attempted to fight him five or six times and was not feeling it at all. I was contemplating skipping him, but I knew it would eat my craw (a combination of eat at me and stick in my craw) and make me think less of myself. I also knew that had he come earlier in the game, I would have tried for at least an hour or two before starting to complain. My patience is razor thin at this point, and it’s hard to make myself do the grind.

I took a deep breath and jumped in. He wrecked my shit casually a dozen times before I even felt I had even a glimmer of a handle on him. It’s strange, though, because I didn’t think he was as hard as, say, Genichiro (the boss who took me literal days to beat), but I think that’s because I beat the first version of him fairly easily. This, version, however was Owl in his prime, and he was a nightmare for me. I tried the cheese from the video I had watched, but my problem with the cheese was that there was one move Father did that fucked me up every time. It’s when he threw his shuriken then raised his sword high to his left and held it. The cheese is to move forward and dodge twice, but instead, I pressed down LB (block) while dodging, which didn’t do jack or shit. Father would slice through me and because it was a counter-attack, decimate my health bar to a sliver. Then, he would follow up with another attack that would kill me. Every. Goddamn. Time. If I managed to block the attack, the followup would still devastate me.

After an hour, I knew it was the wrong way to counter that attack, but every goddamn time, even as I was telling my brain not to press LB, I would press it. At that point, it was just better for me to try to avoid that attack altogether. This is one of my issues with the bosses in Sekiro–the best way to fight several of them is to bait out one or two of the attacks and run away from the rest. It’s a viable strategy, but it doesn’t really feel great while doing it. Also, with Owl (Father) at least for me, I wasn’t able to bait out the attack I wanted on a reliable basis.

It seemed I had to fight this boss on his own merits, which, as I wrote before, I did not want to do at this time. However, my pride demanded it of me, so I girded my loin and hopped into the fray. I have written before about the five stages of beating a boss before (near the end of this post), and I’ll expand on them a bit here. The first stage is incredulity and fear, somewhat akin to denial. “I have to fight this thing/guy/gal? No. No. No. No way I’m going to beat this boss!” I have literally walked away from a boss arena and refused to deal with it for some time (if I had other things I could do) because I was just not ready. I did it with Genichiro, and I avoided him for hours. The second stage is resignation. “Welp. I guess I have to do this. Alrighty then.” Third stage is anger and rage. This stage can last quite some time. I distinctly remember with Owl (Father) during this stage, I was cursing him, his mother, his father, and everyone else in his lineage. I cursed out FromSoft and Miyazaki, and everyone involved in the game. I was an angry, angry, ANGRY gamergrrl during a large portion of this fight, let me tell you. Fourth stage is having a glimmer of hope. That moment when you realize that maybe, just maybe, you can beat this thing/guy/gal. It can be one block you’d never gotten off before. Or you get ’em to their second phase (which, by the way, was a lie for Genichiro as he had three phases. Asshole). Or you just see things in a way you hadn’t before. The final stage is the ‘I finally beat this fucking boss’ phase, which is the best phase of all.

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With age, hopefully, comes wisdom

 

but not when i first wake up.
All of this looks soooooo good.

I’ve been thinking lately about all the things I learned as a kid that are not relevant to me now. For the purpose of this post, I’m going to stick with the ideas related to health, mental and physical.

1. When and how I eat. If you’re around my age (late forties), I’m sure you were taught the four food groups, how much you should eat of each, that you should eat three square meals a day, and that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You probably won’t be surprised to hear that all of this is different now. Some of it is just science. There are now five groups (fruits and veggies got split up), and in the old days it was 4-4-3-2, that’s the way to eat for you (or something like that). I don’t remember which number goes with what group, but that was taught to me as a kid. Now, it’s ounces/cups per day, and the amount of each group has changed. I don’t have an issue with that. Things change over time.

When I should eat has always been a struggle for me. I don’t like to eat when I first awake, and usually it’s more than an hour after I get up before I’m even remotely hungry. In addition, I take a medication that requires that you don’t eat for an hour after you take it.

Side note: It would have been nice for my first doctor to tell me that when I was fourteen–which was when I first started having to take this med. He didn’t, though, and he was a bad doctor all around. Then again, he might have said it and I didn’t listen because I was overwhelmed with the new information and was exceedingly depressed at the time. Either way, it wasn’t until I was in my thirties that my (new and great) doctor told me that I wasn’t supposed to take the medication with an hour of eating.

Anyway, I sometimes don’t eat for hours after I awake. It just depends. I have a history of eating disorders, so I’m trying to honor my body by eating only when I’m hungry. It doesn’t work all the time (or even most), but I’m working on it. As for the three square meals thing, I’ve found that I feel better if I eat a little bit several times a day rather than a lot three times a day. I think it makes more sense, too, to keep my hunger at a reasonable level, rather than have a feast or famine mentality. When I go out to eat, I never eat more than half, especially if I order an appetizer and/or dessert. I don’t like feeling stuffed, so it’s easier for me to eat many times a day.

I also have to take into account all my sensitivities. I’ve been gluten-free/dairy-free for almost two years, and I’m currently troubleshooting what else is wrong with me. Food-wise, I mean. I thought it was nuts, but now I’m finding it’s not. It might be hydrogenated oil? I’m not sure. I haven’t had a serious stomach issue in a week or two, which is nice, but I would like to pinpoint what made it happen.

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Sekiro: therapy session is in

Ed. Note: I’m so close to the end, I can taste it. I want to write more about my frustrations with the game, but also just update how far I am in the game. Spoilers. Some. Maybe? Probably. Be forewarned.

are you proud of me yet, father?
I’m sure he just wants to chat.

We’ve reached #5 on the list, but I want to revisit #4 for a minute. Right now, I’m finishing up all the optional ending timelines so I can make the big decision of which ending I want when the time comes. One of the optional timelines includes me going into the past to the Hirata Estate, the second area I did waaaaaay back in the beginning of this game. It still has my favorite sen run, which, with the help of a Mibu Balloon of Wealth, nets me 1,000 sen in five minutes or so with no sweat at all. The boss at the end of this area was the first to make me contemplate quitting the game–Madame Butterfly. Lady Butterfly is her actual name, but it’s the same, really. After dozens of time dying to her, I read in the sub-reddit a single skill–Nightjar Slash–done over and over and over again will kill her. I was highly skeptical, but I tried it–and it worked the first time.

Did I feel guilty about it? No. The alternate would have been me not finishing the game. Well, or just leaving her (she’s optional) and feeling guilty about it. Either way, if it’s in the game, it’s a viable strat. And since there’s no way to summon, I used every trick that was available to me. There are other bosses that I learned tricks/cheese for, and I didn’t give a shit. Great Shinobi Owl was one of them, which ties in neatly with the Hirata Estate. Why? Because he’s the boss at the end of the area. After fighting two duplicate mini-bosses (one of the lone ninjas and the drunkard). So all of the bosses are replicated. You probably know how I feel about that at this point.

Fighting Owl (Father) is currently on my plate, and it’s a pain in the ass. I don’t want to do it, and a part of me is saying skip it because it’s not part of the ending I want. Another part of me is indignant at the thought of skipping him–the OCD/pride part of me. The problem is, I’ve gotten him down to half his first health bar, and I have no idea what the second phase brings. I’ve watched videos of the first part of the fight, and there is a *cheese* so to speak, but like most of the other cheese, it’s predicated on knowing the moveset of the boss. With the Great Shinobi Owl, the cheese (by the same YouTuber) was running around in a circle around him and baiting out one of two moves. Then, using Whirlwind Slash to hit him before backing away, resetting, and starting again. There was one move he did that I had to recognize quickly enough so I could throw firecrackers at him (one of the prosthetic tools) to stop his devastating combo.

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Sekiro: the thinnest of thin lines

*BONUS POST*

Ed. Note: There will be spoilers. Not many, but some end game ones, including bosses. Be forewarned. 

lone vilehand, i believe? or not.
One of the countless Lone ninja dudes. Don’t really know or care which.

I have already declared that I think Sekiro is probably the best of the FromSoft games, even if I never play it again. It’s brilliant and amazing, and a bunch of other superlatives. With that all said, it’s not a perfect game by far, and there are several things that annoy me about it. Some are evergreen FromSoft issues and some are specific to this game. Some are minor, and more than one are major. I’ve talked about some of them before, but I want to get them in one place. This place.

Here they are in no particular order.

1. Hitting through walls. This is an old-time favorite in the FromSoft games. Enemies and bosses that can hit you through walls. You can’t always do the same to them, and it’s not clear when you can and when you can’t. It’s irritating, but it’s something that just makes me think, “Ah, FromSoft. Never change.” Unless it’s against a boss and I’m about to win, and then I get killed, in which case, it’s “OH MY FUCKING GOD FROMSOFT WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING TO ME?” I tend to swear when I fight bosses, but weirdly, many times in Sekiro, I’m silent. That’s usually my M.O. for right before killing a boss, but this time, it’s more often than not.

2. Too many mini-bosses and too many replicas. Look. I know the FromSoft games are all about the bosses. I get it. It’s what put their name on the map so to speak, and it’s something they probably take justifiable pride in. The thing is, they have been increasing the number of bosses in each game*, and in this game, it’s a bit much. Well, I have to amend that. At first I wasn’t sure what was a boss and what was a mini-boss. I soon learned the big bosses are the ones who give you battle memories (one per victory). The mini-bosses give you prayer beads and/or other rewards. At least that’s how I figured it out.

Anyway.

Let’s chat about the mini-bosses I have met so far and how many copies there are of each, shall we? We shall because it’s my party and I can write whatever I want to. The first mini-boss I encountered was General Naomori Kawarada, and I had to let him be for quite some time (More on that later). Later on, I ran into another general who looked a lot like him. General–wait, let me look it up–ok. Apparently, not a general. Name of Seven Ashina Spears Shikibu Toshikatsu Yamauchi. I link them together in my mind, regardless of whether I should or not. Then there’s the Chained Ogre who shows up again much later. I’m trying to do it in order, but some of it is a blur. Actually, a lot of it is a blur. So I’m going to try to recount as best as possible without too much research.

Next up, Shichimen Warrior who also shows up again (and I read show up yet another time. Added note: Saw him. Did not take him the fuck on yet). Fuck that fucker. Seriously. Fuck the whole Terror bullshit. It is by far the worst status affliction of them all. I will even take Toxic over it. Well, no, maybe not. Actually, yes, but only by a hair. We’ll talk more about that later as well.

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Sekiro: it all comes down to this

Ed. Note: I am firmly in the end game. There will be spoilers galore in this post. I have many emotions, and I will share them all with you. Well, as many as I can before I run out of steam. 

let them fight for me!
I’m just an innocent bystander here.

It has been a long haul, but I am finally at the end of the game. Sort of. How do I know? Because I reached the point where I had to make first decision about which ending I wanted. I will confess that I have been looking up story beats along the way because I really did not want to unknowingly lock myself out of certain endings. FromSoft games are well known for having multiple endings and for some of those endings needing ridiculously elaborate setup. In addition, if you don’t do certain things at certain points of the game, you won’t be able to access certain endings.

OMIGOD!

I just learned there’s an item in the game that allows you to immediately die and return to life with 50% health and the rest of your resurrections are unblocked. I mean, I knew this item existed, but I never knew what it really did–per yooz with the cryptic item descriptions–and now, I’m kicking myself for not looking it up. Well, I was until I really discovered what it meant. If you use the item (or the item that allows you unlimited uses) on the boss (which is the only way I can see it being useful), you will have to rez once, but your other two rezzes will be unlocked. Yay! Right? Yeah, no. If you die to the boss, then the last rez will be blocked. So you have to use the item each time you’re about to die, which is more than my tiny brain can handle. There are times when it would be feasible, especially as it’s instantaneous, but I’m just not that quick on my feet. Ah, well. I’ll try it out and see if I can make it work.

Anyway, I made my way through Ashina Castle (Dusk), and everything was different. Same, but different! My Divine Confetti farming section was the Upper Tower – Antechamber. I would start at the idol, Deathblow an Ashina Samurai, then another, then an old lady, then another Ashina Samurai. All of those are Deathblows. Then, an enemy I will call Ashina Elite Patrol Guy. Deathblow him, kill the Ashina Samurai by fighting him, grapple up into the ceiling, drop down in another room for a Deathblow on a plebe, kill the old lady, race back to the first room, grapple up, get everyone back in their set place. Drop down into the second room, battle the Ashina Elite Patrol Guy. Go to the stairs, Deathblow the first Ashina Samurai, fight the other to the death.

I did this probably hundreds of times to farm Divine Confetti. I had it down to roughly three minutes per run. It was where I farmed for DC and to rack up Skill Experience Points. At a certain point in the game (fairly late), Ashina Castle is invaded, and IGN calls it Ashina Castle (Dusk), so that’s what I’m calling it as well. My favorite farming area now looks like this. Kill the first Ashina Samurai by Deathblow (the same), then sneak up to the Interior Ministry Ninja (in royal purple) and Deathblow him. Then, I would use the Puppeteer Ninjitsu on his ass so he would fight for me, not against me. The old lady and the Ashina Samurais were gone, so I would just bust open the paper screen between the walkway (where I was) and the war room. I would run through the war room to get the Ashina Samurai and the Ashina Elite Patrol Boy riled up, plus the Interior Ministry Ninja who’s hiding in this room, and then they would all fight each other, including my puppet. I can tell which one he is by his glowing purple eyes.

I’d race into the second room, kill the plebe and the old lady, then bring the other enemies back to the main room so they were all fighting each other. I’d stand back and watch, occasionally slicing when I thought one side needed a hand, and this is now my new DC/Skill XP farming area. The Interior Ministry Ninja give almost 700 XP per kill (as opposed to the Ashina Samurai who give 79), so it’s a lucrative little farming spot.

I will admit to a bit of Sekiro fatigue. It always happens when I’m in the end game because I gorge on them and over-satiate myself, but I can’t stop playing. This game is even more engaging than the rest, and I really want to gut it out. But, I’m tired. It’s so unrelentingly brutal, I feel as if I’ve gone through ten rounds by the time I’m done with one boss fight. Or one new area. I rarely feel overpowered–unless I go back to the very beginning. The highs are indescribable, but the lows are pretty low as well.

Anyway. Back to the the endings.

*SPOILER WARNING*

Yes, I know I put a spoiler warning at the beginning of the post, but I wanted to double it up because this is end game shit.

I made my way to the top of Ashina Castle once again. This was where I fought Genichiro, and I knew there was going to be something there. I wasn’t exactly sure what, but I was pretty sure it was going to be epic. It was my adopted father, supposedly dead, talking to Lord Kuro. I got to the top before I made it into the upper castle, so after listening to my father and Lord Kuro talk, then talking to my father and him asking me to pick a side–his or my lord’s, I backed away and did the rest of the Ashina Castle (Dusk) before returning.

you're not the boss of me, father!
Dad is NOT happy with me.

I knew this decision was going to lock out certain endings either way, and I was tempted to do the save file/copy things so I could do all four endings at one time. I didn’t, though, because it’s not the way I play. No shade because to go back and play four times seems almost unimaginable. I was seriously tempted, but I didn’t. I knew what my decision would be because it was what I wanted to do in the first place. I refused to follow the Iron Code, and my father was, shall we say, very disappointed in me.

Before I tell you what happened next, let me tell you about the ending I locked out. I figured if I agreed to follow the code, I would have to fight Emma and Issin (with or without my father by my side) because they would be sworn to protect Lord Kuro until the end. If that’s the case, then this is the first time that choosing one ending over another means mutually-exclusive bosses. What I mean is that I don’t think I will have to fight those two having chosen the route I have (though I may be wrong), which is kind of a bummer. I played each of the Dark Souls games at least half a dozen times, and I played DS III close to two dozen times. In other words, I didn’t care so much about endings because I knew I’d play them several times each*.

However. I don’t think I’ll play this game again. I can’t say for sure, of course, but I really feel like it might be a one and done. It’s by far the most brutal of the games, and it’s taken every ounce of me–and I know there are harder bosses to come. In addition, there isn’t much for replayability except for the different endings. Yes, you can choose different skills, but there are no choice of weapons, armors, or classes. I do use different skills from time to time, but honestly, I don’t pay much attention to all that. You can get the same Ninjutsu tools and prosthetic tools for each run, and you can swap them out at will, so that won’t change run to run. NG+? I shudder to even imagine it.

Back to my father. He’s very disappointed in me, which means, of course, that we have to throw down. He hits hard. Very very hard. And he’s super-aggressive. However, his moveset is pretty predictable, and he’s not as nearly infuriating as Genichiro. Except for the fact that he breaks my posture so quickly, and one swipe of his sword can do half my health. I tried him a couple times, and he was seemed beatable, though frustrating. Except when he broke my posture in a few swipes and then killed me. I didn’t care for that at all. I checked a few videos and walkthroughs, and one suggestion was to keep running around, bait out one or two of his more punishable attacks, then use Whirlwind slash to hit him twice before backing off. I was pleased to see I had grasped the basic concept of waiting for one of his two most punishable moves and getting in a lick or two before backing off. The only thing I was missing was the Whirlwind Slash, which I quickly swapped in for whatever Combat Skill I had.

I got to his first Deathblow in under ten tries. Believe me. That’s good for me. He fell to his knees and then pleaded for mercy. When I took a step towards him, he admonished me for being gullible, and he exploded with something and came at me again. I was prepared for it to take several dozen more tries, but a funny thing happened. His second form was actually easier than his first for whatever reason. He kept the same moveset, and the only difference I could tell was that he substituted the Lloyd’s Talisman** hand grenade for a poison bomb. Either way, it made no difference and I got him on the first try (second phase, I mean). As I gave him the Shinobi Execution he deserved, he told me he was pleased with me after I told him he taught me well. I finally got my father’s approval! Too bad I had to kill him to get it.

let's do this!
The eternal father-son conflict.

Once I was finished, I looked up the endings one more time. I had already locked out one ending, the supposed ‘bad ending’, and I wanted to make sure I knew when I locked out the others. As far as I can tell, it’s not until the very end, but there are several things I have to do if I want to walk down any of the three remaining paths. I’ve done the bulk of two of them, and I’m not sure I can move forward with one of those two because an NPC won’t do what she’s supposed to do. I know there is one more major area with one path (and, I think all of them include this area now that I locked out the bad ending?), and I have to say that I’m not looking forward to it.

I know that I’ve reached the end of my patience with the game because every mini-boss I see, I sigh in impatience. Especially since many of them are the same as (or similar to) another mini-boss. I’m sure there are lore reasons for it, but it just feels like padding and a way to artificially inflate the difficulty–which isn’t necessary! The game is plenty hard! The game has so much difficulty! There’s no need to litter it with carbon copy mini-bosses! There are FOUR of one mini-boss. FOUR. I’ve done two, and I can’t be stuffed to do the other two. I guess it’s fine when the duplicates are avoidable, but it still just gets tiresome to keep tripping over them.

I love this game. It’s fucking brilliant and amazing. Barring the ending(s), I’m willing to say it’s the best FromSoft game to date. I’m tempted to do the save thing now because these three endings are all pretty much interchangeable until a certain point, but it still doesn’t feel right to me. If I do play again, I may do it then, but for now, I want to have my one true Sekiro experience. It’s how I roll, baby; it’s how I roll.

 

 

 

 

*Except the original. After I finished it for the first time, I was done with FromSoft games. For life! Oh, how naive I was then.

**Or whatever it’s called in this game. It blocks your ability to heal.

 

 

 

 

The pain of my weight

fuuuuuuck!
Itme begging for mercy.

Still having birthday thoughts (not thought about my birthday, but thoughts stemming from it being my birthday), and since today is Wellness day, let’s talk about health.

Currently, my back is giving me hell. Let me clarify: My back always gives me hell one way or the other. I store my tension in my back (and my shoulders), and I didn’t feel it for a few decades because I froze out my entire body. My taiji teacher has a saying that she got from her teacher–the first sign of relaxation is when you notice the tension. Most of us are so tense all the time, we don’t realize it any longer. We kinda block it out until something reminds us.

I’ve been working diligently on my back issues, and it’s much better than it used to be. However, I still had a problem in which I have a lower back spasm that came maybe a dozen times a week. It wasn’t too bad–it basically just caused me to clench up for a brief second, then it’d go away. I do a bunch of stretches every morning that are solely to help my back. They’ve kept the pain at bay–mostly.

Then, last night, I got up from the couch (I sit sideways so my legs are out in front of me. Shadow likes to perch on my legs as I type) and my back spasmed so hard, I screamed out loud. Not grunted. Not a ladylike yelp, but a full-body scream. Like I’m a cheerleader in a horror movie scream. I wasn’t *trying* to scream like that–it was ripped from the back of my throat. Every time I shifted, it would happen. I screamed so much, I scared my cat.

I don’t feel regular pain. I trained myself to block it out when I was a child. This pain was unblockable, and it was intense. I did not want to move at all because it hurt so much. When I was changing pants and standing on my right leg, the leg buckled as my back spasmed again. I almost fell to the ground but managed to stop in time. The pain was literally breathtaking, and I found myself moving much more slowly because I didn’t want to feel it again.

It was a warning sign to me that I had to change the way I sit. Right now, I am sitting the proper way on the couch with both my feet on the ground. Shadow is sitting to the right of me, gently thumping his tail. He tried to sit on my chest, but he didn’t have as much purchase as he would if I were lying down. I don’t think he’s mad at me, but I feel guilty, anyway.

This morning, I woke up to the same spasms. They were quite as bad as they were last night, but still caused me to double over. I did the series of back-stretching I do every other day (because I don’t love it), and the pain went away. Not completely, but roughly 80% gone. It truly was a miracle, and now, I’m going to do these exercises every day. I may do them several times a day. It truly feels like a miracle. I was not looking forward to another day of spasming and crabbing my way along, and it feels good. I still have the smaller spasms, but I can deal with that. I’m determined to make changes so I’ll never have to feel that kind of pain again.

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It’s my birthday and I’ll cry (or not) if I want to

It’s my birthday today (yesterday by the time you read this), and I have a history of hating my birthday. As a kid, it was always fraught with who to invite to my party (which I was expected to have), and it only underscored what a loser I was. I remember one birthday (but not which one) in which I had friends over. I was blowing the candles out on the cake with all my friends watching, and I was utterly miserable. I felt like they were there because they felt they had to be (my depression started young), and I hated being the center of attention if I wasn’t on the stage.

In my twenties, I actively hated my birthday. I refused to say when it was, and I preferred to pretend it didn’t exist. It reminded me every year that I was still alive and that I shouldn’t be. I got really bitchy* a week or two beforehand, and it carried over for the next few days.  I don’t think I can emphasize enough how toxic I thought me being alive was in those days. I thought I was actively harming the world by being alive (which is the weird egotistical part of having a low self-esteem–an outsized sense of impact–and I hated that I was too cowardly to kill myself.

It’s strange how my twenties were when I was both at my most depressed and when I was out doing the most things. I was involved in the theater community, which was probably one of the best experiences of my life. However, I stopped once I moved to the Bay Area for a short time (to get my MA), and I never started up again once I returned because I had a few big issues to deal with at that time.

I became less hateful of my birthday in my thirties. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it, either. I would never offer it to someone else, but if they asked, I wouldn’t obfuscate and refuse to answer. I never made a big deal about it, but I didn’t freak out if someone else brought it up.

Side Note: My amusing birthday story. When I first started Facebook, you had to provide your birthday, and they displayed it. There was no privacy option at the time, so I used a fake birthday. I always do this online. I may not care about my birthday, but I don’t need others to have it. Anyway, I set it as one day in January, and I promptly forgot about it. When that day came around, my FB wall was flooded with birthday wishes. I was like, “What the–oh, right.” FB will still wish me a happy birthday every year on the fake day, and it’s still hilarious to me. Thankfully, now the setting is private so I don’t have to explain to everyone that it’s not actually my birthday.

Two or three years ago, I slowly realized that I didn’t hate my birthday or even really dislike it that much. I mentioned it casually and didn’t feel weird about it. Last year, I actually bought myself a piece of (gluten-free/dairy-free) cake and enjoyed it thoroughly. That’s because cake is the best, even when it’s a lie. Today, I ate a banana walnut chocolate chip (GF/DF) muffin, which was delicious. I will have GF/DF ice cream later and call it a day.

Not gonna lie. I still don’t love my birthday. I don’t dislike it, but it still brings with me the feeling of dissatisfaction and unhappiness.


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Sekiro: Dancing with the devil

*BONUS POST*

Ed. Note: More boss talk. More spoilers. All gold.

not again!
I win! Yeah, no.

The last we met, I was dancing with the devil, otherwise known as the Guardian Ape, phase two. In this phase, it felt as if I were dancing with the boss rather than fighting him. In fact, he reminded me of a combination of the Dancer of the Boreal Valley from Dark Souls III and Mytha, the Baneful Queen from Dark Souls II. It didn’t make it easier for me to deal with him, but it was an interesting observation.

I will fully admit that I was not into this fight. At all. I was tired of the multiphase bosses, especially when the first phase took so much out of me. As I said, the first stage wasn’t hard, per se, but it was grueling. If I made any mistake, I’d have to waste one or two Healing Gourds. I would have loved to have five of my eight left for the second phase, but I usually went into the second phase with one or two Healing Gourds and my three Pellets. That was not nearly enough healing.

Side Note: I like the way the Pellets are meted out in this game. In Dark Souls II, the Life Cems were plentiful and cheap, and I could carry 99 on me at any given time. Therefore, my usual MO was to use the Life Gems to make my way through the level, saving my Estus for the bosses. Or, use the Estus and top off with Life Gems whenever necessary if I was just running through an environment with no boss in sight. If I got low on Life Gems, I just bought more from the hag and didn’t think about it. In this game, Pellets drop randomly from enemies, and you can buy a limited amount from vendors. There is no limitless supply, so it makes me have to be more careful about when I use them. What I usually do is use my Healing Gourds for the level (and eight is usually plenty for this purpose), and I save my Pellets for a boss fight.

Side Note II: This is a side note to the side note. I fucking love that accessing the inventory means pausing the gameplay in this game. It hasn’t in the past, and I was never good enough to add things to my quick item bar during combat. I’m sure there are some Souls fans who are bitching about this change, but I like it. It means if I realize I need a certain item in a boss fight, I can pause and add it to the quick select. Back to the first side note.

I abused the Life Gem system in Dark Souls II, but I never felt good about it. It took away the tension of running out of Estus during a level, and the sight of a bonfire wasn’t as much a relief as it is in the other games (plus, way too many bonfires in DS II). In this game, the fact that Pellets are not unlimited and that I can only carry three at a time means I still have to think about healing judiciously. I can hoard the Pellets (which I do) until I really need them, and then, I can use them, but only until they run out. I can’t replenish them without significant grinding, which, while frustrating, is fair. I think Miyazaki struck the perfect balance with the Pellets in this game.

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