Boss monster: anticipatory anxiety

I was listening to the newest episode of Happier with Gretchen Rubin this morning — in particular, episode 85, “Ever Been Annoyed by a Gift?” One of the topics they discussed is giving yourself something to look forward to on the calendar. To paraphrase Gretchen, if there’s nothing on your calendar to look forward to, maybe reconsider your life and your choices.

There is very little for me to look forward to on my calendar.

Honestly, the things I look forward to the most are activities that mostly involve me being lazy, like my monthly massage. Or plonking down on the couch with a stack of books on a rainy day and just reading — which I almost never do.

To what extent is this a product of my personality and my hobbies, though?

As I’ve mentioned before, I feel a lot of anticipatory don’t-wannas about basically everything I ultimately enjoy. There is a part of Lise that really enjoys going out in the woods in silly costumes and hitting people with foam swords — and I’m often energized for weeks afterward — but there is another part of Lise that is really, really attached to creature comforts. These parts of me are constantly at war.

So, last week, for example. I knew I had 5G coming up. I knew there were some costuming and other prep tasks I needed to take care of. I dreaded them. Even convincing myself to make my character’s death mitigation tokens — which literally involves writing on a ribbon with a silver pen, then hot-gluing the ends together to form a moebius strip — was torture.

(Also guess which genius FORGOT these tokens at home and had to make them out of paper, on the fly?)

But around lunchtime on Friday, when I was writing in Ianthe’s character journal while waiting for the glue gun to warm, I realized I was actually doing okay. In fact, I was annoyed that I hadn’t started earlier, so that I could have done more.

I wish I could bottle this feeling, so I could sell it to future Lise.

The weekend itself was invigorating. I slogged around in the drizzling rain and slept in a stuffy cabin and I still felt great. I kept being annoyed I hadn’t done more costuming stuff, though. I keep meaning to put more symbols on my garb, for example. (The equivalent of “put some gears on it” for the Arcane Circle, I guess). I keep meaning to order ink cartridges so I can use my cartridge pen for writing in my IC journal. I want to make earrings for Ianthe, and decorate curtains for her bed, and make a dress for the winter ball, and and and…

I’m pretty sure the feeling will fade in about two weeks. And the next event isn’t until December January.

Now I have to get ready for Cafe Casablanca, and it’s the same thing. Worse, in some ways, because the prep involves flying to Chicago, and all that entails. I want to do pin curls for the event itself, and I keep telling myself I need to practice them ahead of time. Can I ever convince myself to do this? Of course not. Hell, I didn’t even read my whole character sheet until yesterday.

I like these things. I almost never feel bad while actually doing them. Why is it so hard to get myself to anticipate them positively?

In which I remind myself why I do this crazy thing (larping)

I have not been posting much lately! It’s not that stuff hasn’t been going on; it’s more that I’ve lacked the capacity to write about it.

I feel very much like I want to curl up and go to sleep for a thousand years. It’s not that I’m physically tired, so much as I look at the stuff I have to get done in the next couple of months and it feels exhausting. I let myself believe that this means I can’t have any fun, even though I am doing all of this for the sake of fun, i.e., my hobbies.

Why so much to do? Well, the first thing to understand is that here in the Frozen Wasteland of New England, if you want to play boffer (live-combat) larps, you really only have a small window in which to do it. Two, actually — one in the spring, and one in the fall. The spring window is April-May (with occasional forays into late March or early June), and the second is September-October (with forays into late August/early November). The reason for this is primarily weather-related, but it is also a consequent of the fact that most campaign live-combat games take place at children’s summer camps, which are unsurprisingly in use during the summer months.

This spring, I am going to be PCing My Vewwy First Boffer LARP, Fifth Gate (Silverfire). The first game is the weekend of May 15th May 1st. I am also going to continue to NPC Shadows of Amun and Cottington Woods, both of which have two spring events. Finally, I’ve signed up to NPC on the Wrathborn side of things for Fifth Gate, which gives me one more event.

These are all weekend-long events, going from Friday night to late Sunday afternoon. They can also be very physically demanding — a lot of running around the woods hitting people (or being hit by people) with foam swords. They’re demanding in other ways, too. Boffer larp in this region is big on immersion, and playing a character 24/7 can be tiring. Even as an NPC, you need to more or less always “on.” There’s a sign by the door in Shadows NPC base camp which reads “Beyond this point you are always in character.” It’s not literally true — how many times have I stood on the porch and bullshitted with my fellow mooks! — but it is pretty close to it.

Also, one of the Shadows events is the weekend of the Festival of the LARPs, and I am going to be spending one Saturday driving back and forth between Westford and Waltham, MA, as I head out to play Phoebe’s new larp Woodplum House, a silly Wodehousian parody game. This is especially fun for Shadows, where leaving the site involves, no lie, a one mile walk out to your car (or from your car back to the campsite). Because immersion means no cars on site, logically enough.

If you guessed this means I have almost no free weekends in April and May, you’d be right! What free weekends I have will be full of prep for future games.

Speaking of prep… that can be tiring and stressful, too, especially for PCing games. The organization or disorganization of the game in question can make it more or less stressful for me as an NPC, too. But let’s focus on the PC side of things, here — I have a LOT of costuming I am trying to get done before May 15th May 1st. Probably more than I realistically have time to finish — I’m not sure yet.

So… larp is clearly my most exhausting hobby. I’m pretty sure I’ve stood at this point before and made the decision to throw in the towel. Hell, it was probably about this time in 2013 that I decided not to play Cottington Woods, after writing a character history, plotting with a team, having a boffer weapon made, and ordering a realistic plush chicken. (Checking — yup, that’s about right).

I’m not going to wimp out this time. The difference between two years ago is multifold. One, I’m a lot more familiar with the Accelerant system, and that helps to allay my fear of the unknown. Two… it’s easy to forget off-season, but some of my peak moments have come from these sorts of games.

I remember crying from the intense emotions my (throwaway, one-shot!) NPC was experiencing in my very first Shadows game.

I have fond memories of emotional conversations in the rain, sheltered under a dripping eave; of jasmine tea in a leaking tent.

I remember the sheer fun of covering myself in fake blood and lying in wait for the PCs. Or the same thing, minus the fake blood but plus a mirror mask.

I recall the excitement of landing an exceptionally well-timed attack.

I remember standing in a field, covered in LED wires, shouting out calls at the top of my lungs to keep my teammates up.

And all of this is just NPCing. How much better can it be, I wonder, when I get to play the same character, game after game, for a few years, when staff is writing plot just for me?

This is why I do this — and remembering that helps get through the work.

Since a post isn’t complete without a to-do list around here, here’s what I’m trying to get done before Fifth Gate starts, for my character, Ianthe Florizel. (Unless otherwise noted, due date is game start on May 15th May 1st).

  • Finish writing character history (due date: April 2nd)
  • Add character events to warband timeline (also April 2nd)
  • Finalize character build (due date unknown; builds aren’t being accepted yet, and I don’t know my CP total)
  • Finish the epic amount of applique and hand-sewing for my invocation circle — at least enough so that it’s recognizably an invocation circle!
  • Finish the mockup of the underdress of my outfit (due date: Real Soon Now, so that I can make the real thing)
  • Complete the mockup of the overdress (due date: Slightly Less Soon Now)
  • Make the real underdress(es)
  • Make the real overdress
  • Check with Plot to make sure my Orb of Battle won’t be too big (pictured in the cover photo, above)
  • If acceptably-sized, decorate my Orb of Battle with runes
  • Make (or otherwise procure) something to carry my Orb of Battle (chain, mesh bag, handle, dunno)
  • Do a more extensive try-on/break-in of my new boots, and decide if I’m happy with the sizing
  • Lock-tite the buttons on my new boots, if so

I’ll see you in June? I just hope my writing doesn’t take a permanent sabbatical…

Guess which genius thought the first event was May 15th up until yesterday? Yeah, this girl. (Y)(Y).

Why speeling maters

Warning: I’m going to write about spelling and grammar, which virtually guarantees that I’m going to mangle some word or another. Aside from the title, naturally, which is purposefully mangled.

On my work computer, IT has installed Symantec Endpoint Protection as antivirus software. Fair enough; I don’t want to think too much about this stuff when I’m trying to do my job. I avoid most risky, malware-tempting behaviors on my work computer, anyway.

I’ve largely ignored SEP’s presence — except for this scheduled scan message that kept appearing every Monday morning:


Is this not the shadiest looking message you’ve ever seen? The misspelling of “temporarily,” the odd word spacing, etc? No wonder I put it off, again and again, thinking, “There’s something hinky about this. I should ask IT.”

(Of course, I figured that if this was some sort of fake AV message, I was probably already infected).

After several months of continually dismissing this message without scanning, I finally took a screenshot and forwarded it to one of the IT guys at my company, asking “Is this legit?” He assured me it was, but that our SEP administrator probably had entered that message manually, not Symantec.

Relieved, I finally did a scan (no viruses found, yay). A couple of hours later, I had an email from the sysadmin who manages SEP, informing me that the misspelling came direct from the manufacturer.


At this point you’re probably saying, why does this matter? It’s just a spelling error.

To which I counter, things like spelling, grammar, and typesetting all contribute to having a professional appearance. These are things that inspire trust — misplaced or not.

If I were to receive an email full of execrable grammar, ostensibly from Zenimax, claiming my ESO account had been compromised, I would know it was a scam. This is because I have a mental heuristic that says, “a reputable company should at least have decent grammar.”

If I received a message with barely-comprehensible English, supposedly from a friend, claiming they were stuck in another country without money, I’d also know it was a scam. I know (how much) to trust my friend’s command of English.

It’s even worse in this case, because Symantec is a company that deals explicitly in trust. When you install their software (or your IT department installs it, in my case), you are trusting that their software works and that their definitions address the right malware. You believe your computer won’t be compromised despite (or because of) their product.

Little errors like this undermine that trust, as you begin to wonder what else might lack attention to detail.

It’s elitist of me, but I apply this standard to a lesser degree to any text that comes into my life. I give a lot of leeway for non-native English speakers, dyslexia, or other mitigating circumstances, but I can’t get away from the fact that how you present yourself in text affects me on a gut level.

(Spoken language is not held to the same standard, for the most part. And my husband has often pointed out that I am more language-oriented than most people, so this may be an artifact of that. Maybe this isn’t the same for everyone).

One of the big questions in cognitive linguistics has always been, “why is language more complex than is strictly necessary for communication?” I wonder if trust is part of that? Maybe a language with a greater capacity for error gives us a larger number of bits from which to disentangle signal and noise?

(Woah. Apparently if you gaze long into your own navel, your navel also gazes into you).

In any case! I complained on Twitter, and Symantec is going to be fixing this:

One more victory for orthography.