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Part I……..the winds of change April 5, 2010

Posted by Barbara in Gamer Mom, Warcraft.

They moved my machine.

At the gym.

The elliptical I love to hate has always faced the mirror.  I could tolerate the frontal view.  The curves visible to me were beginning to show a little payoff for the last year of workouts.  And whenever I started to dwell too much on the details (I still see traces of that double chin….) I could distract myself by focusing on the trees outside the windows framing my personal torture rack.  It was hidden nicely along a side wall, squeezed between the sit-up incline no-one uses and treadmills reserved for little old ladies recovering from hip surgery.

And then they moved it.   When I walked in this morning, there was my machine – first in line – to be passed by everyone entering.  The first – an elderly gentleman I had not seen before – walked past, then turned to look at me, and laughed.  I couldn’t hear what he said, laughingly, to his wife (or was that his daughter?), but I smiled back.   I choose to believe he was impressed by my obvious success and was happy that if I could do it, perhaps he could, too.  (Yeah, I know – but sometimes we have to choose to see the cup as half full.)

And then I saw the mirror.  No longer a front view, mostly hidden by the machine itself.  But a side view.

I straightened my back.  Pinched the shoulder blades.  Tucked the hips.


Maybe I’ll buy that magazine in the checkout line at the grocery:  the one promising a secret food that will rid me forever of belly fat.

I pulled up Johnny Cash on the ipod.  “A Boy Named Sue” told me that strength comes through adversity.  Press on.  And laugh.  Partly at the song and partly with the pure pleasure of being.

But I digress.  Where was I?

Oh, yes.  The gym.

Until a year ago, it was as good as foreign soil to me.  I’m still surprised to find myself there sometimes.  And strangely enough, it all started because of a flirting relationship with internet addiction.

Five years or so ago, I started playing World of Warcraft.   To be honest, it was fun.  It still is – but for different reasons.   There were young people online who made me laugh on a regular basis.  I needed that, because my job was nearing the breaking point of pressure.  I was already compulsive about checking e-mail to keep my 12-14 hr/day job hurtling along.   Looking back, I might have noticed that time management and the ability to say ‘no’ weren’t ranking high in my skill set.

Our older sons were moving away from home to new jobs and new worlds.  They played the game and so the youngest, only 9 at the time, wanted to play as well.  It was a way for them to stay connected at a distance.

I asked all the appropriate mom questions:  How much violence is there?  Sex?  Language?   The answers ended up, rightly, as  “as much as you will tolerate.”   The older boys promised to be keepers of environment for the younger – but I was already astute enough to know that I needed to be able to watch more closely.  I needed to understand the world I was sending my ‘baby’ into.   So I rolled that first toon.

You see how smoothly I said that?   You know you’ve played too much Warcraft when you have to filter the new 4-letter words out of your vocabulary so real-life friends won’t look at you like that:  W00t!  l33t!  ROFL

I totally enjoyed it!  I discovered that the guys – they were almost all guys at the time – that I played with didn’t have a clue about my age.  They thought I was 20ish.  Okay, maybe 30ish.    I could be young again!  When I realized some were actually flirting with me (with me!!) I had to let them know I was a happily married mom.  I had no intention of letting this game mess with my marriage.

Over time, I joined with a couple of online ‘friends’ to create a guild we could play in that would provide a controlled, clean environment.  That was great!  “J” (my son)  and I could play, now, without the constant stress of language and other trying  situations.  I rolled a second toon – and a third – and  found, with some surprise, that a few of the ‘friends’ were becoming actual friends.

Now there was a social connection that counted real points.   Especially as I reached the point of needing desperately to let go of the job I had loved and hated for almost 20 years.   Retiring meant the end of my real-world connections and my sense of who I was and why I was important.

I’ve never smoked, or gotten drunk or used drugs.  Not because I’m too perfect for that, but because I was never willing to let nicotine or beer or pot have control.  And I knew that with my lack of willpower, they would take over if I ever gave them a chance.

But the internet can be insidious.  We have so many real reasons to use it.   Before we know it, our lives can become a shuttle-cock, smacked from e-mail to Twitter, from Warcraft to Google.   And gradually, I began to realize that I had been had.    My son was beginning to mirror my example – and it wasn’t pretty.  My sweet and tolerant husband was finding other ways to fill his evenings because I was ‘busy’.

And the lifestyle, between the stresses of work, the stresses of quitting work, and the abuse of internet, was taking a huge toll on my health.

I had to fix it before it was too late.  And, because of my many friends who have talked to me about their fears of the same fate, I’ll devote the next few blogs to regaining control.   I’m not an expert.   Just a fellow traveler.   Maybe we can learn from each other.

Part II – Seeking Balance

Part III – The Dream

Part IV –  Climbing Mountains

Part the Last  – Baby Steps

“It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power.”  ~Alan Cohen



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