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Making decisions

Continuing the story, or; what has happened since my previous blog post:

I was busy with setting up stuff for a crowd-funding campaign. Text and promotional pictures for Indiegogo. Settings for a Discord server which would serve as the main communication channel between me and the project backers. All that stuff took some time, and I was eagerly waiting to get them done so that I could get back to the actual coding. For I enjoy coding; the challenge of crafting data-structures and algorithms in such a way that they neatly provide the simulation and mechanics needed for a game to run. During the process I became more clearly aware of the meaning of promotional pictures. You see - in my mind the main thing is to get the mechanics running properly, and the visual side of the UI is the last thing to code. Like a cherry on top of a cake - you seldom start baking the cake by placing the cherry there first. But, for an Indiegogo campaign to be attractive and inspiring most of the people would probably want to see production-quality pictures of how the game will look like. I didn't have such material, and realized that producing polished PR pictures will take weeks, thus postponing the campaign start. And that is something I've been afraid of. It is said that December usually isn't a good time to launch a crowdfunding campaign, as around that time most of people tend to have other plans for spending their money. And also, if the actual project start gets bogged down and postponed by all kinds of this and that, there is an increased risk that my post-chronic-depression brain will feel that this project is maybe not going to happen, looking for new sources of inspiration. But the more I've become aware of the tricks my brain plays on my plans, the better I can also manage those risks. So, eventually I decided to postpone the actual campaign launch to the beginning of 2021.

At the same time I noticed that another of my horses had developed an inflammation to both of her eyes. For a day the poor animal appeared rather miserable. Already at the summer I had decided that there will not be a next summer for the horses. They other horse is getting older and older, and my own horse has multiple persistent health issues and year after year her life has been less happy. The decision to put down horses is a big one, and not easy to make. So I thought to slowly prepare for it, making the decision late in the summer, allowing myself the winter months to bid slow farewell to the horses who have been my friends for so many years. Winter is typically easier for the horses; no biting and stinging insects, and dry cool air seems to be easier for some of the health issues of the younger horse. And, secretly, I was still a little bit hoping that some kind of miracle might happen during the winter. Maybe I somehow get my financial situation boosted, and I could consider buying a young healthy horse, keeping my old horse as the wise leader mare of the herd. Maybe something good might happen if I postpone the final decision for a few months? And, also, more time will make things easier for my mental health, for I still feel some traces of depression, so that making big decisions feels hard for me. (There is this feeling that "I'll make this decision some other day, when I feel fully awake. Now I feel that my emotions are somewhat numbed, and thinking about life and death feels distant and unreal, so maybe it is not a good time to make a decision concerning the end of life of another living being.") Yeah, these have been my slow thoughts in the background process. But when I watched the poor condition of the elder horse, I felt that it isn't that wise to keep on postponing the final decision.

So I spent one night processing the question of the life and the death of the horses. The question comes with a lot of aspects which can't be answered merely by cold hard rationality. And one could find an endless amount of alternatives and possibilities and "possibly-maybe-what-if-on-the-other-hand"-kind of a mental fog blurring the clarity. For a good while I stared into that mental fog, being afraid that the directionless fog might be endless. But somehow a deeper clarity started to emerge, beyond rationality, beyond my tiny personal human perspective. I found a crisp clear inner feeling that I've now reached the point where the horses are increasingly suffering because of me failing to make a decision. That my responsibility towards the horses is to wake up and to make the unpleasant decision. (This is related to one of my personal emotional difficulties with making this decision. I've felt that living together with the horses in a way defines a big part of who I am. I am a person who wants to carry on the centuries old traditions of horsemanship, I'm a person who has deliberately chosen to lead an old-fashioned way of living, where you drag logs with a horse instead of a tractor. This is the kind of a life I want to live, that is the kind of a person I want to see myself as. So, from that point of view it felt that how could I possibly give up the idea, the dream. But then I realized that an integral part of that way of life is that you also need to make these hard decisions. That belongs to the horsemanship, that is human responsibility of living together with domesticated animals.) The next morning I started organizing the practical aspects of this. And a close friend of mine promised to come to help, and to participate in the process.

It was one rainy Thursday. We walked the horses up a small forest road, then taking a trail into the woods, until we reached a small forest clearing. One of the places we had passed so many times during the years the horses' health actually allowed riding and long unhurried walks. We went back to the roadside, and soon the vet drove there. We showed the way to the clearing, the vet followed with his equipment. Both of the horses have been rather negative towards all kinds of vet procedures; whenever they see a human being approaching with a tool in hand, they become suspicious and try to get away from the situation. But this time it felt like they understood that this is all about ending their ailments and sufferings. Both of the horses waited calmly and patiently, allowing the vet to find a major blood vein. I don't know exactly what is the substance used, but injected into blood it first makes the horse go down to sleep, eventually leading to the heart beat stopping. Quite a peaceful way to die. And so it was, leaving both of the horses into the eternal sleep on that peaceful forest clearing. The vet left, and we stayed with the dead horses waiting for the neighbouring farmer to arrive with an excavator. It was sandy soil, he dug a grave big enough for both of the horses. After all the practical stuff was completed there was a brief moment of sunshine. A calm peaceful atmosphere remained at the forest clearing.

The following days I felt exhausted, allowing myself a few days to mourn over my inner feelings, to sleep a lot and to recover. And after that I've been busy with my ordinary work; coding for the mill, having customer for massage. All of this made almost two weeks of break from working with my game project. I noticed that this could be a dangerous spot, when the project details aren't any more active in my brain. But this is when commitment kicks in, and I'm so happy to have regained lot of my inner clarity, the ability to resume half-started projects and get them back full on as soon as time allows. So this week I've been back to coding.

And already at this point I have a feeling that it was a wise decision to postpone the crowdfunding campaign launch. First; to postpone - not to relapse back into the mental fog of considering the endless alternatives and failing to choose one. Second; to allow myself more time to polish my project plan. As there has not been such a sense of urgency to get the campaign launched as-soon-as-possible, I've found a new spark of creativity. And new kind of ambition. So, for a few aspects of the game project I chose to try a bunch on new techniques instead of the easiness of utilizing what I already know. All of this has led to days of coding which resemble the spark in my teenage years, when learning to code was an interesting and inspiring exploration. The thrill of learning-by-doing, the joy of success when after some trial-and-error a thing starts to work, and you see something which you previously didn't know how to do. So, at the moment of writing this I'm not yet completely sure if the final game is going to utilize the old stuff I already knew, or these new things I'm currently learning. I see this connected to the process and trouble of making decision; for when the project core idea is clear and solid, then I greatly enjoy the openness of exploring and testing different things. Running a few different tests will eventually show which way will work the best - but that method of decision making takes a bit more time, for some days are "wasted" in the process of crafting demo versions of stuff you aren't going to use. But for me that way is more fun, I learn more that way, and some of those "not-to-be-used-in-the-production-version" demo ideas might find another life in some future project.

Sorry no picture this time. Somehow I feel that I needed a lot of time to process my horse-related thoughts and emotions before writing them publicly in the blog. And I didn't feel like taking pictures of the last days of the horses. So, I feel that to honor the horses I'll leave the picture section empty this time.

tags: 
depression
diary
horses
programming
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Comments

Oh, dear Erkka. I cried reading about the horses. Your horses are/were so special to our daughter Bella. She was 4 when she met them, gave them carrots, and she never ever forgot it. That moment at your place, the horses and the cats, somehow was absolutely magical for her. She still, from time to time, talks about going back there. If it was hard for me to read it, imagine for you... So sorry to hear that your lovely friends are gone. And how magical that they knew what was happening this time, and they let it happen. They were ready. How old were they? Monica and? I don't think I can tell Bella about it. Thinking of you. Big, big hug. Gio

Sure, it is a sad event! Personally, I feel some comfort knowing that memories will always be true, they won't go away even if the horses themselves have already passed.

Monica was about 25. She had a background of being a race horse, and I'd guess those years left her with some chronic health issues slowly getting worse. She had stomach problems pretty often, occasionally showing signs of pain in the guts. And those eye inflammations come and went, many times a year, and judging by her behavior she had already lost a lot of her sight, often finding her way around relying on other senses.

Raiku was 12 - a full grown adult but not yet old. So in that sense it was pretty hard to decide about her future. But all of her chronic health problems combined made me feel that even though she could live for ten more years, those years wouldn't be that enjoyable for her.

I'm so sorry to hear about your horses. What a painful choice to make, made with love.

Thank you for your kind comment. And you are right - I found myself in a point where it felt that to show deepest love for the horses I need to make that decision.

Judging from the photos I've seen here, your horses were beautiful creatures indeed. It must have been a difficult decision to make, but it sounds like it was a wise one.

Glad to hear you're feeling that "spark" with coding. It's a great feeling and something that's all too easy to forget when computers become one's bread and butter.

Sometimes the wisest decisions are the hardest to make.

One of my favorite philosophers, Maurice Merleau-Ponty once said that it is great to have one's passion as one's profession. And I think there must be some deep philosophy or maybe a little bit of wisdom hidden in the question: how to maintain the spark and the passion in the humdrum of the daily responsibilities of a profession. Honestly, personally I don't have an answer, just a few guesses. As a person slowly recovering from chronic depression my life seems to be all about re-finding that spark with anything =)

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