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Drinking Sandels in the tree

The air was filled with energetic melodies of songbirds. It was warm and sunny weather, I sat on the stairs of my house, eyes half closed enjoying the peace, slowly sipping morning coffee. There was some unexpected movement near the edge of my field of vision, I turned my head to see better - it was the elder fisher lady from one of the neighbouring houses. Apparently she had decided to visit me, driving her electric tricycle. I was not sure if she had some problems with the not-so-very-good condition of my driveway, as she had stopped near the edge of my yard. So with the Bremen mug of coffee I walked there, and sat down to have a chat with her. We discussed the fish population at local waters, she was evaluating the current situation against the decades of history with a pulp factory upstream, saying that the pike-perch are wise enough to quickly withdraw to cleaner waters as soon as they spot traces of pollutants in the water. As, for a bit more than a year she and other local fishers have been wondering about the greatly reduced numbers of pike-perches - so maybe there is a toxic leak somewhere upstream, or some other change affecting the conditions, who knows. Well, but in addition to this environmental discussion she brought me a case of beer - a box of 24 cans of Sandels, which happens to be one of my favorites.

Later on in the afternoon I climbed the big oak in my yard, taking two cans of beer with me. I chose a nice spot, which allowed me to rest my back against the trunk of the oak, warmed by the sunshine, refreshed by the gentle summer wind. From that vantage point I saw all the unfinished projects around my yard, but didn't feel them as a burden, not a source of stress, but a sign of life. Life, I think, is a process of becoming - not a finished state, but a flow. And I was thinking of all the times I've been sitting here, in the oak, drinking something and thinking about the balance of my life; things which need to be done / the amount of time and energy I have to do things, and if I should cut down my to-do list, or if I can find ways to boost my energy levels so that I could get more done with the time I have - or if I could somehow optimize or improve the way I organize my daily hours. Overall, I felt that my current situation is fine, or at lest harmless. Mostly harmless. Or, mostly fine. Something I'm okay with.

And, today it is 18th of May. After a month, at 18th of June it is my 50th birthday. It makes me think about the decades of my life, how was my 40th birthday, and what has changed since that. I remember that I wanted to throw a party for my 40th birthday, celebrating life together with my friends. And sure did we party. Seldom have I been as drunk as I was that day - and I don't even enjoy being heavily drunken, that day it was rather unintentional, and the greatest gain for that was that being drunken helped me to let go of the role of "oh, there are other people around, so better postpone my own needs and focus fully on catering to the needs of other people". Well, for my 50th birthday I don't feel like organizing a party. Instead, I wish there to be small, more of less spontaneous celebrations whenever and where I happen to meet my friends. As, my sense of time anyway isn't so very strict not linear - exact dates are nice for some things, but otherwise I mostly just enjoy the non-measured free flow of time, that precious moment of 'now' which in a way escapes the calendar.

Around my 40th birthday my life was still pretty much built on top of the dream of wishing to live together with horses. So that working with a horse would not be just a hobby, but an integral part of life - to heat the house by burning firewood, and to haul all the timber with a horse. To grow a considerable part of my food myself, to work the soil with a horse. But that dream came with a lot of "if"s and "somehow"s - somehow I'd need to find a way to earn enough money to sustain the horses, yet having enough free time to regularly train and work together with the horses. If I had more land, enough for the summer pasture, and extra land for growing food. If I had enough money to buy a healthy strong Finn-horse. If I had the skills and resources to breed horses, all the time to train a foal. Well, not going too deep into this, but the fundamental question to this is; to work with horses you either apply strict discipline, or establish a fine, deep, mutual and direct emotional trust, communicating your intentions in a way the horse understand and feels like going together with, instead of forcing the horse just to obey orders without fully grasping the meaning of the whole process. And I always felt that on the deep emotional level I'm still shattered, stuck in a post-traumatic numb, not fully present but always somehow just observing the situation as if I was an outside spectator instead of the subject of my life. Oh well - so, but eventually it was the health problems of the horses which weighted too much, so it was time to abandon that dream, making the final decision concerning the life of the horses.

At the moment of writing this I have no idea if the emotional connection and mutual co-operation with a horse / horses is going to be an element in the rest of my life, or if that is just another dream gone forever. I can't know, but so is the nature of being a human - not the absolute creature, but just a finite being immersed in the mystery of life.

To me it feels like the most of the past 10 years have been spent with trying to solve that "somehow". Or, to re-phrase myself; ever since my early childhood I've felt a strong urge to not be a part of the society. Sometimes dreaming of having a small community to belong to, some sort of alternative utopia, and most of the time just wanting to become a hermit. But, both of these approaches come with a big "somehow" - as if I don't have the resources just to withdraw to live fully self-sufficient on a plot of land I don't legally own, then there anyway needs to be some kind of a relationship to the mainstream society. The other people. The bureaucracy, the money. And, for the most of my life that relationship has been defined by a fragmentary mess of odd jobs - some of the jobs have felt more like "being the person who I feel that I truly am", and other have been "just doing something alienated to fund my freedom to try being the person I feel that I truly am". And, that also has been haunted by the all-encompassing post-traumatic numb, the sometimes eerie lack of energy, the confused sense of being dissociated from my own reality.

And I've been deeply involved in different parallel inner processes to recover from the said numbness of dissociation. To be honest, I still feel that I'm facing some deep fundamental question unresolved, but at the same time I see how much my life has improved in the last 10 years. I remember that I had that constant feeling of "no matter what I try in my life it will fail" and "any problem feels like too much to handle, so better just accept the problem being there and live with it" - so I was hauling things around using a hand cart with a flat tyre, as patching the tyre felt impossible like climbing a vertical cliff with nothing to grip, with no foothold. I remember how, in the process guided by Clementine, whenever she asked me to picture a place or a scene, my mind always represented me a carousel of images rapidly changing to another - it felt like I had deep trouble being in one place, everything felt like shattered to pieces, there always being parallel visions disconnected from each other, "this, or that, and another this but maybe not that or alternatively those and in the end it doesn't matter as any of these descriptions is not catching the deep essence". Huh. But, it feels that slowly a clarity has been emerging from that mess of fragmented images.

Or, on a more tangible level; it has always been clear to me that no matter what is going on in my life, I want to help Sami with his indie development, updating UnReal World. But exactly how to best do it? To have some other work which would pay my bills, leaving me with enough free time to do some serious coding for UnReal World? Or, investing time and energy in promoting and developing UrW so that the sales would be enough to sustain both Sami and me? Or, to start Patreon and to work long term to grow audience there? Or, to apply for external funding? Or, to make a side project, an another game hoping that it would generate extra sales to help be become a full-time indie developer? Or, to face this like the flat tyre of the hand cart, a problem too difficult to solve with my limited post-traumatic energy reserve? Or this, or maybe that, or should I listen to the advice of those people, or these people, and what is the inner truth? Or should I just focus on first stabilizing my mental health so that all the rest would get solved by itself? Like, too many times in my life I've realized that I have solid plans and good intentions, but then something unforeseen happens, I get overwhelmed by an urgent situation elsewhere and then I lose control. Repeat that too many times, and I've found myself feeling like "as soon I decide to do something, it magically triggers a process which will ruin that something, so better avoid making the decision". Or, as Liisa Akimof puts it, feels like low pressure [ruins my intentions].

So, as I've written in some of the earlier posts; eventually I just found inner clarity. Pick an idea for another game, an Enormous Elk side-project, and then focus on that idea. When I started working on Ancient Savo I thought that it will take something like 18 months to complete, feeling that maybe I can manage it in the classical "starving artist"-funding; doing a minimal amount of odd jobs to pay most of the monthly bills, in the most dire situations borrowing money from friends, adding in the occasional sales generated by the not-yet-finished game project, trying to stay afloat until the project is ready for a bigger launcḥ. And that has worked; there have been donations from people who believe in the project, a few people have thrown in a lot of tip in itch.io, and there have been some unforeseen good surprises (like, getting some extra money from my parents, which I really could not see happening, but won't go deeper into reflecting my relationship with my parents...)

That earlier persistent feeling of "oh, this problem is not possible to solve, it would take infinite resources to tackle the problem and I only have 0.1 units of energy!" has turned into sometimes over-optimistic sense of "sure I can do this, just a little bit of more work and then it is finished!". I mean, when I started working on Ancient Savo, if I had the realism to understand that after 3 years of heavy work it still won't be ready, I would've probably lost my faith, abandoning the project in the very early stage. But that didn't happen. And I was hoping for Steam release this March, so that I could celebrate my 50th birthday together with celebrating having completed the project, and hopefully also having solved the problem of "Erkka's relationship with the mainstream society and the monetary system". Yes, I was hoping for that, and working hard to make it come true. But, self-set deadlines can be more toxic that dead-lines coming from outside, and once again I realized that things take their time; a piece of code works only when it works. Both debugging and development work best when in unhurried state of mind. And there seldom is too much time spent with internal testing, and all the testing often takes as much time as the development itself, essentially just doubling the time required to make a thing.

At the moment of writing this I feel that a lot of things are uncertain and unfinished. Sometimes I feel slightly tired after all the years of working with Ancient Savo and my mind is restless to get to the next projects; writing code for UnReal World, and to choose a sequel project depending on the reception. The sequel ideas are 1) "A Survival Destruction Set" - something like a general "survival game engine", a suite of tools for anyone to create a survival game scenario of their liking, and 2) "Medieval Savo" - adding tactical combat and more complex interaction with the bigger society, the player family finding themselves as citizens of imperial Sweden in war with imperial Russia. But, the time for those will be later on, and to get there I just need to work on with the current project at hand. Ancient Savo still needs an improved AI to run other families of the player clan while the player controls one family unit. (And, again - I see developing Ancient Savo AI also as groundwork for future improvement to NPC AI in UnReal World).

All this kind of thoughts were running through my head. And that despite me wanting to find a balance, and to establish a sustainable relationship with the monetary system of the mainstream society - I also feel very happy to see something like non-transactional 'economy' based on people just helping each other. I've been helping the neighbouring fisher lady with some practical tasks, and I get fish (and today also beer), and neither of us has any book-keeping of "who owes what" - the interaction feels more like based on mutual trust. And in many ways I also feel that network of mutual aid expanding to the sphere of neighbours and friends - I don't know if I can put it into words, but it feels more like "being accepted as a person you are, without having to pay for it". Or, seen from other perspective - there have been periods in my life when I've felt like providing for other people without asking anything in return, just blindly trusting in the idea that if everybody helps each other then everyone feels that they are supported by the community, and then realizing that if it doesn't work that way by itself, someone is bound to feel like being a "resource pump", being accepted only when they provide for others but rejected as soon as they need something themselves. And this is one of the central confusions I'm still trying to find the inner clarity and balance with. And feeling happy that at the moment of writing this this theme does not feel like an dead-end, but more like a process which has seen a lot of good development for the past 10 years.

Hehe - and sorry if this text is less readable than usual, for I recognize being slightly tipsy, consuming another two cans of beer while writing this =) As, in this not-strictly-linear sense of time, today feels like a miniature version of my birthday, a day worth celebrating, celebrating Life in itself, that Life which is not just mine but the deep shared undercurrent supporting me, you, them, everybody everybody.

Despite all these ponderings, I still feel somewhat uneasy about posting these links - as if I was appearing like "demanding something" or "putting pressure on other people", as both of these are things I feel alien with. I feel comfortable when I'm the one who provides for others, and in the process of learning to also be happy to receive although that isn't always easy.

Ancient Savo at itch.io
Erkka's paypal

And to balance my inner world, a link which is easier to post; Oi te kamuiset by The Mystic Revelation of Teppo Repo - the song titlte would translate as something like "oh ye friends!"

Drinking Sandels in the tree
Drinking Sandels in the tree
tags: 
depression
diary
programming
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Comments

You're a legend, Erkka! Always good to read your thoughts.

Very nice to see that things are looking uphill compared to before. I can garantee that I will check out Ancient Savo (and that beer you mentioned but I gotta import that). Thank you for all your work in all these decades, cheers from a Mexican.

About the beer; hehe, Sandels is nothing spectacular, more like plain good all-around basic beer. When I buy beer especially for the taste, I pick something from the small artisan breweries, or something imported from Czech Republic.

Today in the evening I'll be working for money, but before that it is a nice unhurried time at home. I started by coding a bit of Ancient Savo, but didn't go too deep into it as I know that once I get immersed into the world of coding I lose my sense of time and it becomes very hard to switch my mindset to another (and, doing the massage work definitely requires a different mindset that the coding one). It is the morning of a warm sunny day, so I closed the IDE and went to sit on the stairs of my house, enjoying the sunshine while eating my morning porridge.

And I noticed I'm again feeling my persistent symptoms a bit stronger than usual; my brain feels foggy and it is not easy to produce words, the thought of social interaction feels almost like climbing a mountain. Also, most of the household chores at home feel like bit too much, my body feels exhausted and in need of just napping. Luckily, there aren't those typical sings of depression; I don't feel emotional pain, I just feel tired on some hard-to-explain manner, knowing that for today I just need to get up and go to work no matter how I feel. And then for the rest of the week I have no external timetables, so I can rest and recover and resume the indie coding once my brain feels functional again.

Then I remembered that before leaving for today's work I need to print an invoice for one of today's customers. I came back to the computer and noticed there's a message from Kamil Wsół - and now I feel like sending a thanks message in return. But, since the brain seems to be clumsy today, I couldn't formulate the idea what I wanted to communicate as a thanks. So instead I decided just to write this comment;

Thank You Kamil Wsół - for aforementioned reasons I'm not able to fully express how much your act of support means to me. A lot, definitely a lot, saving me from some looming trouble I didn't yet know how to best deal with. I will write a personal message for you some other day, once my brain is better fit to process human interaction =)

I first thought about self-sufficiency when I was 13 years old: my original plan was to run away from home into the wilderness. It was actually decided by a counting-out rhyme that I would stay for a while and learn survival skills instead of running away right then. Right now I'm stuck with the same somehow-issue. Land is usually something one is born into, or the alternative is working hard and being extremely frugal... just for a few hundred years. I don't even know how to begin addressing the issue.
Magically triggered outside processes are familiar as well, fucking up every longer-term goal I had, at some point even shorter-term ones, for example my nose had this habit of bleeding uncontrollably whenever I had somewhere to go on time, like school or an appointment. I guess if you win at the game, your computer crashes.
Cool that at least you have a network of mutual aid, I rarely witnessed it and when I did, it was temporary, so I ponder what conditions need to be in place to formulate. Many times I have been and seen others being punished for good deeds. Still I think it's worthwhile to do that if one can deal with the punishment, as it will be an imperfection in this perfectly evil world.

It's almost like the more you want something the higher the resistance of the outside world becomes. And trying to avoid something becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Sounds like something I also remember feeling like. And, when it comes to themes like these, I think there just aren't any clever life hacks to it. And it might be that every person needs to find their own answers which happen to work in their personal situation. In my own long slow process it has often felt like this:

Looking over a valley I saw a hill on the other side and knew that I wanted to get there. So I started trekking through the valley, but once I get there a thick mist arose, and I couldn't see a thing. For most of the time it felt like pointless struggling with no gains. And there was no way to know if I'm walking in circles or actually going somewhere. But also since just sitting on one spot didn't feel like a real solution, the only thing to do was to keep orienteering based on the memory of that clear view over the valley. And eventually it started to feel like the mist getting less dense, it becoming easier to travel. I realized in the mist I had lost directions and didn't get to the hill I tried to head towards, but ended up in another place which is not bad - and this place is not a final destination, but a beginning of yet another chapter in the adventure.

Hmm, this metaphor fails in some essential sense, as I also feel that in some way the "moment of despair" is actually essential and necessary stage in the process of getting rid of the old and transitioning into something new - in between there is bound to be the unpleasant stage of "not-really-being-anywhere-anything", and the painful thing is that this stage can last for long, and there is no way to fast-forward through it.

This is how I feel about it. Hehe, I maybe could try to write something more elaborate some other day.

But, to end this comment a little detail; When I was thinking of different ways to fund Ancient Savo development, I recognized that mood that feels like paranormal superstition saying that "if you do it big and officially apply for funding from any source, that is magically going to attract problems, yes maybe giving you the money but at the same time bringing unforeseen big problems ruining the entire project." And instead of battling that emotion I decided to allow it to be. And so far it has been okay; no major funding, but no major catastrophes, and the project growing steadily towards an official release.

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