I've really gotten a bit lost here in Second Life...very lost, if I'm honest with myself.
I look at how I spend my time...much too much time...and what I do. I seem to have created a 2nd life very similar to my once real life. I make commitments and take those responsibilities seriously, to classes, groups, a very special airship project, and a dear, dear, dear one (there are not enough "dear"s in the world to express my connection with this one). I make friends...just like real life there are those one "clicks" with...and try to make time keeping up with those friendships. Like real life, I have lots of alone, "me" time, when I work on whatever I want to do, learning and creating in Second Life is so satisfying. and like real life there are "housekeeping" chores, like shopping, organizing one's stuff...and like real life, these tasks are low on my priority list.
So, why? why have a second life that mirrors so closely my real life? and also pushes out real life because of the sheer amount of time spent in my virtual one?
I don't know. So many here talk about Second Life being a place where they can explore their fantasies. I think that happens for me in selected moments, and it's incredibly enlightening, but it's not because that's what I set out to do. and it's not what I "feel" like I'm doing when I'm there...exploring a fantasy.
I think one reason is that there has been a major change in my real life in the past few years...major changes affecting what I can do real life. Health changes...and it's so, so true that good health is wasted on the healthy. (please, everyone, seize each moment of every day and love it, cherish it) Months of physical pain, not being able to put one foot on the floor pain-free, or grasp anything. Months and months of so little mental energy that I couldn't focus enough to read a book, or watch tv. A long, long time "existing," if one could call it that. I remember thinking often that I should just die and get it over with. It was really hard to put on a "happy face" and I'm sure I fooled no one.
The mental energy came back, mostly, but the physical is still far from returned. At the current improvement rate it will take 20 years to get back to where I was 5 years ago. I look at those numbers and I despair. It could be worse, it could always be worse, but, you know what, that doesn't make me feel any better. Maybe the next time I fill out that doctor's office survey, I'll answer "not at all" to "please rate your ability to handle feelings of depression." I try really hard to focus on the fact that I am experiencing improvement, that it's change in the right direction, but it takes energy to hold on to that focus, and many times I don't have it.
So there's the obvious, in Second Life I move free! I run! I dance! and every time I do, I feel joy, kinesthetic memories flood thru me and I remember...remember how it feels physically and how much I relish the rhythm, movement, strength, fluidity. I experience also pain... an ache, nostalgia for those times in real life that I fear may never come again. In the beginning of my Second Life this nostalgic pain was a faint undercurrent, but it's grown in the past few months. Tears, hot, salty ones, drip off my face as I write this. This pain feels a lot like when I've grieved in real life, intense, the drowning, mind-numbing kind...again, the obvious, that I'm grieving the loss of physical mobility. but I think there's something more than the obvious, because this pain-grief-sense-of-loss has changed, grown in the time I've spent in Second Life. I think a topic for another time...exploring those feelings.
and all the social connections I make in Second Life, well it's the same dynamic. Real life changes meant I couldn't continue the commitments I had (I was able to keep one by the skin of my teeth). At first, I relished increased "me" time, developed personal research projects, but after months realized I was lonely for real human contact, in spite of extensive online interactions. So a 2011 resolution was to "get out more." Physically I had improved enough so that it was feasible (sort of) to consider getting out of the house as long as getting out wasn't cast in concrete...that I could decide not to go if getting out of bed that morning I knew it was going to be a "bad" day. Very difficult to make any "real" commitment to activities out in the world. I did it though...joined a local society, went to some meetings, some conferences, and was even able to go to a week-long genealogy institute last June. and then a wonderful trip to Hawaii's Big Island last October. I cannot remember when, if ever, my (real)life partner and I spent time having fun, just us. Hopefully that's because my memory is faulty, but I have a suspicious feeling that it might be pathetically true, for the most part. These events were touch-and-go though, lots of anxiety over whether I could "do" it (lots of telling myself if it didn't work out I could just turn around and "go home"), guilt over being a "burden." It wasn't easy, I sure wish I could have approached these experiences with more peace and equanimity, but I couldn't. Totally exhausting, and Second Life was/is always there, where it's deceptively easier to connect socially, do things, and the hardest thing one has to deal with is lag.
I think a lot about "connecting" in Second Life...like why it happens, just because I find interpersonal and group interactions interesting in any life. The fact is that I definitely have found people in Second Life with whom I *feel* like I *connect.* What those words mean to me is also a topic for another time I think, but bottom line is that I suspect Second Life connections may end up being a tremendous source of frustration for me, because how far can they really go? what are they really based on? wouldn't it be better to spend time nourishing real life connections? aye, there's the real-life-rub, isn't it? Again, this reflects my concept of "relationship," what I find meaningful, which may be probably different from others. or maybe it's a question of balance, that if my real life were more robust, then the expectations/needs brought to my virtual life could be designated as "fun," "entertainment" and it would all be "good."
My real life is missing human contact, I think, I know...again a topic to be explored another time. Second Life will not help with that in any way...and my neediness is a terrible burden to bring to virtual relationships.
So it seems that the "fantasy" I'm "exploring" in Second Life is similar to my once-real life. How totally boring compared to those exploring their gender identities, or their furry/fae/supernatural natures. And it looks like it's because it's easier than real life right now, or reminds me of "the good times." The problem is, that all this time spent in a virtual world does nothing, or very, very, very little, to change my real life for the better, even if it's a lot of fun (for the most part). Life isn't something that just happens to us, you know. or at least, it's unlikely one gets the life one wants by waiting for life to happen.
When I first started getting "lost" in Second Life (meaning that my inner life became more and more dominated by 2nd Life thoughts, even during time when I was doing things real life) I thought it was because of my addictive tendencies for virtual environments. In many ways that's true...that's why I went off exploring initially...but the "getting lost" seems a bit more than that, and I'm not quite sure I understand the dynamics yet all that well. Recently I've described it as "taking a vacation" from real life...and that's true too. Enjoying moving virtually (and, oh, the dancing, yes the dancing!), meeting people from all over the world, having interesting conversations, finding a few I especially care for, one quite deeply, and *ignoring* the real life projects that surround me, ones I had expanded to the point of being totally overwhelming...well this has been a great vacation if one thinks escapism is the way to go. I'm not sure how this virtual vacation helps my real life. I think it shows how much I'm willing to put myself in escape-mode, and that's very, very sad.
I need to figure out a way back. I remember a discussion I had with a political science professor decades ago, pretty much about this kind of issue (the course was about alienation in society)...making changes in one's life. and I said then (I remember this clearly) "just do it. if you want to be different, if you want things to be different, start doing it, act, the actions bring changes in attitude, self-concept." Wasn't I just so clever (perhaps even smug in my certainty) when I was eighteen? "Be the change you want to be" or whatever the quote is. I remember how he wanted to explore that idea (I can remember his first name, Marty, isn't that interesting? tall, lean, I vaguely remember a whitish/grayish neatly trimmed beard, I think)...and I remember thinking "isn't this obvious? why is my comment even interesting?" Now I wonder what life-crisis Marty might have been experiencing then. Because, I'll tell you from where I'm sitting right now, more than forty years later, it feels hard, darn hard, to "just do it."