The Creature

Despite my current nature of being one that fears the natural world and nature: when I was younger, I was a very curious explorer of nature. I liked going to the park with my parents, I liked climbing trees, I liked running through the ditch next to my house and popping up out on the other side. My friends and I as children knew the concrete path created by artificial water control measures like veins that connected houses and us to the outside world where imaginations ran wild and we could be kings, queens, knights and adventurers. 

One place I particularly loved to visit as a child was the lake. I grew up in North Texas and Joe Pool Lake was a common haunt for my family to visit. The lake was teeming with aggressive carp that were rumored to eat children and small dogs if they got too close. We’d feed the fish there, mostly bread which now I know is unhealthy but as a youth was more enamored by their voracity. 

The drive to the lake was always a quiet one, passing field after field as back then North Texas was still mostly suburban aside from the hustle and bustle of Dallas. I spent a lot of time in the backseat of my parents’ car looking out of the window as fields yielded to streets and housing divisions. 

Driving back from the lake one day, as I gazed out into one of those amber fields told of in American myth and legend, I saw something that didn’t make much sense to my eye as a kid. It was a figure in the grass. It was big. It was dark. It didn’t make much sense to me, really. It looked like it was sitting down and maybe my brain then just assumed it was a dog. Then it did something I surely did not expect as a child: it walked. The thing, that thing in the field walked like people do; on two legs. There was no animal that I knew of that did such a thing and my young mind mostly kept that memory hidden, safe somewhere from a reality that I could not process or understand. 

As an adult, I still don’t really know what I saw. My memory is still pretty clear of that day despite all of the other things about my childhood that are now hazy with trauma. Did I see a large dog? Was it a person in a field? Was it just a fluke of the imagination? I’m not sure. 

The study of creatures that may or may not be there is cryptozoology and since my days of watching MonsterQuest for hours in my college dorm room, I have been fascinated by the study of cryptids. I love the idea of creatures that may be real but also may not be but I’m more fascinated by the fact that they seem to be culturally universal. Almost all cultures have an upright hairy creature in the woods. Almost all cultures have a dragon. Almost all cultures have a blood-sucking or life force-sucking creature. What were these people seeing?

If I have to suspend logic for a moment and use that part of my mind and heart that is still somewhat childlike, I have to assume what I saw was a Bigfoot or similar creature. Such sightings aren’t unheard of back home but are rare due to the urban sprawl of the area. There is no reason for Bigfoot to run down Harry Hines Boulevard. 

Personally, at the risk of sounding too crazy, I do think that such creatures can exist. Do I think that they are as prevalent as many…experts…would say? Absolutely not. While there are plenty of unexplored forests in the United States and around the world, I cannot imagine that with the urban settings that make up too many sightings of the paranormal that a population of anything that isn’t a raccoon, possum or coyote could survive in.

I would be more skeptical if in fact that was the first and only time I had seen a creature that I could not explain. 

It was not.

I was coming home after a time with family and friends for the holidays. I was on a stretch of highway that connects almost all of Texas’ major cities. The drive is long and mostly uneventful if you don’t count people who willfully ignore the speed limit but it does remind drivers and passengers that some of Texas is in fact, still wild. For a moment as I passed a median, I saw something in the grass there. From the body shape, I assumed it was just a wild hog: we have those here. I assumed that the black mass in the grass was just a hog. I thought I saw a tail and tusks, I thought I saw coarse hair and a round body. I thought I just saw a hog. That was until it moved. It moved on all fours, sure but the way its body moved was so unlike a pig. Not a trot, not a gallop, it was almost cat-like the way it moved down that stretch of grass that broke up the concrete hell of highways and byways. 

I didn’t know what to think of that moment, it happened so fast that I don’t think I had time to process it. When I told a friend, we all agreed that this was just one of those things that happens to people and as far as what I saw that time…I don’t have an answer. Was it a pig? Another Bigfoot? A wendigo? I don’t know and I can’t say the mystery has haunted me but the curiosity indeed has. 

This spooky season, remember to keep your eyes open: you never know what you may see. Believe your eyes when you can; they do not always play tricks on you. And suspend your disbelief; there are indeed things out there that resist simple explanations. 

Happy Halloween, dear readers. 

You Miss Every Shot You Don’t Take

“Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.” ― Søren Kierkegaard, The Concept of Anxiety_ A Simple Psychologically Orienting Deliberation on the Dogmatic Issue of Hereditary Sin (2).png

Another post about Pokemon Go? Really? I know, I know. This may be suprising to no one that I’m still talking about this little game but hear me out.

Today I want to talk about risk, anxiety and taking the shot.

In Pokemon Go’s recent update, you (the trainer) are on a hunt to track down the legendary Pokemon Mew. Your journey to track down Mew involves completing a bunch of mostly mundane tasks in the game: spinning PokeStops, catching certain Pokemon, going after gyms and finishing up raids. But the recent tasks often involves attempting to catch elusive Pokemon like Ditto who hides in plain sight. The thing is, Ditto never appears as it is. You have to try and catch a common Pokemon and hope that it’s the rare pink blob. And I’ll emphasize rare and try: Ditto is not common and never has been. There will be many wasted attempts on common Pokemon and that will stress me the math out. On top of that, it often means hunting specific types of Pokemon and attempting different throws which will mean plenty of trial and error, many wasted Pokeballs and lots of energy expended on a game that I’m probably too old to still be playing.

Risk is something I’ve never been fond of. It’s one of the big reasons I love and hate paneling. I have to put in a form and it’s almost never a promise that I’ll be in. I have to trust that I’m good enough at what I do to secure a spot. Anxiety means hating the unknown. And most of life is hilariously unknown. Because of those things, I do my best to remove as much risk from my life as possible. Well, the unnecessary risks. It’s impossible to remove all risk and that’s what makes anxiety at times so painful. But it means that I am super careful even when doing something as simple as playing a video game. I go after safe bets and do my best to never go into a bout that I don’t feel prepared for. And losing in a game is one of the best things I’ve found to help me cope with my anxiety. Losing in Street Fighter makes me face challenge head on. Trying to be Champion in Pokemon keeps me honest and makes me train my whole team and go only when I feel I can handle it.
Losing keeps me humble but it also stresses me out.

While normally, I’m pretty good at being mature and celebrating when my friends win fair and square (seriously, you should watch Carlos and I duel. I’m usually so proud when he defeats me.). But in some games, it actually causes me a fair amount of emotional distress. Picking up Street Fighter again to play against the boys has been an emotional rollercoaster! I feel inadequate for losing and not picking up motions despite me being excellent at this game when I was younger. I’ve gotten over some of that stress but I do my best to continue to get good enough to one day defeat one of the boys.

But it isn’t just video games that are sometimes affected by my aversion to risk. I don’t often try new television shows either. That’s a bit of a double reason, though. I use television often times as noise so it’s comforting to have a rerun on in the background while I write or sew. Something new will take up all of my attention. But I’m also afraid of being bitterly disappointed by a new show. I’m scared that I won’t like something and that there’s something wrong with me for not liking something that is popular. I pick safe bets and franchises that are familiar because there’s no chance in being disappointed by a rerun.

It also means being afraid to try new foods or new bars. I’m scared that I won’t find a safe menu item that won’t reveal the fact that I’m a secret picky eater. I’m afraid I won’t like a drink as ordered. I’m worried that I’ll be bored during movies because that’s not socially acceptable.

But without risk, there is no reward. I remember hearing that a lot from Carlos during this most recent panel season. A convention took a while to tell us whether we were in or not and I spent weeks in emotional limbo. Carlos spent a lot of time telling that I would miss all the shots I didn’t take. I’ve heard that before but it always rang hollow to me. Even when I was younger and playing softball, I would rather walk to a base than strike out. Sure, you miss some but pitches are unpredictable and stressful. You never know which way that ball is coming, so sometimes it’s best to stand still and calculate that risk first, right?

If I didn’t take a risk on paneling, I wouldn’t have found it to be one of the most rewarding things in my life. If I didn’t take the risk of moving away, I wouldn’t have found my own voice and my own two feet. If I didn’t take the risk of removing and adding people to my life, I would never have found the support group that I cherish.

And that doesn’t mean I don’t get to relish in some of the thrill of the unknown. I never know how any one panel will go and the thrill of the stage can be as exhilarating as it is exhausting.

You do miss all the shots you don’t take. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t understand or empathize with the fact that risk is utterly terrifying sometimes.

I’m still hunting for that Ditto. I’m still trying those tasks in the game that make me uncomfortable or take me out of my comfort zone. That isn’t all bad. I couldn’t imagine that when I picked up Pokemon Go years ago that it would end up being so therapeutic. It became one of the many ways I connect to the people I care about. But the game makes me focus on a goal and task and that is very useful for someone who struggles with the abstract concept of just being alive on this planet.

UPDATE: I did catch the Mew.