A heavy winter rain began to fall as the travelers plowed through the muddy street. In this small village of peasants and farmers, the people toiled daily and the weariness flowed through every interaction.
The town mayor, a humble looking man in his forties, hailed from the tavern, welcoming them into the dry and warm community center. After warming themselves between the keg tap and the hearth, the mayor spoke quietly.
“It all started last year, slowly, but I remember, one of our farmers reported missing livestock, not just small goats, but even his cattle. In this village, even the smallest report of a missing animal warrants attention. But after a month, we heard no more.”
Quenlin peer from behind his mug of a stout brown drink, questioning the look in the man’s eyes, searching for sincerity. He seemed and honest and sane man.
The mayor continued, “but then, everything changed. Many reports of livestock missing and then, finally,” he paused here and quickly scanned the room, “people started to go missing. We don’t know how or why, or if they’re alive, or not. But we need help. I sent the letter to our lord in Chisdale, and as I understand, here you’ve come.”
At this, Strom leaned forward with a confident expression and pride in his voice, “We help the weak, seek out oppression all over this land. We will gladly help.” His weathered face dealt kindness towards the mayor, despite its grizzled features. Yasbagee answered her fellows remark with, “this should be good, I’ve been wanting to hunt something down for a couple of months now. My blades are getting thirsty.”
One thing I have noticed in these tales of bravery and adventure is that despite threat of death, these characters always find themselves staring down a haunted mine, or looking into a menacing swamp, and then they just walk in!
The point being that motivation makes people move. Otherwise, we continue on with our lives without risking danger or threat. No one in their right mind would enter the cave unless they had a higher motivation than self – preservation.
I think one of the reasons D&D captivates our attention is that we get the chance to risk life and limb through the characters strength and valor, but truly our own as well. Most stories involve rescuing a village from terror, retrieving magic artifacts to keep evil from obtaining them, or pulling off a stunt to stop an evil lord from rising to power. I have learned this is what is categorized as an “epic” campaign. Classic good vs evil storyline.
Everyone one of us has a point where we say, “enough.” Adventures are simply those of us who respond first. None of the D&D characters I have met in the Forgotten Realms or Middle Earth would I ask to baby sit or mow my lawn, but upon news of an invading army of bloodthirsty orcs, these battle worn travelers would be the first I would call.
I think I sometimes view myself as that mayor. I see the problems, I feel the pain of the people, but at the end of the day, the most I can offer is asking for help. Maybe that’s something else I have learned: if you have enough peril, and sometimes enough gold or bartering, a hero will answer your call for help and maybe teach you how to draw your blade.
The mist began to effortlessly rise from the ground as the darkness swelled into light. Soft sounds of birds and woodland creatures stirred in the traveler’s minds as they took turns waking from their exhausted night in the forest glen. Only Quenlin, already awake and peering through the pine with draconian eyes, did not take the time to stretch his sore muscles into life. Yashbagee lit a fire with the last of her tinderbox and retrieved some of the talsin root she foraged yesterday. “Take this, all of you, the tea will help your bruises and wounds heal.” Quenlin, sniffed the tea, but of course, did not drink it as his wounds had already healed through his night’s vigil. A spark of compassion blinked quickly in his cold heart as he viewed the horrid gash in Strom’s leg. He bent over the supine warrior and held the rustic bowl up to his mouth. “Drink.” he growled. Strom’s swollen eyes opened and he slowly accepted the gesture. That morning, the party stood still around a flickering fire in the mist and watched the transformation come over Quenlin. Maybe they were wrong about him after all.
Dungeons and Dragons captures the imagination and attention of players because although part of the game rolls dice and takes chances, a big part involves the decisions of your character which can make a lasting change in the world, whether Middle Earth or the Forgotten Realms. There is also a temptation to scold ourselves when things aren’t working out. Here are some principles to consider. You may find that in this reckoning, you find our world works that way as well.
Success – Warning! May involve some wandering
Maybe you find yourself between a job you didn’t want, only applying for more jobs you don’t want, but have to take because you need the money. Maybe you find yourself stuck in a major in college and you are not quite sure if this is what you want to do for the rest of your life. Maybe you have no idea what success looks like. In Dungeons and Dragons, role playing involves a lot of waiting and even more discovering because you truly do not know how the story will end. A warrior can spend ample time searching, investigating, or wandering around to discover “what” the “quest” means. Even each clue, each little success in the journey leads to a better answer to the larger puzzle. No one simply stops playing because they are stuck in the game with no answer. They make something happen. They throw spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks. Movement is life. When you find yourself stuck, visit the local rustic tavern, ask about trouble in the country side, investigate the local crimes in the sheriff’s office, or search the library for ancient books, or maybe wait for the town crier asking around for an adventure to keep the game going. Eventually, this path leads you to success and we should not scold ourselves during the rhythm of downtime in the game.
Everyone is where they are because they walked there.
In the story above, one hero specializes in survival skills, knowing how to track in the wooded realm, discerning between healing and poison mushrooms, and navigating using the stars. Another character specializes in keeping a sharp blade and not backing down from a fight. We cannot spend our energy envying the hard earned skills of others. There is a cost to specialize in anything worth doing and that cost is, by definition, not specializing in another skill. Every hero is there because they walked there. You are where you are because you walked there and your skills are needed on any team, whether in a relationship, in parenting, in your career or any group. Dungeons and Dragons vary the party’s skills so that they accomplish any quest by the hands and minds of many.
The warrior who fights back darkness weilds more fear than the evil itself.
As your characters first start out, you may encounter a pack of feral wolves, or a grumpy ogre guarding his cave, or maybe a hideous rat that tries to steal away your supplies. Then you travel further and find the evil becomes more organized, such as a marauding band of orcs, or systemic attacks from flying imps. However, the battle peaks while discovering that the enemy behind all of the brute force is a corrupt law master, using cruel cunning to deceive the townspeople. Or maybe a rogue wizard poisoning the vegetation in order to establish her as the dominant economy in the region. However, the band of fighting travelers braves the night and hunt down the villains. What makes our heroes so great is they are not necessarily law abiding, peace keeping polite citizens. They are just as quick to slash and burn, use brute force or cunning magic as the enemy. Of course, the principles differ – the villain wants to eventually use up the people around them, the heroes protect and defend against wickedness. Times of evil summon the bravest warriors.
So, wherever you find yourself today, grab your hard earned skills, a couple comrades, and ask yourself, “What lures you to adventure out of the security of your local village?” Roll the die, and participate in writing the story of your life.
Maybe you have seen the 20 sided dice show up in pop culture lately, or heard the name of the world’s best role playing game. I don’t know about you, but most of my childhood was spent fantasizing about other worlds, adventure quests, role playing as a different creature, and leading my siblings into that realm. Books like The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, Chronicles of Pyrdain, Redwall, and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH all deeply influenced my choice of games played. And like my childhood imagination, the game is all about telling stories of adventure. Around 2017, I suddenly had an enormous amount of free time handed to me via losing employment. That’s the opposite of striking it rich. However, in many ways, I have confirmed some powerful principles in life through researching the world of The Forgotten Realms and such, in the game Dungeons and Dragons.
Perception is seeing what’s there
While adventuring through Middle Earth or the Forgotten Realms, stopping to take a look around goes a long way. The game is at it’s simplest form a series of ability checks your adventure makes in progression of the game. The dice roll determines percentage of success (by the way, the game is also great at building your math skills!) Just know that your adventurer will not usually be handed information without asking for it. However if you venture out there and look around, there’s no limit to what you can find. Quite simply, If you’re not looking, you won’t see anything! Life is first accomplished by investigation, perception and taking in what’s in front of your, or even better, looking behind the curtain. Take a lesson from Curious George.
You are not as resilient as you think you are
As I researched the game, the rules of adventure, it surprised me at how few hit points it took to knock an explorer unconscious. 3 swipes from an raging ogre, 2 bites from a bloodthirsty wolf, or even a fall from a slippery ledge would issue enough damage to end the quest. At first, I thought, “how can you get through a campaign alive if the adventures have such limited resources on health?” But the more I thought about it, I realized that that’s pretty much how it is in this world as well. It’s easy to believe our health and stamina are invincible, but as we traverse through danger, we can only take so much damage to our bodies and minds before we find ourselves chronically ill, in a hospital, or mentally used up that we are only able to take one day at a time without caving into darkness. Of course in D&D, the answer to maintain health is partner up with healers, choose your adventure appropriately (don’t chase down the level 14 dragon if you are a level 2 rogue!) and quite simply: learn to rest.
Rest goes a long way and helps you stay alive
You heard it! Quite a bit of the game is going to sleep, resting and vacationing from perils in the wild. The sojourners will head to an inn, the kind old hermit woman in the woods, the hall of a great lord and enjoy the peace and quiet until their wounds and minds heal. I’ve worked in hospice most of my nursing career and have witnessed so many people engaging in life with only 1 hit point to save. I’ve watched fellow colleagues give all to work and leave no room for rest before chasing down another week of work. I myself have fallen prey to the lure of working overtime instead of tending to my bleeding soul. Really folks, learn to rest, vacation, veg-out, unplug and the like. And really rest. Not staring at your phone swiping through an app, but rest that truly unplugs you. This will be different for everyone and I can’t recommend http://www.personalityhacker.com enough for the resources they provide on discovery of your personality and how it rests. If the travelers forget to rest, they certainly will not be prepared for the next skirmish around the corner, and may suffer death.
Sorry, there is always room to fail
In the game, every attempt the hero makes, whether choosing to convince a law master to set your party free or take a stealthy stab at an unsuspecting goblin guarding the bridge, it is all determined by a roll on a 20 sided dice. Rolling a 20 is automatic success! However rolling a 1, despite any bonuses your well-developed hero might have, is a total and devastating failure. Ugh, this is a humbling lesson because rolling a 1 does not care how much you have previously achieved in success before this roll. Imagine investing thought and time into developing an adventurer all the way to level 6, being careful to rest, wise about the pursuits, perceptive of the surroundings, planning each battle strategically and then make one unlucky move and fail. It happens. You will spend years at a church investing into the heart of the people and the mission only to have someone turn on you and your family and find yourself kicked out of the tribe. You know why it happened, but you didn’t think it was worth splitting fellowship. Or you pour your heart and soul into a company, promising your family that it will pay off and everything looks great for the promotion that will make life so much easier and then they hand the offer to an outside hire and terminate you because you are now overqualified for any other place in the company. Or you look left, look right, proceed your vehicle through the intersection and still find yourself injured in bed and without hope of healing. Should I go on? You fail your boards, you fail the relationship and find yourself sobbing on the floor of an empty house with even an emptier heart. Grief is really mourning something that was once loved and is now off limits for you to love. Your love is no longer allowed. Or at least it must be changed into a lesser version of that love. It hurts. However, at the end of every failure, there’s always another chance to roll the dice. Try again. Rest, heal up, start over, but please don’t stop playing the game.
Little guys win, sometimes
You know what though, sometimes you do roll a natural 20. And win big. With superhero powers. Just like the natural 1 doesn’t discriminate failure to only failures in life but also to very successful adventures, so the natural 20 roll hands a good luck charm to those adventures starting out with very limited resources. That’s what I love about the game. It keeps the adventures humble in this large and threatening world. Even the bold remember that they too, bleed. Conversely, the promise of a bulls eye, or getting rookie of the year calls out to everyday ordinary people to step out their door and make something happen in the life around them. The first time your level 1 adventure does the perfect acrobatic and slays the fiend in one fell strike encourages them to keep going! The first time your novice cleric attempts a healing against all odds as the princess is bleeding out, and magically brings her back to life, it’s encouraging! The first time your stealthy rogue sneaks into a locked dungeon and rescues the entire party from a hungry giant, it’s encouraging! Unexpected winning can happen to you too, but you do have to roll!
Not much adventure happens if you just sit on the couch
With that being said, as Gandalf said to a polite and everyday ordinary hobbit who had just finished breakfast “I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.” Dungeons and Dragons is such a great game because it involves a world where everyday people with stories and backgrounds can start as level one adventures and set out to make a difference in the world. A great campaign is not one where your party simply demolishes an orc stronghold, but one where the orc stronghold is demolished and the dam freed, bringing the river back into the town, boosting the economy and encouraging free-trade in safe lands once again. Now the adventures are heroes that make the world a better place. And that’s the principle, we are all formed by the stories we tell ourselves and the stories that connect us to each other and into the world. We sing songs, share dreams and relay tales, but none of that will happen if you choose to bypass the quest to the comfort and safety of your own home and hearth. Really though, we are wanting a world of adventure so we can tell those stories by the fireside one day. As Gandalf the wizard wisely said, “do you suppose, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck just for your sole benefit?” Get off the couch and off the phone, leave behind your pocket handkerchief and share an adventure with folks who enjoy your fellowship! Because life is not just about a solo trip, but a party-shared adventure that changes the world. Prepare, be wise, use all your resources, enjoy your quirks and roll the dice!
I heard a great story the other day I would like to share with you. A long time ago, a tiny acorn fell from the sky. He opened his eyes for the first time and descended towards the soft ground. Upon landing, he took survey of his home and became well adjusted to the group of acorns gathered around the mammoth oak tree.
This acorn was a beautiful breed. A rustic cap covered his head and his shell shone in the sunlight. He was quite snug and safe surrounded by many tiny saplings, dead leaves and friendly fellow acorns.
Time went on in his home but he soon discovered dangers that threatened his safety. The moisture from the rain always upset his warm dirt bed. To keep from sinking into the lonely ground, he would move himself away to another patch of ground. “One that is not trying to eat me alive!” he exclaimed. Also, a squirrel family would terrorize the community by dragging off acorns and bury them deep into the ground.
This handsome acorn decided once and for all that he would not yield to a destiny of being buried alive. He polished up his shell, straightened his cap and nestled himself in a bed of leaves to hide away from all the threats that promised to take him away from home. He hid under the mighty oak, neighbored by the saplings growing all around, a few acorn fellows and a blanket of oak leaves.
One day as he observed the mighty oak branches, and looking at the sunlight breaking through the branches and reflecting off of his shiny shell, he noticed a tiny crack in his beloved skin. Panic seized him. It seemed as if nothing in his life could stay the way he wanted it too and his beauty was facing extinction. He lay on his back, sobbing and lamenting the inevitable decline of his life. What would he clean if he didn’t have a shell? What is his purpose if not to reflect the sun? A squirrel would take him away, the ground would have its way and bury him. He brushed a tear from his eye and noticed something falling from the sky. It raced to the ground and landed near him with a gentle plop and bounced and then lay there quietly. He looked in wonder as the newly fallen acorn reflected the light of the sun off of its shiny shell. In wonder, he peered up at the tree branch and had a thought arise deep within him: I came from the mighty oak tree.
He glanced around at the soft dirt, moistened by the dew, the tiny acorns scattered closely to the base of the tree, the frail saplings shaded in the protective arms of the oak tree branches, the squirrels carrying off acorns to spread them all over the field, the birds perching in the branches of the oak and nesting their young, the farmer collecting wood from the oak to fuel the fire to feed his family and finally the acorn stared the gap crack in his perfect chest.
In that moment, he knew his place, his time, his purpose was to descend into the lonely and dark ground and become who he was meant to be – a mighty oak.
During my time working on the 5th floor oncology unit as a nurse, the powers that be made the move to bring our archaic paper work into the modern era of technology. We transitioned from hand writing every order, every note and every signature by hand to using electronic documentation. D.L., a nurse on that floor, told me the first time she clocked into a shift, she was 15 years old and wearing all white, walking to work from her home downtown. 40 years later, she was now expected to transfer all of her knowledge as a nurse and point and click for 12 hours a day.
Do I have to mention that this change happened with great and noisy clamor? Can you imagine the upheaval of routines? This was best expressed to me when during a stressful shift, one of the nurses ran to the patient refrigerator to grab an orange juice for her patient (I think his blood sugar was dropping). She yelled loudly that no one had delivered the juice that morning and began clawing through the icebox, until I pointed to the *newly packaged* juice boxes that her eyes had missed during a stressful time.
She saw her goof and laughed and shouted to the powers that be: “Hey! Change one thing at a time!”
There is no change that happens orderly, accommodating my schedule. However, I can adjust myself to move through change rather than change wrecking me. We can make a move to withstand change using rhythms:
Coffee in the morning – my wife and I, no matter what, who ever gets up first, starts the coffeepot and serves two mugs. We sip in silence until one of us emerge from dreamstate to begin the day by talking.
Family meeting – any time there is a change in our life, moving, adopting a rabbit, watching a new movie, even going to a new restaurant, we all go around the room and share what we like/don’t like about this change. There is no end game or goal except it grants everyone time to speak to the change.
Walks – once the work day was done, before dinner, we spent the first 15 minutes once the work day was done and before dinner. Looking back, it was a great way to cleanse the day off of me. So, when I entered my home, I had left all of the work stress out on the sidewalks.
Firepit – Eventually, we moved to an area with no sidewalks, no speed limit on the roads and yappy neighborhood dogs. Walks weren’t really an option, so we started a fire pit in the backyard. This was just a way to close out the workday and transition into a slower family pace of enjoying each other’s company.
Thankful time – We teach our kids “God Family Friends” to balance out the time we spend in relationships. One of the God times goes on during meals. This gives them a chance to practice saying “thank you” for the little and big things, sad and happy times. We even have a song for that!
Having predictable rhythms build security in any organism/organization/family. It reminds me of having rhythm in a music band. No matter what your skill level is, if you know the beat of the song, you can jump in at any time and be a part of something fun! Rhythms is knowing when to play and when to hold off, when to sing and when to hum, when to work harder and when to call it a day. Having predicable rhythms in family life means no one is a solo act free to call it quits if the show doesn’t go the perfect way.
Rhythm means we are a band, a group of people together under one song, joining in to display their special part of the system.
Movin’ and Groovin’
The key difference between those that move expertly through change and those that get stuck in the change are those that develop predictable rhythms in their life.
my favorite pillar is number 4: groundedness. I think great leaders realize that they are made of more than leadership. They hold value in more than what they lead. Groundedness means balance in life. Being a good dad, good husband, good neighbors and caretakers, good tenants, good shoppers and so on.
A good leader understands we are more than 8 hours we put into work. We have all been somewhere, are going somewhere and we are here.
One of the predictable patterns my family practices is to have thankful time at dinner. This gives each of us a chance to express something we are thankful for today.
Having three small ones around the table usually means:
1. I forgot to clean and sweep the remains of yesterday’s meal off the table and floor
2. Someone has already pushed another out of their chair. Because yes, you can own a uniform dining room chair.
3. I am grumpy-tired and have already had to apologize for griping.
It seems like pausing to tell someone thank you would be off key with the tune of complaints gripes and worries.
I heard someone say “thankfulness and anxiety cannot occupy the same space”. One will have to yeild as the other moves into your mind. In the past I told God thank you for something because I
1. Didn’t want to appear ungrateful
2. Wanted to keep good things coming at me. Ha, because God’s love language is words of affirmation.
3. … I don’t know. What if I’m not sincerely thankful?
Here’s the big idea. Thankfulness when expressed to me usually helps me understand what is appreciated from my actions. And honestly, people forgot to say thank you all the time but I won’t stop doing good. It feels good to receive thanks. However, God telling us to “be thankful always” is not because he needs to know what we appreciate-it is to help us. Thankfulness will displace anxiety! Try it!
Pause now and express what you are thankful for. Imagine thankfulness as away of preventing worries. It is the being thankful that helps. Regardless of where to to whom it is directed. It benefits the giver more than the receiver.
I sat down with a patient of mine. This particular man has Parkinson’s disease. I was needing some help with motivating myself to get my day done so I asked him, “what’s the most challenging part of motivating yourself?”
He sat there, broken body and shining pair of blue eyes behind his poorly fitting glasses. “The hardest part about motivating yourself is loss of mobility. It takes you longer to get things done so people end up doing them for you. Well, then there is also the speech difficulty, where you can’t get your words out right and of course no one really takes the time to listen to you so then decisions start being made without consulting you. I guess I would rather have Alzheimer’s than Parkinson’s because then maybe I wouldn’t know what is happening to me. Because when people start working around you and doing life for you, you begin to feel more like a thing rather than a human being.”
Needless to say, tears ran down his face as he was finally able to say this. My eyes were blistering with tears as well. I’m not sure which motivating lesson I received, but I did leave his home understanding this:
Sometimes and some days, people are so unused to being attended to with a open pair of ears, that when finally attention is given, the first thing that will surface is pain.
We must understand this. In healing there is a principle that before it gets better, it looks worse. Be prepared when offering your understanding that a person will hand you the most painful feeling first, before the joy, before the laughter, before the pleasure.
I’m sure that today, he is looking out his window at this foggy morning, talking himself up to get out of bed one more day, to make it count, to live. The Lord bless you man, for helping me understand.