Wednesday, February 18, 2009

How to break up with Second Life

My real life is broken. I need to fix it. I've done a really excellent job of NOT thinking about what a mess my real life is by avoiding and ignoring it in Second Life.

But now it's time for me to look at my real life with gratitude instead of regret, and with resolve instead of defeat.

Life is beautiful. People -- real ones -- are beautiful. And you, no matter the shape of your body or the flaws on your face or the state of your health, YOU are beautiful in all three of your dimensions.

I'm just realizing this fact again, and I'm trying to actualize it. Those of you who know me well know that this is a game of tug-of-war that I've been playing for months. Here we go again.

This post in particular, I write to myself. Maybe it applies to you. Or maybe you've managed to find perfect balance, to juggle a virtual existence with your real one. I haven't. Once I had a real life I loved. I lost it and chose to hide out in a metaverse rather than deal with my mistakes. So this blog post is for me. And hey, maybe it's for you too. But if it's not, please don't take offense. I'm not preaching. I'm just . . . "writing it into existence," as I called it when I was a kid. When I was little, I used to write stories about things I wished would happen. And you know what? Sometimes it actually worked. (Practicing quantum physics at age eight. Wow.)

If you're like me and you're trying to get back to your real life -- to find beauty in yourself, to enjoy love in three-dimensional form, to actually physically TOUCH another human being who brings you joy, to hold someone and be held, to fill your real home and your real closet with beautiful things that make you happy, to touch the lives of others and leave your mark on a real world, and to get outside, breathe actual air, feel the sun on your face, the wind in your hair and, hell, dance by the light of the moon, then start with this list.

1. Make a to-do list of little things to accomplish each day in real life. No, you can't throw on a "skin" and be instantly beautiful or teleport to an amazing sim, but you can get a haircut, buy some new lipstick (cheap even, at Walgreens), do some sit-ups, take a walk, try a new food, read a book by a new author, watch a film in a foreign language, sightsee in your city as if you were a tourist. You get the gist of it.

Make sure your goals fall in ALL categories: small, big, easy, hard, fun, and not-that fun. Balance them out each day: "I'll go get some hazelnut gelato . . . AND send out five resumes . . . AND allow my friend to set me up on that blind date she's been threatening me with for months."

2. If you're an avid reader of Second Life blogs, kill them from your bookmarks and delete them from your Google reader. Clear your browser history. Empty your cache. Make it as difficult as possible to read about anything that's going on in that fantasy you've started retreating to on a daily basis.

3. If you're cheating on your real-life spouse or significant other with an avatar in Second Life, it's time for you to QUIT IT. Yeah, I'm speaking bluntly, and maybe you're reading this post right now because you're supposed to hear it. You have someone who loves you in real life. Some of us don't and would give anything to be in your shoes. If you're reading this and you fall in this category, get up, walk away from your computer immediately and go make passionate love to that real person who loves you. If you're not happy in your real-life relationship, figure out why. If it can be fixed, FIX IT. If it can't, get some balls (pardon my French) and walk away. And yeah, it really is that easy. Trust me. I've been there.

I go to sleep alone every night. I wake up alone every morning. When I need someone to talk to during the course of an average day, I talk to my pets. They don't talk back. If you share a home with someone, for the love of God, please turn off your computer and go cherish that person. You don't want to be where I am right now. It is really dark here.

4. Kill the SL viewer from your applications folder. Your computer also will thank you for the large chunk of memory it'll suddenly have.

5. All of your SL photos -- if you can't bring yourself to delete them, stash them somewhere deep in the bowels of your hard drive. Log out of your Second Life Flickr or Photobucket account and create one for your real life. Take a new picture every day . . . of your real life. Pets, things that make you happy, a garden you actually grow with your real hands, your freaky neighbors, a sunset, you and your friends in goofy "poses," whatever. Break the habit of celebrating a pixelated life and celebrate the real one in front of your face.

6. Kill the e-mail account associated with your Second Life account. Uncheck that box in Preferences that sends your SL instant messages to your e-mail.

7. If you blog, and Second Life fulfills a blogging-slash-creative writing need, GET BACK TO YOUR REAL BLOG. Once upon a time, I had a blog with 250 subscribers. Apparently it was fun to read, so much so that a publisher asked if she could publish part of it as a chapter in a "chick lit" book. (The book is called "The Water Cooler Diaries" -- do me a favor and order it off HERE if you feel so inclined. If you read this blog, you know my first name. I'm sure you'll be able to find my stupid chapter.)

About a year ago, Second Life started seeping into my real-life blog. This one, "Emerald's Eyes," evolved when my readers started e-mailing me and asking, "Please don't write about that video game anymore. We miss your funny REAL stories."

That should have been a sign right there.

8. A long time ago, I used to worry too much. Finally I made a deal with myself. Every time I started worrying, I'd get down on the ground and do 60 crunches. Within about two months, I had abs of steel. Strangers would walk up to me and ask if they could touch my stomach. (OK, not really, but I bet they were thinking it.) I'm going to do the same thing with Second Life. From now on, whenever I think about it, I'm gonna hit the floor and crunch.


9. Note that I'm not brave enough to tell you to kill your Second Life account. I would never tell someone to do something that I myself can't do. And I just can't. Even though my premium account sucks money from my MasterCard four times a year, I still can't. There are people and things that I love in Second Life. I'm so grateful that some of those people have crossed over to my real life, because I have no doubt that I will love and support them until I'm old and grey. But I can't send Emerald Wynn to the chopping block. At least not right now.

And I can't say goodbye forever to my SL friends. I don't even know what they really look like. I don't even know many of their real names. And funny enough, I can't even really visualize them as avatars because they change their hair, fashion style and skins so often. I think of them instead as just . . . shining beings, sometimes in shades of colors, sometimes in shades of emotions . . . but mostly they just shine like bright lights in my life.

I think that's the way God sees us, actually. And I am so blessed to have gotten those glimpses of some of your souls.

And as shallow as it sounds, there are things in my inventory that I love. Like Fuzzy the Bunny. How could I send him into virtual oblivion? Or my fish tank? Or all my hard-sought Random Calliope Ode jewelry? Or Dewey, my cat? Yep, as morbid as it sounds, when my beloved cat of 22 years died last year, I was shocked and delighted to find a "virtual version" of her at a pet store in Second Life. Same stripes and everything. It helped with the grieving process, as weird as that sounds.

So, um, pay your rent several months in advance, just in case you decide to return. After all, you don't want to "wake up" again one day in Second Life months from now and find yourself standing around on Orientation Island with a bunch of noobs.


I'm not really going to say goodbye here because I know for a fact that I have absolutely zero willpower.

But I'm gonna give it a shot.

Twenty bucks says I won't even last a week.

I'm already thinking about that new line of Diva skins that Pulse released today. :(


Me in the first skin I ever bought, Tasha from RaC (now Laqroki).


Tristan Micheline said...

Thank you Em for the post. I'm taking this challenge right along with you... *hugs you bunches*

Chalice Carling said...

I think you are very brave to write that and as in Cognitive Behavioural theory, just by thinking about making significant changes in the way you view SL will surely lead to some sort of positive action.

I totally see where you are coming from in your post. I am one of the lucky ones I think. I have managed to have a healthy balance of SL and RL. RL wins every time primarily due to the fact that I have a wonderful husband and I am thankful every day for that. I often think if I was on my own that SL could be a trap, a place to retreat to rather than face RL difficulties. It's understandable when you can get some form of comfort and support in SL but it will rarely be as fulfilling as RL connections.

I totally agree with everything you said and wish you the very best in your search for you :-) SL is an amazing environment and has it's place in healing all manner of hurts; however, there is always too much of a good thing. You are incredibly insightful and will make the changes necessary...half the battle is admitting there's a problem. Yay for you.
Hugz from Cha

Tymmerie Thorne said...

Please don't smash your blog again. Make it private.

I understand your need to reconnect to your RL. That is a step that seems very healthy for you. Maybe at some point in the future you will be comfortable enough to try a better balance. But, I certainly understand the addiction/all or nothing feeling of this virtual world. You have my complete support in this.

Perhaps, if you decide to return at some point, you can ask your friends to remind and encourage you to take breaks and to do RL things. IDK if this will help you balance things, but it is my strategy.

Yes, pay your rent several months in advance and please get someone to feed your fish - otherwise, I will worry about them.

Would you please share the URL of your RL blog? You are a marvelous writer. Plus, I care and I want to find out what happens in the next chapter of your life. I want to be able to root for you!

Hylee Bekkers said...

Wow... Great Post.

Krissy Muggleston said...

I also wanted to ask for the url of your rl blog but also didn't want to offend. But: Can we have it? *innocent look*

Joonie Jatho said...

Emerald...I think this post may have saved my life on some level. I know that sounds incredibly emo and sappy, but ... i think it's true.

Thank you for sharing this. Tomorrow is my RL birthday, and I think following these steps might be the best present I could give myself.

*hugs* take care of yourself


Meara Deschanel said...

Good luck again Em. I share Tym's sentiment, and I hope that you're able to someday find a balance that enables you to find happiness in "both lives". You are beautiful, intelligent, witty, funny, and endlessly fascinating, and you deserve to be happy and worry-free. I loved reading how you see us - your "SL friends" - and I'd be hard-pressed to come up with a more apt description of the people we meet here and how they touch us.

Take time to get your RL back to a point you feel it's on track. Recognize that you are the only person that can do that, and if you have to make some hard decisions to make it happen, then that's what you have to do. Just remember that your SL friends care about you and want to make sure you are ok and doing well, so a link to the RL blog, or even just updates here, would be really nice.

*hugs you tight* You'll be in my thoughts Erin. :)

Chalice Carling said...

I just wanted to say a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Joonie. I hope it's a great day.

hugs Cha Cha

Casandra Shilova said...

Em, you will be sorely missed. But you must do what is healthy for you. Restarting your real life and finding a balance between your needs there and what you choose for relaxation.

If you do come back into SL, promise yourself that you will NOT sit back down in your computer chair for at least 45 minutes each time you get up. Buy that kitchen timer, set it for no more than one hour and put it across the room - so that you have to get up to shut off the annoying sound.

I too, would love to have a link to your RL blog.

Anonymous said...

I know why you get so many Posts - its is Emerald the new SL browser ....

Marcello said...

Great post, and very recognizable. I was thinking about limiting myself for an hour a day via a eggtimer or so. I had fun on SL but sometimes at the cost of my person REAL life. (No sleep and stuff.) Hope you can share how your life is now. Did you got the grip back, that you wanted. Please share more.

Pcoach Lavendel

Richard Jaime aka Mentaro in SL said...

Wonderful post, And yes you have created it into existence and now it will take a life of its own and will do good for many.

Anonymous said...

Although old, I am just now reading this. I can't tell you how many times I've tried to convince myself to leave SL or even take a mini vacation from it. It has definitely crossed over a line. I'm just glad to see it's not just me. I too have made friends in SL and even a "special" friend. It's hard to give up. Why DO we do it? It's not like I'm alone. I'm amazingly lucky that my husband understands. My heart's been broken or at the very least bruised because of SL, friendships have come and gone or dangle lol I tell myself I can uninstall the game... but I can't. I can't believe how "real" this alternate world has become. I don't play games on the computer period. SL to me is more than a game. It is appropriately named I think "Second Life". I own a cafe for live music, I have land, and I too bought a dog to help me when my dog died very recently and it helps to see him in world. So I totally get that. What I don't care for are the "games" that people tend to play with other people. Here's a question off topic a bit... do you think guys see the girls in SL as a "booty call"? or do you think they're capable of taking them seriously and truly caring about them? Yeah why am I even asking when I have a husband. I know that's what's messed up about it. What am I not getting at home I get from "him"? and truthfully not all that often he seems so busy when he's online as he manages a musician, among other jobs. I Just want someone to help me make sense of what it is I'm going. Cause I don't wanna be hurt anymore and I don't wanna be confused anymore. I prob wouldn't be in SL if it weren't for "him" I was ready to call it quits Friday and then he captured me again in his spell I don't know what that is either.

Casandra Shilova said...

Luvu - the two men in my SL that I have had a couple's relationship with (both long term), have both told me that most of the guys in SL are jerks. I've been fortunate in that I know several men fairly well in SL and have only had one friend who turned out to be a jerk. I also know long term steady couples in SL who are very happy together. Two of these couples have met and married in RL.

It's not just the men, there are women here who jerk on mens heart strings too.

This post by my friend Quaintly and Ari's comment just might h
not sure it is supposed to end with a . but that is all that copied.

emily garnhart said...

I found your blog interesting and useful. I added your blog to my favorites and i will come to visit again tomorrow. I have a blog about how to get him back after a break up :)

**** said...

Did you leave SL? Your advice is good, but so is eating an apple a day. It's called *addiction* and so many of as addicted to this virtual world for many, many complicated reasons. I, too, kept a blog in RL, and had a following, and I am published in fiction. All of that is but a dream since I got sucked into SL. I understand. I do. Hugs. I hope you found love. I hope you friend me some day if you come back to SL.