June 21, 2017

A reason, a season, a lifetime, and the gift economy

Reason, Season, Lifetime. Anonymous

I met a man recently. No, not like that. Well, actually a little like that. Exactly like that. And this beautiful poem that first moved me years ago came to mind. Actually, it’s been on my mind for a while now. 
It’s coming up on single digits. The days till its been one year since Rupert died. He was both a reason and a season in my life. I think the two are similar, most are both and some are just one. He taught me so much about love and self worth. He raised the bar. And then instead of the future we were planning together, he died. 

The man I met earlier this week was a reason. We spent 15 hours together. We peeled back a few layers. There’s so many more that never will be. There’s no season for us, just the reason. 

He was stunning. Tall, lanky, strong face, charming smile, and twinkly dark grey-green eyes. A great conversationalist and a great listener. With a French accent and name to boot. 

I was the first person he’s ever met who’s been to Burning Man, which seems amazing for a world traveler from Montreal. But there it is. And he wanted to learn from me. I became his link to this thing, this event he’d heard of that he doesn’t know how to get to. “Just buy a ticket and get on a plane,” I told him. He replied with a big, sexy grin and repeated my words. 

I told him how I found Burning Man. “My undergrad is in photography, and I was a color darkroom printer.” 

“Useful job now,” he teased. 

“Ha! Yes, true. It was October 1994, and I was in San Francisco at a color darkroom rental facility. I’d moved from New York City nine months earlier.”

“That’s enough time for gestation,” he pointed out. I thought that was an interesting perspective and told him so. 

“A woman also using the darkrooms printed a picture of a man covered in mud on a giant desert. I introduced myself and said I would like her to take me to the next one. She laughed and the following August, 1995, she took me to my first Burning Man. I turned 25 at the event, and stayed an extra four days to help clean up because I couldn’t leave. I was home.”

I explained how hard it was to find your camp before there were roads, with 2,499 other people camped together and burning a beautiful wooden man at the end of the week. I described Pepe’s linghams and operas, and laughed while I described the embarrassing way I learned the meaning of the word lingham. We watched a video of the Temple of Wholyness burn over cocktails, and I described the somber quiet of that burn as compared to the frenzy of Burn Night. 

He listened to all if it, absorbing it, asking a question here and there. It was when I started talking about the gift economy that he stopped me. He had never heard of the concept and needed it explained. He needed examples. He really wanted to understand this aspect of the event. Of all the aspects of Burning Man that I described, it blew me away that what he latched on to was the gift economy. Later, because I wanted to gift him and because it felt like a great way to demonstrate he gift economy, I gifted him a key fob made by my dear friend Beveler. 

This man passing through town, dropping in to my life for a moment, gave me the opportunity to give a tremendous gift. I was able to teach someone who travels the world about the gift economy. In all his worldly travels, this was his first experience with it. Before this, he knew how to barter and buy. I am so grateful for the experience. I am so grateful that I was shown what a unique city I live in for a short time each year, but that I’ve been able to carry the economy of Black Rock City with me every day since I turned 25. 

Later that day, I saw my friend John Halcyon in a video he had made about the gift economy, and how important it is to avoid paying for labor at Burning Man. If you have to pay for it, scale it back, he said. An important message for all of us to remember. Because as I was shown earlier this week, the gift economy is a treasure worth fighting for. 

I love watching life for its lessons. It’s a hard place to live, this human existence in  21st century America. If you watch for it, though, the magic is there. The connections, the lessons, the synchronicity, the gifts. 

Who in your life is a reason, a season, or a lifetime?

April 9, 2017

I’ve been thinking about living out loud today. 

This morning, a friend whom I admire and respect very much, posted that she sees herself as a humble bragger, an over photo poster, and a name dropper. How does one show love for their life and not do these things?

I felt her pain. I reached out online the other night in emotional agony, and I received so much love and support. And I feel embarrassed by it now. I was so vulnerable and raw. Last weekend, I worked hard at a Burning Man conference and met hundreds of people and made many new Facebook friends and there are SO MANY new photos of me circulating the internet. Who do I think I am? Or rather, as the button I can’t find asked, “Do you know who I think I am?”

I replied to my friend:

I’m sure people see me that way, too. Sometimes I worry what people think, other times I don’t care. Dealing with loss and death has left me with an empty bucket of fucks, which has been really good for me and very freeing. 

I melted down online Friday night and reached out and received so much love, although I’m a little embarrassed by it all now. Perhaps we can reframe the name dropping and too many selfies and so on as loving ones life and being a good story teller, and show gratitude for being part of an amazing community where we can name and place drop and feel like rockstars.

My bucket of fucks is empty. I’ve loved and lost so much. I do what I want and if people don’t like it, well, I have no fucks to give. I love hard. I’m loyal, honest, and real, and I treat my people like gold. As long as I’m not hurting anyone, I don’t care what anyone thinks. Most importantly, that lack of fucks is backed by a deep enjoyment in being a kind, caring, and loving person. 

Having an open heart wins. What have a got to lose, anyway?

March 13, 2016

I cried for him last night. First time in a long while. I’ve been afraid of death all day. An acquaintance died last week. I was hoping to see him at the GLC in a few weeks. We are all going to die. I am. My loved ones are. My acquaintances are. Everyone. 

Just gone. His stuff is still around. His earthly possessions. But he’s gone. He’s never coming back. That’s everyone’s destiny. It’s hard to be alive and experience that. 

Tex got philosophical earlier and talked about how we are each on a path. Rupert’s path and my path intersected, and then his ended. Mine is still continuing. Tex talked about my path taking me onto the Cadillac Oscar ad, a three second clip out of hours of footage on the cutting room floor. Rupert’s ex MIL has never met me but has seen me on tv twice. I was there when the term Sparlepony happened, and people in Australia thought I was lying, trying to sound cool. I was there and it’s in Polly’s book. Polly, the original Sparklepony. It’s why I’m blindly headed to the GLC, working for free for four days running the registration booths. Seeing everyone. It’s my path. Tex said some people’s path is life in Walnut Creek, commuting and living isolated in a big house with a few friends and a sexless marriage. ((Shudder)) I shudder but to some, it’s their chosen path and it’s what they want. What they choose. Which means this is what I choose. Every time. I constantly choose my path. 

My path has never been easy. It’s always been interesting. Very fun. Colorful. Full of amazing stories that I love sharing. There’s a picture of me on the internet in a green clown nose laughing incredulously while Frank Chu takes down my number to call for a date. He called, too. Twice. The first to go to Grace Cathedral and I was out of town but really wanted to go. The second to go to the Metreon to see him in the movie of his life called 10,000 Galaxies. I got scared of his illness and didn’t call him back. 

This is my path. Through love and death and Klowns and Sparkleponies and abandonment and the most amazing friendships in the world and motherhood and health and education and Burning Man and wildly rich and uncomfortably poor and lonely and connected and rarely alone. 

I’m glad I have no idea where the path is headed. Is it a path or a wild ride?

January 14, 2016

Dating a man who worked in forensics gave me a new perspective. Rupert’s day job gave back so much. He worked specifically on sexual assault and battery, and he helps get criminals off the street. While my two startups bring people joy, at the end of the day, I’m just helping people drink better cocktails. 

I want to do more. 

I booked tickets to D.C. for the inauguration. I nearly made it out to Standing Rock. I gave free hugs in San Francisco at the Ferry Building the morning after the election and in Oakland during the protest later that same day. Then 36 people died in the Ghostship warehouse fire just down the street from me. 

I live 2.8 miles from Ghostship. I thankfully didn’t lose anyone in the fire, but I have a friend who was first on scene and three others who almost attended that night. I knew I’d found my pro bono work. This was local. This was important. This was where I could make a difference. 

I attended a meeting at Omni Commons a few days after the fire. We broke out into groups, and I announced to the fundraising group, “I’d like to create a non profit that raises money for DIY warehouse spaces at risk of eviction or that are simply dangerous.” I quickly saw that I was in good company. 

Four short weeks later, we’ve created a fiscally sponsored non profit and have raised over $15,000. We have an attorney, a former fire fighter, the architect that wrote the Oakland fire code, several pro bono architects, artists living in at risk warehouses, and their advocates. I’m one of three leads in the finance group, and while every other team has one lead, the three of us operate as one. We’ve only just met and we just feed off each other in the most amazing way. 

I’m home from a fundraising event with nearly $500 cash on my desk. A few friends organized an event at a small bar in Alameda, invited some bands, and contacted us. Of all the funds related to Ghostship right now, Handsome Hawk told us, this was the one that had boots on the ground and was actually working in the DIY Spaces. He gave us a moment at the mic. I started us off by thanking Alameda’s Fireside Lounge and Handsome Hawk, the evenings promoter. I then asked the crowd for a moment of silence to honor the 36 lives lost in the fire. Quieting an entire loud bar was an amazing feeling. It was moving. I was inspired by the moment of silence the DJs asked for at the Flaming Lotus Girl’s fundraiser. The benefit it provided was that we had everyone’s attention. Isaac spoke about the community’s proximity to the tragedy. Everyone in that room was no more than one degree away from at least one of the 36. Ari wrapped it up with info about the fund and asked people to approach us with questions between bands. 

And the band played on. 

We have two more events benefitting our fund this month. We have a Facebook page and a website and an Instagram account. I am being put in touch with reporters and city officials. 

Most importantly, we are making a difference in our community. Community was there for me when the man who inspired me to make a difference died at age 45 in a motorcycle accident.The guilt that I felt when I saw myself beginning to move forward with my life without him has faded, and now I am honoring him and respecting his memory by remembering how high he raised the bar and not settling for anything less, be it giving back, career, love, familial relationships, and friendships. 
Safer DIY Spaces can be found here

January 11, 2017

Let love rule, and let the brain decide when that love is safe to trust with the heart.

Heartfullness by Katy Boynton

Alexa and I saw a rainbow on the way to school this morning. The storm is over. I am now sitting at my desk, where I can see Angel Island and Mt. Tam for the first time since I returned from my travels. I spent three weeks in summer and returned to a deluge of rain. I was awakened around midnight to a flash of light and the roll of thunder in the distance.

As I walked Lake Merritt with my dog while the sky was clearing this morning, I felt a blog post coming on. As often happens, an image appeared to me first. The feeling comes second, and the words after that. I recently watched Spark, A Burning Man documentary again. I don’t often rewatch films; this one I have now seen three or four times. In the film, Katy Boynton’s Heartfullness was featured. I had never really focused on that aspect of the film before, as I know many people in the film (there’s even a scene with me in the background) and watched on my friends. This time, her story stood out for me.

Her piece is a heart, broken and shattered and welded back together. I don’t have much experience welding. I took a course once at the Crucible and surprised myself by making straight seams right away. I think my years of training as a photographer in the darkroom may have helped me. Piecing together my heart? That I have a lot of experience with. I see my heart a lot like her art. The shape is there, the outlines, the contour of a heart. But the heart itself is broken into many different pieces, all welded together. There are some holes here and there, but together, the pieces all make up a still beating, still loving heart.

The door to the the inside of the heart is really what I was thinking about this morning. Her piece has one panel that opens to a soft inner chamber. In the film, you can see participants climb in and snuggle on soft faux fur. But not anyone can access that chamber – you have to open the door and climb in.

I love the image of own heart as a jagged bit of broken pieces welded back together with a soft, fuzzy center accessible by a door. When I was younger, anyone could climb into my heart and play there as they see fit. Now, I am a stronger and more aware adult that has experienced (more than?) my share of heart ache and grief. I no longer ignore my head and let anyone in my heart. With the tremendous amount of work in the last six months, my head and my heart are aligned better than ever. My head is the one to say who can open the door to my heart and who cannot. I have changed and learned so much, and the perhaps biggest growth has been to realize that my heart will no longer just open to anyone at anytime, but that my head has to give my heart the okay. If the situation or connection isn’t fully there, my heart won’t open to that soft, fuzzy core. Sure, this is a form of protection that comes from being hurt, and yet, I know it is right for me at this time. I know that when the connection and situation is right, my head will walk my heart through the process of opening the door and giving access. It doesn’t mean I won’t be hurt again, it means I will be wiser about whom I let in.

My word for Burning Man 2016 was connection. It was a powerful mantra that brought me special friendships and many hugs. On this 11th day of 2017, I will continue with connection, adding on ease, focus, and clarity. I am proud to be at a point in life where I can trust my head to tell my heart to open or not.

Let love rule, and let the brain decide when that love is safe to trust with the heart.

November 13, 2016

I slept in a redwood forest.

I ate breakfast at dawn overlooking Lake Tahoe.

I swam in Fly Hot Springs under rainbows fading in and out of the clouds.

I was treated to a pork chop and applesauce dinner at Bruno’s.

I soaked in a hot tub shoulder deep with the supermoon as my only source of light.

I sweat in a sauna.

I did a fuckton of schoolwork.

I moved two pieces of one dead bird off the property so Cohiba would stop rolling in it.

I realized Ludwig and Cohiba are ready to hit the road anytime. This was easy and cost nothing. 

In the labyrinth, I learned that I am not my story. The past does not define me. Today, the future holds no outcomes. 

I am present. 

I am enough. 

As much as life throws us all a bunch of crap more often than we’d like, I STILL believe in magic. 

I am present. 

October 2, 2016

Three months gone.

My lover died three months ago today, and it feels like an eternity, and it feels like yesterday. 

My focus now is to let go of my guilt from having more sunny days than rainy ones. I can hear your voices now, telling me, “Oh no, Absinthia, you mustn’t feel guilty for moving on!” I disagree in two ways. 

First, I’m not sure what moving on really means, but I’m pretty sure you don’t do it when someone you love dies. Be it your lover, child, parent, friend, sibling…you never move on. Whether you intentionally process your grief or you stuff it, you carry that person with you in your heart and your memories. You still love, and you still live, and you don’t let go, but rather you hold on to your lossed love and take the lessons learned with and from them into the rest of your days. I feel like moving on is too Sunshine of the Eternal Mind. This can’t be erased. 

I’ve always taken issue with any sentence that begins, “you mustn’t feel.” Oh hell yes, I’m feeling! I’m feeling all the things, sometimes all at once and sometimes one at a time. It’s uncomfortable and hard and enlightening and amazing. One of those feelings is guilt. 

Being human means seeking healing, wanting what will feel good, finding ease. He’d want me to heal and be happy. I want that, too. I’m interested in work again, I’m positively parenting my girls again, I’m nervous and excited about starting school. While the first two months of desperate grief, of not being able to get dressed, of anxiety meds and sleeping pills, made me feel horrible, this last month – since Burning Man and the start of my first ever SSRI – the feeling has moved from horrible to grounded. I’m hopeful for my future. I’m smiling and joining the world outside of my home. And feeling guilty about it. 

My guilt is an important piece of my healing process. Just like anger can have an important positive place, so too can guilt. Anger makes change. Anger gets shit done. Guilt shows me my progress. Guilt reminds me of how I felt before, and how I am feeling now. Guilt shows me the rewards of everything I’m doing to heal and to live my life and to accomplish my goals. 

I acknowledge my guilt as I grieve. I thank my guilt. I welcome it when it is needed, and I release it when I am able.