August 6, 2017

When I told me housemate I was rebounded, she told me that sounded too negative. "You're just trying to date and figure out my relationships with men," she said.

Perhaps. I'm not so sure.

I've had some wacky things happen that I haven't shared here.

In March, I volunteered at a Burning Man conference. It was days before starting my new job, and months after diving into grad school as a single mom. I decided my perk for volunteering four days of my time would be getting laid. I didn't worry about the how.

On day three, I managed to sneak away from my station so I could listen to my longtime friend and current CEO of Burning Man speak. We had been encouraged as volunteers to dress in our playa weirdest. That day, I was wearing a green Hello Kitty cheerleading dress from a clothing exchange at American Steel, and I was carrying these cheap green Pom Poms I'd bought in amazon. I sat down near the door so I could sneak back to my station unnoticed. That's when I saw him noticing me.

There were about ten empty seats between us. We looked up and smiled at each other a few times. I got up my nerve, collected my Pom Poms, and walked over to the empty chair next to him. I asked if it was okay if I sat there. He said yes, and then he told me, "I was a cheerleader in high school."
I replied, "So, when most of the guys were at football practice, you got to ride in the bus with all the cheerleaders?"
"Yep," and he gave me a heart melting grin.

We whispered a little during her talk, and when she was through I told him I had to return to work and gave him my card. He found me a little later and asked if we could meet at the party at NIMBY that night.

I found him about an hour after I'd arrived and he said he'd been looking for me. He seemed annoyed. It was a huge party. I was a little surprised he wouldn't shoot the funny hydraulic gun at one of the interactive stations with me, but we flirted and talked and wandered around and then an old friend came up and he wandered off but found me later on the dance floor. The party ended soon after, and my housemate called a lyft. He jumped in with us. We had two conference attendees staying with us. One was asleep; her partner came up and welcomed us home. She told me later he woke her up excitedly, saying, "Absinthia brought a guy home!"

I drove him back to his hotel the next morning, and we met up that night at the closing party. I spent that night at his hotel, and he confessed he'd pocketed my panties that morning. I thought that was hot.

The next morning, he flew home and I started my job.

He texted me a bunch, and I was happily surprised when I realized we were staying in touch. But things got weird fast. I wouldn't hear from him for days on end, and then he'd send me an article on how to be a Power Couple. One night, friends walked in my home for dinner and found me a complete mess. It had been over a week since we talked, and he sent me a message about how he loved me and had been thinking about our kids and living in different states and had no idea how to make it work. I had no idea what to do wth this information when one friend suggested I invite him to the campout the following month. So I did.

He didn't reply.

A few days went by. I emailed him how confusing that was for me, and he told me I was being dramatic. He said he'd love to but had to check his custody. A lot of time went by. Out of the blue one day, he texted me his travel plans. He was coming. The weekend was Friday to Monday, and he was coming Thursday till Tuesday. I told him to come Friday. It weirded me out, I didn't want him to meet my kid, but he changed his plans. I relaxed and got excited.

When he showed up, we had a wonderful drive. We held hands and kissed, stopped for lunch. We talked and laughed. We got the dance floor and had a great time after setting up camp. We had sex but it was a little awkward and quick.

The next morning he jumped out of bed without touching me. We talked about our plans and ideas for the day, made breakfast, that sort of thing. I sensed a weird energy pull from him any time I tried to do something. Being an equal partner is important to me; it felt like he couldn't handle that. By the time we got to the river later that day, he told me, "You're pretty bossy, you know." My heart sank. I told him I was sorry he was feeling that way, and that I had sensed a power struggle earlier. Perhaps we can bring that up and work on it and talk about it when it happens?"

It took a few hours, but by nightfall, he was ignoring me and not making eye contact. Still, he only knew the few people I'd introduced him to around camp. We went to the dance floor and he acted bored until camp mates turned up, and he lit up and hugged each one. I was hurt and confused.

We had some conversations that stopped me in my tracks. He trash talked his ex wife a lot. He started talking about anal sex and how his wife wouldn't do it, how he's longed for someone to fuck him in the ass for a very long time. Okay, maybe we can make that happen. He asked me about several people and whether they were a man or a woman. I replied with the gender they presented and didn't think much of it. He asked, "Are you sure??? Do you really know?"
"Why does it matter?"
"Oh my god because it matters!" He replied.

I will say one interesting conversation we had was about deaths we'd seen. I brought up safe sex, and he was surprised. He'd never heard of anyone he knew with AIDS. I've lost several. He said it was pills and heroin that he'd seen in Salt Lake City. Living in New York, San Francisco, and Oakland, I hadn't seen very much of that. But AIDS, definitely. That disease really affected my life.

He told me about his upbringing and that he was kicked out of the Mormon church when he was 14. Um. That should come first, pal, not in the middle of the mountains with 500 of my closest friends.

The next morning, it was worse. I left camp shortly after breakfast, and didn't return for hours. I just wanted to get away from him. My campmate collected me at dinner time, told me there was food, and she told me that I should try to engage with him. I did. We ate and went to the dance floor, and I saw him disengage with me and act bored. I walked away calmly and put myself to bed.

We left the next morning. I said, "I'd like you to find somewhere else to stay tonight, please."
"Oh, okay. Is there something I said to upset you?"
Wait what? Does he feel everything's fine between us? I asked him that, he said he wasn't sure, and I asked him about the bossy comment. He got very defensive and it was impossible to communicate. I went silent and after he sent a few texts he made arrangements, and I dropped him off at bart after the longest four hour drive ever.

He came around to my side of the car and said, "I'm sorry things didn't go smoothly between us. Thank you for an amazing weekend. I've never been to that part of California and I really enjoyed it. Can I have a hug?"

I gave him a quick hug and drove home, relieved to have him out of my life. Later that night, he texted me all about where he was staying and how it had worked out and signed it Loves!!!

I unfriended him the next morning. By the evening, I saw his name was not bold in my camp mates post tagging him. He'd blocked me.

There it is, out in the open for all its weirdness. It is so hard to be human. I promise to post more weird stories like this as they happen. They seem to happen a lot.

July 17, 2017

Hi. It’s been a while. 

It’s been over a year since I started this. Am I still the hot grieving MILF?

Of course I am. Somewhere in my heart, as long as it keeps beating, I always will be. 

Some days it feels like I’m fighting to stay off the antidepressants. 5htp, l-tryptophan, staying away from things like alcohol and too much indica. Some days it feels like that and a well of inner strength, source unknown, are the only way I can stay off the anti depressants. Keeping myself going at a breakneck pace with work and school and kids and dating. 

Not today. Today was a good day. 

I miss having a partner, one who doesn’t play games, who rolls with the punches. Mature, kind, understanding, and, just as importantly, whip smart and ridiculous amounts of fun. 
For now, the dating is okay. It’s entertaining me, and it’s filling some needs but not all needs. I’ve realized I’m 46 years old and terrified of commitment. Terrified they won’t be alive the next time I want to see them. I don’t trust life. I don’t particularly trust death, either. 

Truth is I enjoy it. I’m good at it, dating. Sometimes it blows up in my face. I keep one around too long, a month instead of leaving them behind at the conference, and they say:
“You’re bossy.”

Um, single mom, triple entrepreneur, MBA student. HA! Yeah, and?

Sometimes I am surprised one comes back for me, and I handle the first sign of bad behavior head on. I receive a sincere apology, and I hear:

“I can’t play with fire as hot as you and not listen.”

That’s one of the hottest things I’ve ever been told. I have a secret box with love letters, dirty notes on cocktail napkins, and cards that arrived with bouquets of flowers. I guess I’ll have to print this one off my phone. 

Sometimes I call an old friend with high status and ask for a favor and receive an enormous gift. One that opens doors and warms my heart immensely. 

My marketing presentation was very well received. My personal book project was given the green light tonight. 

I’m alive. I’m living. I’m on fire. 

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?

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.

September 1, 2016

First morning on the playa. Toy Box, Fox, and Ice Pick are the names of a few of my neighbors. When I arrived yesterday at sunset, I knew deep in my heart that this is where I need to be. “The playa heals my heart,” were the words that came to me in that moment. Waiting at gate, seeing the Calico Mountains, I felt a deep sense of peace, of being where I belong. As overused as the phrase is out here, I am home. 

“Two people have been hit, please put your van in park,” our greeter said, “People are being pulled over, ticketed and searched, at least one for not using their turn signal.” Wednesday evening, and the playa had been partying for days. Cops on full alert, filling their coffers at their annual fundraiser. Everything is built and ready. I have a few volunteer shifts at Arctica selling ice to participants, but there are no big projects that need help. Everything is now done weeks and months before the event, allowing participants to simply party and enjoy themselves. 

“Hey, how’s your burn?” I was asked countless times during my solo walkabout. I knew they were expecting happy answers, so I obliged. I had a hard time connecting, feeling weird and sad instead of happy and outgoing like they were. I was home, but surrounded by strangers. It didn’t help that I lied in response to their first question. Starting out from camp after setting up Ludwig, the camper van (Beethoven) Rupert built us, I’d been to visit a few nearby friends who weren’t home, so I walked through Center Camp and out to the Man. I met a burgin (burner virgin) couple on the koi pond bridge, deer in the headlight eyes, minds completely blown. I looked at the Temple from afar and sighed. I wasn’t ready. I walked the magical Catacomb of Veils. I hitched a ride on an art car to the Light House, waited in line and wandered up and down the stairs. I wasn’t expecting it, but my feet next led me to the Temple. 

I stopped a hundred feet away to just look and breath and feel before I entered the sacred space. I asked Rupert to do this with me, and we held hands as I entered, his engraved cremains necklace around my neck. Atheist that we both are, it helped to summon him. I couldn’t enter the Temple alone. So many beautiful faces in pain, the grief palpable, pictures and flowers and notes everywhere. I wrote, “RIP Rupert” on a piece of wood, and I wept. I wept for the future he won’t have, I wept for my loneliness, and I wept for everyone there mourning, aware that someday, we will be mourned. Every single one of us. 

Hours later, slowly walking back to camp, a guy rode by and asked the question on everyone’s mind. “Good burn?” I didn’t have the energy to lie. “Okay,” I answered, my voice soft and sad. He whipped his bike around, and asked me if I wanted to talk. 

Of all the people I interacted with that night, that bicyclist was the only random with whom I had a real interaction. He took the time to stop and listen and share a hug. I told him stories about the old days, and he told me the history behind this year’s Man and the real event it is based on that Da Vinci and the Medici’s created. Another playa virgin, he was 19 years younger than me; I was only two years younger than him at my first burn. Talking to him helped, and I was able to finish my walk home feeling held and heard. 

For many participants, Burning Man is just a party in shitty weather that other people build. It was a relief to meet a young man who gets that there is so much more. Someone who cared to see deeper than the party. 

I stay far away from the word why, and sometimes I have a hard time understanding what it means that my partner is dead. Nothing seems to make sense when a wave overtakes me. “Let many beautiful things come from it,” was one of the things he told me last night. 

Thank you, stranger, for the few minutes of your time. A beautiful thing. I’m trying to let beautiful things come through my pain, my grief, and my growth. 

August 28, 2016

The First Day of the Rest of My Life

I celebrated my birthday yesterday, August 27th. I hated my birthday as a kid. It was the week before school started, and everyone was out of town. Often, I was out of town, in a strange place with my parents and siblings. I wanted to be with my friends. 

Many years later, I loved my birthday. It often fell during Burning Man, or the week of set up. Suddenly, my birthday was where I got to party with thousands of my closest friends from all over the planet. 

Yesterday’s birthday was hard on several accounts. I’m going to Burning Man late this year. I don’t know how to plan a birthday for myself at home. Also, more importantly, I didn’t want to celebrate my birthday this year. It was my mother who told me how important it was that I celebrate my birthday. “Not everyone gets to grow old,” she said. 

Ten weeks younger than me, I’m now an age that Rupert will never get to be. He’s been dead almost two months. He won’t turn 46 on November 7th. 

So, taking Mom’s sage advice, I had lunch with a couple of girlfriends and invited friends over for a BBQ. By 7pm, the kitchen and the deck were filled with friends. I didn’t take any photos, but I did spend some time just looking at us. I saw the beautiful faces of the friends I love,  chatting and laughing in small groups, patterns and fabrics and brightly colored hair and Fluevogs and silly buttons. We’ve mostly known each other for at least a decade, some two decades or more. We are in our 40s mostly, and we are a really tight community. 

One by one, someday we will all be gone. 

It was a fun party. It was great to see everyone. It was important to celebrate the fact that I am alive. I am privileged to be 46 years old. 

This was an important first step in the first day of the rest of my life. 

Today, I take the next step. My daughter and I are flying back east for boarding school. We’ve been working for this day for nearly a year now. Tutors and testing and research and tours and visits and interviews and revisits and waiting for the day all the schools will let us know if she’s been accepted. And here we are, on the plane, awaiting take off. 

Yesterday was my birthday. Today is the first day of the rest of my life, when I get to ask myself, “What’s the next right thing for me?”