Monthly Archives: May 2011

Friendship & Gratitude, Updated

So it was my birthday weekend. I decided to go up to Camp D, essentially a plot of land where a bunch of people show up and camp. And drink. Mostly drink.

The ride up was on my birthday. We left the city hours later than I’d expected and I was vaguely annoyed to be spending it a car. I remedied it by drinking a six-pack I picked up at a bodega. But about half-way up, my friends Dede and Dre surprised me with a party. IN the minivan! Yup, they strung up twinkly lights, made a cheese, bread and salami platter, had wine and beer, and played “cool jazz.” Or was it smooth jazz? Teeny tiny cupcakes — one with a birthday candle — were dessert. It was awesome!

We arrived at our camp site too late to do much more than pass out. But the whole weekend was my celebration. I got another cake and a cupcake on Sunday night, after multitudinous beers and a beautiful day spent at a swimming hole with a waterfall.

There was an interesting dynamic among the somewhat fragmented campers. Some were old friends (of each other, of mine), some I’d never met before and, most peculiar, some seemed to have no interest in becoming friends with anyone they didn’t already know. I mean, I wasn’t expecting the Welcome Wagon — or even “Greeters,” who welcome you to Burning Man (and have, in the past, apparently, welcomed people to Camp D) — but introducing themselves might’ve been a nice gesture, me (and a few others, I’ll assume) being the newcomer. At least a couple people reached out and “friended” me on Facebook. It wasn’t the best bonding experience but it was a warm weekend of co-habitating in a cluster of tents. Right?

In the end, it just made me more grateful for my friends. For the people I love.

I just spent the past two hours thanking everyone who sent me birthday wishes on Facebook. I realize that the site makes us pretty lazy about these things; we can click on someone and instantly connect but there really doesn’t seem to be that much of a connection. So I wanted to close the communication loop. One friend actually wrote back, saying “Aw, a personal thank you? How un-Facebooky.” um, yep.

Which takes me back to…the people I love. There’s no possible way anyone can spend time with everyone they love if they love a LOT of people. Which I do. Many of them live far away. Some I haven’t seen in years. So I’m grateful for Facebook, as much as I hate it most of the time, for offering me an easy way to stay in touch with all my favorite people, peek into their lives, “like” their posts or wish them a happy birthday.

So I’m feeling grateful. But I’m not feeling very eloquent! I’m still dazed from the three-day drunk-fest. Oh, and the three hour Figment meeting. Ack! I just wanted to post, get back in the saddle, so to speak. I’d better get back to the blind date horror stories, though, or I’ll lose all my readers! We’ll see….

Happy Birthday to Me!

Today is my 52nd birthday. It’s a pretty happy one, even though my life is missing a few key ingredients. It has been just over a year since I last had sex. That makes it the longest I’ve ever gone without sex since I lost my virginity. Ack. This afternoon I’ll be on my way out of town to go camping. Should be a humid, buggy, drunk and entertaining weekend with the chances of getting laid somewhere below zero. Sigh.

At some point I’m gonna need to get back on the horse and ride that motherfucker. Believe me, it can’t happen a moment too soon! I’m either gonna have to be blackout drunk, madly in love or just at my wit’s end. Not sure which is more likely to happen first. Um, okay, the likelihood of my being blackout drunk first is probably the highest. Like, this weekend. Even though there won’t be anyone to “get back on and ride.” Hah! Anyway…

Facebook and email make birthdays more fun. I’m receiving wishes from friends, acquaintances, people I haven’t seen in years. Even from Jet Blue and my insurance agent are sending me greetings! I was offered a free Tarot reading from Tarot.com and it was surprisingly insightful!

My “challenges/opportunity card says:

It is possible that you have a hero latent inside you who is being called forth by current circumstances. If that is the case, don’t resist; accept the invitation. It’s not often that we get a ready-made opportunity to be gallant. It’s to everyone’s benefit that you think of yourself as a person who is able and willing to make a positive difference.

My “question” was about money/career…Hmm, in reference to my preference for volunterring…maybe I’ll come back in October and work for some big non-profit. We’ll see!

The “advice” card read:

Fundamental change is imminent. The positive benefits you gain during this period could last a long time.
The card in the Advice position suggests a course of action which will harmonize what you want with what is currently possible. 
The Wheel of Fortune in this position indicates a period of sweeping changes. It could come in the form of a physical move, a spiritual awakening or dramatically changing social patterns. The placement of this card is an encouraging sign. The season is right for transformation. 
It is now safe. You are watched over and protected as you go round and round the Wheel. You will learn a lot. You will also learn it quickly, and what you absorb will benefit you for a long time to come.

And check out my “long-term potential” card! It sounds awesome!

You have no choice but to ride the currents that are about to sweep you away.
The card in the Long-term Potential position points to unknowns still taking shape. It is the “wild card” yet to be played. 
With the Moon in this position, there is a potential for an absolutely unpredictable situation. This is a time of unstable currents and weather patterns, record tides and eclipses, strange storms. Let go of goal setting for now. 
The adventure and experience before you are truly open ended. It will cleanse you of the wounds from the outside world, the world of culture, time and space, and leave you utterly wide open to the great mystery. You are driven toward this depth of insight by a force beyond comfort, beyond ego. Here is where you find out what you are made of. You can master this realm and go on to help others get over their fear and misunderstanding

For now, I’m headed to lunch with my sister, my cousin, my aunt and my oldest friend in New York. Thank you to everyone who has sent me happy birthday wishes! You know how much I appreciate it! Mwah!

Hard Work, No Pay

I’ve been working my ass off lately. That means five or six hours, two or three days a week. It isn’t exactly grueling but it’s more work than I’ve been doing. And it’s not for pay. I’ve really been enjoying it, though. I find that I enjoy working for free more than I do for money. I wish I knew why that is.

The work is for an arts festival on Governors Island called Figment. We get a portion of the island from May 27 till September 25 and then take over the entire island for the weekend of June 10, 11, 12. I’m in charge of signage, which just so happens to be the job I do for Burning Man. My DPW Sign Crew gets a huge budget and we do our job like a well-oiled machine. This organization hasn’t run quite as smoothly. My crew, however, is awesome and I’m having a blast working with them. We’ve been operating somewhat autonomously.  And our finished product looks damn impressive!

Tomorrow we install the signs needed for Memorial Day weekend and the island’s opening to the public. Everything’s coming together pretty well. We have a bunch more work to do before the official festival but I’m sure we’ll get it all done. There have been glitches and I’m sure there will be some more. But the bottom line is, we’re volunteers. And we’re doing the best we can. I’ve been a little shocked at how we’ve been treated. Certainly not as well as people working this hard — and this long — out of the goodness of their hearts, should be. No money, little recognition, scant thanks. I think we get a t-shirt. All I can say is I’m damn glad I’ve pulled together a crew of people I enjoy.

After my summer’s over and I’ve wrapped up my season with Burning Man, maybe I’ll try and find some work that doesn’t pay. Perhaps money to live on can come from somewhere else. I can imagine doing volunteer work for the rest of my life if I manage to find a man who can support me. Does that sound crazy? I mean, I know plenty of women out there don’t work. There must be some great guy who’d love to share my awesome East Village apartment and take good care of me! Maybe I should make finding him my job!

Woo-Hoo vs. Boo-Hoo

So I’ve been obsessively watching my blog stats and it appears to me that happier posts don’t do nearly as well as depressing ones. WTF, people? Would you rather feel my pain than celebrate my happiness?

Well, okay then!

In today’s news, I made my profile active again on OkCupid, mostly to get back in touch with the somewhat irritating guy in South Dakota. While he made many assumptions about me that rubbed me the wrong way, our conversation was interesting. When I logged off of the site he resorted to commenting on my blog; I didn’t approve the comments because they were, essentially, attempts at reaching me, not really comments. It seemed to me that he felt snubbed; we’ll see if he gets back in touch. In the meantime, I have another one of my clickety-click OCD hobbies back again.

I also joined ChristianMingle.com. I KNOW! I figured that would make for really interesting blog fodder! But alas, their “join free now” was merely that: free to sign up. If you want to actually read your emails (or do anything else on the site), you need to pay. Is that how Jesus would market? I say, fuck that, ChristianMingle! I’m gonna go check out J-Date! Hmm, maybe I need to invest a few bucks in both so I can truly experience the full selection of dating sites! In the interest of journalistic integrity and whatnot, that is…

I’m also working on a week’s “sex diary” for New York Magazine’s Daily Intel. I will warn you now, there won’t be any actual sex in it. It will be depressing as hell. I can’t wait to see the comments! They’re usually arguments about whether a “handjob” is an acceptable sex act “in this day and age.” Um, sex is sex. And I ain’t havin’ any. Mine will probably be the first in ages that features absolutely zero penetration. Sigh. The editor is excited about having a submission from someone who isn’t a 20- or 30-something, so that’s a plus. The minus being that 50-somethings simply don’t get laid as often. At least single 50-somethings… Gack.

Now if only I was into the really young guys! Cause yeah, exactly — DING! — 10 minutes after getting back onto OkCupid, a 24-year-old dude says, “Hey. You seem like a fun woman. How bout a fun young boytoy to play with?” I’m sorry, I do not want to be the punch line at your next beer puke fest! I’m cool with younger, but not that much younger! Go satisfy your mommy fantasies somewhere else, ya whippersnapper! Sheesh! My response? “I AM a fun woman!
But sorry, no thanks! I like younger, but not THAT much younger!
And please don’t email me back and tell me how I don’t know what I’m missing or that “age is just a number.” Thanks!
A

I’ll admit that my ego enjoys the attention on these sites, even if there’s no hope of ever connecting with any of the men. And my ego can use all the help it can get! Recently I was told I was “hot” and “sexy” by not one but two men. I don’t know why but it’s difficult for me to take in — and take seriously. I haven’t been feeling too terribly fetching lately. But that’ll hopefully change once I’m tanned and taut out in the desert sun, toting 2x2s and street signs around Black Rock City!

Okay, enough for today. Let’s see if ending on a hopeful note puts the kibosh on high stats! Hah!

Self…Help?

Tonight’s fortune cookie fortune: You constantly struggle for self-improvement.

I’m a firm believer in self-improvement, if mostly in the abstract. I realize that we are all in a constant state of change but hate the whole corny concept. I’m suspicious of cultish behaviors, wary of group-think, leery of the lingos associated with specific movements, practices or organizations, which includes everything from yoga to Christianity to the Girl Scouts.

In my adult life, I’ve alternated between embracing and ridiculing self-help. I did Lifespring back in the 80s — an offshoot of EST, which became Landmark Forum — and loved it. But I wasn’t “worthy” of moving up in the organization because I failed to enroll enough people in the program. I simply wasn’t a good enough sales person, even when I was attempting to sell something I believed in. So although I gleaned many valuable lessons from the trainings, in the end I didn’t have what it took to be a “real” member.

I’ve dabbled in all kinds of self-help, even if it was only for a day, but have never been able to fully immerse myself in anything. I’d say I’m not a joiner, but that isn’t quite true. It’s more a situation of being bored easily. And refusing to conform. Which doesn’t mean I don’t want to keep becoming a better me. Even this blog is a form of self improvement, albeit a slow and self-involved one!

For the past few months I’ve been slogging my way through How to Be An Adult In Relationships: The Five Keys to Mindful Loving, by David Richo. It was given to me by my ex’s ex, who I befriended. I pick it up between Sunday Times Magazines and assorted distracting novels. The book includes a lot of exercises, most of which require a partner and, not currently partnered, I’m unable to follow through with them properly. But I do want to soak up the information.

Last night I read this passage, an affirmation to build a healthy ego, and it struck me as timely:

I look at myself and my life without fear of what I may see or what I may find I have to work on. I look at myself without censure, blame, or shame but with a sense of accountability for any ways I have hurt others, and I make amends. I accept myself  as I am without an attachment to fixing, changing, or controlling my natural inclinations and attributes. I let go of any attachment to the outcome of what is happening in my life right now or what will happen in m life in the future. I allow myself to live in accord with my deepest needs and wishes. I love myself as I am and take care of myself. I pay attention to my body and what it tells me about myself and the joys and stresses of my circumstances. I am free of fear and craving. I share with others the gifts I receive. May all beings have happiness because of my work, my gifts and my practice.

Now, of all times, is the perfect moment for me to “let go of any attachment to the outcome of what is happening in my life.” I can’t even begin to grapple with might happen in the future, so it isn’t too difficult not to be attached to it. I have a few fears and am bravely facing them. I’m probably doing a better job of “being here now” than I ever have. I take each day as it comes, have only vague “plans” next week, next month. And no idea whatsoever what life will serve up over the next year. I am just going to trust in the universe that it will be precisely what I need.

To be honest, I kinda don’t care. If The Rapture had happened this past Saturday, I would’ve been lifted to heaven — or fried in the eternal flames — with no regrets, having lived a full and exciting life. From here on in, everything is gonna be frosting on the frosting of my already tasty cake!


Friendship

Well, The Poet has taken me to task. While he found my list of 10 Things I’m Grateful For to be “thorough,” he thought I was “selling myself short” on the friendship:

“On question one you were especially thorough. But I think you sold yourself short on question two. You have much more you could say about what it means to have and be a good friend Abby that you did NOT cover in your lover’s list. Your friending of me shows how you can look past what you would want or even tolerate in a lover. Maybe the term is wrong – maybe I meant good or true friend. An example would be that a friend will listen well and truthfully and considerately tell you what they think even when it may be inconvenient or painful to do so. That’s more than being a good communicator. Other attributes could be charitable, kind, dependable, loyal, protective, etc. Give it a thought. No blog necessary unless you want to – just do the exercise. You may recall important attributes that will help in your spiritual search for a lover too.”

His point that I will accept things in people who are my friends that I might not tolerate in a “relationship” is correct. I have plenty of friends I wouldn’t consider living with! It makes sense that a lover should have the same qualities as one’s friends, since they would, essentially, be your best friend. That said, when I reflect on past exes, they all had qualities that I might not have put up with in a friend…The libido often makes its choices independently of the rational brain.

So in further pursuit of spiritual growth, I will do the exercise with friendship in mind. The Poet warned:

I think such exercises are best accomplished by taking some time before finishing or sharing to really think about what we are saying and what it means. The embrace and practice of humility plays a critical role in this. Blogging about it makes it that much harder to be and appear humble.

Point taken. I don’t believe time would change my responses. And there’s no way to appear humble when one is enumerating their best qualities. Maybe it should be leavened with a list of faults? Please forgive the extreme navel gazing, dear readers. Perhaps you could play along with me? What do you want in a friend? And what do you have to offer? All together now!

QUALITIES I WANT IN A FRIEND
A good  listener
A good heart
Dependable
Loyal
Understanding
Patient
Flexible
Agreeable
Super smart
Funny
Fun
Good conversationalist
Count-on-able
Empathy
Interesting
“Game” (meaning up for almost anything!)
Adventurous
Difficult (I know this sounds like a negative quality, but I do tend to enjoy people who aren’t “easy”…)
A great sense of humor
Clever
Sarcastic, caustic (sometimes!)
Quirky
Honest
Semi-skewed world view
Open-minded
Curious
Accepting
Emotionally available
Intellectually available
Or at least available in some way!
Well-read
The ability to call me on my shit

Okay, I think that’s enough. This list was a whole lot harder than the lover list. I have so many friends who are sooooo different. I like collecting oddballs! Hmmm…can I make a list of things I don’t want in a friend? That would probably be easier!

WHAT I HAVE TO OFFER A FRIEND
Honesty
Loyalty
Empathy
Patience
Love
A big heart
Understanding
The ability to listen, coach, counsel, hear, question, commiserate, conspire, compliment, encourage, advocate, advise, strategize, look at every angle, play the devil’s advocate, sit with and be silent…
A sense of humor
A sense of adventure
FUN!
Spontaneity (sometimes…)
Count-on-able
I keep my word
Accountability…and the ability to hold my friends accountable
The ability to cut through all the bullshit
Fierceness…in all its expressions…

I’m sure if I sat with this list for a week I could come up with more. Or different. And if I sat with it for a month, even more. But I’m gonna go with immediacy here (well, approximating immediacy, as I’ve been mulling this over for almost two days…) in the interest of blogging (almost ) every day.

Friendship is a topic worth exploring further, especially with my birthday looming. I’d invited many friends to celebrate my birthday at two different events. At the first event, only two friends joined me and the upcoming event looks like I’ll only be with three. It makes me wonder…Do people just assume I travel with a posse all the time? And that their absence won’t even be noticed? If anyone ever thinks that, let me say that I always miss the people who aren’t around. Always. I miss friends from 20 years ago right this second. If I’m at a party with 100 of my friends, I’ll wonder where the 101st friend is and why they couldn’t make it. Just so you know. Okay. Time to get out and enjoy the sunshine!

Gratitude

The responses to last night’s post have been coming in and they’re kinda cracking me up. One fellow blogger read me to filth for wanting a faithful man while using the Ashley Madison web site. He must’ve missed that I’m not on the site anymore. But still he has a point. My morals have always been questionable. I was never the perfect wife. But I believe I am capable of change. And hope that we all are.

The responses from men are, predictably, about whether they “measure up” or not. When I say I want someone “tall, 6’3″ or taller,” it doesn’t mean I would turn down a date with someone 5’8″. These desires are merely that: desires. I wouldn’t turn down a job offer of $50,000 a year. Or even $25,000 a year. But I can dream, can’t I?

The Poet has set out a more life-affirming set of challenges, as I would expect from him:

One: Write a list of the ten things you are most grateful for in your life. You only get 10.
Two: Write a post on what you want and what you have to offer in friendship.
Oh and don’t forget to keep praying for James everyday for two weeks!

So, in response to The Poet:
The 10 Things I Am Grateful For In  My Life
1. My corporeal being: my body, my health, my genetics, I guess. I have been blessed with great health, tall and sturdy stature, good teeth and skin and hair, a complex brain and many innate talents.
2. My family: two loving, doting, attentive parents; a sister who loves me fiercely and does everything she can to help me; an amazing extended family filled with unique characters, passionate and opinionated and extremely loving; my sister’s kids, who give me hope for the future. (Or should I say force me to hope for the future?) They are incredible humans. My grandparents were also pretty fuckin’ cool.
3. An impressive palette of loyal, loving and supportive friends, some of whom have been friends for over 20 years. I am fortunate to make friends easily and am then able to pick and choose the ones I  love most!
4. My creativity: it has allowed me to create costumes that make me smile, produce art that has made others smile and, most importantly, permits me to express myself in an eloquent, easily transmitted manner. Or so people tell me!
5. A wildly interesting life: this is partially my doing, being the experience junkie that I am. But it is also my parents, wanting to expose me to many things, being in a position to travel and see the world, the money to send me to college and support me while I was there. Everyone and everything that has conspired to make my life so enviable.
6. Loving relationships: I’ve had several long-term relationships with boyfriends in my life. While in the relationships I felt great love (or thought I did) and really loved being in love. (That’s a lotta love in one sentence….but that’s the topic here.) While some break-ups were less pleasant than others, I can honestly say that I am on friendly terms with all of these men. (The most recent one being the only possible exception. I will strive for civility in that circumstance as well.) Though some of these men are now far away, living very new and different lives, I believe firmly that if we were stuck across a dinner table from each other, it would be a loving, enjoyable experience. The best part of these loves is that I learned something valuable from each of these men and took those lessons with me into subsequent relationships.
7. This may sound silly, but I must include pets: since I was little I’ve had wonderful, loving dogs. Life is just better with a dog in it, from my childhood poodle to Zoe, my poodle of 16 years, to Noodle, who Eric got in the divorce settlement, to the fosters I’ve taken in, including the two little scruffies sitting on either side of me right now. Dog breath smells sweet. Dogs love their humans. Even their temporary humans. Pure, pure love.
8. Education: I went to a really, really great elementary school that gave me a solid base of education that I’m still calling upon. Junior high and high school weren’t quite as excellent but they were “second in the nation,” so it was better than most. I can spell. I can punctuate. I can string a sentence together. And I have my K-12 teachers to thank for that. Along with all the award-winning authors whose books I’ve read. College was more fun than learning but, looking back, I did take in a lot of knowledge, in between all the drinking and tanning and roller skating. Physics for Poets sticks with me as does my Sociology class that makes me occasionally wish, still, that I had taken that route. My brain loves to learn stuff.
9. Being born in America: okay, now I’m stretching! But I’ve gotta name 10 things and yes, this is one of them. The life I’ve led — and continue to live — can only have been led in America. We have incredible freedoms, a country rich in culture and adventure and…land! I couldn’t have run my fetish magazine in Iraq! And I couldn’t have roller skated on the beach boardwalk in Russia. The ability to constantly reinvent myself is also a truly American thing; this country loves reinvention! The Star Spangle Banner chokes me up. Seriously.
10. Luck: this probably sounds like a cheat. If you look at everything else, they’re all somewhat a result of luck. I am lucky to have been born in America; to two loving parents with means and good genes; to have traveled and met and known so many wonderful, interesting people; to have found love more than once and loved fiercely with all my heart; to have experienced more than just about everyone I’ve met. This is probably the one thing I’m prone to forget the most easily. I need to keep reminding myself how fortunate I am and how grateful I am for this luck. I went to a sort of hippy-dippy life reading once and the woman told me that the Archangel Michael is watching over me. When people ask me if I’ve ever seen a ghost, I can distinctly recall seeing an apparition, a male, all in white, with long blond hair, standing beside my bed. It was when I was in college and, at the time, I wrote it off as too much drinking. Instead of pink elephants I was seeing a blond dude in a white robe. But maybe it was Michael. I am truly a lucky person.

My second task was to write a list of what I want in a friend and what I have to offer in a friendship. I don’t think I need to repeat anything that I’ve already written. I already have what I want in a friend. In many friends. I feel fortunate and fulfilled in my friendships. I can’t claim to want or need more. And what I have to offer in a friendship is the same litany of things I have to offer a lover — with the obvious exception of the sex! I am a great friend.

I tip-tapped all of this out in a bit of a hurry. I guess I’ll wait and see if The Poet accepts my responses. He’s keeping me on my toes. And lives on as an example of something GOOD that can come out of being on Ashley Madison! I will, as he instructed, continue to pray for James’s happiness. And mine!