The Great Tapestry

Recently, I’ve discovered that several of my friends have connected in unexpected ways. It really makes me happy. In some cases, I have been the catalyst in these connections, and in others, the situation has been completely random. It makes me feel like we are all a part of a beautiful, colorful, complex tapestry.

I met one friend through my grief support group. Eventually, we became Facebook friends. That’s how we discovered that we have a mutual Facebook friend, who also happens to be the cousin of one of my closest friends in Florida. These two Facebook friends work together. I know very few people in this city, so the odds of my knowing two coworkers, who I met in random, distinct ways, is pretty amazing.

I also met my husband through that same grief support group. It’s a group that I wouldn’t have known about if it weren’t for the fact that two other friends, separately, during the same time period, recommended that I attend. So they both take credit for my marriage.

I met Bob through my Drawbridge Lovers Facebook group. I met Linda through my View from a Drawbridge Facebook group. One day Linda asked me how I knew Bob. Awesome coincidence: they’re on the brink of getting married. I’m thrilled to be a vicarious witness to that love story, which is happening in another state, to two people I’ve never met face to face, but respect very highly.

I introduced another dear friend who is in Canada to someone who is in Kentucky, and they’ve been in a supportive, happy, internet relationship for about a decade now. More power to them.

I met two other people in the exact same week about 12 years ago, and they’ve also been together ever since. (Not that I had anything to do with that, but it is a delightful synchronicity.)

I met one friend through a story telling group that I used to attend. She became the editor of my first book. I met another friend through that same group, but on a different day. She was actually just passing through town, and lives on the other side of the continent. She wrote the introduction to my first book. And it turns out that now the two of them work for the same organization, which the first friend wouldn’t have known about if it hadn’t been for my introducing her to the second friend. What a mazel!

I also have a friend in Argentina who introduced me to a friend in Georgia, who I had the opportunity to hear in concert in Florida. So even borders cannot prevent connections. Borders, in fact, are artificial constructs.

I guess my point is that we’re all threads in the great tapestry of the universe. Whether we are the warp or the weft, the long or the short, the coarse or the smooth, we all play our part. We may not even know we are connected, but somehow, rest assured, we are.

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The Depth and Breadth of a Virtual Life

It’s rare that a news article brings tears to my eyes, but My disabled son – ‘the nobleman, the philanderer, the detective’ did just that. It’s about a young man named Mats Steen, who spent most of his life bound to a wheelchair, until his death, all too soon, at age 25.

His family expected a quiet, uneventful funeral, but an amazing thing happened. Friends started coming out of the woodwork, expressing their condolences. Some flew from other countries to attend his funeral. But how did the homebound Mats have so many loyal and loving friends?

The answer to that is World of Warcraft. He had been spending much of the last decade of his life in that virtual world, not just playing games, but forming relationships. And these people, to this very day, remember Mats, and speak of him often. There is even a memorial to him in there, where candles remain forever lit. Mats touched many lives from that wheelchair of his.

People who don’t spend time in virtual worlds don’t understand them at all. As a long-time resident of the virtual world of Second Life, I do. All too well.

These places aren’t games, where you fight with cartoons, all alone. There are people behind these avatars. Living, breathing people, whose personalities shine through. In Second Life in particular, the gaming aspect is practically nonexistent. It’s a social place, where you can attend live concerts, go dancing, explore wonderful alternate worlds, build outlandish and beautiful houses, go to church, meet people, make friends, fall in love… you name it, it’s possible.

For another interesting insight about what virtual worlds feel like, check out season 3, episode 4 of the series Black Mirror. It’s called San Junipero. You can find it on Netflix. It’s well worth the watch.

When you meet someone in a virtual world, you really, really meet them. Because avatars are the great equalizers. All of them are good looking and young and strong and healthy. What sets you apart is how you communicate and how you treat people. And that truth about you rises to the surface immediately. Liars don’t last long in virtual worlds, even though they are capable of doing a great deal of emotional damage during their short stays.

What I love about these places is that they expand your horizons. If you’re in a wheelchair, you can run and dance. If you’re agoraphobic, you can explore the world. If you’re unhappy with the way you look, you can look different. No one is poor or rich or tall or short. You aren’t judged by the external stuff. All of those things are stripped away.

I have made many friends in Second Life. There has been a lot of love in there for me. I’ve learned a lot about myself and others. I’ve learned the value of trust. Being there has given me the confidence to be an artist.

I’ve also had people I care about very much in cyberspace simply disappear. It’s heartbreaking, not knowing if someone is alive or dead. It’s cruel, depriving someone of closure, if that’s intentional. But there’s no way to know for sure.

I’m really glad that Mats was able to make lemonade out of the lemons of his life. He created his virtual life from scratch, as one does, and it sounds like he surrounded himself with lots of wonderful, amazing people, just as I have in Second Life. That, to me, is a life well-lived. May he rest in peace, knowing he still lives on in the hearts of so many.

(Thanks Jen, for introducing me to that amazing article!)

Virtual Me
The virtual me, standing in front of one of my fractals, with one of my fractals around my neck as well.

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Coupledom

Buy one, get one free. Everybody knows that’s a screamin’ deal. That is, if you want two. But who doesn’t want two? Two is always better than one!

Similarly, good things come to those who pair up, it seems. The second we got married, my husband’s auto insurance rates went way down. As did our health insurance rates.

And of course, we now have two incomes to pay for one set of utilities, one mortgage, one wifi bill, etc., etc., etc.

One family AAA membership costs less than two individual ones. The same can be said of the family plan for one’s phone. And hey, now we can shop at Costco! (I didn’t do that when I was single because the portion sizes were way too big for one person.)

And then there’s the social aspect of coupledom. Suddenly you have twice as many friends, and twice as many opportunities to have fun. You have twice as much family, too, which fortunately is turning out to be a wonderful thing in my case. (Your results may vary.)

You don’t really think of the implications of all this when you’re single. The world is really set up for us to go two by two, as if it’s one big Noah’s Ark. When you get married, you give yourself an instant raise, and you join a much wider support system.

I hope I’m not turning into one of those obnoxious people who try to force relationships upon everyone. I’m just pointing out that it’s really a completely different world on so many levels. Who knew?

king penguins

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My 2000th Blog Post

Well, holy moly! When I started this daily blog back on December 1, 2012, I would have never guessed that I’d still be going strong 2000 posts later. It’s hard to believe I’ve had 2000 things to say, and that I’m rapidly approaching 200,000 views by 110,000 visitors. A conservative estimate suggests I’ve written over 830,000 words.

I couldn’t have done it without you, dear reader. What has kept this blog so vibrant and interesting for me, especially on days when writer’s block was crushing me like a bug, is your feedback and suggestions. Without that input, I’d feel as though I were typing into a void.

I’ve also made quite a few friends on this forum; people from all over the world. Drawbridge Nation feels like a small, friendly town to me, one that I get to walk through every day. I even think that reading my blog is what finally convinced my boyfriend that I was relationship-worthy, so, yay, there’s that, too!

Because of this blog, I’ve written a book, and am working on a second one. I’m very proud of that. It feels like a tiny bit of immortality for someone who chose not to have children.

I’ve even been recognized on the street a few times, which astounds me. I’m used to thinking of myself as relatively invisible, not, as one reader once described me, “a sort of famous person”.

So I just wanted to thank you for indulging in my random musings, and I hope you’ll stick around for my 4000th post! Meanwhile, I think I deserve a cookie.

THANK-YOU-Computer

Just the Right Amount of Strange

Have you ever met someone and clicked with them instantly because they’re the same kind of weird that you are? Isn’t it great? It’s such a relief to feel understood and accepted.

Recently someone pointed out to me that there’s really no such thing as normal. Good point. I’ve never known anyone who hasn’t felt at least a little bit “out there”.

Personally, I’d find it rather creepy if we were all alike. The implication would be that we had no free will or independent thought. I can think of no better definition of hell.

That’s why I’m instantly repulsed by people who tell me that the only way to get to heaven is by subscribing to a specific creed. That sure doesn’t sound like heaven to me. I don’t want to agree with everyone all the time. I don’t want to check my brains and my personality at the door. I would die of boredom. You keep your Stepford Wife Heaven to yourself. I’ll have no part of it.

I like to let my freak flag fly, and enjoy having it fly with plenty of crazy company!

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Nature’s Personality

When I lived in Florida, I avoided nature at all costs. For me it was a place of spiders and snakes and mosquitoes and lightning strikes and fire ants and tornadoes and floods and, increasingly, forest fires. You couldn’t even jump into a pile of leaves for the scorpions. (How does one get through childhood without jumping into at least one leaf pile?)

Status quo was heat and humidity and sweat and sunburns. Mostly, I hid indoors, and went into full-blown panic if my air conditioning broke down. In fact, life was hopping from one air-conditioned oasis to the next. All my windows were painted shut. Having that contentious relationship with the great outdoors, I kind of had the mindset that I was surviving in spite of, rather than because of, nature.

It’s amazing how quickly my attitude changed when I moved to the Pacific Northwest. Here, I don’t even own an air conditioner. During the warmer months, my windows practically stay open. I have a new-found love for fresh air. During those same months, I have dinner on my back porch every evening. I’ve yet to encounter a mosquito, let alone anything else that might bite me. I don’t even own any bug spray.

Here, I get outdoors every chance I get. I’m starting to look at the rainy, grey winter months (which I confess I’ll never get used to), as the penance I have to pay for the exquisite gifts of spring, summer, and fall. This is the first time I’ve experienced seasons in 40 years. They’re magical.

Perhaps nature is more than one entity. I like its personality much better here than I did in Florida. Here, we’re friends, not enemies. And I didn’t realize how much my life lacked for not having that friendship until it finally came along.

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My Voice

I had a fascinating conversation with some old friends recently. I’ve known them for 10 years in the virtual world of Second Life. We hang out a couple times a week, but in all that time I’ve never heard their actual voices. All our communication is via text.

Am I alone in this? When I read something, I “hear” what I’m reading inside my head. I’ve always done that.

But the other day, for the first time, it occurred to me that when I read what these two friends type, I have different inner voices for each of them. Based on their personalities, my mind has created a kind and gentle voice for one, and a straightforward, practical, no-nonsense voice for the other. Fascinating.

So naturally, I asked what my “voice” sounds like to them. I was really surprised by the answer. They said it doesn’t sound like my blog.

That’s intriguing. I think of this blog as me on a screen. I’ve taken pride in laying myself bare and being honest and vulnerable here. But my friends say that in my blog I sound like a strong positive woman, and when I talk to them, I’m more fragile.

Hmm… Yeah, I can see that. Since I write my entries several days in advance, I have plenty of time for multiple revisions. That means by the time my posts reach you, I’ve edited out a lot of the craziness, impulsiveness, negativity, and basic hysteria. (Yeah, I know. Hard to believe.) I think that makes the blog infinitely more readable, but perhaps it also makes it less “me”.

But when all is said and done, that’s the definition of true friendship, isn’t it? Someone who sees the unedited version of you, warts and all, and loves you anyway.

I’m a very lucky person.

voice

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An Introvert Throws a Party

Now that I’m a homeowner, I decided to have a housewarming party, for many reasons. First of all, it would give me the incentive to actually unpack. Second, this is a very close-knit community, and I really want to become a part of that. This would give my neighbors a chance to get to know me. And it would be a delightful mix of old friends and new, coming together to make my house a home. I really like that concept.

No, it wasn’t a cheap plea for gifts, although some people did bring some thoughtful and lovely ones. But it was a potluck, and I’ll be eating leftovers for at least a week. That’s nothing to sneeze at.

I am a classic introvert, and I haven’t thrown a party in at least a decade for good reason. The planning and preparation stressed me out. Who to invite? Who won’t show up? I need to clean x, y, and z. How will my dog Quagmire behave? I need plates, cups, chairs, condiments…

The party was to start at 6:30. No one showed up for the first 25 minutes. This gave me plenty of time to try not to freak out. “Nobody loooooves me!” It also gave me time to think about all the people that I invited who told me they weren’t coming. They love me enough to not stand me up, but not so much that they’d actually come. “Ouch! Stop that!”

In the end, 15 people came, and it was a wonderful time. Well… except for the Quagmire incident.

I needn’t have worried about how he would behave. He showed his ass from the very start. The first person who had the nerve to enter the house without his permission got attacked.

I was mortified. There was blood and peroxide and band aids and apologies. But the attack-ee was a lot more gracious than I would have been in similar circumstances.

Quagmire’s piss-poor behavior gave the party an awkward start. And he spent the rest of the evening in time out in the bedroom, barking his fool head off. (Had I known no one would see that room, I wouldn’t have bothered to clean it.)

But if you overlook the initial crisis in confidence and the canine violence, a lot of friends from various parts of my life came together and made new connections. The time flew by. The food was good. And apparently I’m not going to get sued. I’d consider that a success.

But introvert that I am, people suck the life out of me. So even though I had a great time, I was really glad when it was over. I slept for 10 hours straight that night.

So, that’s me done with the party obligations for at least another decade. Whew. There’s a load off.

Housewarming

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Changing My Trajectory

As many of you know, I’ve been house hunting lately. I’m dreading the whole packing and moving thing, but it’s nice to think that my next move might just be my last. But who knows what the future holds?

That’s the exciting part. By moving, I’ll be changing my trajectory in life. I’ll be shopping at different stores, visiting different doctors and vets, going to different libraries and post offices. That means I’ll be meeting people I would not have met otherwise.

I’ll make some new friends, no doubt. Maybe one of them will consider me her best friend, which is a luxury I haven’t experienced since high school. Maybe I’ll finally meet another man who sees my value.

Either way, I will be taking a different route in life, and that’s always an adventure. It’s an opportunity to have new experiences and broaden my horizons and learn new things. I will create memories.

The future I’m creating today will become part of my history. It will shape me. I look forward to seeing what color my butterfly wings will be once I burst forth from my current chrysalis!

butterfly

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I’m Not Buying It

When I was a little girl, some well-meaning adult, who clearly didn’t know me at all, bought me a doll. I hope she didn’t spend too much money on it, because as soon as she left the house it got stuffed in the back of my closet, never to be seen again.

I didn’t play with dolls. I played with Tonka Trucks. (They went better with my overalls.) I built things with Legos. I did have a Barbie, but mostly because I liked the things that came with her—the convertible, the house. But I would tolerate no other doll in my world. I particularly hated all things that could be described as “frilly”. That word still makes me shudder to this day. No ribbons or lace for this girl!

So imagine my horror when, at the beginning of this holiday season, I started seeing the commercials for Wellie Wishers, a set of dolls put out by a company called American Girl. According to the website, these 5 dolls are “a sweet and silly group of girls who each have the same big, bright wish: to be a good friend.”

Cough.

To their credit, this is a racially diverse group of dolls. But despite that, they’re named Camille, Emerson, Willa, Kendall and Ashlyn. How much more white and middle class can you possibly get? And one of them, Willa, wears bunny ears. I swear to God.

They aren’t cheap, either. Starting at 60 bucks, this price tag is sure to give the average parent pause. But of course you’re encouraged to collect all five! And they also offer a boatload of accessories.

And here’s where it gets really scary. There’s also a line of clothing for little girls so they can dress just like their dolls. And these dresses, in my opinion, are truly, truly, TRULY horrible.

I don’t have kids. If I had a daughter, I probably would be cursed with a girly girl. Such is my karma. She’d probably want to wear a dress like the one in the picture below. (This one isn’t put out by American Girl. Theirs are even worse.) Seeing my kid wanting to be dressed up like a Christmas turkey would make me want to curl up and die on the inside.

I wouldn’t want my child’s biggest goals to be being silly and a good friend. I’d want her to value her own intelligence and leadership qualities and independence. I’d want her to take pride in her own agency, and not be taught to put everyone else first. (And by the way, why is it not important to teach boys to be good friends? Hmmm?)

One of the current American Girl commercials assures us that any girl who has one of these dolls as “her new best friend” will “learn friendship and kindness and confidence, too,” as well as “how to be an American girl.” It does not say how these inanimate objects will achieve this goal, though. I guess to find that out you have to watch their “all-new animated series!” Or maybe instructions come with the Giggles & Grins Play Set. But that, of course, costs extra.

It makes me kind of queasy to think that people are out there spending 60 bucks to reinforce this appalling stereotype. What will it truly wind up costing them? Heaven help us as a society.

girly

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