15 Ways Burning Man Prepared Me for the Big Quarantine of 2020

As I entered day 20 of my quarantine, I strangely started to feel like I’d been here before. That’s when I realized that in a way, I have! My experiences at Burning Man (I’ve gone twice: 2017 and 2018) have prepared me for this. The masks, the hand sanitizer, the toilet paper obsession, baby, been there, done that! I thought I’d pass along some of these handy-dandy 15 ways attending Burning Man helped ME cope with the Big Quarantine of 2020. They might help you too.

  1. Have a routine  

We developed a morning routine at Burning Man. We figured out a way to make a pot of coffee without electricity. We brought little squeeze bottles of Hazelnut instead of our Coffeemate. We made breakfast over a little propane stove, and afterwards, we washed our dishes in a make-shift plastic tub with water we’d brought in jugs (10 gallons per person) and brushed our teeth. We’d straighten our tent and sweep out the dust that had accumulated from entering and exiting and organized our clothes and supplies. Then we’d make a bike ride-run to purchase ice from the “Antarctica” building and bring it back and organize our coolers of food. We’d finish by noon and after refilling our backpacks with water and porta-potty supplies, we’d grab our bikes and venture out for the day. 

It’s important to create some sort of routine for yourself, especially if you’ve got young children. Structure seems to make us feel less out of control of our lives and also gives you a feeling of accomplishment and meaning to this extraordinary situation we are in.This isn’t a staycation. We didn’t ask for this. This may sound silly, but make your bed when you get up and right away you’ll be on your way to feeling you’ve got a little more control over your situation.This is your new normal. Unlike Burning Man though, we don’t know when this will end, but both require some stability.  Having some sort of routine has helped me feel a little less psycho. 

  1. Move that body!

There aren’t any gyms on the Playa, but Burning Man is 7 square miles. Whether you walk or ride your bike, you are getting plenty of exercise every day. I wore my tracker and was astounded we’d done an average of 10 miles a day. Even if the weather is shitty where you live (we’re on day four of straight wind and rain here in Wisconsin) you can exercise at home. My 90-year old father walks in circles around his living room. With his walker. My brother jumps rope. I saw on Facebook that a marathon runner did a whole marathon, circling his backyard 100 times. There are endless YouTube videos for yoga and all sorts of do-it-at-home exercises. I do crunches and stretching and try to get out and walk/run 4 miles a day. It’s not just good for your body, it gets those endorphins going and helps keep the depression at bay. Exercise is the absolute best way to cope with being quarantined. Remember, you’re not a convict with an ankle bracelet although many times it may feel that way. You CAN leave your house. Go for a walk around the block or the kitchen. Dance! Don’t let the Big Quarantine of 2020 turn you into a schlub. 

  1. Boost your immune system

The environment at Burning Man is incredibly harsh and there are very real threats to your well-being. The extreme heat during the day and lack of shade (remember, there’s no electricity so no air conditioners) so sunscreen is a must as well as making sure your Camelbak has enough water to sustain you at all times. The Playa isn’t sand as many believe; Burning Man lies on an inhospitable ancient lakebed made of a white, powdery alkaline dust. It gets into everything. Everyone’s walking around covered in it, but wearing some sort of face mask (bandannas, scarves) to keep from breathing it in. Protective goggles are a necessity too. You never ever leave your tent without them. There are vicious, blinding dust storms that literally come out of nowhere and you never know when that will happen. You have to be ready.

Going to one of the porta-potties is a fact of life at Burning Man; carrying wipes and hand sanitizer and a ziploc baggie to put them in is just how you deal. Chapstick is a must for those dried out lips from the harsh heat and dust. Every time you leave your tent, you’re prepared for anything. Sound familiar?? How many of us are walking around carrying the same items? Masks, bandanna,scarves, hand sanitizer! It’s crazy! Everything is a biohazard. Although Playa dust won’t actually infect you, you know better than to touch your face with dust on your hands or fingers, and hand-washing is challenging in an environment that has no running water, but you get ‘er done somehow. People know to pack LOTS of hand sanitizer.  Playa dust will also give you a chemical burn if it stays on your feet. You must wear shoes at all times. And like we’re doing now, you take them off and leave them outside. You don’t want to bring the dust into your tent if you can help it. And here at home, we’re leaving our shoes out in the hallway of our high-rise just in case there’s coronavirus somehow stuck onto the soles. Do your best to stay healthy because it’s been said that we will all be exposed at some point, and all you’ve got is your immune system to fight it off, not to mention just dealing with all the stress of lost income, too-much togetherness with roommates or family, or just the very real hell we are living in right now. Do all you can to get sleep, eat healthy, all that shit. Keep the negative to a minimum and limit your exposure to news.

  1. You don’t need “more” of anything.

The biggest lesson I learned at Burning Man was how little I really needed to survive and be happy. I will never forget after I got back from my first “Burn” and saw a dear friend of mine. She was very excited to hear about my adventure and before the words could come out, I burst into tears, threw my arms around her and said, “all I need are my friends and my family”. I feel that way right now. I can’t wait to throw my arms around some of my dear friends and family that I’m estranged from due to circumstances. “Going without” is when you appreciate what’s most important. Each other. 

Although it angers me to see stories of people hoarding food and toilet paper and even fighting in the grocery stores, I understand their panic. People feel out of control. And no one told us how much we’re going to need or for how long. But really folks, calm the fuck down. The stores are staying open. You aren’t going to run out. I have spent way less staying home. I’m not Uber-ing to bars and restaurants or going to shows or shopping. It’s extremely detrimental to our economy and our collective mental health.  I really miss my nightlife and going out with friends. At Burning Man, money is basically useless. All you can purchase there is ice for your coolers ($2.50 for a 7 pound bag) and there’s a little Burning Man coffee house in Center Camp. You already planned for 7 days in the desert and can’t go to the store for more. I’m sure all of us have enough in our refrigerators and pantries and shouldn’t be panicked about running out of anything. Even toilet paper is reappearing on store shelves. Go through your closets and get rid of shit you don’t need. Donate, donate, donate. Look up Marie Kondo on Netflix. She’ll help you.

  1. Lean on one another

At Burning Man, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, or thirsty, or tired, or looking for someone to hang out with, there’s always someone willing to lend a hand or a hug. People are extremely giving and loving and affectionate if you just ask. We hunger for human touch and interaction. It’s just not natural living this way. When you’re feeling the soul-crushing nature of being quarantined, remember, PEOPLE. Call your friends, call your family. Reach out.  It’s become a “coronavirus cliche” but it’s true–we really are all in this together.

Thank goodness we have the technology to connect–apps like HouseParty and Skype and Zoom and FaceTime keep us all from feeling so alone. Can you ever remember a time when you felt something and realized everyone in the entire world is feeling it too? How amazing is THAT?! There is no shame in admitting you’re going cuckoo. We are all going cuckoo. Relationships are being tested like never before. Our collective mental health is in jeopardy. We are becoming terrified of one another’s cooties and I’m worried about the fallout in rising rates of depression, divorces, domestic violence and anxiety disorders. How about rising rates of OCD as we are all furiously washing our hands and agoraphobia as we have habitually become afraid of leaving our little padded cells? At Burning Man, it’s very common for people to “freak out” at least once due to the extreme conditions of the experience. How to cope? Lean on a friend if you’re having a rough time, and BE a good friend to someone else who might be. Just like now, everyone at Burning Man comes to expect freak-outs and we console one another and get through it together. Which leads me to….

  1. You will feel totally claustrophobic at some point and freak out.

It’s common to feel trapped at Burning Man; it’s a hundred miles from the nearest store (no Kwik Trips or 7-11’s you can just “run to”). For 7 days, you are stuck there. I remember being warned about feeling claustrophobic, and sure enough, it happened. The excitement started to wear off around Wednesday as the temps rose once again beyond a hundred degrees and relief was nowhere in sight. I became panicky and felt I was suffocating. I began to have a breakdown that totally freaked me out. I was shaking and nauseous and frightened and began to spin out of control. I had never experienced a panic attack and was quite shaken up by it. I got through it but I was terrified of it happening again. Thankfully, it didn’t.

Around day 8 of quarantine though, it happened again. I knew the signs but it was odd because the circumstances were so different. I had running water. I had electricity. I have heating. However, I didn’t actually know if I have enough food or toilet paper, because I don’t know how long I’m going to be quarantined. And when will I get to see my kids?? When will all the bars and restaurants open up again? When can we travel again? WHEN WILL LIFE GO BACK TO NORMAL???? WHEN WILL THIS END??? The walls started to feel like they were closing in on me. My head started to feel dizzy and I felt sick to my stomach. And I felt that same panic that I had felt at Burning Man and recognized what it was. I felt trapped. Suddenly my home wasn’t my sanctuary anymore. It was my jail. And that’s how it felt in that little tent. Ok so it was a big tent, but it was a TENT. IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DESERT 100 MILES FROM CIVILIZATION. I was overwhelmed with the lights and sounds and heart-thumping music and sick of peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches and everything being so damn hard and the oppressive heat! And the stink of the porta-potties! It hit me all at once and I was spinning out of control. 

What helped me then and what helps me now is reminding myself this is temporary. The cliche’d quote, “this too shall pass” is quite helpful when those suffocating feelings return.  Take a page out of the Burning Man playbook–hydrate first and foremost. Find a spot in the shade. Sit down. Breathe. It will be ok. “This too shall pass”. And, as in #5, lean on someone. Don’t suffer alone. Get out of your tent. Go for a walk, call a friend, pet your cat, watch or read something uplifting. Stay away from the news. 

7. For God’s sake, bathe.

At Burning Man, some camps set up make-shift “showers” with a gallon of water you let warm in the sun and “wash” your body with. It feels good to let the water run over your skin and everyone knows that a shower just makes you feel better.  Burning Man makes you appreciate how we take for granted the simple act of showering (and toileting). When you finally return home, the very first thing you want to do (next to going to the bathroom on a real toilet) is take a very long, very hot shower. If someone had been listening they’d have thought I was having sex in there with all the feel-good moaning going on. 

One of the most fun things in life is spending all day in your PJ’s and for us women, not having to wear a bra. Woo-hoo!! Not to mention not having to do the whole beauty routine of washing and styling your hair and putting on makeup. At Burning Man, you can’t flat-iron your hair nor blow dry it (no electricity) and you’ve got that “awesome” style in your hair from 7 days of dust in it. There isn’t any running water, so not-showering/washing your hair for days on end is just one of the things you give up at Burning Man, and I’m guessing, many of you are doing the same. Also, giving zero fucks about it. Getting past feeling dirty both at Burning Man and now, quarantining, is so similar it makes me laugh. 

I ask myself, “why bother if no one’s going to see me anyways?” But you know what? I’ve found it helps my mental health. I have found that when I have a day where I “just don’t feel like” it, it often turns into two days, then three, and then despair has set in.  The less I feel like showering, the more I know I need to. Just because no one else is going to see you isn’t a good enough reason to neglect yourself. While you’re at it, put on a little blush, eyeliner and do your eyebrows. Do it for YOU.

8. Plan for the worst and hope for the best.

I was pretty sure I was going to die the first year I went to Burning Man. It’s like one of those “Survivor” shows where you have a list of items you “must have” (tents, food, water, TP, hammer, etc). “Did we bring enough?”  “Did we bring the right things?” “What did we forget?” “Will I be able to handle it?” Same here. I wonder daily how long I’ll be able to handle this isolation.  I found it ironic that one of the things Burning Man has in common with the Big Quarantine is both share an obsession around toilet paper and water. Funny, here I am again mentally trying to calculate my food intake to poop-outtake ratio. It is not uncommon to see people dressed in tutus holding a roll of toilet paper on the way to the loos. Just yesterday, I saw a grown man walking down the street carrying a 6-roll of Charmin. I was like, “WHERE’D HE GET THAT??” 

My husband and I had 6 months to prepare for our first “Burn”. We had plenty of time to assemble everything we needed to bring. But with both, you don’t really know how much of it you will actually need nor what you wished you’d have packed. At least with the Quarantine, you can run to the store if you need something. But both do share a unique feeling of not-knowing what you’re in for. At first you get excited for the chance to drop out of society and reconnect with Netflix and your refrigerator and set your own “happy hours”. I “knew” Burning Man was going to be awesome because I’d heard and read and watched so many videos about it. And it is. The booming music, the lights, the vibes are all exhilarating. The art installations are truly indescribable. The costumes, the art cars, the fire-throwers, the makeshift bars, the PEOPLE. There’s literally nothing else like it in the entire world. However, Burning Man tests your very mettle: the extreme heat and cold, the strong winds, the lack of electricity and running water. Being isolated from the “Default World”. There aren’t any trees, no animals. It’s a man-made city in a barren land. I thoroughly believe the quarantine will test us similarly, albeit in different ways. The thrill of endless streaming and sitting and lack of interacting with the outside world is going to get to each and every one of us. Cabin fever. Monotony. Boredom. Lack of motivation. And don’t forget, there’s the nagging fear of, “what if I catch the virus?” It’s inescapable. Expect you’re going to be exposed. Do your best to avoid it and hope for the best. And remember, it IS temporary. “This too shall pass.”

  1. Access your inner warrior

Burning Man taught me to accept my circumstances and find a way to cope. The Big Quarantine of 2020 wasn’t something we all went out and bought tickets for, and none of us wanted this. It is out of our control, just like the dust storms on the Playa, but you gotta just ride that shit out. You do the best you can and if it knocks you down, you get back up. 

Those that are on the front lines putting themselves at risk to save us and our loved ones are the true heroes. Let’s keep this in perspective folks. The Big Quarantine is about helping save lives. It’s hard, it’s damn hard, but not as hard as some have it. I am grateful every day I stay healthy and my loved ones stay healthy.  We WILL get through this. We WILL cope. We have no other choice. And remember, if you’re sitting at home bored yet healthy, count your blessings. Many are not. Many are suffering from this virus and many will lose loved ones. We don’t know how long this will last or how bad it will get. Will I catch it? Will you? The unknowns can drive you crazy. I’m right here with you. Bob Marley is famous for saying, “You never know how strong you are, until strong is your only choice.” You got this. We can do this. 

  1. Cry it out

There are days you just have to have that big, sloppy, ugly cry.  Don’t hold back. These are scary times. There are so many unknowns and it can feel like one big waiting game. At Burning Man, you cry for totally different reasons, but I think both have in common deep feelings of gratitude, loss, grief, love for humanity, a deep longing for meaning and fear and acceptance of our mortality. We are absent of the distractions that many of us rely on to get by, and like Burning Man, we are thrown into a completely different lifestyle and world. Remember the movie, “Mad Max”? Burning Man is like that. As you drive onto the Playa, you immediately feel as though you’ve arrived on a different planet. Doesn’t your neighborhood feel that way now? I know mine does. It’s nothing like any of us has ever experienced. Everything shuttered and a lack of traffic. Schools closed. We can’t go to a movie, out to dinner, travel, fuck we can’t even get together with friends. We see more than two people together and freak the fuck out. I hate this “social distancing” as much as you do.  I don’t know when I’ll get to see my son. It’s heartbreaking what is happening. We have to adapt to this new world, and when the virus passes, we have the chance to start over. This is a huge re-set button for our entire human species. Just like Burning Man, it’s what you make of it. Resisting achieves nothing, but embracing all the emotions that flow are normal and natural and need to be expressed.

  1. Keep a journal

I love reading my journal from Burning man. I had so many “lightbulb moments” out there. You’re in such a unique environment and situation, that you have to capture them when they occur. Photos are great, but describing in detail how you’re feeling and what everything you’ve done and seen means to you is precious beyond reason. I remembered this and I started a “Big Quarantine 2020” journal just the other day and everyday I write a few sentences about how I’m coping. Someday, this will all be a very bad memory, and maybe I will have some lightbulb moments that I won’t want to forget.

  1. Live in the “now”

There is no Internet at Burning Man for a reason. TO BE FULLY PRESENT. It is honestly a breath of fresh air to be freed of the self-inflicted obligations of social media. You see people taking lots of selfies but it’s gratifying to know not a single pic is getting posted. And guess what?? This is when the emotions come, because you’re in the moment. It’s easy to fill our days with our phones and laptops and Netflix. I have been planning for weeks now a day to turn off my phone and laptop and just go inward for a day. I haven’t been able to do it yet. But I really, really think it will benefit me to just be present. Take this amazing opportunity to play with your kids if you have them, or your pet, and just languish in their beauty. If you’re lucky and have a yard, plant a garden. Stay up late and look at the stars. Find the joy, find the beauty. It’s there if you look.

  1. Let the little kid in you come out and play!

I’ve often described Burning Man as a “playground for adults”. It’s like you get to be 8 again only you get to drink. You can dress the way you want, wear your hair anyway you want. The other day I took all my makeup out and played with garish colors I’d never have the nerve to wear in public. I parted my hair down the middle and hated it and then curled it and then did it all over again. When I was done, I tried on clothes and played around with outfits just for fun and took a bunch of selfies. It was fun. You can start a YouTube channel if you want. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is you make time for fun. Start coloring again, do a puzzle. Make a mess in the kitchen. Create a new recipe, move all your furniture around, have a fashion show with your kids. Get on your hands and knees and garden if you’re lucky enough to have a yard. Pay with your pet. Create something out of nothing. If you’re lucky enough to have a partner, spray one another with whipped cream. Why are you holding back? What are you waiting for?!

  1. Laugh every day

Sometimes Burning Man was so hard I lost my sense of humor. Then I remembered I wanted to be there. I’d paid to be there. I’d asked to suffer. However, we didn’t ask for this, and I had a rough day a few days ago where I found myself slipping into despair. I knew what to do about it: I reached out to my network of “friends” on Facebook. I simply posted, “My sense of humor is gone today. I’m having a moment. Please send memes” and sure enough, I ended up with 97 comments. People responded with a mixture of some of the most hilarious memes and well-wishes. Making jokes and laughing doesn’t minimize the very real terror that’s going on in our world, but we have to cope. There’s nothing funny about the collapse of the economy and everyone being out of work. But we are all suffering together and how can you not find the funny in people hoarding toilet tissue?? Humor is essential to our mental health and also strengthens your immune system. Find the funny anywhere you can. Right now I’m all about the memes and the coronavirus parody songs all over YouTube. 

  1. Go with the flow and stay optimistic

Someone asked in a Facebook post today inquiring, “how are you extraverts doing in quarantine?” They’d said they were an introvert and loved the social isolation but realized how difficult it must be for outgoing folk. I responded it was a very real challenge. Some of us like to spend more time outside our tents than inside them, and that can be a very real challenge during this quarantine. When I’d get overloaded on socializing at Burning Man I’d simply go back to my tent. But I remember the last year we went, we had a dust storm that lasted for hours, and it was extremely frustrating. We were missing so many activities and classes that were scheduled and wouldn’t be rescheduled. We laid there, the tent shaking and dust flying in, and all we could do was literally pray our tent stakes were hammered in securely enough. When it wouldn’t subside, we realized the tent was secure, and decided to grab a deck of cards and a snack. The wind monster was vicious and unrelenting, and waiting it out was all we could do, so why not have a little fun?

The Big Quarantine of 2020 is eerily similar; our homes have become our jail cells. We feel trapped and out of control and can do nothing about the invisible enemy that threatens our very lives if we leave the safety of our “tents”. Waiting it out and finding something to do is monotonous when you think of all the fun you’re missing. The key is to find the fun and the enjoyment and the meaning right where you are right now.  Worry solves nothing. Worry changes nothing. Go with the flow. The news changes practically daily with governmental guidelines. Roll with it. We are powerless. You can hunker down in your tent and feel paralyzed or you can sit up and play cards and grab a bottle of wine. It’s YOUR choice. 

If you or someone you know is really struggling during this incredibly difficult time in our lives, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. 

Also, most mental health care providers continue to provide services via TeleHealth.

Quarantining can escalate domestic abuse. Please get help if you need it at 1-800-799-7233

 

Breaking the silence

I didn’t report because the man was my first husband, and I didn’t know any better. Oh sure, on some level I knew that being forced to have sex against my will wasn’t “nice”, but I was raised to be a “nice” girl. 

Two-plus decades later, I am reminded of that relationship that I had buried.

A byproduct of the #MeToo movement, #WhyIDidntReport has become an national obsession. I have spent much time scrolling and reading through the heart-wrenching tweets of sexual assault victims from every corner of the world. And as I read through them, two over-riding themes seem to keep resonating with me and that is that victims often don’t report sexual assault because they feel one, that somehow they caused it and two, they feel ashamed–too ashamed to tell anyone.  Compounding this shame, victims often are not believed when they do have the courage to report. I’ve read way too many stories of male and female police officers who patronizingly say to victims, “it’s your word against his/her and no one will believe you.”

And then of course, the creme-de-la-creme is our own president standing up and mocking a sexual assault survivor on national television. (see https://youtu.be/AWv1ipoi-c8)

Is it any wonder victims just keep silent, until they can no longer keep silent??

Here are a few common responses to #WhyIDidn’tReport

1-the perpetrator was a family member

2- the perpetrator was a boyfriend/husband

3-the victim was a child when the abuse occurred and had no frame of reference to even suspect it was a crime

4-the victim had been drinking

5-fear of saying no (due to fear of being harmed further)

6-not realizing it was sexual assault until many years later with the perspective of time, maturation and knowledge (especially when others are brave enough to come out about their own stories–victims’ memories are often triggered upon hearing a story similar to their own).

And the most common mind-fuck of all are the perps who told their victims a variety of excuses to keep them from reporting:

1-“What did you think was going to happen?”

2- “It’s not rape if we’re dating/married”

3-“No one’s going to believe you”

4-“You’ll destroy this family”

5-“If you tell anyone I’ll kill you/harm your family”

6-“I’m your boss–I’ll fire you if you tell anyone”

7-“You asked for it…look at the way you’re dressed”

So it boils down to this: sexual assault victims often don’t report because they internalize that they caused it to happen, and in turn become ashamed that they “caused” it and simultaneously were unable to stop it, which causes the victim to feel responsible and therefore what’s there to report? That they had poor judgment?? That they got themselves into a situation where they “should’ve known better”??

We can use any type of sexual assault to make the point that from the perspective of the victim, they have to endure yet more trauma if the assault is reported. Have you ever stopped to really think about what a victim must go through to have a rape kit taken? Imagine you’ve just been sexually assaulted and have gone to a safe place. You tell someone. Hopefully this someone believes you and encourages you to call the police. The police show up and tell you you need to have a rape kit done to “prove” this assault took place by this perp.

The cop has probably advised you not to shower, not to even use the restroom as precious evidence can be destroyed. In your traumatic emotional state, you’ve got 72 hours to get to a doctor or hospital who’s trained to do this procedure. Not all are. You’ve been advised not to change clothes or even comb your hair. In this traumatic state you’re in, you hopefully have your supportive friend/partner drive you and take you to have the rape kit examination performed. They are encouraged to remain with you at all times during this  extremely invasive act. Thanks to the Violence Against Women Act (see https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-113s47enr/pdf/BILLS-113s47enr.pdf)  states are required to provide sexual assault victims forensic exams free of charge.

In addition to collecting your clothes and an all-over external body exam (for bruises, scratches, etc.) getting evidence for a rape involves a vaginal/genital and rectal exam. This can often feel like a second trauma, and any victim who is brave enough to have this done needs to have it taken seriously. I am mortified and angered that there is a backlog of rape kits that have been ignored and untested due to a ridiculous law that law here in Wisconsin that “doesn’t require the police to send in DNA samples when they already had a suspect, because legislators were more concerned about rapists who were unknown and on the loose.” (see https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.postcrescent.com/amp/483761002).

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford took a lot of criticism for “waiting 35 years to report”, and so may thousands of sexual assault survivors came forth to tell their stories of why they too waited so long to report. Without trying, Dr. Ford started a movement empowering survivors to be heard, thus the #WhyIDidntReport hashtag.

So much more can and needs to be done for sexual assault survivors. I suggest it starts in the home; parents, we need to be better communicators and teachers of both our sons and our daughters. Sex ed needs to go way beyond “the birds and the bees” to “no means no”. We need to have conversations with our children from the time they’re very little all the way through the embarrassing teenage years to educate them on how to behave in their personal relationships. Our sons need to be taught that girls want boyfriends and will often allow boys to go farther than they really want to so they don’t lose them, and our daughters need to be taught self-love and how to have healthy emotional boundaries. Our sons need to be taught that their bodies are their own; that it’s ok to say no to pressure to be sexual before they feel ready, and our daughters need to be told that it’s not ok to pressure their boyfriends for sex. We need to be constantly vigil for things that don’t add up: an uncle or coach or teacher or family member that’s overly involved with our child and be willing to risk being wrong to protect our children. We need to be on the lookout for female predators to protect our sons as vigorously as we do male predators and our daughters. AND IF YOUR CHILD HAS THE COURAGE TO COME TO YOU AND TELL YOU SOMETHING INAPPROPRIATE HAS HAPPENED TO THEM, FOR FUCK’S SAKE BELIEVE THEM!!! Do NOT betray them by saying Uncle Jerry ‘couldn’t possibly’ have done that to them. Or their new step-dad or step-mom, new step-brother or the friend of someone in the family. BE VIGILANT AND BE THERE FOR YOUR CHILDREN!!!

And we need our lawmakers to take sexual assault more seriously. Here’s what can be done RIGHT NOW:

1-Trump can make law RIGHT NOW cancelling all statutes of limitations on reporting of sexual crimes. So even if it’s 35 years later, the perpetrator can still be prosecuted.

2-Rape kits need to continually be tested whether or not the victim has given consent. This is a quandary not everyone agrees to, but IMO, victims often change their minds about pressing charges even after enduring reporting and doing a rape kit for fear of repercussions from the perpetrator. These victims need additional protection, not invisibility.

3-We need to change our collective mind-set as to what constitutes “proof” of sexual assault. It was reiterated over and over and over during the Kavanaugh hearing that “no corroboration exists” to “prove” Dr. Ford’s allegations against him were true. SEXUAL ASSAULT HAPPENS IN SECRECY. THERE ARE USUALLY NO WITNESSES. We need to have a different burden of proof other than “who else was there that can tell us this really happened?” because nearly 100% of the time, no one else is there. If victims don’t seek to have rape kits, yes, it often becomes a “he said/she said” issue and yes, the burden of proof lies in the accuser, NOT the accused. In this country we are presumed innocent until proven guilty. I don’t have the answer but we need to address this.

4-We also need to collectively realize that not all sexual assault results in rape. Dr. Ford never said Kavanaugh raped her. She said he “sexually assaulted” her. Sexual assault takes many forms. It can be attempted rape, it can be sodomy, it can be groping and forced kissing. (see https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_assault)

4-We need sex education classes in schools that do more than just talk about menstruation and secondary sex characteristics. Teens especially are thirsty for information on how to behave on dates, on social media, and at their jobs. We need to teach our children about CONSENT. We can supplement what parents teach and support parents by taking an active role in making sexual and social behavior a normal and common topic of discussion.

5-Lastly, GET OUT AND VOTE IN NOVEMBER!!! We need male and female persons to replace the GOP and it’s misogynistic attitudes towards women. Through our votes, we can change the future.

13 Myths You (Hopefully Don’t) Believe About Abortion

  1. Women “want” abortions. No woman “wants” an abortion anymore than we would “want” a root canal. But if you need to have one you should be able to get one. Period. Women seek abortions in a desperate attempt to end an unwanted/unintended/unplanned pregnancy. It’s the hardest decision a woman will ever make.
  2. If Roe v Wade is overturned, it will end all abortions forever. No law will ever stop women from getting abortions. It will only stop legal and safe abortions. It will make it harder and more unsafe, but not impossible. Abortions will never be stopped as long as there are unwanted pregnancies. It is legal elsewhere in the world. More women will die but they won’t stop trying to end their pregnancies by any means possible. (see https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/31/opinion/sunday/abortion-banned-latin-america.l)
  3. Outlaw contraceptives and you’ll reduce the number of abortions. The complete opposite has been proven to be true. The less available birth control is the more unwanted pregnancies will result. Duh. (see #11)
  4. Women can be forced by the government to remain pregnant. Only if they’re chained to their beds like in The Handmaid’s Tale. See Myth #2.
  5. The unborn baby has more rights than the mother. No it doesn’t and it shouldn’t. A living, breathing person should always have more rights than someone who doesn’t yet exist. A fetus/unborn baby cannot survive outside the womb before 24-25 weeks (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fetal_viability). The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in 1973 that “criminalizing abortion…violated a woman’s constitutional right to privacy” (Justice Harry A. Blackmun, January 22, 1973, Roe v Wade).
  6. Women who seek abortions are mostly teenagers. Of the 1.2 million abortions that are performed each year, roughly half are over the age of 25. Only about 17 percent are teens. About 60 % have given birth to at least one child prior to seeking an abortion. A disproportionately high number are black or Hispanic.
  7. Women who seek abortions are selfish.  Bringing a child into the world that isn’t wanted is an incredibly cruel and selfish act. Unwanted children are at increased risk of juvenile delinquency, psychiatric disorders and long-term resentment of the child by the mother (see https://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/6926988) Most women who seek abortions already have children and are concerned for the emotional and financial welfare of their existing children.
  8. Women who seek abortions are promiscuous, immoral sluts. If they are, then so are the men that impregnated them. Women cannot become pregnant themselves.  (check out this recent Twitter sensation https://www.scarymommy.com/twitter-anti-abortion-unwanted-pregnancies/)
  9. Men are not affected by abortion. Men are people too and have a variety of emotional responses to the women they’ve accidentally knocked up, but most not only encourage their partners to get abortions but feel guilty and relieved afterwards. Men and the women they impregnate should be able to decide for themselves whether or not they’re ready to become parents. Not the government. (see https://melmagazine.com/8-men-on-what-it-was-like-when-their-partner-had-an-abortion-4f55c9671d0 also https://www.google.com/am/w/www.vice/com/amp/en_us/article/m5794/abortio-affects-men-too)
  10. Pro-Choice means anti-life, anti-religious, anti-human-rights, anti-God.  The religious right made it a moral issue in 1979 with their self-named “Moral Majority” and Jerry Falwell. Prior to that it was little more than just another medical procedure. The evangelicals’ self-righteousness has no place here. We have the right to religious freedom which also means we have freedom FROM religion. It’s called the First Amendment.  To force everyone to live by YOUR beliefs, that’s call tyranny. If you are an evangelical Christian and find yourself with an unwanted/unintended/unplanned pregnancy, don’t have an abortion. I won’t tell you what to do with your body. Don’t tell me what to do with mine. How about “you do you, I’ll do me”???!!
  11. Women use abortions as a birth-control method. The majority of women who have an abortion have only one, but the more restrictions there are on available birth control methods, the more abortions women will need to have. A 2012 study of more than 9000 women found that when women use no-cost birth control, the number of unplanned pregnancies and abortions fell between 62-78 percent (see “Trump Contraceptive Move Could Lead to More Abortions” https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.nbcnews.com/news/amp/nca808581)
  12. Abstinence until marriage prevents abortions How many of you reading this are never-married virgins?? Yeah. I thought so. (see “Abstinence only Means More Abortions” https://www.google.com/amp/s/salutemag.com/2018/03/07/column-abstinence-only-means-abortions/amp/)
  13. If men were the ones to get pregnant, not women, they’d overwhelmingly support giving up their rights to control their own bodies. Did you laugh out loud just reading that???????!! Of course they wouldn’t. Nobody tells a man what to do. Men tell women what to do. America is a patriarchal society. Women continue to be treated like second-class citizens. Men would NEVER allow laws to be made to control their bodies, their lives, their choices, yet they think nothing of doing it to women. THIS SHOULD INFURIATE YOU.

 Restricting access to abortions and birth control simply endanger women. 

Source: https://yalelawjournal.org/feature/before-and-after-roe-v-wade-new-questions-about-backlash

So what IS Burning Man??

I should be packing right now instead of writing this.

As the days grow close to leave for our three-day road trip to the Nevada desert where Burning Man is held, there’s so much to do to prepare. First and foremost, it’s held in a barren desert 1584 miles away, and this is not the kind of camping you can just run to a 7-11 if you forget anything. The nearest store is 100 miles away. There’s no cell service. There are no trees, no insects or animals, and no campfires. No electricity, no running water. Just literally a 4-square mile flat surface covered in an alkaline baby-powder-like white clay dust called the “Playa” (Spanish for “beach”). You bring literally everything you will need to survive the seven-day extreme camping experience. Last year the highs were in the hundreds and the lows in the 50’s.

So there’s camping equipment, food and water for each person for seven days, proper clothing and all the necessities you can think of. Think “survivalist” and short of catching your own food, you’re in an environment that’s trying to kill you the entire time you’re there. We subsisted pretty much on canned tuna (out of the can, mind you, eaten with a cracker) and PBJ sandwiches and applesauce.

Last year, our first “Burn”, we had joined a small camp, but we were pretty much on our own. For example, one of the biggest stressors we had was our shade cover. With daytime temps at 102 for the entire week, and with sudden wind gusts of up to 75 mph, your shade structure will literally save your life during the day and if it comes out of the ground it will kill someone. Hammering into the rock-hard surface of the Playa is quite a challenge. We did have a couple wind gusts and our shade structure kept flying up in one corner or another and threatened to pull out completely.

This year we’re thrilled to share an established camp with approximately 200 campers and not even have to even think about a shade structure as it will be there when we arrive. We had biked past them last year on the way to the Playa and saw what an awesome set-up they had. Everyone’s tents were tucked safely under an enormous black tarp that was secured so well it could easily withstand the angriest dust storm. We contacted them and were excited and thankful they had room for us!

You may be asking yourself, “why would anyone go to such a place?” and, “What IS Burning Man??”

It’s not a festival or an art show or a hippy drug scene or a place where a bunch of bands play. It’s really indescribable, but I’ll try.

It’s a barren place where 70,000 people come from all over the world to create a city called “Black Rock City” just outside of Lovelock, Nevada. This city sits in a half-circle formation, with made-up roads and street signs and made-up addresses (this year, the theme is “I, Robot”, and all the street names are various robots from literature and TV and movies). Most people camp in tents but there are those who “glamp” instead and come in RV’s. There are always a smattering of celebrities who fly in to join established camps (we call them, “plug-and-play”) but to really get the most out of the experience, you should sleep in a tent you put up yourself.

I was trying to talk a friend of mine into going with me this year as I was able to acquire two extra tickets, and thought it would be super fun to go with friends. She said to me that it didn’t sound like a very fun “vacay” to her. And it’s funny how we all have our own ideas of what a “vacation” is. To her, it’s a five-star hotel with a pool and cocktail service; to me, it’s wearing pasties and goggles, using a porta-potty, not showering for a week and riding around on my fat-tire bike exploring the art and the Temple of the playa at Burning Man.

It gave me pause to think, and I’d say that more than anything, Burning Man is a spiritual retreat. It’s a place where there’s universal acceptance and love. It’s a place that’s “governed” by something called the “10 Principles of Burning Man” https://burningman.org/culture/philosophical-center/10-principles/

You don’t even use your “real” name. You are given a “Playa” name by someone while there and what you do in the “default world” (back home) no one discusses. You leave behind your “real” job/career, and all your baggage. You get to dress anyway you want. Ties and suits and the costumes we wear every day to be societally accepted are traded for pasties, tutus, Indian headdresses, T-shirts/shorts and often, no clothing at all.

Imagine a world where people give one another things and expect nothing in return. The first time I was given something was the first day we arrived; at the gate, we got hugs. We biked out to see the “Man”, who’s 75 feet tall and is burned the final day of the event, and we’d parked our bikes to go inside the structure he was built in. A woman was standing aside the entrance and asked me if I’d like a necklace she’d made. I said, “sure!” and she put it around my neck. It was so fun! I was like “wow!” And that was just the beginning.

My favorite gifting moment happened was one morning, I think it was our third day there, we were starving and hot and exhausted as we’d barely slept due to the constant thump-thump-thump of music all night long. We’d biked to get ice (one of two things sold there–ice for your ice chests to keep your food cold and coffee at Center Camp) and we were riding back down one of the “streets” and there stood in the middle of the street was a woman dressed as a wizard. I thought she was a mirage. As we approached, we saw she was holding out a platter of fresh-baked cinnamon rolls. She was giving them away. She never said a word. She stood there smiling, and we took one each and said thank you, and I burst into tears. It was one of many gifting moments that brought me to tears. How was she able to bake cinnamon rolls in this unforgiving desert?? And how sweet they tasted in our much-weakened physical and emotional state.

One night we biked out to the “Ditrikt” area, which is where all the fun is–flame throwers, the “Thunderdome”, all the crazy and there was a camp that was offering free grilled cheese sandwiches! Sure we had to stand in line for about an hour, but we chatted with others in line and made new friends, and when that sandwich touched our lips, let me tell you, it was orgasmic.

Another time, a camp was offering a free slice of pizza. When you’ve eaten nothing but canned tuna for four days, let me tell you, it sounded like heaven. We waited in line again for a long time, but the caveat at this camp was you had to agree to let them spank you. Seemed a small price to pay.

I got to choose the weapon–a small board or a plastic wiffle bat? I chose the board. I was hyped by this point. It was no small spank. My butt cheek was bright red for the rest of the day.

Mmm. It was worth it. Pizza will never taste as good again as it did that moment.

And so on it went. Every day spectacular things like this kept happening.

So there’s the half-circle area where all the camps are, and all day long there are are events and activities offered by many of them, ranging from yoga at sunrise to “Strip Karaoke” (yes, I did that one hehe). You can attend a class on how to give proper oral sex to a woman and AA classes. There’s absolutely something for everyone. You’re given a booklet at the gate with all the activities and addresses and times for everything; it’s impossible to do everything you want to do because there’s just so many fun things all going on at the same time.

And then there’s the Playa, where all the art is.

The art installations are beyond phenomenal. Most are so gigantic, as you ride your bike up closely you become so awed by the enormity of them as well as their significance. Many you can climb on as if it were a child’s playground. One was a 2-story life-like doll with hair that flowed in the wind, who was led on a crane and spoke to the crowd as she danced her way across the playa. There was a castle shooting fire and a giant jellyfish made of stained glass that when the sun hit it just so, it was a kaleidoscope of colors. There was a 2-story sized metal hummingbird that had a lever you could pull up and down and make its wings flap. And many, many, many more. As you ride out with all the other 70,000 or so people to see all the art, it’s quite a spectacular experience.

As the sun sets and everyone’s bikes are illuminated , it becomes a whole different scene. My favorite are the art cars, or more commonly called, “Mutant Vehichles”, which often have a DJ spinning tunes with awesome sound systems. We didn’t realize this until the last day that they’re for public transport! You can leave your bike somewhere and just jump on and ride it and rock out with whoever else is riding when you jump on. My favorite was a “shark” car–like all the others, it was lit up with thousands of LED lights that blinked to the bass sound. We rode around a little and then jumped off and got on an art car that was an actual boat–a yacht and the theme was Jimmy Buffet and the DJ was of course playing nothing but Jimmy Buffett and they had a bar on board and offering free margaritas! So many smiles everywhere we went.

We heard everything from Frank Sinatra to Raffii and everything in between. Lots of EDM which I love. The pulse and energy of the playa is tangible. You can be anyone you want to be at Burning Man, and for me, being stretched emotionally and physically beyond what I ever thought I was capable of, was life-changing. I wrote in a journal every afternoon so I wouldn’t forget what I was learning about myself. There were so many amazing moments of pure joy and I didn’t want to forget any of them. In my suffering, I found a self-acceptance and love I’d never felt before. Who am I really with all creature comforts stripped away??

I came back a more grateful and alive person; I remember seeing my friend Kelly for the first time after we got back and when I saw her, I just threw my arms around her and hugged her and sobbed. I had a new appreciation for how much my friends mean to me. She was a bit taken aback and asked me if I was okay. I was more than okay! I was alive! I felt great! She asked that question I still can’t answer; “how was Burning Man?” and I just smiled through my tears.

My take-away from Burning Man is this–all we need is each other.  We don’t need “things”, we need experiences. We need joy and touch and fun and music and food and dancing and conversation. “Imagine”, as John Lennon wrote, “a brotherhood of man”.

I can’t wait to go back! I leave in 3 days!!

I’d better go pack now!

Ghosting ain’t nothing new

If you millennials think you invented “ghosting” well haha I’m here to tell you you did not. I’d say you have perfected it though.

Back in the day, if a man lost interest in a woman, he’d stop calling her. All we had back then were landlines, and then–answering machines! I remember when they were invented: it was so fun customizing your “greeting” and people got very creative. Everyone tried to be cutesy with recordings like, “Hey! I’m out doing something amazing and exciting and can’t get to my phone right now! If you want me to call you back, you have to leave me your number!” Because back then, there was no way of keeping someone’s number other than writing it down somewhere. My favorite recorded greetings were snippets of popular songs that I felt reflected my awesomeness, such as, “She’s simply Irresistible” by Robert Palmer. You know, a not-so subliminal way of reinforcing that dating me was a good idea.

Gone were the days when someone could lie and say, “Well, I tried to call you”, when the phone would ring and ring and no one would be there to answer. So now there was no excuse! If you called someone and they weren’t there, you could leave a message! This was exciting new technology! It was so fun to be gone now and come home to see the bright red digital number of how many missed calls and messages that were waiting for me while I was out in the world!

Some answering machines only allowed you to leave a 30 second message and others several minutes, and it was common for a person to have to call 2-3 times in a row to finish their message! You could make plans, cancel plans, and and it was the birth of ghosting. Suddenly we could talk into a machine and tell someone things we wouldn’t be brave enough to say to their face. Like, “hey, last night was great but my ex and I got back together.” Or worse, he’d stop calling. Simple as that. There was nothing worse than having a great date with a guy and then coming home from work or school and no “missed calls” from him. I remember that painful feeling well. I’d obsessively make sure the machine was plugged in and turned on, and days turned into weeks with no contact from said guy. I eventually got the hint, but not before I cried tears of anguish and frustration wondering what happened?? Did I misread everything??? How can I be beautiful and amazing and a great kisser on Saturday night but spoiled chicken by Monday??

The 21st century equivalent of “not returning missed calls” is called “ghosting”. And now we have texting, which to me, is really like leaving messages on an answering machine, except if you’e got your “read” on, that person knows whether or not you read the message and basically chose to ignore it. I remember well checking and double-checking to see, “is it plugged in?? Maybe he called and there was a black-out!” Or the dreaded, “did I even have it turned on???” Because back then answering machines had to be turned on and off–“on” when you left the house and “off” when you got home. And when someone called and called and you wanted to “ghost” them, you simply turned your machine on when you were actually home and “screened your calls.” And you’d sit there on your couch, watching TV, and hear the landline ring, and cringe while the person you just had a fabulous date with calls and calls and leaves desperate messages while you sit and listen, because there was no way to turn it off without them knowing you were sitting right there.

Pretty cowardly, weren’t we? We all did it. I did it mostly to debt collectors and cold sales calls. And my mother, rest her soul. Her timing wasn’t always good.

And so fast-forward to the 21st century where we’ve got the technology to ignore one another in many different ways–Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat for starters. We can “unfriend” and “unfollow” and ghost one another several different ways. Technology has given us the ability to treat each other shittier than ever.

I’ve done it myself–deleted, unfriended, unfollowed people who either never read the messages I sent them or took so long to respond I forgot I’d even written them. I assume I’m so far down their ladder of importance they probably wouldn’t notice anyways.

Going clean and swift with all methods of contact is probably the least confusing, the metaphorical ripping off of the Band-Aid. What does it mean when someone won’t return your texts, yet looks at all your Snapchat stories? Are they still interested or not? There’s this mucky-muck purgatory we get put in that keeps us from grieving and moving on. Do we hold onto hope that maybe you DID get arrested or in a major car accident and are physically unable to contact us? We go from being terrified something bad happened to you, to praying something actually did to explain your sudden lack of contact.

I really don’t get how hard it is to say, “hey, I met someone; if things don’t work out maybe we can chat again soon, you’re really awesome and I really enjoyed getting to know you.” Especially in a text, because it’s a way to let someone down easy and give them closure. It’s better than hearing nothing, and it’s a way to sidestep actual contact with another human being when you have to tell them something they don’t want to hear, which is, you don’t want to date them anymore. Make up a story goddamn it! Thats what white lies are for. Tell us you had a job change or hell, try the truth. “I really enjoyed our time together but I think maybe we want different things/met someone new/ we’re not a match.” Give us closure so we stop hoping and checking our fucking phones.

It’s cowardly and cruel and rude. There’s really no other way to look at it. Because if you’ve been dating someone, and it’s going really well (sex or no sex)–if you’ve got back-and-forth messaging going on and then POOF you disappear without a trace, that person is left holding their phone in their hand, staring at it constantly the way we used to stare at our answering machines, looking for clues. We’re left wondering what we did wrong. Why won’t you talk to me anymore?? Our self-esteem takes a brutal beating.

The “not-knowing” never really goes away. We get stuck in a limbo of self-examination and rumination, and the only way to really recover fully is to label that person a poor communicator at the very least, and at most, a douchebag. Otherwise nice people do this, and it’s frankly, shitty.

Basically ghosting is more about you avoiding feeling uncomfortable at someone else’s expense. It also is a sign of a lack of maturity; it confirms that you’re really not worthy of me anyways. I would never do that to someone I had an intimate relationship with, whether it was two dates or two months. Have the decency to end it like a grown-up.

I asked a twenty-five year old guy friend of mine what he thought about ghosting and said he does it too. Everyone he knows does it, but after talking awhile, I gave him pause to consider how the other person felt. He felt horrible, but said something really interesting–that sometimes (especially guys) ghost because in this right-swiping world, there’s just so many options, and he isn’t really “not interested anymore” but rather just distracted for the moment by someone more available. Or sluttier.

He said ghosting is a way to stop contact “temporarily”. So giving hope to the ghosted is intended. “I might come back” he told me,  and I said, “Yeah but would she have you after you treated her so terribly???”

He nodded and sighed, “Maybe the girl that gets ghosted is the one that got away.”

Hmmm.

“Monogamish”

I have always been interested in people and why they do what they do, but recently I’ve become curious about marriage, monogamy and non-monogamy. Why do so many marriages end in divorce? Is it just a matter of choosing the “right one” or are we being set up for failure? Maybe it’s because I’ve been married now (happily, I might add) almost a quarter-century. I look at my role models–my parents were married just shy of 59 years when my mother passed away. How happy were they really, I wonder? What goes on between a husband and a wife behind closed doors is what I’m really curious about. And not just the sex they’re (probably not) having.

What I’ve come to believe is that our Western view of marriage is actually harmful to relationships. Seriously, how can one person be “everything” to another human being??? We expect the Disney “happily ever after” which is nothing more than a set-up of unrealistic expectations.

Even though we live in a time of blended families and legal gay marriage, the belief that there’s just “one” out there for us that will “complete” us sets couples up for disaster. And holding hands with this belief is that we will never be attracted to another person of the opposite sex ever again now that “the one” has been found.  This person, this “one”, will be your best friend, your confidante, your only sexual partner. The person who helps clean up after sick kids and sick you. Brings home the bacon and fries it in a pan. You’re a whore in the bedroom and Martha Stewart in the kitchen. You’ll never gain weight or let each other down because you’re “in love”. These are just some of the myths and expectations that lead couples to think they’ve failed at marriage and lead them to divorce. How many of these do YOU believe????

It’s a fact that modern marriage does not work for most people. In fact, recent statistics show gay marriages are just as likely to end in divorce as heterosexual marriages (http://brandongaille.com) . So what’s going on??? Why can’t people stay married?

Maybe that’s the wrong question to be asking.  Maybe we should be asking whether people should get married at all; if maybe marriage is an out-dated concept (it IS an “institution” after all, and I don’t know about you, but just thinking of it as an institution kinda makes it sound scary). Think of it as it truly is–marriage is a business contract first and foremost. You don’t need a contract (hippies of yesteryear proclaimed this an unnecessary “piece of paper”) to have a romantic relationship with someone.

First of all, too many women focus on their Disney wedding and not enough about the hypothetical “happily ever after”.  Our society reinforces it with bridal shows and event planning and finding the ‘perfect dress” and the “perfect venue” not to mention choosing all the food and the song list for the DJ. How many couples sit down and actually discuss what monogamy really means to them? I know we didn’t; monogamy is our society’s default setting and it’s just assumed we all know what that means. Couples today have challenges my parents’ generation didn’t have (and mine didn’t until a decade ago) thanks to technology. What IS cheating today? “Liking” another girl’s Instagram pic? Wishing your ex a happy birthday on Facebook? Having coffee with an attractive married co-worker? The lines have gotten blurry and couples need to have these conversations whether they’re just dating or considering marriage. It’s not as black and white as it may seem.

We have been brainwashed to believe that we are only capable of loving one person at a time, and that we are monogamous by nature. We are NOT, and that’s probably the biggest reason most marriages fail.  Did you watch the most recent “The Bachelor”? Did he not fall in love with two women???? And being that Disney produces the show (no big surprise there) he MUST choose only one. And all the scandal is about the damage he did in doing so–one woman’s soul crushing vs. the other woman’s joy at being “chosen”. I personally despise the show’s entire premise as completely unrealistic and ridiculous. However, I would give anything for it to end with all three of them getting engaged and living happily ever after. Not polygamy folks, polyamory. Quite different. I’m guessing Disney wouldn’t like that very much.

We try to fit into boxes that we can’t fit into and drive ourselves crazy trying to. Add the fact that we are terrified of telling one another we have the hots for the gardener or the hot new IT chick and you’ve got a simmering pot of shit waiting to boil over. “You must not love me anymore” we cry hearing this and run to the nearest divorce lawyer. This is why most people are “serial monogamists” and hurriedly seek a new relationship thinking they’ll find something different. Rinse and repeat.

I’ll never forget a friend of mine who’s husband punched another guy in a bar for “looking” at her, “his wife”. I was horrified. And this is what is reinforced in our society! Our spouses are our property–look at the verbiage we use! “Taken off the market”, “She’s mine”. It really doesn’t sound romantic to me at all to be referred to like a piece of livestock. We also think we have a right to know our spouses’ every thought. I know I did. We think we should have all their passwords and access to their phones. We don’t trust; we play detective instead. And don’t get me started on religions that punish those for “committing adultery in your mind.” Complete rubbish and completely disastrous to any marriage. Fantasy is healthy. Sharing fantasies is healthy and sexy.

Why get married at all? Do you believe that it’s necessary only if you plan on having children? Or do you believe that everyone “should” get married? Moreover, what does 4,5, 6 decades with the same person— “til death do us part”–really look like to you? And does that “piece of paper” really make a difference, other than cost you around $30,000??

I remember that feeling of having “joined the club” when we got married. Society sanctions marriage in financial and social rewards. “Just living together” belittles the emotional tie between two people in assuming that they’re not serious: “shacking up” as Dr. Laura would say, as if we’re still living in the 1950’s. Goldie Hawn and Ken Russell were the first celebrity couple to buck the system and lived together over two decades without the “benefit” of marriage. And they’re still together today. 35 years going strong. No “piece of paper”.

It’s my hope that today’s young couples who’ve been raised with technology, who’ve had multiple sexual partners before deciding to “settle down” are able to have the kind of conversations my generation didn’t think to have until we had to have them. In this right-swiping world we live in, where there’s more choices and opportunities than ever, it’s my hope that couples will decide for themselves what kind of a relationship they want to have. We need to support more and judge less. Why does a relationship have to end in marriage to be legitimized?  Why do couples ask, “where is this relationship “going”???  Does every relationship have value, or only if it leads to “I Do”??

We’re in the 21st century now folks. It’s time for our relationships to be more flexible and less rigid and expansive to include all types of partnerships, not just the “man/wife” and “gay/gay” models the political agenda is force-feeding you.

******

P. S.  I urge every one of you to read a great new book out called “Stepping off the Relationship Escalator” by Amy Gahran.   https://offescalator.com

You can also follow Amy’s blog at https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/79349178

Enlightenment

It’s time to write something! LOL I’ve had the flu AND pneumonia for the last 2 weeks and my friend asked me, “oh!! So you’ve had lots of time to write in your blog!!” To which I responded, “I WISH!!! It’s kind of hard to write when you’re curled up in a fetal position with a fever between 103 and 104 for four days straight!!” I’m on my second round of antibiotics with a new ailment–a terrible sinus infection, and my pneumonia wasn’t gotten rid of with the first round of antibiotics.

I don’t know about you, but when I get sick, I get spiritual. And fortunately, I really don’t get sick often. Which means I really don’t get spiritual often. I don’t get colds. I get sinus infections seasonally, but I’ve been a pretty healthy person my whole life.

Laying on the couch shivering, crying for relief, seeing the daylight outside and realizing how much I’m missing out on. I missed seeing both my adult kids last week; we had to cancel a gig, and I am supposed to be in beautiful sunny Southern California right now visiting my father and family and friends. But I’m not. I’m here. On the couch. And I’m super annoyed being sick and immobile.

I go inward. I realize I couldn’t do cancer. It’s given me such an appreciation for those who’ve suffered through cancer or any other chronic illness. I’m too much of a wimp. Because I actually felt like I was dying that first trip to urgent care. I gave up. I was too sick to care. I just wanted it all to end. Of course I just wanted to feel better but the mind goes to scary places with such high fevers. I hallucinated all sorts of strange things and places I can’t really remember now, but as I’m finally feeling better, I feel like I’ve been on a spiritual journey.

I believe the mind and the body are connected, and we don’t just get sick from “germs”. The immune system becomes compromised, and something’s gotta give. In my case, I think I was not only just having too much fun (what can I say? It makes life worth living!!) but also, stuffing down some feelings I didn’t want to feel.

So my body said, “hahaha Lauren, I’m going to MAKE you feel and think the things you don’t want to think and feel. You will do nothing but feel and think for two weeks.”

And it did.

Suddenly, I found myself crying a LOT. It was almost like I was pregnant again! Crying over every little thing, and coffee smelled and tasted horrible. And this is someone who drinks coffee all day long. What the fuck was happening to me??? Everything felt more profound than it ever had.

What I realized was, I hadn’t grieved enough over becoming an empty nester. I had tears, sure, when both my kids moved out, but the daytime silence must’ve been getting to me more than I realized, as I made sure I was home less often. Busy, busy, busy is the way I like to be, and I’m never bored. I have a full life–I love my band–I have a great group of friends and family and I’m never at a loss for something fun to do or someone fun to do it with. Spontaneous trips out of town, dinner out, a hike, a bike ride or just an impromptu trip to the mall, I’m always up for something fun to do.

But having been a stay-at-home-mom for 22 years, I hadn’t realized that I was directionless, as happy as I claimed to be. And we had decided to sell our home and move to the big city in a cute little condo, and I hadn’t let myself feel how sad saying goodbye to our home was really going to be. So the Universe directed me where I needed to go, and that’s where I’ve been for almost 2 weeks now.

Prior to becoming sick, I started doing a lot of cleaning and un-cluttering. There’s so much that goes into preparing a house for sale, and without realizing it, a lot of feelings had welled up that I kept down like holding a beach ball under water. Certainly they were destined to pop up. I started to think about how much I missed the simple days when my kids were little and I didn’t even know how much money was in the bank because we didn’t need any. We had so much fun anyways. Walks with little kids is miraculous and can take hours as they stop to notice every bug and leaf on the way. I used to take them to Pet Smart and we’d be there for hours watching all the birds and guinea pigs and mice and fish. And it was free.

And in realizing they were never moving back home I believe was the precipitous moment that caused that first domino to fall.

I know in my head that I’m so lucky to have raised two kids who are ambitious, smart, and love their independence. And when I’d get sad for them I would tell myself, “Hey Lauren, you could still have them here, smoking pot and playing video games.” So yeah, I’m SO proud of both my kids and know they’re just like me–there’s no way they’d ever move back. I never did and I know they wouldn’t either. And that’s a good reflection on my parenting that I did something right.

But I still miss them.

And it’s funny, when you’re in the thick of raising little kids, people tell you to “treasure these times because they grow up so fast” but your head is spinning because you haven’t had enough sleep for years, you need to go to the bathroom but you can’t, and if you do you always have someone with you. You neglect yourself for so long it becomes a habit. I remember those years quite well. I loved every minute of it and don’t feel like I gave up anything. I got to be their mom, every single day. It was me that drove them to school and it was me that picked them up. When they got sick it was me that took care of them. My husband and I agreed before we started our family that we’d never put them in daycare. And we never did. And I know we made mistakes and looking back, daycare wouldn’t have killed them. I should’ve made time for myself and not martyred myself like I did, but I didn’t know any better. But I don’t regret any of it.

So now I’ve got all this free time and this big house to myself, and it’s a double-edged sword. I love and value my independence and feel extremely lucky that I don’t “have” to work. I have the time now to work on my writing, which is what I’ve always wanted to do. But there’s this huge void in the silence as I accept that this chapter of mommying is over. I’m sure it’s not unlike retiring from a career you loved. Your identity is wrapped up in that job and when it ends, you have to redefine yourself.  Suddenly, a new purpose needs to fill that void.

So that’s what I needed to grieve, the loss of my 22 year career being somebody’s mommy. And I know that I’m still their mom, and they still need me, just not the way they did, and that’s the whole point. I raised them to NOT need me in their daily life anymore. They’re successful, independent people with their own lives now.  In the words of my daughter, we now get to be “best friends”. It’s wonderful. Seeing them so happy allows me to live my own life. I’m so grateful.

So I’ve sweated and sobbed and felt the pain of closing the happiest chapter of my life these last 2 weeks, and I’ve come out of it sober, caffeine-free, and seven pounds lighter. As the meds kick in, and the fevers have finally stopped, I am looking around me seeing the beauty of my life and the wonderful chance I have now to redefine myself and this next chapter.

Time to re-visit my bucket list–I’ve realized that I want to travel more. I want to go everywhere and do everything. I want to see animals and other cultures. I want to learn a new language and learn about Eastern religions. I want to live minimally and shed the things that no longer suit me.

We’ve decided to wait on selling the house. My husband admitted he had similar feelings of sadness cleaning his office. So many happy memories; were we really ready to let go? We will do the necessary repairs we’ve put off and enjoy a quiet home with nothing broken for the first time in decades, and when Christmas comes, there will be room for everyone. The condo will have to wait.

Thank you illness, for the spiritual path you led me on. I will pay closer attention to my feelings and try to feel them as they come up, however painful they may be.