Sunday, April 18, 2010
A silent time is coming to a close. Having spent the last few weeks in a mostly meditative state shutting out the electronic world with minimal exception, I feel that I have come to the anniversary of Caleb’s death with an open heart, open ears and a deeply felt sombre respect for the man that captured my heart and mind.
Caleb Schaber was in touch with his self in a way that few of us ever reach or even dare to seek. The path he walked was of his choosing. He knew who he was and what he wanted to communicate. Caleb had crystal clear vision of injustice and railed against it in words, art and action. This did not make him popular in all circles and although he cared not for popularity sometimes he found himself lonely for human companionship. His social graces were occasionally hidden under the crush of post traumatic stress yet he was one of the most sensitive and caring individuals I’ve ever met.
Drama and theatre were often the tools he used to express or draw attention to injustice or moments of profound need for creativity in our sad world. Witness: the monolith project in Seattle (January 1, 2001), April Fools Day events on University Ave., his Fountains of Presidents at the Blue Moon Tavern and his campaign for Mayor. Art, writing, music, theatre and protest all rolled into one volatile soul, Caleb affected people wherever he went.
To carry on his memory and honour his spirit, I have decided that, in future, my own campaigns against injustice will divert from my serious side and I will stretch to find the fun, the drama or the aesthetic of the message in ways that Caleb could appreciate. We shared a railing against injustice but he was more effective in gaining attention and a response than I have ever been. Although my campaigns have eventually made change possible, I admired deeply Caleb’s sense of fun, drama and his immediate impact.
Last night I spent several hours in silent meditation on the beach of my childhood, mere yards from the home where I was molested, a place where I often felt panic. That beach was my refuge as a child and seemed an appropriate spot to put the horrors of my childhood to rest along with remembering Caleb, the man who expected me to ask more from my life. Caleb insisted on intellectual and emotional honesty and challenged me to overcome the old tapes that held me back, the warped attitude that allowed me to continue in an abusive but secure relationship. Caleb infused me with the confidence and courage for this path.
The skies were grey and moody, the waves noisy and crashing, the sunset dull and uninteresting - perfect circumstances for focussing on thoughts of Caleb’s death. I spent the time of contemplation at the beach camped out burner style – pack it in, pack it out. I ate foods Caleb had introduced to me, burned candles that last burned in his company, I listened to music he chose to mark a special moment for us, I read Robinson Jeffers, I wrote a letter to Caleb in a book of memories I’ve created, I gathered potential art materials from the detritus on the north shore of Lake Erie, I recorded the sound of the waves for future meditation, I wore black - sexy black not my usual librarian black, I wore the scarf he gave me from Peshawar and I wrapped my faux fur around me against the cool wind. Then I gathered driftwood to burn and sent my thoughts to his spirit as I sprinkled a few ashes from our Frog Pond memorial last year on the flames so he knew his friends were there too.
Caleb Schaber lived big and he chose drama for his departure too. His spirit lives on in many of his friends and burns brightly in my heart. I couldn’t get through all this current court drama without the courage he infused in me. I wish he had stayed to witness the outcome of his love but I know that I channel his energy every day. I will be forever grateful for the short time we spent together and for his many friends who I’ve come to meet and know.
Have you chosen how you will honour Caleb’s memory and his gift to you? His spirit will live on in your actions and memories too. Help me to keep him alive in this crazy, mixed up, sad world – rail hard against injustice just as he would, be sensitive and care for each other but now let’s find the outrageous, the creative, the drama and the fun in life again.
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Violence against women is a personal experience for me. And I have the answer to why women don’t leave violent relationships. Are you interested?
Having lived in the virtual world for several months, I finally woke up last month to face my real one. This is that tale!
Let me tell you why women don’t leave. Right now, I’m forced to beg for $209 a month from welfare. I haven’t eaten a proper meal in three weeks – reservation cigarettes are cheaper than food so I chase away the hunger pangs by smoking between snacks of peanut butter and crackers. The electricity will be cut off on Tuesday and the gas will be cut off on April 1st. Now my house is being sold out from under me and I’ll be homeless momentarily.
You wonder why a visibly healthy-looking 40-something woman with obvious skills can’t work to support herself. My scars and wounds are invisible! I’ve had the life sucked out of me for 17 years and then just when I find the courage to get rid of this abusive animal, I face the best and worst part of my life.
I meet Caleb, spend 8 months with him – loving him, receiving his love and trying to help this wonderfully talented freelance journalist recover from war-time PTSD, then he dies. He doesn’t just die though, Caleb did life and death in a big way. Caleb shoots himself because he can’t stand living in an America for one more second that won’t help him get health care to get rid of the nightmares from Iraq and Afghanistan. He does this in front of me, splattering blood and brains all over me as I try to stop him.
While in an almost comatose state from that experience, I have been unable to hire a lawyer to protect myself from my ex-husband who has taken all of our retirement savings, the pension that I helped him earn, the good car and our vacation trailer. He’s living in a condominium with the belongings he trucked outta here while I was away helping Caleb. Now, last Monday, he drove the final dagger in. He and his fancy-pants lawyer forced the court to give him an order to sell the house we both worked for. I’m standing in court on Monday and the judge won’t even listen to me because I have no lawyer but I get to pay court costs!
So on Thursday, without my permission or consent, a real estate agent puts a sign on the lawn of the house I’m living in. The only way I can get online (at least til Tuesday when the electricity is gone) is to borrow an open connection from my neighbours (with permission) by sitting in the front of my library. Sitting here I can plainly see the real estate sign and dozens of cars slow down to look at my house and I cry. The last thing that I have any part of in this world is being taken from me. I finally got frustrated enough on Friday to tell the real estate agent that he can’t show the house so I’m probably going to be in jail after the next court date on March 29th for contempt of court for finally telling someone off.
Not that I haven’t tried to get help, mind you. Fighting against all the stuff in my head and the druggy haze of anti-depressants, I have sought legal help. The legal aid system is broken. I am qualified but there isn’t a single lawyer who practises family law that has been available for any of the court dates that have occurred. The only lawyer who has assisted me is the free one at the Womens’ Shelter and she is not allowed to represent me after giving me a one hour consultation a year ago!
The solution to keeping the house, I have been told, is to get financing for the remaining mortgage ($70,000) and find $40,000 to pay to my ex-husband for his share of the equity. Who on earth is going to let me sign a mortgage when I have been unable to work for almost a year! And if there was such a person wouldn’t they also be the type to take advantage – I was offered a 12% mortgage when the current one is 0.85%!!!! What a sick world.
I have worked nearly every day from 12 years of age until I was 48 and witnessed Caleb’s death, I have used up the sickness benefits or employment insurance benefits that are available and now I have had to start a monthly begging routine for welfare to get $209. And if there were a good Samaritan in this world to help me, the abuser would get paid $40,000 for taking advantage of me for 17 years. Or I go homeless (or to jail or a womens’ shelter) and penniless because he’s already told the court he’s taking all the equity when it’s sold or at least the part of my share that isn’t taken to pay his court costs. Grasping at straws, the other day I phoned my ex-husband about the stocks he bought me for my birthdays – he laughingly said he had to sell those to buy his condominium but he was upset because he had to unload some at a loss!
I have contributed so much to this world and this community that I live in that my volunteer hours beyond my regular work life are uncountable and yet I have been unable to find one lawyer to represent me in court, I have been unable to ask one friend to help in the real world except the ones I begged last month for a little money to travel to get some help I needed to get healthier, nor will I have a pot to piss in after this house is gone! What is wrong with this world!
I’ll tell you what’s wrong – this world is set up to suck money and spirit from hard-working people to line the pockets of the war industry, big pharma, stock brokers, bankers, real estate agents and lawyers. And abusive men. That’s what’s wrong.
If I had $1 for every hour I’ve contributed to good causes and organizations in my lifetime, I could buy my house from an abusive animal, I could find the courage to return to writing and contribute again. But I don’t. Where is that money? It’s in the pockets of the war industry, the pharmaceutical companies, the stock brokers, the bankers, the real estate agents, the lawyers and the media conglomerates who won’t pay for real content. That’s where it is!
Women stay in abusive relationships because they see all their sisters in the same boat that I’m in – homeless or in a womens’ shelter - and they figure it’s easier to take one for the team once in awhile, still having a roof over their head, clothes on their back and food on the table. And they witness the real estate agents patting themselves on the back by pretending to fund womens’ shelters while getting paid to flip the houses the women and children used to live in!
Right now in this moment, I could ALMOST take the asshole back because at least I would know that I could barbeque and eat the frozen steak I would put on my black eye! Ah, there’s the beef!
ALMOST, yet there remains a spark inside of me that craves life, love, liberty from abuse and a happy home. Some day the goddess will provide the courage I need to ask for what I crave! Besides steak is over-rated!
Saturday, February 6, 2010
moments from which memory creates life!
Sparks are the beginnings that light a raging fire. In our hearts and in our souls.
2009 was a year with many sparks and many fires - these are the blessings that will light the way - my way into 2010.
Caleb ignited parts of me that had been hidden behind a brick wall created to shun abuse. He tore down those walls leaving my spirit more exposed yet truly alive. His suicide shattered the foundations of my world.
The goddess or the spirits have seen that sparks were needed to re-ignite this once-passionate soul. The individual words, actions and healing thoughts of many have finally coalesced into a recognizable whole, finally shedding light for the future. The gratitude I feel for the small, yet meaningful interactions over the course of this past few months is immeasurable.
I had lost my way and though the exact path is not certain, there is light.
My burner family expanded ten-fold this year to include Caleb's real friends and many new ones. My Inbox saw many take a moment when it was needed to send a brief note to ask me to question my path and to send a healing thought with love. Dick and Becky, Risky and the whole eplaya gang allowed me moments of fun and laughter. Tribe's Radical Life Institute gang gave me meaningful purpose. When the banter became too much for this darkened spirit, individuals reached out to me. fko, UberSatan and Lonestoner know their role. Soon, I'll be back to send sparks into that virtual world again. The playa will be my home again this summer too.
I am sustained by the burners in my immediate camp: the Black Rock Beacon. Our purpose and our devotion to it may seem like a speck of dust in the storm of these troubled times but they are real and they are my chosen family.
Stewart, a friend and mentor of Caleb's, shared my deep sense of loss and knew it was right to bring me to Woodstock to work again. It was a safe place to be in October. I couldn't work well but the exposure to journalism at that moment was critical to show me where my passions lay. I wish I was at Sundance at this moment but I am not ready to work quite yet. There are other parts that need to heal. Thank you Stewart - you were the right dose of medicine at a turning point. Ilene and Gabriel and new friends at Joe's Cafe reminded me of the professionalism I need to harness again. Tong reminded me of the backbone to life - our vocation is our gift and our touchstone but it is not everything. I will write again. I will love again.
At home at last, and alone, I fell into the open pit of despair. My companion: the black dog. My connections to the community severed by long months of neglect were unable to realize or comprehend where I was.
My children, long since grown into emotionally vibrant and healthy young men, were suddenly afraid of this stranger in their midst. As I reverted to an old almost-dead pre-motherhood set of tapes running in my mind - they knew not how to react. As most of us do, the path they fell into was unconsciously chosen. Robert became the caregiver, Jason the emotionally distant disciplinarian. As I now begin to come out of the dense fog, I hope they can also grow back to their real selves and consciously chose their path. Fog is a dense thick soup that envelops, even mires those closest to us. Even when hurt is unintended, they cannot help but be affected.
A chance meeting with regimental friends in November, held up a mirror showing me that despite my best efforts to pretend all was well or would be soon, I had more to learn. I cannot be the dynamo I was, not anytime soon. Every time I try really hard, I fall flat on my ass and the black dog jumps me again. My friends of long ago have lived with this daily for a couple decades - the Balkan and Somalian war experiences shattering their youthful faith in peace which we learned together in the 70s.
My idealistic views, having only recently been shattered, were still calling me to change the world. The blank, hollow spirits I saw reflected in their eyes showed me that humanity really is as ugly as it sometimes seems. The visions they have seen snuffing out our shared view of the basic goodness of human nature. Yet, they carry on fired by that youthful spark of peace-keeping. Their worlds are purposefully shrunken to include those closest to them - its the most they can manage on a good day with PTSD ever hovering near. It is likely that my world view needs to shrink too and that the circle I can sustain will be smaller.
Many people are hounded and a holiday party put me in touch again with the counsellor. A man who has suffered yet can harness his experiences to share when needed. Brad is not the only square peg in the burner community, there are many of us. He has plumbed the depths of his experiences to find a way forward to build his dreams - a vibrant young family and a consultancy to sustain them. Some days you can do more, some days less - face the facts, he counsels. Taymar too, shares his hard-earned wisdom. As do Kerri-Anne and James. Our core values need to be nourished by sharing with those who know the depths to which the pit of despair can envelop one's spirit.
Flying Spaghetti Monster can throw havoc into a well-ordered slide downward. Grasping at me to participate and haul me back to reality, friends planning a pastafarian party tried really hard to suck me back from the further depths. Briefly and within a single day which was a flurry of activity, I finally fell over the cliff and into the bottom of the pit hitting my head on the way down. Arriving unconscious, days later with a recipe for Flying Spaghetti Monster cookies in my hand.
Introversion is a productive place for me. I find myself when I'm alone but the world needs to kick me hard to draw me back sometimes. And kicking is what this world is good at. The suicide of another burner's partner pushed me further and more deeply into a virtual world I had joined during these lonely months of wanting nothing to do with humanity. I chose to spend countless hours slaying dragons. Occasionally, I would be able to respond to the real world through FB chat. Unfortunately there is an off button so you can shut it out completely at your choosing. Many attempts to reach me have gone unnoticed or unanswered.
Your chorus of "flicking bics" has jolted me on occasion. Realizing that there is a world beyond castles and dragons, I am awakening from the hit to my head and the blow to my heart from Caleb's death.
There is an infallible truth that wherever you go, there you are. Even in the virtual world, you are who you are. I don't entirely understand but in that game, I found parts of who I am. When building a character, suddenly there you are. Parts of me, long forgotten, emerged. I love to teach and this game offers that as one of its foundational paths to success. Building an active, engaged and vibrant army of supporters is a path to success in that game as it is in life. I found a way to succeed there and share some parts of who I am that have been hiding lately. My character is a dynamo who helps, nourishes and does battle against evil forces.
In that virtual world, I have nourished my self - giving myself permission to be who I am. I developed a circle of loyal friends to fight the forces of evil in Valeria. We have shared laughs, delightful victories, moments of sheer panic in battle and bitter losses.
But there came a moment when I lost myself in that virtual world too. The old tapes crept in there too. I have a fundamental character flaw that has affected parts of my real life and now are visible in my virtual life. For some reason, I have an appallingly low self-esteem which is jarring for people to realize given my capacity for dynamic activism. I am capable of giving everything that I have - all my time, talent and treasure away to the point where I am completely incapacitated and unable to give any more. This is true in real life and in this virtual world.
Fortunately in this virtual world, I have nourished friendships from the game to engage with people in chat about real life. Even when I was unable to respond to the sparks from real life friends, some virtual friends could get through. There are four who have shaped my recovery and these are not unlike my real life guides. In fact, it is as if, the spirits knew who I needed to attract.
Dia is a wise woman capable of the most frank conversation I have ever experienced. She reminds me of Janet - one who is a real life guiding force and who is pissed at me for not responding to an email that was buried in a flurry of dutiful emails from the pack and only found just now in a moment of light. I will be in Seattle someday again soon to see Phil and E'ireen and will purposefully seek out Dia to thank her in person for the gift of clarity she has brought to my virtual world. I will reconnect with Janet through this story and again next week after my pending adventure.
Mitch is a man of very high standards who has an angry streak that shook the virtual world with the force of his truth speaking. Mitch and I have battled together for months trying to raise the standards of education, cooperation and smart battling among our armies. I consider him a brother. When he resigned abruptly from the wolf pack, it made us all realize the unsustainability of our volunteer efforts there. Truth speaking has made us all re-evaluate not why we contribute but how. Anger is a valuable tool when it sparks corrective action.
Father Wolf is the spirit leader in Valeria. His gift is grace and wisdom and a delightful humour which shines through all too infrequently. His real life burdens are immense and yet he guides the way and gives when and where he can, especially to teaching. He reminds me of my real life minister in many ways. One of the first calls I made when Caleb's blood was still fresh on me was to Father Pat. His words ring in my mind giving me the strength to carry on. "Your emotional love for Caleb was vibrant enough to allow him to share his highest highs with you but also he trusted you to share his lowest low. Caleb loved you enough to leave this world for his next experience in your presence. Violently yes, but you will recover."
And last but certainly not least, is Chris, a Valerian general with a loyal army of clickers who assisted on many important battles and rescues. Our facebook chats became the highlight of my days and nights and hours when I could not participate in real life at all. I actually was unable to tell night from day and any aspect of real life could not penetrate. Just now noticing that my phone has been disconnected sometime recently!
One day about a month ago, I had a conversation with a new character, introduced as Chris' nephew in real life. That character and I shared an interesting chat but my emotional need was at a critical point that day. When, at the conclusion of that chat, I asked for him to contact his real life uncle, he agreed. That contact didn't happen for three weeks which felt like an eternity.
During the last three weeks I was truly plumbing the depths, only briefly taking notice that real life friends joined the game to find out what had absorbed me. And until Chris contacted me on Tuesday with his confession about the nephew being him, I was truly at the point of being completely lost.
No, I was completely lost.
My breaking point arrived last week when I was asked to relive a moment-by-moment recounting of Caleb's death. This "professional" is a proper ass and incapable of comprehending the damage done by that simple enough exercise. Even my capacity to perform in the virtual world vanished abruptly in my return to that state of shock that I was in on April 17th. For brief hours or minutes since, I was able to summon my skills to the task at hand in the virtual world - collapsing in confusion at my exhaustion. A mirror image of my real life.
But the bottom has one saving grace: it shatters that mis-guided pride in self-reliance and allows a scream for help to emerge from the lips or keyboard of the troubled soul.
Finally, the spirits that guide this world brought me the assistance I needed. Dia and Chris joined forces to wake me from my destructive path. Each not even aware of the other but relating the same story to me using the same words. How can that be? One on the east coast and one on the west, neither even directly connected in Valeria and yet both shook me with the same words. Do spirits really communicate to us? Are guides sent to us? I have witnessed it. I have been awoken.
Now as I prepare to depart on a real life adventure to meet a virtual Valerian general, Chris, in person*, I know that I have been awoken. I have done more for myself and my own future preservation in the last four days than the last four months. The clarity of my thoughts is becoming real not virtual. I'm engaged in a new adventure - part virtual, part real and I will return next Friday to finish some important business in real life. My online involvement for the next few days will be sporadic but focussed. I'll travel with the pack when I can get a connection.
I'm baaaaaaaaaaack! Keep flickin' your bics, the messages are getting through and the fog is lifting.
* friends, I'm not insane, a safety plan is in place although I have an absolute certainty of thought that it is not needed. And my damaged brain is working again so I am capable of making that statement responsibly.