I didn’t forget you on the 20th. I was busy learning a new skill!

My landlord – you know, my problem child, Rich – is a home renovator. He’s working on the property a friend has neglected damn near to death. It’s in Bear Lake, so I figured while I’m unemployed I’d learn some new skills and earn myself a free vacation.

I invited Galen, to mitigate the sexual harassment I could expect from Rich, with whom I drove up Thursday night, in order to get a head start bright and early Friday morning. Galen would join us Friday, and play on the lake all day. I planned to wile away the hot hours of the afternoons there, and work again ’til sundown.

California’s fires blew into the valley and, I’m telling you, you could hardly see the lake! Galen decided against the two hour drive. If he was going to paddle around in smoke, he might as well stay close to home.

Oh shit.

Rich vacillated between begging, whining, groping, pouting, and the aggression we know so well, when I repeatedly said no.

He’s a full-grown raging man with the mentality of a 5 year old. He’s the biggest victim I’ve met in all my life. Besides incredulous, I’m beyond feeling. Well, irritation. This again? It’s such a hassle. It’s more work than painting an entire trailer!

I hate baby boomers. I didn’t understand that it’s pervasive. I knew only my father, a good Mormon, and Marko, an extraordinary exception who simply never saw anyone as anything other than equal.

I made a dangerous assumption that Marko’s friends were like him. I really did not understand that these men do not understand festival ethos and culture, and don’t care to learn. The open-hearted exchange of energy that builds there is not an invitation to bodies. For grizzled voyeurs, however, it’s precisely that: a panoply of scantily-clad bodies on display like a pastry counter, theirs for the choosing to tickle and niggle and grind and grab. These perverts cannot be made to understand that women’s bodies are not theirs to manhandle. No means no, not keep badgering me. Coercion is not consent. Women are not coin slots you put alcohol in and tits-n-ass come out.

Someone said, “The loss of privilege can feel like oppression. It isn’t.” These rapey, infantile men just scream. I hate them.

In fairness to Rich, he didn’t block the exit of a 14 year old girl and “talk her into” having sex with him. I have no doubt Zafod’s been doing so for decades. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. His rape charge was reduced to sexual misconduct with a minor, with a kidnapping enhancement. I know exactly why he chose a child. Grown women make noise or make an escape. Barely, in my case. In 2011, he got caught. Poor young girl. Probably affected her so deeply, she couldn’t hide it. Makes me so sad and angry.

(Incidentally, this week would have been Burning Man. As you know, I give myself a year off of my traumas. It resolved relatively on its own, a while ago. We’ve done a little work on it in therapy, but generally I’m interested in healing the deeper traumas that have led to the inability to trust my gut, build boundaries, or value myself. Not being raped and abused is not asking too much. How ’bout that?

It’s a matter of learning to listen again to my intuition and believe it, without guilt. It’s hard for victims of childhood abuse to trust their instincts. It’s too complicated to understand how your caregiver can attack you while claiming to love you, so a child turns off the ability to protect herself. The message is I’m not worth my safety.

EMDR has done a lot to heal my brain. I recover faster. Also, I had that satisfying experience last year of using my words and finding exactly the right ones. I owned that room! He couldn’t leave, and I didn’t require him to stay. I didn’t even raise my voice. My tone alone stopped him, dead calm and in charge. He didn’t say a word. I accused him face-to-face of lying, entrapment, and sexual assault. His shoulders slumped with a sigh and he nodded. And still, he remained seated. I excused him! It was so empowering.)


So Rich threw fits when I asked for instruction and feedback.

“I’ll just drop what I’m doing inside then and do this!”

“I’m not asking you to do it. I’m asking for guidance. I’ve never painted before.”

“You paint all the time!”

Art. Years ago. I’ve never painted a house.”

When I got the instruction I needed and got rid of him, I enjoyed great music and being outside. We only went to the lake once, for an hour. I told him I wanted to hit the water once a day. He wholeheartedly agreed. Not surprisingly, he lied.

I did not enjoy painting the minutiae. For three days, Rich had me on window sills and edge trim. I saw the trailer in its original state, when I went to Bear Lake in July with Zack. I made Rich promise not to paint the exterior without me. I really wanted to experience that exciting reveal. I had told Rich that I wanted to finish the entire exterior that weekend. Did he think that was possible with just the two of us? He said yes.

In other words, he knew darn well what I was volunteering for. It was on the drive that he informed me we’d paint only the deck side exterior wall. The rest would be back[neck]-breaking tedium. I expressed my concern, that that would take skills I simply didn’t have. Anyone can get the basics of painting a flat-ish surface and be trusted not to ruin it entirely. I am not a construction worker. I’m a volunteer. I needed guidance to do the job he roped me into, and I wanted the high of that WOW transformation.

I was anxious that I was making all kinds of mistakes. I don’t have a frame of reference for what “right” looks like, or even good enough. And it isn’t mine to experiment on! Mistakes are costly and time-consuming. I don’t know what I’m doing, so I continued to ask for reasonable progress checks.

“You’re doing fine!” he barked, angry.

“I think so, but I’d like you to double check.”

Annoyed as possible, he hardly glanced at my work. “It’s fine!” he shot back. “I can’t hold your hand!”

“I’m not asking you to. I want corrections. It’s not mine to ruin.”

I got punished for checking my work, so I didn’t. He can’t say I didn’t try.

I did the best I could, and unknowingly dripped all over the underside of the innumerable angles I painted. You have no idea how many! Oh my god, these tedious boards took THREE days to paint, and fix, and paint again. Do you know how much labor and time goes into sanding latex off of a long, fine edge? He’s such an idiot!

painting minutiae

Reco’nize what a Princess can do!

window sills 2
window sills 3
window sills

Finally, on the last day, I got the satisfying reveal I longed for! I’m so proud! I have to say… TOTALLY WORTH IT! I learned the hard stuff the hard way on someone else’s project, and have no doubt that I will be involved in the learning and labor of crafting my own someday home.

Next weekend, I will drive up with Galen so as not to get trapped with that old, angry, sexist, presumptuous manbaby. I will work in the cool hours of the day and play in the afternoons. I will paint the exterior, as promised, and assist where and when I’m able, if I desire it. I don’t care what he says. I told him all along I considered this a working holiday. We didn’t holiday at all. We hardly ate. (I didn’t lose a pound!)

I told Rich what I was available for. He tricked me. As for sexual harassment, I hold myself responsible for putting myself in any kind of situation with him. I know what to expect. He took advantage of me. It’s what he does. I can’t hope for anything else.

Free labor, for the love! Be gracious. In what way can you make yourself a victim in this? That’s entitlement for you. Stuck in permanent mindset of mine, mine, mine.

I adjusted. I made it an opportunity to confront fear of the unknown, flex new muscles, and gain new knowledge. We’d been unable to build a temple for Element 11 this year, since burn events worldwide were cancelled. I saw right away what this weekend was going to be, in spite of what I’d communicated and Rich agreed to, and saw an opportunity to gain confidence for the build crew next year. Maybe even come in stronger! It had been very intimidating to volunteer last year, when I had no skills.

And look what I did! IN ONE DAY! In the end, I’m glad I only painted one side. The juxtaposition with the janky remainder makes it all the more satisfying. Weeee!
exteriorpainting exterior

I love painting houses! I want to play with a paint spray thingy!


the best thing

I’m really proud of that choice. I’m excited to keep doing the work. I hope to feel less judgemental about my family’s unwillingness to look any deeper at our collective functional ability, and more grateful for my strength and willingness to do so. I like the future that intention brings to my life, and that’s all I need to concern myself with.

I do feel alienated and alone. They don’t want to participate in anything below the surface. To them, our time together would be great if I’d just shut up. They don’t recognize that we share that. I never bring it. I leave my politics at the door until it begins to feel dirty not to voice a different view. Unfortunately, by then I’m upset, and we’ve never learned to navigate differences or challenging emotions together. Never. Consider that. It’s crazy, and it’s my reality, my whole life.

They don’t see a problem. It’s my problem. It’s not a far leap to perceiving that I am the problem. I get it. I’m the scapegoat, as far back as I recall. The most maddening thing is that I actually am! I fall so neatly into my part every time I cross that threshold, it infuriates me. I feel powerless and disgusted that I CAN’T resist my role in their context.

Intellectually, I can give myself a break, inasmuch as I can’t do it alone. Emotionally, that feels like a lie. I’m a failure. And seething! Every time I visit.

I cannot change a systemic problem alone… I am alone… I can’t go.

Mom disowned me again last month, when I told her why I wouldn’t be coming home for the holidays. The anxiety that starts in October. Anticipating the rhetoric, feeling at once disregarded and erased. I DON’T MATTER. That’s all I get from them, whether they mean it or not. It’s the truth. They don’t care to shelve their ideology long enough to maintain neutral space where everyone feels included and valued. I’m the only one bothered by that, so get over it. You don’t matter.

It was pretty watershed, actually, my fight with mom. We both got emotional, started our bad habits, and we both reigned it in! Again and again, in one really hard conversation. For the first time in history. Seriously, in all my 46 years, we’ve never had a painful discussion that didn’t devolve into screaming and abuse, both ways.

It was a sad victory; I regret hurting her. And I’m mad, still. It’s not unreasonable to ask my family to choose impartial topics while I visit. I’m not safe there, and I’m not lying about it anymore. I sent my mom an email pointing out our success. We returned to respectful tone, repeatedly. Progress! But she was fully triggered by then and went crazy via text, saying all the insane things that show me how much further down the rabbit hole she’s falling the older she gets.

(And just like before – all the befores – she activated the “phone tree,” and they circled the wagons. I’m blocked from every number. Except my oldest brother, who’s a big sinner like me, and never goes home.)

The truth is, my mother is fragile. She’ll outlive me, most like, but she does not have the resources anymore to cope with any stress or upset, at all. The end. It’s on me.

I accept. It’s a sad truth of my life that my family is a dictatorship, not a home. There’s no diversity or dissent, or you’re out. You’re bad, intentionally. Fighting is futile, and it only causes pain and regression for the two most sensitive, vulnerable [mentally-ill] people there: my mom and myself. She can’t act any other way, but I can.

We deserve peace, and this is the way. It’s so fucking sad! It feels wrong in every way, but it isn’t. It’s love that accepts what we can’t change. It hurts my heart. I feel it everywhere. In my toes, everywhere! It kills me. It really is the tragedy of my life.

I’ll visit in summer (if/when permitted). I love those babies, and crops of ’em are being born all over the place now that my nieces are grown and married. I play with the kids and don’t go near the adults. I’ll have to pay for a hotel, and that’s fun, too. I guess??? Ugh. All so unnecessary, but nothing else is workable for us.

I’m ready to put that to bed and build my own foundation for lasting, meaningful family. Mine is coming. After a big, scary adventure (Bolivia and unknown travel, solo!), some partnership is coming. I’m getting ready for the life of my dreams.

Ooh! Let’s just write it! This is the truth of what I want, and I have no reason to doubt that it’s mine already:

I want to meet a man whose children are grown. I’m gonna be Grandma Christie someday!!! We’ll live someplace beachy. I have no idea where, but I will live in mild humidity and 80 degrees year-round with another person who looked honestly at the hard stuff and built something new.

And then this hot, middle-aged gal comes along? You lucky devil. You hit gold!

Me, too. Let’s go.

mexico 2010

Mexico 2010

peru 2011

Peru 2011

I want to live where people dance all the time. With a man who gets up and dances.

Headlong into Hindsight 2020!

It’s here! It’s here! It’s actually happening!

Did anyone else do that? Set an intention for Hindsight 2020, when they’d have all their shit figured out? Well, I did, and I marked it a long time ago. Like, 20 years or more.

The confluence of midlife and that symbolic cliché struck me long before I knew what a bitch this shift would really be. I mean, I knew it would be. My early life was painful. I knew it would be the work of my life to process all that.

I planned to have it done by next month, haha! The weird thing is, I do.

2019 was the first successful hard year I’ve had. It was productive. There were so many opportunities to state feelings of upset, anger, and fear without freaking out, and I did.

The thing I have that I didn’t before is confidence. I trust myself for the first time.

The sexual violence I experienced during festival season, culminating in Burning Man, was a trauma I only just released… last week. I didn’t realize how much of it I was still carrying around until I wasn’t.

I’ll never allow predators to remain again. I know it, because I don’t apologize anymore for my limit. I don’t question anymore if I’m worth walking away from people who don’t honor my boundaries. My safety’s not negotiable.

It’s not asking too much. Refusing another chance – when your needs have been stated and ignored, multiple times – is normal. It’s called Healthy Boundaries.

“Actions speak louder than words.” Listen, dummy!

(It takes time to learn a foreign language, and quite literally, boundaries are not my native tongue. It is what it is. I got it now. I probably have an accent that gives away my place of origin, but that’s fine.)

“Fool me once, shame on you… twice, shame on me” is too reactionary. The benefit of the doubt might enrich us both. Show me it was a slip-up, not the norm. Or don’t, but that tells me about you, not me. I’m not shamed by that.

I legit did not know that. I couldn’t connect it to emotional truth, that I really am allowed to call disrespect by its name, and walk away.

believe them

I’ll give one chance more. Fix it or confirm it. Your choice.

“Disregard those who disregard.” That’s my MO. No guilt or guess-work.

Y’all, I know my boundaries for the first time. Take that in. It’s life-altering.

Kids who grow up with abuse have to love the person(s) hurting them. Boundaries don’t form there. I forgive myself for being a perfect target, because I didn’t create the circumstances that made me a victim.

It’s weird that it took me so long. I knew what I knew what I knew… but not really. I knew what I didn’t want. I had an idea what I did. But real boundaries? I just didn’t have any. I couldn’t. I didn’t know what they were. I was ruled by fear of what I didn’t want to repeat, and terror of being found out: I can’t do better. (I’m not worthy of better!)

Well, I am. Let’s build something!

Now, the only thing keeping me from the future of my dreams is inertia. And that’s a big one for me. I’m lazy. I could blame my luxurious, indolent Taurus. I could blame a life of vigilant anxiety. (You hunker down and dip your toe in, never swimming freely.) Yeah, sure, all the things. I could blame. But I’m staring down 50. It’s now. Holy shit!

I’ve joked for decades, “My epitaph will read, ‘Lovingly gave half her life to sleep.'” If I don’t get up now, I will die never having truly committed to any life. I’m sitting, waiting for it, watching. Get UP and make it!

I feel myself very clearly looking behind me at a wild, manic, amazing first half. I see me – oh, wow – aching for that girl, understanding her, cringing and regretting her, LOVING her. I’m so strong! I survived! I fought like hell not to stick my head in the sand that shields my family from reality. I’d rather kill myself than hide from the truth. I LOVE THAT ABOUT ME. I stared down death to live honestly.

What I see now is courage. I had strength without the tools to voice it in meaningful ways. I was screaming for my very life, and that’s how it felt. What I see now is power expressing itself weakly, and it will again, but not as often, and not blindly.

I’m not as afraid as I was, even two years ago. I think that’s about where the shift took place in space and time. The last two years. In other words, now.

I see myself pivoting, with intention, 180 degrees, to look out on a tabula rasa. Its blankness doesn’t scare me. I don’t have to control right this second what might happen out there. I’m going to make what I make, and I’m excited! I want to start walking, now.

A sad truth of this change has been the adjustment of several relationships. Unfortunately, young Christie’s friends aren’t used to this middle-aged lady’s insight. I built those friendships when I was sick, and those patterns of interaction don’t work for me anymore. I’m not operating from weakness, and I’m not apologizing.

I had to leave a decades-old friendship last year. I sent a card six months later for her birthday, a love letter, really. She called. I answered, glad to put it to rest and move on, only to have her start up with justifications and explanations, and a complete lack of awareness. She was still in a fight that didn’t matter anymore. I tried to work through it – I believe in working through it – but we were talking in circles. At the end of the day she confirmed what I saw for the first time six months prior: a woman who will not share responsibility for misunderstandings. I owned my shit and wouldn’t let her off the hook for hers. I deserve friends who apologize when they’re wrong, of their own volition. I do.

She can’t. She’s not sorry. She’s comfortable in a world where I blame myself for the behavior of others. “I’m fucked up. What do I know?”

Not anymore. Level up.

I had no idea she needed to be “the healthy one” until I got better. In 22 years, we had two fights. After the first, I acquiesced (apologizing without reciprocation) because I needed her and didn’t know my worth, so I couldn’t recognize that she didn’t either. After last year’s argument, I couldn’t stay in a friendship that won’t grow with me.

I love her so much, and I know she’s out there with no clue why our friendship is over. She actually thinks it’s because we had a fight. She needs me weak, and if given the opportunity, she’d go over the minutia again, to prove her point under the guise of resolving things, when it’s long-since moot.

That friend is the keeper of my youth and beauty, of joyful exuberance, freedom, and fun! I’m still fun, can’t help it, but it’s different. I’m fun, with edge. And I love my edge! It’s wicked and sharp, still silly and laughing at my own expense, but not… young anymore. Anyway, the pictures in my mind of this sweet friend and me are footloose and fancy free, if anything ever was. We pranced through mountains singing, and swam in glacial lakes – head underwater three times or it doesn’t count – not a care in the world. She’s a hallmark of an unpolluted era. She holds my innocence, and I love her forever.

Moose Falls

Some badass chick I used to know ~ 1995

kayaking Hoback

Adventure Duo! ~ 1995

I wrote about the friendship that changed after Burning Man, the couple I introduced who got married out there and then hung out on Zafod’s art car after he assaulted me. It doesn’t hurt anymore to accept them at their level. They were friends of long standing that I thought of as intimates, but I see now a childish eagerness to make family of peripheral community. They’re friends. Their values are different from mine. Okay.

I like them. I enjoy them. I’ll seek them out at every gathering. I invest nothing more.

One more important friendship is in 2019’s crucible, on the verge of moving from sister to drinking buddy. We’re in process, and I think we’ll be okay, but my new boundaries are being met with a resistance familiar to me now. The equalizing of power imbalances doesn’t feel as hopeful and thrilling to others as it does me, it seems.

“I’m changing,” I told her. “Keep up or don’t.”

I have no delusions that my patterns and problems will go away, but I’m a different person. EMDR is hard. I hate/love it. I’m hoping to love/hate it soon, but one year in, I still can’t sleep soundly the night of a session. It’s disruptive to a brain!

I have gods-honest panic attacks now, not just the white-knuckle, jaw-clenching stranglehold I’ve had on the day-to-day. On one hand, I prefer it. It feels more honest, less monster under the bed. “Okay, you’re real. Let’s face this down and really talk to it.” On the other hand, panic attacks fucking suck.

I asked my therapist if I’m having fits now because growing new neuro-pathways has basically turned me into a toddler. He said yes, haha! It feels like it. It eases my mind a little to think of them as the tantrums of helpless child because, well, it amuses me, and because a phase is less menacing than a condition.

I don’t have a panic disorder. I have control issues, sure, but I inherited those from a scary childhood. I expect it to settle, because I also feel, for the first time, like a mature adult who can handle her shit without losing it.

I DARED, and I’m so glad I did. I see real results from intense therapy.

(Sometimes, when my practitioner passes over the hand buzzers, I still see them coming at me in slow motion. It’s the craziest thing, like I can watch how I used to “pop out,” but I stay in my body now. It makes me feel faint, and I sense my whole body, the fluttering in my gut, the tingling and numbness in my limbs of staying put instead of running away.) (At this point, as a kid, I just started screaming god-knows-what stream of consciousness, and by age 7-8, I was being mocked for how “smart” I was. I couldn’t stop the violence, but I could get in your head.)

I’m not afraid of that screaming thing in me anymore. It kept me alive. It’s the same warrior that made me willing to stare this down, and put it to rest. Real strength is nascent in me yet, but I trust it. I believe it. I can do it. I am.

It’s not my fault what happened to me, but it’s my responsibility now.
go bravelyLooking forward, the only thing I have to confront (that has nothing to do with cPTSD) is that lazy streak. I have to muster up some self-discipline! I got no time left. If I keep sitting, I will actually die waiting for my life to happen.

So, to that end, here are my plans:

Get my ESL certification in preparation for moving to Bolivia to teach English.

Finish my recovery. (Unlike Donald Trump, my bone spurs were real. You don’t get out of Vietnam. You get surgery.)

gross foot

It was so swollen under the bandages, I have to slough that skin entirely. The peeling!

Keep up Afro-Brazilian drum lessons until I can…

Return to yoga and dance!

Audition for Samba Fogo drum corps.

Restring my guitar and start online lessons.

Participate in SLC’s 3rd annual Rock Camp for Womyn.

Build the E11 Temple again (Hindsight 2020 theme!) and join an art installation crew.

Tarot… Actually learn the deck, and do readings at E11.

Cook something healthy at least once a week, for the love! (I’m skinny fat.)

Oh. BULLET JOURNAL! Why have I never done that? Oh, yeah. I’m not busy enough to need a planner. But I love lists, and I love pretty things. Boom, done. Bullet journal.

Write short blog posts. 😆

The end.


gentle power

I didn’t believe quiet strength was available to me until 2019.

(P.S. Two fights in 22 years? [222!] … Ignoring my experience and intuition is my Achilles heel. “I’m tripping myself up” repeating old patterns of unhealthy relationships. Foot metaphors? [I fixed my toe, and relationships are changing.] I love synchronicities, and that’s too coincidental not to notice. *hi, angels*)
repeat repair