Make love, not war

My RL friend Anna has a wit that surprises me sometimes. Anna is a proponent of World of Warcraft. She prefers it there than in SL.

So, when I told her that December lover used to spend more time in WoW but has recently spent more time in SL with me, she gushed, "Awww... the poster children for the 'Make Love, Not War' campaign."

:-D

I wonder if Linden Labs Marketing is listening....

Carpe diem

I wasn't supposed to take on a lover this month. I was planning to take a break. It's a short month anyway, because I would be offline over the holidays.

But, then, during a live music event at the Hideaway, he appeared at the doorway. And he stood there for a long while, looking like a newb who didn't know what to do. Ever helpful little me, I IM'd him to come in and gave him directions on how to start dancing. And we started chatting. After the show, we spent hours dancing at the Blue Note. That night, he didn't get much sleep. Nor the next three nights.

I told him about my history in SL, about how I tend to have a new lover every month. He agreed it would be better to wait until I returned in January before starting an affair. But on the third day, he said it: Carpe diem. And with that, he became my December lover.

He was born more than a year ago, but he rarely came in-world. A gentleman who respects women. A kindred soul who makes me laugh without even trying. A lover who understands what a drawn-out foreplay does to a woman. And, surprisingly, a SLirgin. Well, at least, until last night. ;-)

Someone called him simpatico. I agreed. He is sweet. He said women don't fall for sweet guys. I said women stay with sweet guys. I don't think he believed me.

But maybe he'll break the one-lover-a-month cycle I've been on since I came to SL. Maybe this sweet guy will still be around for January too.

Meanwhile, like him, I, too, seize the day.

Trophy avatars

I've noticed that a lot of men use the Picks tab in their profiles, not for landmarks of their favorite places, but for pictures of their favorite women. And I mean WOMEN; that is, in the plural.

I don't get it. What are these men trying to say? "Here are my conquests"? And that makes them attractive to other women how? As a woman, would I want to be just another trophy to be displayed in a man's trophy case?

October lover once tried to put my picture in his Picks tab; I said no. For one, it's like putting a claim on me and saying, "She's my girl. Hands off!" which would have been fine if we were exclusive, but we never were.

Maybe, that trophy display was meant for other men. But how do we know that the guy actually slept with those women? Heck, a guy can take any random woman's picture and add it to his trophy case. And she may not even know he exists!

So, c'mon, guys. We're not fooled unless you actually invest L$25 and she agrees to put YOUR name on HER partner text box. And if you want to have more than one confirmed partner to display in your profile, then talk to Linden about multiple partner text boxes. They'll appreciate the extra income.

Or, at least, get the girl to put YOUR picture in HER Picks tab, so we can confirm that you actually know each other.

Me? I'm renting out space in my Picks tab -- L$500/week/picture. Of course, the description would have only your name and a link to this blog entry. :-)

Any takers? ;-D

Into the fourth

Maybe it's because of the history of computer gaming that people behave the way they do in SL. In the first generation of computer games, we competed with the machine. In the second generation, we played with other people by shooting each other down or slashing each other with a sword. And here we are, in the third generation, where we use each other.

I understand that it is easy to forget that we are not the only thinking and feeling souls in SL. Sometimes, it's as though we're interacting with machines. And, even if we do keep in mind that there are other souls in here, we behave as though they are exactly like us, that they think the same thoughts and feel the same emotions.

But they don't necessarily. In fact, we encounter more diversity in SL than we do in real life. In real life, most of us have learned to blend in with the communities we live and work in. To a degree, we share the same culture, the same language, the same customs, even the same beliefs and principles. And we rarely encounter people who have nothing in common with us, because we don't frequent the same places that they do. But, in SL, all of humanity's diversity is thrown into the same pot.

Yes, after we get tired of exploring all of SL, we finally settle on a number of places that we enjoy. Still, the likelihood of meeting people who are very different from us is much greater than the likelihood of meeting them in real life. And for that reason, we need more tolerance in SL than in real life.

And an integral part of that tolerance includes respect for the other person as a human being. We may not agree with their views. We may not approve of their actions. But they deserve some respect anyway. Respect for their humanness, respect for their free will.

I have, in fact, met very many good souls in SL. So, in spite of one or two bad experiences, I still have hope about SL and MMORPGs in general. Maybe we're coming into the fourth generation of gaming, where we really are creating an ideal virtual world, not just ideal in the visible and the auditory, but also ideal in its soulfulness.

Happy Thanksgiving

There are many things that I am thankful for in real life, but that's for another blog. Meanwhile, here are the things I am thankful for in Second Life. (I am not mentioning names, except one, but you know who you are.)

  • I am thankful for newfound friends from around the world who share themselves, their thoughts, their emotions, their wonderful sense of humor, and their strange kissing customs. ;-)
  • I am thankful for lovers-turned-friends who remain in my life even as they (and I) try to heal.
  • I am thankful for girlfriends who take me dancing to ease my heartaches.
  • I am thankful for the young ones whose innocence keeps me from straying too far.
  • I am thankful for the very smart people at the ISM who warmly accept me in their midst and give me a chance (or more like a challenge) to learn from them.
  • I am thankful for the whole Linden family who tirelessly try their best, maintaining and improving a complex piece of software.
  • I am thankful for Philip Rosedale for planting the seed from which this world sprung.
  • I am thankful for everyone, whose creativity, personality, and presence make SL endlessly fascinating.
  • I am thankful for all the experiences that SL provides and that I would never have a chance to experience in real life.

And, finally, ...

  • I am thankful for all the souls I have touched and for all the souls who have touched mine. Because, even if everything else in SL is a fantasy, the touching of souls is real.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Listening

I haven't been able to sleep well the past two nights. My lover and I had not been talking or seeing each other much the past couple of days. Three nights ago, I saw jealousy in him; he dealt with it very well. But the following night, he stayed away, and that hurt me. Last night, we both stayed away.

I wondered, if he truly loved me, why did he stay away?

Then it occurred to me. It wasn't until I stopped licking my own wounds that I saw it from his perspective. Here's a man who is wildly successful, intelligent, handsome, charming. And with a healthy self-confidence that stems from what he has accomplished. Many beautiful women go gaga over him and cater to his every whim.

Then he met me. Someone who is unfazed by his successes, his intelligence, his looks, and his charm. Someone to whom he had to prove his character, his ethics, his integrity. Someone who will not cater to any of his whims that go against the grain of her being.

And that shakes his confidence. In fact, it probably even shakes something else inside him. He feels guilt about being with other women, even after I have given him permission. He feels jealousy, because he suspects that I am enjoying the same freedom I allow him. Feelings that he had never felt before.

From the beginning, I warned him that I didn't want the relationship to come outside of SL. He said "for now;" I didn't mean "for now." When he told me he had real feelings for me, I didn't believe him. I tried to explain to him that he's in love with a fantasy, not the real person. How could he be in love with someone he has never met? He refused to listen.

Or maybe, because of my own insecurities, I refused to listen.

This is going to be a bumpy ride and as much work as a real life relationship. And I'm still thinking about it, but,...

Babe, I'm listening now.

Vulnerability in Second Louvre

Headman Taringa recommended Second Louvre. The building itself is a very impressive recreation, although the statues outside the second floor startled me more than once in a who's-that-looking-in-through-the-window way.

There are sculptures and paintings and photographs. But I'm partial to sculptures, so I noticed those first.

I've seen large sculptures throughout SL before, so the huge warrior "Achilles - 2006" at the entrance didn't quite generate a "wow!" reaction. But, hey!, it was worth a photograph with me sitting on his left shoulder. I didn't much like the Sully Wing displays either. And the first floor of the Richelieu Wing had technically impressive, but emotionally barren, displays.

But the Denon Wing had a few thought-provoking treasures.

And the single piece that touched me the most was on the first floor of the Denon Wing, the first sculpture on the left as you face southwest. It is a woman fully covered in armor, which was sliced and folded open at the chest revealing human skin. And she holds out what looks like a can opener. It was created by Starax Statosky. Something about this sculpture held my attention, and I stood in front of it for a long time, searching for why it resonates with me. I knew it had to do with vulnerability, but exactly what? Is it that, by being vulnerable, our humanity is exposed? By offering the can opener to the viewer, is she inviting us to slice open the armor around our hearts too? Or does that can opener represent SL, which allows us to be open and vulnerable in-world, even as we wear our armor in the real world? Or does the armor represent our own avatars that hide our identities but expose our emotions?

Other works worth mentioning are Stella Costello's "What to Expect When You're Expecting Utopia", Heidi Herbst's sculpture recreation of "The Birth of Venus", Meleni Fairymeadow's swan sax, Koee Few's interpretation of Icarus' fall, Abraxas Alphabeta's photograph "Next Dance for Me", and Saeya Nyanda's abstracts.

Death by a thousand cuts

From the start, my mind told me to leave. Nay, my intuition told me to flee. But I didn't listen. I stayed. I let my curiosity get the better of me. There must be a reason why I'm here, why he's here. Or so, I figured.

I gave him my SL heart, but he does not take good care of it. He toys with me. His lies cut away at my heart. A thousand lies, a thousand cuts....

Hermes to the rescue

In Hades, the ground is steep and slippery. Even after you land, it is so easy to keep sliding further down, deeper into the darkness. And I became afraid. The darkness wasn't comforting anymore.

Then Hermes came. In the form of a youth. But he didn't come just then; he was already there. It was a conversation we had few weeks earlier that came to mind. Like the rest of the young folks who snuck into this grid, he thinks it's not right for people to bring sex into SL. I confessed that I was one of those people. Graciously, he said that at least I don't do it "the wrong way."

And that had been true until I descended into Hades with my dark love. The first night seemed harmless enough, but, the following night, something my lover said made me panic. And I knew that, soon, it wouldn't be harmless anymore. Yes, it is only virtual, only a fantasy. But is a fantasy worth losing my self-respect?

I have always listened to the wisdom of age, but I never expected it would be youth's innocence that would save my soul.

So, I return to who I was. I owe it to Hermes; I owe it to all the young 'uns; I owe it to myself.

Persephone returns to the light.

Persephone descending

A new month, a new lover.

September brought sweet tender romance. October was full of strong heart-felt emotions. November starts with deep dark desires.

In one day, I have done things I would never do in real life. November's lover had taken me to the edge of my everyday world and he challenged that edge. So, with my hand in his, I fall into the darkness of my psyche. Down into Hades, where my lover is lord.

And, when I stopped rationalizing, when I surrendered, the soothing comfort of darkness wrapped around me, womb-like. Cradling me and protecting me as I ride the rages of his domain. And, oh!, the power of those rages. He could make me burst into flames, simply with the strength of his desires. And he tends the fire, delighting in it, building it up again and again, until I am consumed.

Like Persephone, I have eaten the seeds of the pomegranate and I am bound to return.... To him. My Hades. My dark love.

Goodbye, love.

One of my best friends in real life explains why his past relationships didn't work: "Because they are who they are, and I am who I am."

It sounds so simplistic. But there's a profoundness in it.

Last night, I had to let a lover go. He is who he is, I am who I am, and who I am hurts him. Don't get me wrong. He's a wonderful lover -- intuitive, sensitive, caring, and generous. In the MBTI, he's probably an "NF", what Keirsey calls the Idealist. On the other hand, I'm an INTJ, a Rational. And when my cold analyses scratch his warm sensitivities, we both get hurt, we both feel misunderstood.

But I have no regrets about meeting him and loving him. With him, I've had many unforgettable experiences, touching moments, and warm memories. And I will look back on them fondly.

Maybe someday, if I'm lucky and the pain has healed, we'd come back and renew the friendship, if not the romance.

But, for now,... Goodbye, love.

Soul contracts

In the book "Journey of Souls," Michael Newton posits that groups of souls make contracts with each other before being incarnated in a new life. These contracts that we make with our soul companions are meant to help each other learn and grow. Even the little things that attract us to our soul companions are part of the contract to help us recognize the other in this lifetime.

A day short of a month ago, I met a soul companion in SL. SL being a virtual world, I didn't realize how significant my soul's contract is with him. This past month, he had been triggering all the emotional issues that I thought I had already left behind. Relationship issues.

Last night, the issue was about jealousy. And, all of a sudden, I was having flashbacks of my marriage. When I couldn't deal with it anymore, I ran away. Just like I did in the past. I understand that I've never really learned my lesson then, so fate brings it up again. Would I learn it right this time?

It's just ironic. That this happened on the anniversary of my failed marriage.

So what happens now?

There is nothing that could make us feel as incredibly vulnerable as an intimate relationship does, even if that relationship is just a fantasy. Trusting someone frees us to open up. If we feel safe, we trust a little bit and open up a little bit. If we still feel safe, we trust even more and open up even more. It's a necessary spiral towards deeper intimacy.

But, when we open up and realize that it isn't safe, we quickly put on an armor. And, more often than not, the armor has long poisonous spikes. So the mere act of putting on that armor hurts the people who are closest to us, whether we intend to hurt them or not. And that pain makes them feel vulnerable, so they also put on their armor, which hurts us back. And the spiral reverses.

Trust is so fragile. So difficult to earn and so easy to lose. And the only way to stop that loss is to take off the armor and be vulnerable again. But, oh!, the pain.

These past couple of days, I kept hearing a song from "Evita" in my head -- the one sang by Peron's lover after Evita arrives and sends her packing.

I don't expect my love affairs to last for long
Never fool myself that my dreams will come true
Being used to trouble I anticipate it
But all the same I hate it -- wouldn't you?

So what happens now? (Another suitcase in another hall)
So what happens now? (Take your picture off another wall)
Where am I going to? (You'll get by, you always have before)
Where am I going to?

My shrink: SL

(I had been trying to keep my SL persona separate from my real life self. And I had planned for this blog to be Opal's voice alone. But writing purely in Opal's voice is very difficult. Opal has very limited experiences. Even though I made her aware of her creator, writing from her perspective can become very two-dimensional. And if I attribute my thoughts to her, how do I explain the source of her wisdom? So I swing from different perspectives. Sometimes, the "I" is just Opal. Sometimes, it's the "I" in real life. But most of the time, it's a combination of both. In this entry, it is the "I" in real life speaking.)

Creating Opal is somewhat like creating a fictional character. Fiction writers have talked about their characters coming alive, such that they talk about those characters as though they were real people. I've even read of a writer (I can't remember who it was now), who said that he just creates the characters and the characters write the plot.

I've also heard it said that there's always something of the writer in the fictional character. That is, that the character is actually just an aspect of the writer's personality. Well, Opal has a lot of me in her. But at some point in the past month, I realized that I've been using Opal to balance my real life. I give her what I cannot have or don't allow myself to have in real life. That includes her looks, as well as her experiences. But creating an entirely new personality is as difficult as telling a lie. And since I'm in-world as much as I am, that can be very tiresome. So, Opal's personality is actually mine. But filtered. She gets the good parts of my personality.

However, last night, I had a spillover. And a bad one.

I (as Opal) was with the man I was seeing. We had another wonderful evening together. But, as we were holding each other, getting ready to say goodnight, I said that, if he wants exclusivity, he just has to ask. But, he's not ready.

He said it so sweetly, but it shook me out of the fantasy and back into reality. And I suddenly realized that, there they are -- my real life abandonment issues, intruding into my perfect virtual reality. And they've been there the whole time! I mean, in real life, I am fiercely independent. I had paid dearly for my freedom, that I tell people I'm "happily divorced." And, yet, in virtual reality, I am drawn to commitments. What on earth?!?

It's gotta be my abandonment issues. What else could they be?

Blame it on that kiss anim. It shuts down my left brain.

Pavlov's windchime

On my second day in SL, I went searching for land. I read about the First Land Program and did a search. The first few ones I saw were flat featureless rectangles in the middle of a prairie. I kept looking. Then I realized that the search results changed once in a while. So, I kept clicking the Search button.

Then I found it.

It is a small irregular plot on a hillside set against the northern edge of Aglia, with trees all around it. A few meters below are train tracks. Once in a while, I'd hear birds, crickets, and windchimes. I don't know where the sounds come from, but I suspect that it comes from a small cube hanging from my neighbor's tree. I bought the land that day. Then, I stayed there for some time, walking the boundaries, planning where I would put things.

All weekend long, I built a deck, a glass house, and a gazebo. It was my sanctuary. Somehow, when I am there, my mind quiets down but becomes acutely alert, like being in deep meditation.

Well, I didn't realize what effect it really had on my mind until this morning in real life. I was in that zone between sleep and wakefulness, when I heard a windchime through my bedroom window. Then, all of a sudden, like Pavlov's dogs, my mind goes into that meditation mode -- quiet, but acutely alert.

[Pant, pant, pant,... drool,... ;-) ]

Touched for the very first time

Well, last night, I lost it.

"It" being my virtual virginity. A full month after I get in-world. With a man I had just met a couple of days ago.

There's something about me and second meetings in Second Life. I get engaged on the second meeting with one man. I have sex on the second meeting with another. In SL, there's a sense of time going fast. Either that, or I'm just less inhibited. After all, the consequences are not as dire as in real life. Or is it?

So what if my heart gets broken every month? It's all just fantasy, right? Or is it? Isn't real life an illusion as well anyway? And why do the emotions feel so real?

The young 'uns

"I'm not a kid."

I heard that twice already in my short lifetime in SL. The first time, from a 19-year-old, who wanted to take me to the sex temple, and who resented the fact that I called him "jailbait." The second time, from a 15-year-old, who sneaked into the adult grid because he wanted to make money and be able to curse, and who begged me not to ban him.

However, to a woman in her early forties, they ARE kids. I figured I would meet mostly 20-somethings in SL, and I was relieved when the first person I met was only two years my junior, so I guess there's a wide range of ages in SL. I don't always ask people how old they are, but I can pretty much intuit someone's maturity level by the way they behave, by their interests, by the way they talk.

I've met other young people -- a builder who just needs company and approval, a sensitive soul who had to deal with harsh words from his peers, and others who just want to hang out.

However, sometimes, these kids surprise me. The 19-year-old had already thoughtfully formed his own theories about existence, for instance.

They seem to know the basics of staying safe online. And when I warned the 15-year-old to stay away from the adult areas, he said, "I hate that stuff, it's not meant to be on a game." Hopefully, that innocence would protect him.

Both said I needn't worry about them, but my maternal instincts still nag at me....

My love story

I was once engaged.

He bumped into me, literally, at the Graduation Temple in Orientation Island. That day, we spent many happy hours exploring SL together. But, after finding out a small detail about his real life, I agonized with a moral dilemma: If I have an affair in virtual reality with a man who's married in real life, do I burn in virtual hell or real hell?

Yet, in spite of that anguish, I agreed to be betrothed to him on the second day. For five glorious days, I came in-world twice a day for trysts with my lover, who lives nine timezones away. And we flirted with each other to our hearts' desires, calling the other every imaginable term of endearment.

Ah, but this love affair was meant to be short-lived. For, on the seventh day, a security breach scared my lover away from this world and away from my life forever. And so, here I am, a bride left at the altar with tearful eyes, waiting... longing... wondering.... Has my lover abandoned me for one yet fairer in beauty in another reality? Or have I become a widow 'ere I became a bride?

[Touch back of hand to forehead and faint... Oh, wait, I gotta rez a fainting chair first.... ;-) ]