What are you doing

Got an unexpected email from December 2006 lover last night.

It was one of those form letters that get sent when friends invite you to join a social site. Regardless, it warmed me up inside anyway.

After checking out the site, I clicked Reply and had to backspace when I realized that I had addressed him by the term of endearment that I used to call him a year ago.

And then I found myself humming (or attempting to, since I still have a cold) the song "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve".

*sigh*

A whisper (the paradox of invisibility)

He caught my eye, precisely because I couldn't see him.

I was feeling off-kilter that night, so I decided to find a live event to distract me. Edward Lowell was performing at Sailor's Cove. A few people were already there, but more continued to arrive. I was seated on the side closer to the landing point so latecomers had to walk, fly, or swim in front of me.

About twenty minutes into the hour, I saw a female avie walk across my screen, but she had two nametags. Then she paused in the middle of the open area, but the other nametag -- and a shadow -- kept moving until it got to the grassy area on the other side. Then it stopped.

I smiled to myself. Here's an avie I've never seen before.

Well, I did Ctrl-Alt-T to show objects with alpha. No red highlights around this avie.

And I already knew how to create an invisiprim. I've chopped off my head that way once and Emi took pictures with my head on a silver tray that she held. But invisiprims distort the objects behind them and this avie created no distortion at all. (Btw, a transparent texture with transparency set to zero will not show any red highlights with Ctrl-Alt-T.)

About a week prior, Gear and I were talking about animations and I was asking him to explain the "root" prim in his U-Poser mannequin. As an aside, he told a story about how he was able to "disappear" by wearing an animation with the root set four meters underground. And he demoed the animation to me. So I moved my camera underground to see if I could find this mysterious avie. Nothing underground. I was getting more and more intrigued.

I remembered another conversation with Gear where he said that if a prim is small enough, it doesn't get rezzed at all. I wondered if that was what was going on here, but how? I've seen avies that were shrunk as small as possible then folded up using an animation pose. But none this tiny that it's practically invisible.

So I sent the invisible man an IM and complimented him on his avie. I said that I couldn't see transparent prims and I couldn't see him underground. I was hoping for an explanation.

He said he's very tiny and naked. I thought he was giving a clue as to how the avie was done. He wasn't. He was giving me a clue that he was roleplaying.

But it's a charming RP. He's a Tom Thumb type of character, supposedly two to three inches tall as he described. A "tiny pet" says his profile. And the way he does it is so disarming. I found myself giggling a lot and playing along. I mean, isn't that exactly the Lilliputian childhood fantasy that draws us to the Greenies sim?

Well, to make a long story short, the childhood fantasy quickly transformed into an adult fantasy. And that night turned out to be the most incredible night I've had in SL.

I broke a number of records. I did my first RP (I still haven't found the time to RP as a mermaid so this *was* my first RP), an RP with a very strange and unique creature, and a sexual RP at that. I slept with him less than an hour after meeting him. We cuddled and talked for almost *five hours* afterwards. I got to know a bit about the man behind the avatar and fell in love with him in that short timespan. (I know, I know, it's probably the oxytocin working.)

But I'm uncomfortable with certain aspects of his RP, which he needs. And he's uncomfortable with being a full-sized avie, which I prefer. So, no, he won't be my lover. Besides, he is happily married irl, which I found out too late. No, he won't be my pet either, although he claimed he'd be a better pet than Jimmie.

And, since that night, I've been remembering other childhood fantasies and the sense of wonder that accompanied them. Maybe I've just discovered what would make SL feel fresh and new again. And all this time, I've been ignoring RPs in favor of building and scripting. There's actually a lot of creativity involved in an RP. It's storytelling, after all, except it's on-the-fly and with two or more authors, which makes it more challenging and dynamic.

Isn't it ironic? He probably thought he'd avoid attention by being practically invisible. But, as they say, if you want to be heard, whisper. His avie was a whisper.


* The avie was combination of the different "tricks". That is, a scrunched up animation with the avie underground hidden inside invisiprims. It comes with a prim doll that is the only thing visible to others, but he didn't wear the prim doll to the concert. I forgot to write down the creator, but the avie was very well done.
** And to remove the shadow, simply uncheck Client > Rendering > Features > Foot Shadows. I need to confirm if that applies to everybody's view so that nobody can see your shadow, or if that applies to just your view so that you can't see anybody's shadow.

"Does he have hands?"

That was Lora's first question when I asked her if she wanted to meet my new boyfriend.

Well, alright, so I had to make hands for Admiral Creaky (aka Mr. July 2007), which prompted the question. But Hottie (aka Mr. December 2007) *does* have hands, although I have to admit he doesn't have all ten fingers.

And while Creaky prefers sitting on his bony ass ;D , Hottie is at least portable. Too bad, I can't put him in a tux to go dancing with me. But he does tip his hat for the ladies. (You think I have a thing for top hats?)

Hottie
(More pics at http://wildopallei.fotki.com/friends/hottie/.)

Anyway, that brings me to a conversation I had with Howard a few nights ago. He asked me what my criteria were for an SL relationship. And, on the spot, I came up with the following (now edited, of course):
1. Must not be in a committed relationship irl or in SL.
2. Must be an interesting conversationalist with a healthy sense of humor. That implies having intelligence and giving me his full attention at least most of the time.
3. Must be mature, not necessarily in age.
4. Must be willing to lose sleep once in a while just to spend more time with me. Extra points for missing a flight, because he can't pull himself away.
5. Must be a GREAT cyber-er.

Am I asking too much? Probably. Most men don't even pass #1.

The thing is that, when it comes right down to it, I forget about any criteria. Anna asks me where my integrity is if I can't even stick to what I say. On the other hand, I question where my compassion is if I can't love people for who they are, with all their flaws, their fallibility, and their humanness.

So I weave in and out of relationships, savoring the sweetness of a man for a small bite of time, before moving on to the next flavorful dish. And that's okay. It's kinda like dim sum -- a piece here, a piece there, and pretty soon, you realize you're full. All those bites adding up to a satisfying meal that eventually meets all your criteria.

Is it the right thing to do? I dunno. I know the pain of being just a morsel. I know the pain of not being good enough to be someone's full meal. Do I hold out for someone who meets all my criteria? Or do I ignore my list and call it "good enough"?

But, hey, whether I go by my list or not, hands will always be optional.


* Yes, Hottie has a brother. An infinite number of them, actually. Meet one at Pannie's. ;)
** No, Nexus. This one isn't an avie either. It's a scripted snowman "pet" that follows you around and does tricks. :D
*** Yes, Jimmie, I know you can do better tricks, but I still will *not* make anybody my pet.

Midnight came

And went. I didn't expect it to be this soon.

For some strange reason, it wasn't as painful as I expected. Maybe because this is the second time around. Maybe I'm getting numb to this pain. Or maybe I'm still in shock.

What's even stranger is that it felt liberating, as though a weight was lifted off my shoulders. Or maybe off my conscience. Or maybe because it's one less binding tie. It's as though I fell with no safety net under me, expecting to fall splat on the ground, and suddenly realized...

I have wings.

Midnight looms

I'm living my fantasy. I am in a beautiful gown in a majestic palace, dancing in the arms of my prince.

But I know I'm on borrowed time. I know that the fantasy will eventually end. Like midnight is to Cinderella's ball, his lover's return marks the end of my fantasy. Her return will morph my coach back to a pumpkin, my horses to mice, and my gown to rags.

A few days ago, he said he's afraid he'd lose me when I realize that I compromise too much to be with him. That was when I was shaken out of my trance, like the first gong of the clock striking midnight.

I had already compromised my integrity to be with him. It's already done. I know how much this affair is costing me, and I'm still here.

However, if his partner returns, I would have to leave, because I don't think I can deal with that pain again. A pain so great I would physically double up as though someone had hit me in the stomach. A pain that made me moan in anguish because there were no more tears left to cry myself to sleep.

But, for now, I have a few more seconds of bliss in his arms. I don't know how long fate would stretch those seconds for me and keep his partner away, keep the pain away. For now, I close my eyes again and feel his arms around me, his breath on my cheek, the softness of my gown, and the weightlessness of my feet...

In my glass slippers.

Safety nets

Howard and I had a brief conversation last month. Yeah, yeah, it takes me a while to process things now. If you noticed, I don't write much when I'm doing a lot of living. And that's precisely what I've been doing -- LIVING!

Anyway, this specific conversation started when Howard explained his view of SL romances. He said that his RL relationship "liberates me to go as far as I possible can imagine in SL." Because of that safety net, he is not afraid of relationship pains and rejections. Then he asked me what I viewed as my safety net since I don't have an RL relationship to fall back on when the going gets rough in SL.

Well, I used to have a safety net. Several of them, in fact. It's that porous membrane between SL and RL. It's my anonymity. It's the cricket.

Now, I have none.

However, precisely because of the absence of a safety net, I am learning to truly live. I am learning to let go of my expectations and enjoy every interaction. I am learning to be conscious of every emotion that passes through me and to allow those emotions to enrich my art, my writing, my singing, my life. I am learning to be fully aware *in* the moment.

Having experienced both sides of the line guarded by the cricket, I no longer live that part of my life based on rules I had accepted without question. I now consciously and knowledgeably make relationship decisions each day. And if I should make the wrong decision, then I willingly suffer the consequences, karmic or otherwise.

What could be more liberating than that?

This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for freedom of choice. Happy Thanksgiving.

A piece of chocolate

If you've ever gone through a weight-loss diet (I'm pretty sure that's true for every woman reading this blog), you know that insane craving that you suddenly have for your favorite indulgence, just because it's forbidden.

And you try to be good and substitute something healthier and you end up jeopardizing your diet because the substitute doesn't really satisfy the craving so you eat more.

Eventually, weight loss advisers understood this craving and actually advised dieters to go ahead and take a little piece of that chocolate.

Well, ten days ago after months of denying myself of that pleasure, I took a little piece of that chocolate. And I was happy for a while. Then I started craving for it again and, unable to have it, I again took the healthy substitute instead. And -- you guessed it! -- the craving is still there.

I need to get me another piece of that chocolate before I go insane.

And you know I'm not talking about food, right?

Pondering Halloween in SL

Okay, I'm confused. If I put on a mermaid tail, is that my avie or is that my Halloween costume?

In a world where people can be anything they want, what do you wear to a costume party?

Bibi Book wears a witch's hat all year long. If she takes off her hat, would the absence of her hat be her Halloween costume? Would October 31st then be a "Nah-loween" day for her?

And, with your name tag floating above your head, what's the point of a masquerade ball? I mean, 90% of the men wear the same couple of skins, so that's pretty much like wearing a mask.

Who knew that choosing a Halloween costume in virtual reality would be so much harder than choosing one in real life? How do you put together a costume that won't be mistaken as an avie?

/me wonders if she needs a hover text that says, "This is my Halloween costume."

Pygmalion and Frankenstein

Being fiercely independent, I am irked to no end when someone does something for my "own good" without my permission, as though I don't know what's good for me. I see those people as taking my free will away from me.

I'm pretty sure I've been manipulative and controlling myself. We hate in other people what we hate in ourselves. In fact, I remember feeling frustrated because January lover would not modify his avie for me. We tend to be even more manipulative and controlling with people who are close to us, especially our lovers.

The weird thing is that, irl, we are limited to changing our lover's behavior. In SL, we move closer to Pygmalion's mythology in that we have the opportunity to change how they look as well.

The problem is, oftentimes, we are unable or unwilling to handle the monster we've created. Or we forget that there are consequences to changes we make. So the monster is released to the town, with monster and townspeople totally unprepared to deal with the other, causing chaos, fear, and loneliness.

I could say that it would be better if we directed our efforts towards changing ourselves instead of changing others. But saying so would just be another attempt by me to change you, dear reader, wouldn't it?

;)

In the line of fire

I tentatively stick my head back into SL and, suddenly, I find myself embroiled in other people's drama. Well, here's the story. (The names have been changed to protect the... ummm,... ummm,....)

You see, W and P have this quasi-romantic friendship, which is apparently not exclusive.

W met S at Opal's rez day party and they hit it off. Opal warned W that she's playing with fire, but W continued to flirt with S. And the fact that S showed up at odd moments created tension between W and P. So now there's some kind of competition between S and P.

Through all this, W was inexplicably trying to do matchmaking between S and Opal. Opal reiterated that she's in love with M, who's with someone else. And Opal is being a hermit to get over that. Opal once said that she thought S is cute but she decided a long time ago not to flirt with him, because he's one of M's close friends and Opal is not going to hurt M that way. And now that W likes S, Opal has one more reason not to mess with S.

When S asked W to help with an animation for a swing, W suggested that S talk to Opal who is more normal-sized. Since then, S has been talking about Opal in his conversations with W, essentially trying to make her jealous. W understandably got upset with S for pitting us against each other, which I agree is a stupid thing to do.

Now, W is dumping S onto Opal's lap because W claims that S likes Opal more than her. And Opal had no idea what the hell was going on or why she got pulled into this drama in the first place. And W is upset with Opal because she thinks that Opal is taking S's side, when, in fact, Opal is just trying to figure out what's going on without bias.

With a little bit of reflection, Opal came to this assessment of the situation: W likes S and S likes W, but P is still W's primary. To get W's attention, S pitted W and Opal against each other. Now, that is backfiring, and Opal is caught in the line of fire.

Did you get all that? Yeah, it took me a while to figure it out too.

/me crawls back into her foxhole.

When my cup runneth over

Howard asks when I would be back. I don't know how to answer that question.

As simple as it sounds, it really is a difficult question. It all harks back to the reasons I needed time away. I had come to a point where my Second Life as Opal is no longer nourishing my soul and is, in fact, becoming detrimental to my well-being.

When the physical body is wounded, all you have to do is nourish it so it would heal itself. The same goes with the emotional body. But I have tried to nourish myself by expressing my emotions, by spending time with friends, by burying myself in work. My emotional body would not heal. I had a distinct sense of murkiness and stagnation in my life.

I had to withdraw.

As social as I seem and as much as I love my friends, I am essentially a loner. I need a lot of time for introspection, and I have not had that for a long while.

I am also, by nature, fiercely independent. And yet, I find myself being emotionally dependent on others, and others being emotionally dependent on me. Those emotional dependencies feel like chains that bind. I need to relearn how to love without attachment. And I regret that those who love me are also forced to learn the same.

But I cannot give, if I myself am lacking. And what I lack must come from the only authentic Source deep within me.

When will I be back? When my cup runneth over again.

I want it done today

Five magic words.

Of course, you have to say it firmly, in a tone that says, "This is not up for negotiation." And, of course, you have to be demanding something reasonable and clearly within your rights. It also helps that you have a ticket that's been ignored for two weeks.

In this case, I reiterated what I already said when I first called on Thursday -- that I simply wanted my account downgraded so that they could cancel that $72 charge for a year of premium membership, which prevented me from accessing my account. Then I said those five magic words, and then paused.

It feels good to be Opal again.

/me downgraded; therefore, I exist.

Persona non grata

Okay, this blog entry is a long gripe. You've been warned.

<gripe>

If you look in your Friends List and you notice that Opal Lei is not there, no, I did not take you out. If you go to Search and look for Opal Lei, she's not there either, that's why.

And here's why she's not there.

On September 4, I got a notice from Linden Lab, saying that they cannot charge my Paypal account for the $72 annual premium membership renewal. It sounded like the same issue they had in March. So I looked in the KnowledgeBase for the instructions about deleting the payment agreement inside Paypal and creating it again. Then I tried adding credit to my SL account. It didn't work. It didn't work in March either because it was an issue between LL and Paypal. So, I created a support ticket to let them know that the same situation that happened in March seems to be happening again.

The Customer Support rep who responded to my ticket merely skimmed over my ticket and resolved it with the reply: "it looks like you do not have a verified paypal account." I reopened the ticket and asked him exactly what he meant by "verified" and what I had to do manually. If I could get into Paypal and change payment agreements, doesn't that imply that my Paypal account was verified?

Two days later, on September 6, he marked the ticket resolved again, "You will need to access your paypal account and make sure that it has a verified source."

And I had a lengthy reply to that:

John,

I have been using Paypal since February 2000 with my checking account as primary source and two credit cards as back-ups.

I used Paypal to pay Linden Labs for the following transactions:
2006 Sept 3 - $72 for annual account dues
2006 Dec 15 - $50 cash transfer to SL
2006 Jan 12 - $9.95 for an alt
2007 Jan 15 - $9.95 for another alt
2007 Apr 8 - $50 cash transfer to SL

My last Paypal transaction was a cash transfer to my sister on August 15, 2007. I hope that proves that I have a verified source of funds, if that's what you meant.

In March 2007, I was unable to transfer cash to SL from Paypal and I found the instructions in https://support.secondlife.com/ics/support/security.asp, but those instructions did not fix it. A blog entry later said that it was an issue with Paypal not accepting any charges from LL and that LL was working on the issue with Paypal. By April, I was able to transfer money again.

I tried to simply transfer USD from Paypal to SL and I am unable to do that. It looks exactly like it did in March.

Now, my account is at risk of being shut down in a few days (7 days from the original notice) because you are unable to charge Paypal. Now, is it fair to refuse me access because Customer Service will not properly investigate this issue?

All I ask is that you speak with someone who knows about that issue with Paypal in March/April and check if that is happening again. And make sure that my account is not shut down until you resolve that issue.

And if you cannot do that, please forward this case to someone who can as soon as possible.

Thank you.


Four days later, on September 10, still no reply, so I added another comment which, I admit, is extra bitchy: "Am I purposely being ignored until my grace period expires?"

On September 12, I was locked out of my account.

On September 13 (yesterday), I called their 800 number and argued with a very sweet young man in the UK named Nabeel. Poor Nabeel. Well, all he could do is escalate my ticket to the billing department in San Francisco. And he assured me that I should get a response by email the following day because the queue for that department is short.

Now, here's my argument. I can't get into my account because I owe LL $72 for the new year. I want to pay by Paypal, but LL and Paypal have issues that prevent me from paying by Paypal. I can sell Linden $s to cover the charges, but I'm not allowed to exchange currency because my account is on hold. And they won't let me downgrade back to the *free* basic account, unless I pay $72 for a year's worth of premium membership. My only recourse is to give them my credit card number (so what's the point of using Paypal then?) and then downgrade my account and apply for a refund by opening up a new support ticket, in spite of the fact that the reason I'm in this bind is *precisely because they largely ignore support tickets!*

I dunno what Linden Lab calls it, but I call it "extortion."

Today, no email. I called again just before they closed down at 6pm. Poor Nabeel had the bad luck to pick up my call a second time. He added a note to the ticket with a request to have someone send me email tomorrow (Saturday). I guess we'll see.

So that's why Opal Lei is persona non grata.

</gripe>

A plea to Gayatri

My yoga teacher used to play the Gayatri Mantra chanted by Deva Premal during class. It almost instantly became a favorite. and we vowed to memorize the mantra and sing along the next time.

We never got to sing in class. Singing, after all, takes a lot out of you. And when you're lying there in shavasana (corpse pose) at the end of a strenuous hour and a half, you don't really feel like doing anything else but feel the wooden floor through your mat and breathe.

Today, the music came back to me in the middle of the afternoon. I don't remember what triggered the memory, but it was one of those times when you just feel like singing a specific song for no reason at all. Or, at least, no conscious reason. So, there I sat in a meditative trance, singing.

Om bhur bhuvah svah
tat savitur varenyam
bhargo devasya dheemahi
dhiyo yo nah prachodayat
*

I don't know how long I sang-chanted. I was only aware of a certain energy rushing into my body. That's nothing new; I get that when my body relaxes completely. I was also aware of my voice achieving a certain clarity and richness. Nothing new there either; my voice teacher had noticed that my voice sounds better when I do yoga or any bodywork the day before. Then I started to cry.

This really isn't a crying song and this isn't the first time I cried to this song. I guess, after a while, you feel the mantra and the prayer that it is. And it becomes a plea from the soul.

"O Divine mother, our hearts are filled with darkness. Please make this darkness distant from us and promote illumination within us." *



* Mantra text and translation from http://hinduism.about.com/library/weekly/aa061003a.htm.

Solitude

They say that prayer is talking to God, and meditation is listening to God. I haven't been listening for a long while and God is poking me in the ribs.

No, nothing drastic happened. Yes, I'm okay, as okay as one can be. But I've had this uneasiness for a while now. And I'm trying to figure it out. On the surface, everything is going incredibly well. My new mermaid tails are selling. My artwork is getting noticed. I have so many dear friends who are here by my side and I love them dearly.

But something feels askew, and I don't know what it is. All I know is that I need the peace and quiet to listen.

So I'm going to be a hermit for a while. I don't know for how long. I'll still be logging in once in a while, although I'll just be lurking. But I promise I'll be back when I feel like myself again.

And I'll keep blogging when I feel the urge to write. It's not like I'm taking a vow of silence; I'll just be talking a lot less.

*hugs*

365.24

Three hundred sixty-five days. Oh, alright,... And a quarter.

365 days of laughter, of tears, of love, of friendships, of incredible conversations, of music, of art, of science, of dancing, of shopping, of hanging out, of exploring, of learning, of building, of scripting, and of blogging.

I have lived a full life sitting in my office chair.

Here's a toast to all my dear friends, to all my sweet lovers, to every soul that touched mine, to every creative spirit that made Second Life what it was in the past year and what it will be in the following years.

Here's to another 365 days (and a quarter) of laughter, of tears, of love, of friendships, of incredible conversations, of music, of art, of science, of dancing, of shopping, of hanging out, of exploring, of learning, of building, of scripting, of blogging, and whatever else I discover in this world.

I can honestly say, I have never truly lived until I lived in Second Life.

And isn't it ironic?

A sim called "Hell"

Yup, there is one. Nope, no fires. Just huge castles and green grass on a sim surrounded by water. And, to be honest, that's a little disappointing.

Why did I go there? Because I figured they'd be waiting for me.

... forgive us our sins ...

I need your vote!

No, no, I'm not running for president. I'd much rather be dictator-for-life in a virtual country with a population of one.... Oh, wait, I already am. ;)

Anyway, my picture "Looking into the Abyss" has been chosen as one of the finalists, out of 200 contest entries, for the front cover of a book "Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human" by Tom Boellstorff (SL: Tom Bukowski) to be released on April 2008.

It is currently on display in the Elektra Spark Gallery in the Cetus Gallery District (http://slurl.com/secondlife/Cetus/199/68/33), along with the other finalists. You might have to SLURL it again when you get there, because the gallery itself is far from the landing point.

Mine is the one of the blue mermaid, of course. :)

HOW TO VOTE: Simply send IM to Tom Bukowski or send email to tboellst@gmail.com, and say something like, "I vote for Opal Lei's 'Looking into the Abyss'." Be sure to send it before Sunday August 19, 2:30pm SLT. That's it!

Oh, btw, the next time you come by and visit my 512 sqm landlocked country in the northwestern corner of Aglia, check out my new mermaid business. Er, my virtual country's newest export. ;)

Keeping my psychoses

This is a response to some of Xiana's points in her comment to "Sunrise in Aglia". As she had mentioned in the past, she and I disagree on a lot of things. But, hey, we've disagreed since she was born. Still, I'm very proud of her writing and her thoughts. And I love her dearly and unconditionally.

Romantic love is always conditional -- "I will love you if you love only me." Only universal love can be truly unconditional -- "I love you no matter what." Universal love sets the other person free, if necessary. Universal love is not the same thing as martyrdom. Universal love does not sacrifice love of self in exchange for love of other, because universal love is love of all God's aspects, which includes the self as well as the other.

Breaking down barriers that someone puts up to protect their heart is disrespectful of their psychological boundaries. Better to entice the person out of their emotional forts by assuring them that it's safe to come out.

Trying to fix a broken man -- or a broken woman, for that matter -- is like teaching a frog to sing. You'll only waste your time and irritate the frog. First, true change and true healing can only come from within. Second, the other person might not even think they're "broken." They might think it's just who they are.

When I was winding down my therapy with a shrink after my divorce, my shrink said that I could still continue to visit and we could work on my other issues. My response was "No, thank you. I'd like to keep some of my psychoses. They make me an interesting person." ;D

An epiphany

I can be so dense sometimes. Some days, it takes me several minutes before I get someone's witty remark. In this case, it took me several hours. And it wasn't the remark that was so witty, but the delivery of the message was. In fact, the remark wasn't even the message.

You miss subtle things like that when you're busy. And it's only when your mind relaxes that it suddenly clicks. And -- boom! -- there you are, grinning to yourself like an idiot. And, it's even more embarrassing when you're grinning to yourself in public, like in the middle of a serious discussion over a late lunch with a friend.

And so you have to make an excuse about remembering a joke, but then they want to hear the joke, which puts you in a greater predicament because it wasn't really a joke. And besides, something witty doesn't really stand on its own outside the context it was originally delivered in.

I realize that lots of things probably go whoosh right over my head. Probably more so recently. But, hey, I eventually decode the smoke signals. :D

/me hums, "... is keeping all my secrets safe tonight ..."

Proximity by proxy

Lora sold a vanity to a man yesterday. And I wondered why a man would buy a vanity if not for a woman in his life. But he asked Lora for a copy/notransfer version of the cosmetics so that he could put them on a temp-rezzer. So, that meant that he wasn't planning to give the vanity to anyone, but he was installing it in his home for someone.

In SL, there is no such thing as community property, except for land deeded to a group. So, it's as though this man was saying to his sweetheart, "What's mine is yours." In essence, the home and everything in it belongs to both of them even though it might be just in his name. Kinda like some marriages in real life.

It's not so much the monetary value of the object. For something that costs a few US dollars, it's not worth fighting over who gets what in case they part ways. But what struck me was the symbolism of the gesture and how powerful that is.

I met couples who build homes together in SL because they could not in real life. I know a young military man who is deployed in Asia and who once bought a home in SL for himself and his sweetheart, who is in the US. I met a couple from the opposite coasts of Australia who live together in SL.

SL bridges the physical distance. It satisfies an emotional need for closeness, the same emotional need that prompts us to move in with a lover in real life and build a life together. Even though the house and the furnishings are virtual, it soothes the heart of the ache of the physical distance. The sense of closeness is still there. Proximity by proxy.

Sunrise in Aglia

I remember the first time I was aware of the sunrise in Second Life. I was only a few days old. I had purchased my land on the hillside in Aglia and I had just built my home over the Labor Day weekend. It was just after midnight SLT and I was about to log off, when my lover logged in. The sun was rising where he was, just as the sun was rising in SL.

It was an innocent time. A time when we were preoccupied with figuring out how to take a bed out of a box and how to position it. A time when my Friends List had only a few people. A time when SL seemed incredibly huge. A time when each day brought a sense of wonder and amazement in this new magical world. A time before Xcite. A time before sex balls. A time before heartbreaks.

As I approach the first anniversary of my rez day, I sit again by my pond and watch the sunrise and remember.

There was a time when going into people's virtual yards felt like trespassing. A time when I wondered what was down in the valley. A time when I was curious about the people who built these structures. Now that I know every piece of land in my sim, now that I know the layout of the valley like the back of my hand, Aglia feels small and crowded. The view of the valley has different meaning now.

Now that I know how to build, how to script, how to create animations, how to make clothes, how to create sculptie textures, -- now that I know how things work -- very few things amaze me anymore. And I wonder. Could I bring the magic back? Could I still experience that sense of wonder and amazement? Could I still see SL through the eyes of a newbie?

Blessed are the newbies, for they have a time full of magic and wonder and amazement ahead of them.

My MAMJJ love

Month-ends make me nervous. Well, you know my history. But, just because I didn't have a lover these past five months, it doesn't mean I didn't fall in love. In fact, I did. Deeply.

Perhaps because it wasn't officially a romantic affair that it lasted this long. It was loving, it was tender, it was sweet, it was intimate. But it wasn't sexual. It was more than a friendship, but not quite a romance. Although I loved him as though it were. Perhaps he was, in fact, Mr. March-April-May-June-July. Perhaps he was the real reason why I could not be with any other man.

I panicked when I thought I was "about to lose another friend to real life." I gave up my anonymity to regain his trust and his friendship. I felt intense jealousies well up inside me even as reminded myself that I had no right to feel that way. But I stayed. The next time I was hurt again, I tried to squash the romantic emotion. I failed. Finally, I tried to seduce him, in spite of the cricket.

Thankfully, he was strong enough for both of us during my moment of weakness. My soul is saved, but my heart is not. Not this piece of gravel.

I had no fool for a lover; *I* was the fool.

Trust withdrawn

If you realized that an entry from a few days ago is now missing, yes, I intentionally deleted it, at the request of the person I had quoted in it. He gave me his permission to quote him prior to me writing the blog. But, today, he asked that his name be removed. I figured I'd do him a favor and just delete the entire entry, since my limerick describes him specifically anyway.

Very rarely have I had a falling out with anybody in all my Second Life. Besides griefers, people generally respect my wishes, my work, and my emotions.

This blog is not a rambling of the mundane things I do each day. It is a revelation of who I am and a journal of my evolution. It is a reflection of the wisdom I am gaining as I go through my Second Life. And I am grateful that this blog occasionally touches and inspires some of my readers, even if all I do is show a different perspective of a universal situation.

But if someone is so "inspired" that he would use the same original metaphors (as in my "Heart Gravel" entry) to say the same things, -- not by properly quoting me but in a different form (like a poem), -- am I not justified in distrusting him? And yet *he* is offended that I no longer trust him.

Trust is not a right. Trust is earned. It cannot be bribed by saying, "I trust you; therefore, you must trust me."

In a world where we know very little about the people we deal with, we suspend distrust to allow a connection to happen. But when we realize that the person does not have our interests at heart, when they insist on having their way, then we withdraw the trust, like a turtle pulling back into its shell. It is only natural. It's a survival instinct.

I Have Killed Her

I have killed her.

I have crushed her in my hand
to avenge the deep cuts of her thorns.

Deep red passion spill out of my veins and drip over her bruised petals.
Dark red bruises creasing dark red velvet.

I have killed her
as I touched her fair sister to my lips,
inhaling the fragrance of golden tenderness.

It will have to suffice.


Hear a reading of this poem at http://wildopallei.mypodcast.com/.

Pity

Have you ever had moments when you'd hear a song or you'd smell a scent or you'd see a certain sky color, and you'd be so homesick? But the problem was that you count off the places you've ever lived in and the places you've ever visited, but you're not homesick for any of them. Instead, you're homesick for a place that only exists in your mind. Maybe you dreamt it one night, maybe your imagination created it while you were reading a book, maybe you saw a glimpse of it in a movie or a painting. However your mind created that place, it exists in your head and you're homesick for it.

If you're lucky, you could reread the book and live in that universe again. Or you can watch the movie over and over. Or stare at the painting for hours on end. If you're not so lucky,... Well, let's just hope you're a great builder. ;-)

So I pity the people who never discovered the joy of virtual reality, of bringing worlds into existence. Worlds that were, until then, locked up inside someone's head.

I pity the people who still haven't experienced walking into a dream while fully awake.

I pity the people who hang on tight to their narrow definition of "reality" and so miss out on out-of-this-world experiences.

If you've discovered Second Life and virtual worlds and realized the potential immensity of this reality, count yourself lucky.

I found him

Mr. July had come into my life.

I met him at Calleta's Hobo Railroad Infohub. He didn't have to say a word. I was smitten.

I know he's a bonehead, but we have so much in common. We both live by the train tracks. We both waited forever for the train. I rarely wear shoes, and -- well, I haven't seen him wear clothes yet.

Besides that, he's very patient, he listens attentively, and he silently agrees with everything I say. He'll be there anytime I need him for as long as I need him. And he'll never be afflicted with the Vanishing Avatar Syndrome. I'll never be alone again.

And now, we have matching hobo top hats! To wear as we wait for the train together.

/me hums "Isn't it romantic?"


(More pics at http://wildopallei.fotki.com/friends/mrbones/.)

;D

/me prepares for the deluge of "bone" jokes in comments.

PS: That's my first short hair in SL. :)

Anyway

I haven't gone to many live events lately, but something prompted me to catch a few minutes of Starr Singer's show at the Lily Pad. I have seen Starr before and I love her voice.

But I wasn't feeling very comfortable around crowds today, and I was about to leave when she said she was about to sing a new song, so I figured I'd stay for one more.

It's funny how we hear or read something right when we need it. The song that Starr sang next was Martina McBride's "Anyway". And, in Howard's blog style, here it is:

[Edit: The original video can no longer be embedded so here's a live version below.]



It doesn't always turn out like I think it should, but I build, I script, I dream, I love... anyway.

Grieving non-loss

How could you lose something you never had? How could you grieve over something you never lost because you never had it in the first place?

After my divorce, I grieved for a lot of things I lost. The love we once had, his companionship, the moments we shared, the intimacy. But I realized that what I grieved more deeply about was the loss of our future, of the dreams we shared, of what could have been.

But when there is no possibility of a future with someone, -- not even a virtual future, -- when there are no dreams to look forward to, when all I have is each present moment, which instantly fades away, what is there to grieve for?

And yet my body shivers, my hands shake, my lips quiver, my tears fall. I grieve. But I don't know what for. Nothing changes after all. I didn't lose anything. I had nothing to lose.

(Yes, dear reader, two blogs in one day. Aren't you lucky! :) )

Heart gravel

Eight years ago, a man broke my heart into pieces. I tried to meld the pieces together, but, no matter how the rest of my world came together, my heart remained broken.

Finally, I offered my heart up to God, but He did not make it whole again. Instead, He took the pieces in His hand and crumbled them into even smaller pieces. Some pieces were the size of pebbles; some were as tiny as a dust particle. Then He placed the pile of heart gravel back in my hands.

"Your heart isn't meant for just one man," He said. "Your heart is meant for the world."

I looked closely at each particle of heart dust and I realized that each one of those pieces is a whole heart, complete in itself. And each tiny heart is meant for a different person in my life. Some get a larger heart; some get a smaller heart. But each one gets a whole heart.

The size of the heart did not indicate the size of my love nor the length of time I would love them; the size simply indicated the time they would be in my life. The largest pieces go to my family who remain with me my whole life. The tiniest heart dust particles go to strangers I smile at or briefly say hello to.

And when a large heart piece gets broken again, my tears turn each of the new pieces into whole hearts and I gain more hearts to give away to more people.

Thus, I give my love to the world. One little heart at a time.

/me picks out pearl-sized hearts from the pile.

Who am I?

Last night, a new friend noticed when I referred to my avatar in the third person and it struck him. He says he thinks of his avatar as himself. I told him that I started dissociating from Opal the first time my heart was broken. It was my way of dealing with the pain. This morning, I wondered, what if I dissociated with my real life self? And -- boom! -- it hit me. I found one answer to the age-old question "Who am I?"

Who I am is not this physical body in the real world, and certainly not my avatar. Who I am is not the personality, not the mind. Who I am may not even be what we call the individual soul. All those are just tools to bring forth who I REALLY am. Who I really am is the sum of my actions, my experiences, my thoughts, my emotions, my memories.

But let me demonstrate how infinite that sum is. You see, my actions, my experiences, my thoughts, my emotions, and my memories are tightly integrated with the actions, experiences, thoughts, emotions, and memories of everybody I've encountered and everybody who has ever been affected by my actions. Life is a shared experience after all.

Therefore, who I am is also the sum of the actions, experiences, thoughts, emotions, and memories of all those people. And each of them is the sum of their own actions, experiences, thoughts, emotions, and memories, and those of every person THEY've encountered. And so on, until it comes back to me and goes around again. Ad infinitum.

So, who am I? I am you.

A case for anonymity

I had been good about keeping my anonymity intact until recently. Circumstances have forced me to reveal my identity to a few people. Two of those circumstances were issues of trust and accountability; the third was an economic decision.

Jaime asked me once why I feel the need to be anonymous. I don't do anything illegal in SL. The most compromising thing I've done is cyber sex*, but isn't sex a natural part of the human experience anyway? And didn't I want to take credit for the work I've done inside SL?

But there is one significant reason.

SL allows us to be what we cannot be in real life, to live a fantasy. For me, that fantasy is to have physical beauty. But I've later realized that having a beautiful avatar is not just for my own benefit; it is also a gift to the world. After all, aren't we just trying to create Utopia in here? So, just as an artist creates a thing of beauty as a gift to the world, this avatar is my contribution to Utopia.

But it is so easy to fall in love in SL and, eventually, someone falls in love with the fantasy I created and I fall in love right back with the fantasy they've created. I always remind my lovers that they're falling in love with a woman who does not exist. Yes, I have the same intelligence, personality, and voice in real life, but I do not have the beauty that my avatar has. They insist that it's still me. But no matter what these men say, my avatar's looks are part of what attracted them to me, part of the fantasy of having won the affections of a beautiful woman. After all, isn't it a big ego boost to have a beautiful woman on your arm?

Revealing my identity would dispel that fantasy. Wouldn't it be a big let-down if you realize that the lover, whose beauty you have been proud of, is not beautiful at all? Maybe that doubt was always in the back of your mind, but having it confirmed would be as cruel as having a gift snatched away from you.

So, besides the few exceptions, I remain anonymous, I preserve the fantasy. For my sake and for the sake of every SL lover I've had.


* In light of a recent SL blog, I guess I should emphasize that I'm talking about sex between consensual adults.

Why doesn't romantic roleplay last?

Howard seems to have acquired the habit of picking my brains about relationships lately. (Isn't it enough that I write in my blog, Howard?) Since Howard is also a techie, let me put it in techspeak: I don't have the bandwidth to provide a pull-content service; I only push content. But I'll answer your question this time, since I don't have material to write about, being loverless at the moment.

So, why doesn't romantic roleplay last? I'll start with the obvious answer: It's roleplay, for crying out loud! How many roleplays do you know last more than a year?!?

Okay, now the serious answers:

1. It's usually because of sheer incompatibility. If you were looking for a real life partner, you're more careful about whom you pick. Do you share the same interests? Do you subscribe to the same beliefs? Is their personality compatible with yours? Can you live with this person for a very long time? Will this person always have your interests at heart? Do you have similar dreams?

But in a roleplay, you only care about superficial things. Does the other person want to do the same roleplay? A Gorean will look for another Gorean; a furry will look for another furry. And, most importantly, -- and, yes, I'm saying this very bluntly -- is this person willing to have sex with you?

2. Roleplay is not authentic. You might be feeling cranky and crabby one day, but you have to be nice and sweet, because, well, that's your role. Crankiness and crabbiness is reality, and your SL lover isn't looking for reality in a roleplay. Your SL lover is looking for a fantasy, and so are you. You wouldn't want a cranky and crabby lover ruining YOUR fantasy either, would you?

3. It takes a lot of energy to maintain an illusion. It also takes a lot of energy to deal with the emotions that the roleplay generates. Eventually, one or both of the partners wonder if the roleplay is worth the energy they expend on it. After all, it's just roleplay.

4. In roleplay, both parties fall into their roles right away. Not only do they suspend disbelief, they also suspend mistrust. But the trust they have is fleeting and fragile, because it doesn't have the requisite foundation that is built only by getting to know a person over a period of time. Without that foundation, it is even easier for trust to turn into doubt. And how can you expect a romantic relationship to last without trust?

I'm sure I can think of other reasons why romantic roleplays don't last, but I've used up my available bandwidth. So any other reason I come up with will have to wait for the next CPU cycle.

SL: a reincarnation metaphor

I've been switching between alts a lot lately, chatting with friends as Opal and building a business as my professional alt. And I've even been logging in as my testing alt when I need uninterrupted time. When I meet people through my professional alt, I usually explain that it is an alt and that I've been in SL longer than what my profile says. That helps explain why I know a bit more about SL.

And it occurred to me that SL is a lot like reincarnation.

There is a theory that each life we live contributes something to a higher life. That all the experiences we have somehow pours back into a whole, an oversoul, a repository of sorts. They say that we are born with certain talents or inclinations, which we learned from a "previous" lifetime, to help us in the current lifetime. I've also read a theory that, because time is just another dimension, those "previous" lifetimes might be concurrent with this one, or even in the future.

I guess in a sense, SL is something akin to that. I've learned a lot in my life as Opal and I continue to learn. But the knowledge, the skills, and the wisdom do not reside in Opal; those things reside in the real person behind the avatar. And my professional alt benefits from what I learned as Opal. It's almost like the real person is the oversoul, while each avatar is a lifetime.

I'm still pondering the metaphor....

No fool for a lover

Well, what do you know? I survived a whole month without a lover. I didn't even miss having a lover; every day in SL was brimming full of friends. Heck, with this many great friends, who has time for a lover?

Okay, okay, I lied a little. There is one thing you get from a lover that you can't get from a friend, and I kinda miss that. But, hey, it's all creative energy, and I'm simply redirecting that energy on creative projects. And, if the energy surge becomes too much to bear, I can always ping November lover, whose hello's I've learned to respond to with "No, we're not having sex tonight," because he invariably tries to get me to bed each time he pings me. But he's sweet, so I don't mind that he tries. :-D

I thought that, by this time, I would be searching for my April lover. But the old activities -- going to live events, checking out strangers' profiles, and flirting shamelessly -- aren't as much fun anymore. They still are enjoyable on occasion, but, lately, the excitement and novelty of making new friends have taken a backseat to the warmth and comfort of familiar faces.

So, SL feels very different now, different from how it felt just a month ago. Maybe because I spend time with more people lately. Maybe because I'm now exploring the business side of SL, so SL feels new again. Or maybe because I'm maturing within SL and I've passed a certain stage.

No matter what the reason, my SL has changed. And, as exciting as this new phase is, I don't really know what to expect.

But I can say one thing for certain: In April, there'll be no fool for a lover.*


* Yes, that statement can mean one of two things: Either a) my lovers are fools for choosing to be with me and there would be no lover this month, or b) if I do take on a lover this month, he won't be a fool (or at least, I hope not). If you just went "Huh?," don't worry. I suspect there's something wrong with my logic in that sentence. And if you figure out where my logic went wrong, let me know, will ya?

Remembering Headman

I remember a man who listened to his intuition and logged back in during the wee hours of a November morning, right when I badly needed a friend. And he stayed up with me sitting by his fire on the roof of his house until sunrise, listening to me and keeping me company as I sorted out my feelings.

He was the same friend who introduced me to the Blue Note, who noticed every detail about my gowns, who lifted me up effortlessly in a ballroom dance, and who sang along with the songs with me. A sweet man, a wonderful friend.

I missed him today.

So I go in-world in the wee hours of the morning and sit by his fire on the roof of his house. He has seats now so I don't have to sit in the fire. The Christmas tree and the poinsettia plant are gone. And the Christmas music isn't streaming in anymore. It has been too long since I last saw him, and this house is all that remains of him in-world.

Today, I become acutely aware how fragile everything is in SL. People come into our Second Life, touch our souls, and then be lost to real life. Eventually, even this structure that he built would be gone too, with nary a pixel left to indicate that it was ever here.

Sometimes we don't realize how we affect people's lives and how they affect ours. It's only when we see it happening again that we are reminded of the past. In this case, the sentimentality is triggered by a sinking feeling yesterday morning that I'm about to lose another friend to real life.

Yes, I am deeply grateful for the time I had with all those wonderful people and for the time I continue to have with other wonderful people. But I do miss the ones who are gone.

As Headman himself once said, "I think we miss the connection we feel with someone."

Every time we say goodbye, I die a little.
Every time we say goodbye, I wonder why a little.
Why the gods above me, who must be in the know,
Think so little of me. They allow you to go.*

* Written by Cole Porter

How many people can you fit in ...?

Okay, so my gazebo is not a telephone booth. But last night, there were as many as eight of us sitting in it at the same time. People came and went and the conversation flowed all night.

It started with Xiana (people in gazebo: 1) who IM'd me asking what I was doing. I was looking for something to wear and she was sitting alone at the gazebo, so I went to join her (2). Then a man in armor joined us (3); his tag said Jasoon but he claims his name is Jang.

Meanwhile, I got an IM from Emi, so I invited her over. Emi said she'll come after meeting a friend. I also got a ping from Jimmie who had questions about land, and tp'd him over (4). I checked up on Lora and she was with a friend as well, but she came over afterwards (5). Xiana invited Xan over (6). Then Jang/Jasoon left (5), but soon Emi arrived (6). Then Magika IM'd me so I invited him over too (7).

Then I saw a dot in the neighboring lot for a long time. Tilly had been watching us for a few minutes, so I shouted out an invitation to join us (8) and it turns out that Tilly had met Lora a long time ago. But Jimmie had to go (7). Then Emi invited her friend Angelyca (8). Then Magika got called into work (7). Someone named Otto showed up next to the glass house, said hi, and then promptly disappeared. Then Xiana, Xan, Angelyca, and Tilly had to go to bed (3); it was 10pm SLT. An hour later, Emi went to bed (2), and a half hour later, I sent Lora to bed (1).

Before I even decided what to do next, Andre IM'd me and I chatted with him at his place for an hour (0). Then I went back to my home and did some tweaking around the place. Three hours later, I was back at the gazebo (1) working on the pond when Tasman, a Snoopy-headed biker dude, hovered near, so I said hi and chatted with him (2). Meanwhile, Rokke IM'd me and asked if he could show me a dress he was working on, so I tp'd him over (3). After Tas and I commented on the dress, Rokke had to go to pick up his daughter from school (2).

Then, Angelyca logged in at the gazebo and she chatted with us and laughed at Tas's antics while she had a breakfast of milk and bread (3) before going to school (2). At 6am, Tas had to go to deliver a bike for his nephew's birthday (1) and I went back to my tweaking. But a half hour later, I got an IM from Squeak who needed to talk, so I tp'd him to the gazebo (2) and we talked for about an hour until he had to catch his bus (1). Soon after he left, Emi logged in at the gazebo (2). Emi was about to send me to bed, but, again, I noticed someone in the neighboring lot watching us, so I shouted an invitation to come down. His name is Herman. and he joined the conversation (3). An hour later, Herman said goodbye, and Emi and I headed off to the baby clinic (0), because she had questions about the baby HUD and I was curious about the whole SL pregnancy thing.

At 9:30am SLT, I finally logged off. Twelve and a half hours after I logged in.

I think this is the most number of people I've talked to in one night -- nine old friends and five new ones. It's certainly the most number of people I've had in the gazebo at the same time.

The funny thing is that, when Xiana pinged me when I logged in, the first thing I asked her was "Where's the party?" :-)

Purple synchronicity

Okay, this question is for the ladies: You know that feeling when you go to a party and you find someone wearing the same dress? Well, how about going to a live music event and you find someone who wears the same face?

Yup! That happened to me last night.

I was wearing a purple tank top and my purple hair to match. (The same purple hair as in my profile pic.) Then, last night, I was at Frogg and Jaycatt's concert at the border of Lusk and Luskwood. While sitting there, I saw something in the public chat about people wearing purple. So, I moved my camera around to look at the other purple-wearing people in the audience.

And, there at the opposite end of the bleachers, I saw my own face. She was wearing hair in a lighter shade of purple and a top in the same lighter shade. For a long while, I looked at her at different angles.

When the shock wore off, I said hi in IM and asked her if she purchased her shape; she said she made it herself. Whew! That was a relief. I was worried that there's a whole lot more of us walking around in SL. Running into someone who looks like me is disconcerting to say the least.

If you want to see for yourself, her blog (http://meratalk.com/reina) contains some pictures of her. To compare, you can find my incarnation pictures in http://WildOpalLei.fotki.com/incarnations. There are differences between us, but at first glance, we could be mistaken as the other.

Thank goodness for name tags floating above us.

Keep the friendship

I met a pirate who once said, "My theory is that there is no such thing as being a real [platonic] friend between a man and a woman. ... Because the only reason a man would want to go out with a woman is because he has a certain attraction."

I flat out told him he's wrong. In real life, I've met a large percentage of my friends at work, and I work in a male-dominated industry. So, most of my RL friends are male. With a few of them, yes, there was that initial attraction. But, when you know a relationship is not going to work out for one reason or another, you keep the friendship. And the attraction turns into platonic affection that holds the friendship together, enhances it, and deepens it.

The same goes in SL. The potential for intense friendship is here, even between a man and a woman. And I have been very fortunate this past month to have discovered more of those friendships. Men, whom I cannot take on as lovers because of their RL relationships or their SL partnerships, are coming into my life to take their place in my circle of friends. And these are not casual friendships either. These are caring and affectionate relationships that are as tender and as deep as those with my female friends.

So what's the difference between my romantic relationships and my platonic relationships with men? If I'm lucky, not much. One of them involves sex; the other doesn't. That's it, ideally. With both types of relationships, we still hang out, chat, dance, hug.

In fact, platonic friendships may even have an advantage. As the sage Jaime Mandelbrot puts it, "I think I'm getting a little bit more [as a friend]. ... We do without the pleasure and sidestep the pain, leaving us free to soar in other areas."

I agree. Because we don't waste time mucking with sex balls, we have more time to explore each other's souls.

There is no question

The problem with guilt is that it does not coexist with joy. It cannot. But the joyfulness is part of who I am, part of the woman he fell in love with.

We had agreed that RL is more important. He had his commitments with his RL relationship. What I didn't realize was that my principles are part of my RL and deserve as much attention and respect. Sacrificing my integrity is too high a price to pay for a fantasy. No matter how wonderful that fantasy is.

So, last night, I set the cricket free and I set him free. The heart aches; the tears flow. But it was the right thing to do.

The same RL friend who had once given me good advice also said, "If there is a question, there is no question." If the cricket does its job well, the question "Do I burn in virtual hell or real hell?" will no longer arise.

There is no question. Not anymore.

Illicit

Since I was a young woman, I had promised myself that I would not mess with married men or men who are otherwise committed.

In SL, he is not partnered, but he just got out of a relationship. In RL, he is not married, but he is in a long-term committed relationship.

The question I did not resolve in September comes back to haunt me. If I have an affair in virtual reality with a man who's married (or committed) in real life, do I burn in virtual hell or real hell?

How separate, really, is SL from RL? The emotions are real; that, I know. And those emotions that come out of SL affect our moods in RL and, therefore, affect RL. Time spent in SL relationships is time taken away from RL relationships. Likewise, our beliefs, our behavior, our individual culture, our upbringing, our attitudes, all these come from RL and affect SL.

So I think I've learned something else about that mysterious line between SL and RL. It is not a foot-thick lead wall. Instead, it is a porous membrane. Things seep through, both ways. The membrane stretches towards one side or the other. And, yes, the membrane can burst with enough pressure.

That is why the guilt is there. I am stealing his time away from his RL gf and I am stealing my time away from myself.

And, for several days now, I've been swatting Jiminy Cricket away. Then, last night, I put the cricket in a jar. Last night, I started an illicit affair.

The loony bin

(Markoosha left a comment in a previous entry. In it, he advises that I should "focus on 'First' life." I figured I'd respond to him here.)

Markoosha, thank you for the advice. No, it does not offend me. In fact, I've heard that advice many times before. So I hope it would not offend you if I don't take it. :-)

The problem with pat answers is that what works for one person does not necessarily work for another. We all have different circumstances. In my case, the last couple of years of my "First" life marriage was incredibly painful that I have stayed away from serious intimate relationships for years. And yet I know that I need that emotional intimacy with another, a deeper kind of intimacy that platonic friends cannot provide.

Second Life is something of an emotional "sandbox" for me. A place where I can dip my toe in the pool, so to speak. A place to figure out what I did wrong, what I can do better, and whether I am emotionally ready for a full-time relationship. Usually, commitments in SL tend to be valid only in-world, so it's not as risky. But, at the same time, I'm getting my emotional needs satisfied once in a while.

So, the reason I'm not taking your advice is...

If I can't make it work in a (somewhat) controlled environment like Second Life, what makes you think I can make it work in real life?

:-D

Or to make the question more relevant to you...

If a driver hasn't learned to avoid orange cones in an empty parking lot at 15 mph, are you sure you want that person sharing the road with you at 65 mph?

;-D

/me plans to create a group called "Characters who should not be let out into the real world." After she comes up with a shorter name. lol

Forgiveness and gratitude

They say we cannot start healing until we forgive. And that entails forgiving the other and ourselves. However, it is easier to forgive another person than it is to forgive ourselves. Maybe it is because, in order to forgive ourselves, we first have to confess our sins. And to confess our sins is to admit that we are not as perfect or as good or as virtuous as we deem ourselves to be. So we have to first forgive ourselves for being imperfect before we can even forgive ourselves for our transgressions.

And when all the forgiving is done, we're still left feeling that something was taken away from us. As though we were denied future happiness, as though our dreams were snatched away. We lose trust in the other; we become defensive. And we close off a part of ourselves from the world. Instead of opening up to new loves, to new joys, to new experiences, we become more cautious. And we shield ourselves from precisely the experiences we're looking for.

But, now, I realize that forgiveness is only the first step. Perhaps even an unnecessary step.

You see, it doesn't matter why a relationship -- whether romantic or platonic -- ended. Not at all. That's because the whole relationship -- from the moment you meet until the day you part ways -- is a gift. A shared gift from both souls to each other and to themselves. All the joys, all the laughter, all the memories. Even the ending of the relationship, the transgression, is part of the gift, as well as all the other lessons that came with it. The ending of the relationship teaches us to appreciate the gift in its entirety and all other gifts we share with other souls. It teaches us to cherish each moment of that gift because it is transient, as all wonderful gifts are.

When we are given a gift, we don't say, "I forgive you." No, we say, "Thank you." And when we say thank you, when we are grateful, our hearts remain full and overflowing. Nothing is taken away from us; everything is given to us. There is nothing to forgive; there is no lack either in ourselves or in the other; there is no transgression.

And the next time we are offered a gift, we reach out and accept it gratefully. Because we remember that the last gift filled our hearts with joy and our minds with wisdom.

"To err is human; to forgive divine." -- Alexander Pope
"To err is human; to forgive wise; to be grateful divine." -- Opal Lei
;-)

Gracias. Mahalo. Danke. Tak. Merci. Arigato. Dziekuje. Meda wo ase. Diolch. Doh je. Komapsumnida. Grazie. Efharisto. Shukria. Xie xie. Salamat. Obrigada. Thank you.

My Valentine

I've made up my mind. I've chosen my lover for this month.

Since the day I was born in SL, I've had one lover each month. I tried to end the curse, but I failed. So I'm just gonna go with the flow -- one lover each month, it is. However, ...

For February, Opal is Opal's lover. Yup! Me.

I know it's ironic that I chose the traditional month of love to go solo, but there it is. This is the month that I pour my love out... to myself.

Narcissistic? Well, not really. Just a healthy dose of self-love.

Yes, I'm still aiming for universal and unconditional love. Yes, I still believe that loving someone else is loving an aspect of God. But, since I am also an aspect of God, don't I deserve to be loved by me?

So, sorry, guys. February is booked; I'm saving this month for my best love affair yet.

“To love one's self is the beginning of a lifelong romance.” -- Oscar Wilde

AWOL

Bunny Rabbit (that's what I call Song Clanger) has a term for it -- Vanishing Avatar Syndrome. He said it's "a common affliction." He should know; he has gone through many romances in SL.

He surmises that people disappear when the affair gets too "real" and it "becomes too much for people and, rather than confront, they just fade away." For whatever reason. Too much emotion, complications of taking it out of SL, existing real life relationships.

"SL is life times 500," the bunny explains. "Everything is amped up. Expectations through the roof."

I understood. Somehow, we expect more, precisely because it is a fantasy. We're used to being in control of our own fantasies; we can have anything we want in our fantasies. But we forget that, just like real life, this shared fantasy has its own limitations because the people who build it and participate in it are only human. Humans with their own limitations, with their own expectations, with their own fantasies.

When someone in our Second Life doesn't follow the script of our own fantasy, we panic. The panic manifests in different ways for different people. For me, it's in hiding my identity from a man I learned to love so much that I toyed with the idea of being with him in real life. Perhaps, for January lover, it's in pulling back, distancing himself, fading away.

I told Bunny Rabbit that I wished I had this talk with him months ago. He asks, "Why? How would anything be different? Nobody listens!" :-D

Well, I suppose he's right. I am a stubborn one.

October chill

These past few days have been a blast in the past. January lover reminds me of September lover in his absence. November pings me to renew the friendship, which, I think, is very sweet but I am cautious. And October IMs me out of the blue just to say my blog has gotten dull.

It is October's comment that stimulates my gray cells.

This is the second time he had insulted me after we broke up. And the first time was about something I wrote in this blog too. I don't understand why he tortures himself by continuing to read my blog. It takes effort to bring up my blog and to read it. It takes effort to log into SL and send me an IM about how dull my blog has gotten. Is my blog so potent that it has become addictive?

My blog recollects my life in SL. If my blog has become dull, is he implying that my Second Life has become dull? They say that we see the world through the filter of our own experiences and that we hate in other people what we hate most about ourselves. Could it be that his comment reflects more about his own life than it does mine?

I once heard someone say that constructive criticism is a gift, but I can't really categorize this comment as constructive. But I am grateful that he has given my brain something to chew on. After all, I needed something to perk up my dull life. ;-)

(Yes, I know, I should just mute him.)

Serendipity in SL

I met Martin at Old Salt's Pub last November. I hadn't seen him again until today at a live performance in Menorca. While I was chatting with him, Rokke joined me at the table I was sitting at and said hi. So I was juggling two IMs and checking out Rokke's profile at the same time.

Well, it turned out that Rokke is an Italian musician. And, as I asked him about it, Martin mentioned in the other IM window that his friend Nyna, who owns the Dragon Moon, is looking for good musicians who might be interested in performing there and he's helping her do that.

Well, to make a long story short, I created a conference and introduced the two of them. And, by the end of the conversation, Martin had forwarded Rokke's name to Nyna.

How's that for synchronicity?

Charlie's clueless angel

Squeak was bored.

So he pinged me to join him for an adventure. Reluctantly, I returned the Hawaiian skirt I was working on back into my inventory. I must admit I was a bit curious about this adventure.

So, he tp'd me and we rode on his helicopter -- him sitting in the lone seat inside, me sitting atop the rotor with the blades chopping my legs off below my knees. I had no idea where we were going. Then, Squeak started talking gibberish...

Squeak: *radio talks*
Squeak: "kachiiiiizssshshhshhhhhhhh"
Opal: Huh? Was that a sneeze?
Squeak: "any----- kashiiiiishaaaahhhhhashiiish------body there?!"
Squeak sees an oil rig up ahead that the signal is coming from.


Meanwhile, I tried to sit on the tail, since the idea of losing my legs kinda bothered me. But the copter wouldn't let me.

So, we landed on the oil rig, which I've visited a long time ago during my first month in SL, when I picked up a freebie tako off of a buoy nearby. The buoy is unfortunately no longer there.

Squeak: kk theres an oil rig
Squeak: where the signal is coming from
Opal: What signal?
Squeak: history.....


I was still clueless.

Squeak: "kachiiiiizssshshhshhhhhhhh"
Squeak: this is where the signal was coming from
Opal: What signal is it?
Squeak: ((distress signal))
Opal: So, how do you get the distress signal?
Squeak: i made it up....


That's when it dawned on me that we were roleplaying. But Squeak kinda neglected to tell me that at the start. He finally said, "it's a mystery RP, now try your best to come up with some good stuff." Geez, I had to be creative on demand too.

He gave me a gun and told me to go into mouselook, but mouselook made me dizzy. (I said "dizzy", not "ditzy".) So we explored the oil rig platform. We found an office in the lower deck. It had a map on the wall with blinking lights, a red one and a green one. And we couldn't figure out what it was for, but the map looked like the northern half of the mainland.

Meanwhile, there were whispers from SLRR Control East with strange names and numbers, followed by seconds. Then I saw the name of a sim that I had been to before. Aha! It's the railroad and the whispers are the location of the train. I solved the mystery!

But, apparently, that wasn't the mystery we were trying to solve.... :-\

Squeak: hm this must be the room where the signal was sent
Opal: Well, there's this old-fashioned radio.
Squeak: over here
Opal: That's a server rack!
Squeak: we are RPing...
Squeak: lets just say its a radio


I'm pretty sure Squeak was getting frustrated with me at this point. :-D Then we moved on to a different room and found a place where some boxes landed.

Squeak: i wonder what are in these boxes....
Squeak looks inside
Opal: Can't see.
Opal: Oooh, they're coming out of that chute.
Squeak: opal cmon we are RPing
Squeak: try to go along with the story
Squeak: lol
Opal: I am!
Opal: I'm solving the mystery!


Well, I finally got the hang of it and came up with a good story.

Squeak: !!!
Squeak finds metal pieces in one of the boxes
Squeak finds some type of container that says....
Opal: You think they're smuggled goods?
Squeak: "WARNING! RADIOACTIVE!"
Opal: Yup, smuggled uranium.
Opal: There's a cartel that's responsible for all uranium smuggled in this part of the world.
Opal: One of our agents lost his cover and was assassinated by the cartel.
Opal: He was undercover in the operation.
Squeak: hm
Opal: Maybe the signal came from the second agent.
Squeak: there are radioactive waves in the area
Opal: She's still undercover inside the cartel.
Squeak: looks like more are coming

Opal: We have to go then.
Opal: Before we start glowing in the dark.
Opal: Am going outside to see where it's coming from.
Squeak: we need to find where the cartel is, there has to be something here


Well, after looking around some more, Squeak said we had all the info we needed, but the chopper exploded and I couldn't rez my tako, so we had to walk underwater back to land. (For some reason, Squeak didn't think we should be flying.) But before we got to the shore, Squeak disappeared.... Reality interrupted.

So, the mystery remains unsolved. But, at least, I finally got a clue. Figuratively speaking.

Look What Love Has Done

Where once each breath was just a sigh of aching emptiness;
Where once I hardly felt the beating in my chest.
Now each breath feels like a precious kiss of life;
Now inside me beat the wings of a thousand butterflies.

Look what love has done to me;
Look what love has done.
This must be how it's meant to be.
Look what love has done.
And my heart is dancing through each day;
My soul is running free.
Look what love has done to me.*

* Jaci Velasquez (1998) Written by Rob Mathes, Stephanie Lewis

Is it possible to virtually love someone so much that it spills out into RL? Nothing has changed and yet there's a subtle difference in the world. The sun is brighter, the air is clearer, everything looks crisper, colors are more intense, music is sweeter. This affair has had an incredible effect irl that even my family and my friends noticed a difference in me.

Everything goes so well. There's wanting to preserve what we have for as long as we can. And there's wanting more, yearning more. So we inch closer and closer to the line that separates SL from RL.

(Although, my friend Anna disagrees. She says that I'm not *inching closer* to the line. She claims that, in fact, I've drawn a line and already crossed it, then drawn another line, crossed that, drawn yet another line, .... It sucks when your friends tell it like it is and you know they're right.)

My fear is that, if we cross over to real life and the veil is lifted, then the spell breaks, the innocence is lost, and the fantasy fades. Going into RL is a great risk -- double or nothing. Either you get a great romance in both SL and RL, or you lose what you already have.

And the odds are against you. Many have told me of stories of people who took SL relationships out irl. The "happily ever after" never happens outside fairy tales. And SL is a fairy tale.

On the other hand, how long can I live locked up in an emotional tower? January lover and I have so much in common and we are so often in sync that it feels like I'm interacting with my own reflection. The odds of me meeting someone like him again are miniscule. If we keep it platonic, will we always wonder "what if ...?"

Maybe the trick is to figure out which odds are better -- making an SL affair work irl or finding someone like him irl. And then maybe I should take December's lesson: jump in, take the risk, and carpe diem. Then, at the very least, I could say that I met life head-on, that I chose to truly live, instead of simply allowing life to happen.

On the other hand, ...

Should auld lovers be forgot?

I told him that all he had to do to be my January lover was to kiss me at midnight on New Year's Eve. Heck, I even had the mistletoe! All he had to do was show up!

The funny thing was that, during our first week together, I had a premonition that December lover would disappear into oblivion, just like September lover did.

So, there I was on New Year's Eve at the Blue Note, where we agreed to meet. And I waited. Up til the countdown started, down to the moment the clock struck midnight. December lover was nowhere in sight. My evening gown would have turned back into rags and my teleporter would have turned back into a pumpkin, had it not been for a knight in shining armor -- er, in a spiffy tux -- whom I had just met and who, upon realizing I've been stood up, rescued me with a "/kiss Opal".

Before I even met December lover, I promised myself that the man who kisses me at midnight on New Year's Eve would be my January lover. When I told my knight of that promise, he was pleasantly surprised and said he was honored. How sweet is that?

I guess this is a new record for me -- taking on a new lover soon after I met him. If SL was fast for me in the past, it'd just gone even faster in the new year. But it couldn't be helped. If I can't keep a promise to myself, how can I keep a promise to anyone else?

The fifth lover in the fifth month. I guess I haven't broken the curse yet.