foundation work

On the Shores of Booty Bay

It was spring of 2004.

My daughter roped me in to subscribing to WoW [World of Warcraft]. Since I was footing the bill, I was darn well going to get some time in game. So I created a green-haired Night Elf Druid(ess) named Sylphanya who did herbalism and alchemy.

My daughter, a Horde girl all the way, was completely disgusted: "COULD you make a character ANY MORE WUSSYISH, Mom?"

I was working a lot of hours, seven days a week, at the time. Life on this side of the screen had been rough during the past two years -- I had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, and the ten year relationship I'd been in was summarily ended by my ex- who owned the home we lived in and had met a younger woman he fancied. Many of my "friends" had also mysteriously disappeared in the wake of all that.

I could no longer work in construction to support my art habit, and my energy levels were too low to share with my reiki clients (people recovering from everything from cancer to epilepsy to lupus).

SO I'd lost everything over the past few years -- health, home, relationships, business, vocation -- friendships, too. I was not myself, I was my own shadow, treading water while figuring out if I had a future -- and trying to learn how to deal with this new impediment, fibromyalgia.

WoW became my only recreation. It was social without being difficult (no driving, no extra effort), it was entertaining, it was also addictive as all get-out. It was a sparkly sugar-coated treat that gave me a tiny feeling of accomplishment whenever I did some button-mashing. In the face of a life that at the time was full of disappointment, pain, and failure, WoW gave me a silly reason to hang in there.

In August, I was questing in Stranglethorn Vale, a virtual tropical jungle full of apes, pirates, raptors, tigers, panthers, and Rastafarian Capoeira -- dancing trolls. I was trying to complete a quest that involved collecting some maps and orders for the pirate fleet. Which involved killing lots of pirates (and pirate warlocks) without being killed yourself.

There in the midst of a pack of meanies was a rather cute, unassuming, balding bearded dwarf priest named Gemroc. He was doing his best to hold them off, but they were closing in, and it didn't look so good. So, I helped him to kill them off, and he helped me to survive, and we started talking.

And we started running together. We'd get together inside the game and help each other run quests.

My youngest -- my 20 year old daughter -- left home to be with her heart's desire a few months later, in October. It was time, but she'd left me with empty nest syndrome, no nest, three jobs, no days off, my dog, and my WoW account.

By the time Christmas rolled around, my dwarven friend and I had spent a lot of time talking with one another, and knew a great deal about each other. So when I expressed my deep depression to him, somewhere in Goldshire, he created a virtual Christmas for me, buying me fancy pixellated presents and even getting them wrapped. His virtual generosity saved my real life Christmas and changed everything for me.

That night, we talked about various things -- about the illusions people live under in our flesh-and-blood reality, about the nature of Mind and how what we believe to be truth often isn't, about the connections between people and how sometimes the ones that exist in our minds and hearts are deeper than the ones that exist in day-to-day life.

By the end of the conversation, we realized that we'd developed a very strong affection for each other. We loved each others' MINDS. I was completely leery of the entire situation -- he was in his 30s, more than ten years younger than I am, and I'd found men ten years my senior to be immature, and I had sworn off of men for the rest of my life after the experiences I'd had. So I was shocked to find myself in this situation, falling for some younger dude I'd never even met in person.

We talked on the phone, we talked via webcam. We emailed. Our relationship left the game and spread out into the rest of our lives.

We talked about maybe getting together, sometime in February. I was saving some money.

Then he called me and said, "I just lost my job, and was wondering -- how about I come out there to NY NOW?"

I panicked. I called my (remaining) friends and asked what they thought. To a person, they said, "Let him come. If he messes with you I'll kill him, but if he doesn't, it would be good for you."

SO, he came here. And we've been together ever since. We consider ourselves to be married, without benefit of clergy, it's been four years and three months.

I've never been happier in my life.

With the help of my parents, whose money we decided would be safer in real estate than the stock market, we bought a little fixer-upper and did a great deal of fixing. I also raised chickens for their eggs and planted a veggie patch- we covered 60% of our grocery bill that way.

Matt worked his butt off at a thankless menial job to support the effort. He encouraged me to quit all of my various "cashflow" jobs in order to better maintain my health and get a grip on how to live with fibro and focus on repairing the house, my heart and my soul.

Being a social person, I still needed humans in my life, and I found them (via another WoW friend) in Second Life, a virtual world that I originally joked about as a combination of blocks and dolls. You can build things in that alternative world, AND you can meet people and interact there as well.

I've built a gallery- Triskele [Alma, France3d]- that I hope to use to continue my erstwhile reall life practices of helping younger artists to evolve and promote their work.

For now, I've put a bunch of my old work on the walls and hung out my shingle. I sell "paintings" that are actual paintings in Real Life -- but in Second Life I'm really just selling pictures of my work. Matt sits beside me while I fuss with things, giving me input and ideas while he plays other video games on his computer.

And I love the people I've met because of Second Life -- I have a wonderful circle of friends that I've "met" via message boards and in world that are better friends than those others who disappeared when I needed friends most. I've witnessed people helping each other with all of the challenges and pains of Real Life via the message boards, I've seen charity fundraisers for people who'd hit hard times, I've seen photos of friends who've met in Real Life as a result of having their minds connect.

These relationships are in some respects more "real" than the ones we form in physical life. There is nowhere we are more ourselves than in our minds, and our minds get full play in the virtual world.

Without Matt, I am certain I would have continued pushing harder than my failing health could handle, and would have ultimately had to go onto some kind of disability. With him, I'm reclaiming parts of my former self and making a new life- and even returning to making art.

He is the most diligent and dedicated man I've ever known -- working at a nasty boring job for four years just to tide us through to the moment when it is his turn. So patient! And there's no age difference between us, in our minds, which is where we fell in love, after all. We have a great time talking or playing video games or cooking or anything else we do.

In a few weeks, we're signing the house over to the folks, who'll rent it out for the time being and later sell it. We're moving back to his home -- Kansas -- to start a whole new life using the money we've earned with this place. It will probably involve another fixer- upper, but that's nothing we haven't handled before! And this one will remain ours.

I look forward to painting new territory and people, and he plans to take a couple of years to build his [top secret] invention.

And I can't wait.

...and in the meantime, my younger sister will be marrying her soulmate -- a man she met online after many lonely years -- and also fell in love with via mind.

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