I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Major struggle, major accomplishments

It's Sunday morning again, and I'm sitting in my bed with Smart Guy beginning to stir as it's a little later than usual when I start this post. I read all my blogs and even received a wonderful award from TechnoBabe for this blog. I'm hoping she will be okay with me linking it to my other blog, since this one is reserved (in my mind) for more weighty subjects.

When we left last week, I had described my experience of beginning to skydive, and having met Smart Guy through the internet. Several people commented that they were looking forward to reading about the romance that came from that. I'll use the description Smart Guy used: when we began to meet in person, it was not so much an encounter as a collision. It is no exaggeration to say that if we had met in the usual way, at a party, or even at the Drop Zone, we would never have gotten together. It's because, even though we loved each other's minds, our bodies were really a problem: I reminded him of his mother, who he didn't have fond memories of, and I was dismayed by the, well, old-man vibes he gave off.

You see, he had stopped skydiving on a regular basis several years before (unbeknownst to me on the internet) and had let himself get out of shape while working in a job he hated. When the love of my life stepped off the plane, with my heart pounding as we would meet for the first time, he walked right by me and I tried to look around him to see someone who didn't exist. When we finally looked into each other's eyes, we had to look twice or three times to recognize the person we were wanting to see.

And then I made the mistake of trying to attack this gentle soul in the car, thinking that with a little push (maybe a big push), he would be just like any other man and would want to get hot and heavy right away. This was exactly the WRONG approach to Smart Guy. He is private and intellectual and did not appreciate being overpowered. By the time he left a few days later, we had made some tentative steps toward liking each other, but I was not able to reconcile our intense desire to know each other with the slow progress (to me at least) that we had made in two days.

Obviously, this was the beginning of a tough patch in our relationship. The next weekend I flew to San Francisco and onto his turf. I remember he met me at the airplane with a bouquet of flowers and I was deeply touched. I knew him much better after that weekend encounter, because I could see who he was so much better by seeing how he lived. When I opened the cupboard in his kitchen, a single plate and glass were all that were in that pristine (and very clean) area, while in MY overpacked cupboard, I knew he must have been appalled at the disorder that spilled out of it.

Even with that inauspicious beginning, we decided after a few more trips back and forth that someone would need to move. Since he hated his job and I loved mine, he would move to Boulder. He considers our marriage beginning on the day he walked into his boss's office and gave notice, and when I would take him onto my insurance coverage: January 27, 1993.

Our first months together were both tough and hopeful. He found a place to live and we began to see a counselor, who helped us through a period of difficult misunderstandings. I think the biggest and most important thing is we talked and talked, and little by little we saw in the other person the potential life mate we originally thought we had met through our words. It was because I could not imagine my life without him that he and I eventually did get married (to me at least, marriage certificate, and all that) on May 5, 1994.

Because I was an active skydiver and we talked endlessly about it, eventually Smart Guy began to skydive again, and he had gotten his own gear by the time we got married, because it was in freefall. Here's a picture of our wedding portrait, which was taken by our best man. Smart Guy already had made thousands of skydives, many of them with his first wife, Clarice, and I had been jealous of her until we were able to have our own memories of freefall together. This one is very special: we passed the "baton of commitment" between us, and he is holding it in his left hand. That's Loveland, Colorado, and I-25 below us (click to enlarge).

This post is getting very long, and I haven't yet talked about how Smart Guy became my teacher in order for me to gain the skills necessary to become an instructor. I think I'll have to make that my goal for next time. Thanks for joining me on this journey.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

How I became a skydiver

Cut to June 1990. I'm now working full time at NCAR and I even have a car again. I'm living in a small basement apartment and have a very full life. I'm 47 and in good health; Chris lives nearby and visits me often. I have been a volunteer with the Forest Service for years now.

This is the setting for the next part of my life. I went to an air show with some friends and saw some skydivers landing on the grass in front of me. It was so exciting to see, and one of them, a guy named Mike, walked right by me and I saw he was barefoot! I asked him if it didn't hurt to land without shoes, and he handed me a discount coupon to try a skydive and pointed to the office. I went there and watched a couple of videos and my friend and I decided to use our coupons to make a tandem jump. We reserved spots for three months later, in September. Secretly I was glad the date was so far in the future, because I could find lots of reasons to back out.

But September came anyway, and I was confronted by my fear. I had a nightmare that I was staring into a huge dark hole and forced to jump into the void. The day dawned clear and calm, without a cloud in the sky. Weather was not going to cooperate. I met my tandem instructor. He showed me a video and told me that I would be strapped to his front side, and that I would have a chance to pull the ripcord if I wanted, but if I didn't pull it, he would. To this day I can remember the dread I felt as we walked to the small Cessna. There were five skydivers in the plane: two tandem instructors, me and the other passenger, and Mike, the guy who had given me the coupon. He would be getting out at a lower altitude, and we would be going to "the top" or two miles above the ground (12,000 feet, to be exact). The plane took off.

After a few minutes, Mike rolled up the canvas door and exposed the whole side of the plane open to the wind. I shrank back, even though I was sitting between my instructor's legs. Mike put his legs outside, looked back at me with that big smile, and fell out, smiling up at me the whole time. I watched his parachute open and I was aghast at what I was getting ready to do! The instructor rolled the door back down and we went up, up, higher and higher.

Now it was time. The door was opened again, and this time I put my legs out, crossed my arms in front of me, and suddenly we were in freefall. Freefall is like nothing you have ever experienced in your life. Your body thinks it's going to die, but you don't. You're in another world. It doesn't feel like you are falling. The wind is strong, and I forgot about everything, I didn't even realize that the tandem instructor was there with me. I saw a hand in front of my face, pointing at the ripcord and I remembered I was supposed to pull it. I did. And whump! We were suddenly no longer in freefall but under a huge rectangular rainbow of color.

My instructor asked me to help him steer the parachute, which I did, and I looked at the mountains, the sky, the ground. It was beautiful, so beautiful, as we headed back down to the landing area where I had originally seen Mike land barefoot. We landed softly and the instructor unhooked me from him. The experience still lives in my memory so clearly.

As I headed back home from the Drop Zone, I could not stop thinking about the freefall. It was like being on another planet, in another universe, and I wanted to feel that again. Three weeks later I made two more tandem jumps, and then I faced my dilemma: I wanted to learn to jump by myself, but I was already much older than most skydivers, and I was unable to decide whether or not I could work through my fear.

Because make no mistake: although I was thrilled to experience that freefall, I was also terrified. I knew that if I didn't go ahead and try, it would be the fear that kept me back, not expense, not lack of ability, just fear. I decided to take it one step at a time. I went through the basic course, a day-long lesson of learning how to deal with any emergency that might happen, because I would no longer be strapped to anybody, but under my own parachute.

I went through what is called AFF (Accelerated Freefall) training, where I was accompanied by two instructors who were holding on to me as we left the plane, but would be gone by the time I had pulled the ripcord. I could not think of anything during the next few months except my next jump. I would pass one level and move on to the next, making one jump each weekend, and on November 10, 1990, I was certified as a solo skydiver, with 13 jumps total under my belt.

My life had changed so much, because it was all I could think about. I bored my friends by recounting each experience over and over, and soon I made friends at the Drop Zone, because they would listen to me, tell me their stories, and my non-skydiving friends became less important to me. Every weekend as soon as I woke I would get in my car and drive an hour to the DZ, spend the day there learning, learning, always learning more about skydiving. By the time I had 35 jumps I had purchased my own equipment.

Just to show you how hooked I was: in 1991, my first full year of skydiving, I made 301 jumps. Some people, I found, get consumed like I was, but most are not. It's probably a good thing, because life as I had known it before I made that fateful jump was never the same. Skydiving had become my reason for living, and I gained so much pleasure and enjoyment from it that I felt I would never stop skydiving for any reason. All of my friends were now skydivers.

I spent time on the Internet reading about skydiving when I couldn't skydive. There was a news group called rec.skydiving that I read every day, faithfully, and I met a fellow skydiver there who fascinated me with his posts about skydiving. He wrote right directly to my heart, my mind, and I began to email him privately. We told stories about ourselves to each other, and we were the same age, but he had almost 3,000 skydives and I was a beginner with only a few hundred.

We began to talk on the phone, and then decided we had to meet. He lived in San Francisco and I lived in Boulder, so we started a series of plane trips back and forth. I loved him before I ever laid eyes on him. Yes, this person is my Smart Guy, who is lying in bed sleeping next to me as I write this on my laptop, twenty years later.

Next I'll write about our courtship, marriage in freefall, and how I became an AFF skydiving instructor.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Loosening the logjam

In talking with Smart Guy about this blog, he helped me to understand what I'm trying to do with it by giving me the image of a logjam of emotional baggage which keeps me from seeing things that should be obvious to me. He gave me the feedback that I skimmed pretty quickly and glibly through the decade of the 1980s, which was also mentioned in some comments.

It's curious that I kept a journal from October 1981 until January 1991 -- I have them all neatly placed on my bedroom bookshelf, and I've carried them around for all these years. Sometimes I'll open one and try to find something I don't quite remember. But I can't re-read them. It hurts too much to see who I was then, a woman both naive and outwardly sure of herself but filled with remorse and shame.

My dad died of a heart attack in 1979, and when my whole family got together in Texas to say goodbye to him (he had three days from the time of the event until he died), it was my first really devastating loss since Stephen died in 1965. I remember how hard it was to go on, and how every man who looked remotely like Daddy just broke my heart all over again. But you know, eventually you heal from even the most difficult losses. He was only 62 when he died, and I'm already five years older than that.

I guess those two unresolved losses led to my willingness to begin training as a hospice volunteer. Boulder has a wonderful program, and I was one of perhaps fifty people who went through the training in the winter of 1983/84. My first experience was with the Dragos, and I wrote about it in my other blog here. I continued to volunteer for two years, and during that time I remember, among other things, bathing and shaving a man in a coma, being the only person with another man who just upped and died unexpectedly, and sitting silently with numerous others who just didn't want to be alone.

I also began to go folk dancing, a free and very enjoyable activity, in 1980. Seven of us folk-dancing women decided we needed to start a women's group. (I also wrote about that activity here, with pictures.) We met once a month and took turns being the hostess. If the women came to your house, you would provide a dinner, dessert, and decaf coffee, while the others would bring wine. (All husbands were banished from the house during the dinner.) The hostess did all the preparation and cleanup. This happened once every seven months, and the other six months you would be treated to a blissful and usually spectacular evening. This continued until I retired and moved away, although we were down to five by then: one had moved to another city and one died during the more than 25 years we met together.

I also took up meditation and ended up learning to sit for hours at a time. I miss that experience, but for whatever reason have not been able to begin again. I was able to be centered through many storms from that practice.

I just brushed over my relationship with Jamie in that last post, but I loved him desperately. We were together for more than four years, and he left me for another woman. I was totally and completely devastated for quite awhile, but eventually he broke up with her and tried to return to me. I had moved on and couldn't go back. I would never have believed it possible. The difference in our ages contributed a great deal to our difficulties; he was 13 years younger than me and wanted to try things and "sow his wild oats" in ways that no longer interested me. For many years after we broke up, we would still spend time together, and I was amazed to see how easy it is to let go when your perspective changes. We both continued to feel love for each other.

I also remembered that Chris went back to Michigan in the mid- to late 1980s to be with his father and work in the construction industry with him. Chris always had a girl friend, and strangely enough each one of them seemed to have a child, always a boy. Chris never impregnated anyone, as far as I know. He stopped using any kind of protection and hoped (I think) to have a child, but it never happened. I think I would know. When he finally married Silvia in Germany at the turn of the century, he hoped to have a child with her, but Silvia never got pregnant by Chris. So I have no grandchildren.

This picture was taken at my sister Norma Jean's home in Michigan during Thanksgiving in 1988. Chris, my mom, and Derald surround me. I am the only person in this picture who is still living.

By the time the 1980s ended, I had gone through Rolfing and lots of other bodywork, hoping to get myself connected to myself. I had begun working full time, in the same place and for the same people, but my responsibilities had moved up to being quite indispensable to the office. Everyone wanted to have me prepare their papers and help with edited volumes, although I was the writer/editor's assistant, doing the work without the title. Or the pay. But I didn't need much to be happy, and I've never cared to accumulate property. It always felt like a burden.

Sitting here in my spot in Bellingham, where I look out the window and see my bird feeders and the huge pine trees, I have around me three of those 17 journals from that decade, all of them hand-written (I don't do that any more), Birds of Washington State, and various things that give me comfort. My angel card for this period: simplicity. I pull one of these out every now and then.

Okay, I did it. I covered the decade with not so broad a brush, and I can feel it must be doing something to that mental logjam, because I feel a little fluttery discomfort down there somewhere in the middle of my stomach. I'm feeling ready to tackle the whole skydiving thing next, without carrying all this other stuff untouched...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The 1980s

I realized, when I re-read the last post, that I erred in my recollection of when Chris came back to live with me. It had to have been earlier than when I began to work at NCAR (the National Center for Atmospheric Research), because he was in the 10th grade in high school. Derald called and said that he and his wife could no longer deal with Chris, that he was a rebellious, incorrigible teenager, and they unceremoniously dumped him. I really have little to no idea about what happened to cause all this, because Derald would not tell me, and Chris was silent.

No matter. He was sixteen and had grown almost into an adult. I moved to a two-bedroom duplex and Chris was enrolled in Boulder High School. All seemed as it should be, and I left for work or a hike and Chris would show up whenever he felt like it. I asked him about school, but he wouldn't talk to me about it. Now as you can imagine, I felt a fair amount of guilt because he was damaged from all my earlier moves and lack of competent mothering. One day I got a call at work from the high school, saying that Chris was no longer coming to school and would not be allowed to return if he ever decided to. This was devastating to me, knowing that education is the only way to get ahead in this world. We had a talk, and I went to child services and was told that if I were to allow Chris to be classified as a "child in need of supervision" (CHINS), they could help him.

When I told Chris this, he said to me, in no uncertain terms, that if I did that, I would never see him again. He would be gone. So I didn't do it, and Chris got a job in a pizza parlor. He made friends and seemed to have the ability to work as an adult. Our life together had some really good times, although we had very little money. I remember one Christmas when we decorated a tree by making a green yarn outline of a tree on the wall and finding things to hang on it. He fell in love with a girl and for awhile I thought things would get better, and they did except for his being a high school dropout.

And then I went to work at NCAR, in 1979, working half time. I still spent plenty of my free time in the mountains or bicycling different places, and until I had that bike accident, I was living in the duplex. Donna had bought a rooming house and I moved into her basement apartment and ended up staying there for most of the 1980s. It only had one bedroom, but by this time Chris had moved in with his girl friend and came over several times a week. We had a good relationship by this time, because I had given up on having any influence on him other than by example.

My trip to Peru was wonderful, but my friends were appalled that I was going to travel there alone, so they talked me into traveling with a woman I didn't know, Marla, who spoke no Spanish and also wanted to go there. We left in October 1981 for a six-week trip, landing in Lima. We stayed at a hotel recommended to us by the taxi driver, Hotel Europa. It was filled with travelers from all over the world, and I soon made friends with a German woman, Helga, who was interested in going to Huaraz with us. We traveled there by bus, a jumping-off place for hikes in the mountains. Marla and I went on a five-day-long camping trek into the mountains to a place called Santa Cruz, which the guide books said we could use to replenish our supplies. It turned out that there were no supplies there, since everything is brought in by burros, but we were taken in by a woman who gave us a place to sleep, fed us, and gave us corn cakes for the remainder of our trip. We were sitting in her dark kitchen having dinner when her husband came into the kitchen from the fields accompanied by an ox! He took it down into the lower level but I remember the shock of seeing that large animal come right into the room with us.

By the end of my trip to Peru, I had gone on three different trips into the mountains, culminating with Macchu Picchu, starting at Kilometer 88 (you ride the train to that spot) and then hiking for four days along the Inca Trail, ending up in the incredible city of Macchu Picchu. It was memorable.

When I returned to NCAR, Boulder, and my work life, I was asked if I would be willing to work more hours, which I agreed to, a little at a time, until I was working 80% instead of 50% by the middle of the decade. I was beginning to feel that Boulder and NCAR were indeed my chosen home. I had never before lived in one place and kept one job for so long. I was finally becoming a stable person!

This picture was taken in the mid-1980s of the two of us. You can see we both look happy, and we were. Although I had started my job working as a secretary, I gradually became more involved in editing papers for the scientific staff, since I was good at it and knew how to keep errors out of published text. I assisted with copyediting and proofreading, and became good at gathering accurate references for publications. Gradually my life became less focused on the outdoors and more on my work.

I had two long-lasting relationships, both with men much younger than me (12 and 13 years, to be exact). They were both musicians, and I learned to appreciate music in a new way. Although I never married again, I still continued to have relationships that were much healthier than what I had experienced after my third divorce. I had a good job, a place where I belonged, and the decade ended with me well into my forties and finally beginning to feel like a grownup. Chris was part of my life, although I wasn't responsible for his everyday care any more, I had every hope that he would be successful. Life was good.

And then, at the age of 47, something happened that changed the trajectory of my life forever: I went on a tandem skydive with a friend, jumping out of an airplane while strapped to my instructor. Who could have guessed how much this would change everything in my life? Next time I'll tell you all about it.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Finding a home

It has become my Sunday morning meditation to write down the bright spots and dark memories that precipitate out during the week of stirring the pot of my personal history, almost like a huge vat that gets muddy and begins to clear towards the end of the week, with a few things I know I must address floating to the top.

When I was going through my old photos, remembering, I saw the exact same smile in that young girl in the banner with the lush babe in the middle. I asked my husband to take a picture of me today with that same smile for the banner, and he said he would try, but the person in the last one has a few miles on her. There are 56 years between the earliest picture and the latest. And I realized why I am doing this: the arc of my life is almost finished now, and I want to see what it looks like from the perspective of age. Not old age yet, that is still to come, but nearing the 70-year mark is close enough.

When I joined the commune in the early 1970s, I learned another way to live. The residents shared all household duties, and we prepared one meal around five or six in the evening. Any visitors were invited to join us for a small fee. I learned to cook for thirty people, and how to shop for that many. You signed up with three other people and cooked at least once a week in a kitchen with massive ovens and refrigerators. I'm not sure what the house was originally used for, but it was perfect for us. The main living room was the only place that non-residents were allowed to visit, other than the ballroom, with all the bedrooms on two floors above it. In the basement ballroom, Sufi dancing was held twice a week, open to the public.

Some members were professional people who went to work every day, and others were like me, living day to day with no visible means of support. Life was easy, and I learned to hitchhike (having ditched my car) up and down the coast of California, visiting the baths at Big Sur, attending large gatherings at universities to hear Ram Dass and throw flowers into the air. I allowed myself to gain some weight and stopped wearing a bra. I took to wearing long dresses and bib type overalls.

Donna lived there too, and we became fast friends. She worked part time as a teacher and when summer rolled around, she intended to go to a dude ranch in Colorado to work as a maid. I asked if I could join her, and she agreed. When it was time to leave the commune, we decided to spend a month in Mexico before heading off to Colorado. We spent an idyllic month living in a palapa on the beach in the Yucatan, long before Cancun was built. One strong memory I have is a moonlight swim, Donna and two guys we had hooked up with, on a beach with phosphorescent sand: as we walked along the beach, our footprints lighted up behind us and the waves rolled in, not only reflecting the moonlight, they also lighted up from the tiny organisms. It is a beautiful memory.

The dude ranch in the mountains of Colorado was quite an experience. I had never worked as a maid before, but I had waited tables somewhere in my past, and that's what we ended up doing: cleaning the cabins and waiting tables in the restaurant. We made friends with the wranglers that took care of the horses. People came from all over the country to spend a week or two at this ranch, taking hikes in the surrounding mountains and riding horses. Donna and I both had a day off every week, and we would take a trip to Boulder, in the foothills down from the ranch. I fell in love with the town, and I remember thinking I would like to live there someday.

When the summer came to an end, Donna and I found a rooming house in Boulder and we made plans to buy ourselves good bicycles and take a trip from Boulder to San Francisco. Since Boulder is a town with plenty of athletic outdoor shops, we got outfitted with excellent touring bicycles and panniers to carry our gear, and we set out in September of 1975 on a six-week-long trip. We went through Yellowstone, riding up passes, whistling down long descents, up through Wyoming and Idaho, across the long desert that is the eastern part of Oregon, pedaling up and then down the Cascades, then stopping for a short while in Eugene, where Donna had relatives. We slept in city parks, campgrounds, and sometimes people invited these two interesting women to stay the night in their home.

By the time we reached Eugene, Donna and I had strained our friendship to the breaking point. We no longer wanted to travel together, so we decided to finish our journey separately, and I arrived in San Francisco with no plans. I called my parents to tell them I had arrived safely, and my mother asked me (since I was at loose ends anyway) if I would be willing to go and live with my grandmother in Santa Monica, who was ill with cancer and needing a caretaker. I agreed, so after having spent two months on the open road, I was suddenly thrust into a small house with Grandma, two cats, and used her car to drive her back and forth to the doctor.

This picture was taken of me at Grandma's house with a shirt I designed and my dulcimer. I wanted only to return to Boulder, and when Grandma began to get well, to the amazement of everyone, I decided to leave her and come back to the place that felt like it could be my home. Never having had a home town, it was possible for me to choose one for myself, and I remember moving into a room in a boarding house, me, my trusty bicycle, and my few possessions and pronouncing Boulder my adopted home town.

For several years I worked in different jobs through a temp agency. Eventually I would get a part-time assignment at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, NCAR. I loved the place and on August 6, 1979, I began working there half time, sharing a full-time position with another secretary. Job sharing was encouraged back then, and I was not ready to settle down too much, since I had become quite fond of outdoor activity, hiking in the mountains during the summers and cross country skiing in the winters. My schedule was working Monday and Tuesday and the morning on Wednesday, when my partner and I would have lunch together and she would take over. I was free to do what I liked with the rest of my time.

Other than a few phone calls with Derald and Chris, I had no contact with my son. It was as if all that had happened to someone else. My life would go on this way without much variation, until the first day of summer, 1981, when I was bicycling down Boulder Canyon and was hit from behind by a truck. I was thrown free, but my bike was pulled underneath the truck and completely destroyed. The driver got out and stopped traffic, someone called an ambulance, and I was taken to the hospital with a shattered T-12 vertebrae. As I lay there, I knew I was hurt but could wiggle my toes so I knew I wasn't paralyzed.

Although I recovered completely from that accident, my wanderlust had not left me. Being able to remain in my job by taking unpaid leave, I decided to take the money from the settlement to travel to Peru and took a six-week-long vacation, traveling around and hiking the Inca Trail, among others. That was my first international trip but it would not be my last.

I'll talk about that next time and tell you about Chris coming back to live with me again.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


I find early Sunday morning, when I first wake up, that I've been spending several nights exploring the corridors of memory, getting ready to write over here at the Eye again. It is amazing to me how much of those years is just... gone. Thinking back to the early 1970s should not find so many blanks in my memory. I know I have never had any problem getting a job, but you would think I would remember at least what I did.

In Sacramento, I found a good job at the California Department of Education, which began the next phase of my life. I worked in the main building and remember taking some trips to the office in Los Angeles, because I would drive myself in my little red VW hatchback (the one I bought when getting ready to marry David in Las Vegas). I remember the cherry blossoms on the trees in the beautiful gardens that surround the office in Sacramento, but very little about who I worked for, what I did. Of course I was somebody's secretary, because I was a good one. I could take shorthand and type very fast and accurately (there was no such thing as a computer back then).

When I was first looking for an apartment, I met Sharlene, a fellow employee at the DOE who let Chris and me stay with her and her son Sean in her little apartment for awhile. I was able to get my own place just across from hers, and she would cook for the four of us. Sharlene was a vegetarian and convinced me to give it a try. That's when I stopped eating red meat, and I still don't. Back then I would get really hungry for a hamburger and would go out to Burger King, my favorite, and Chris and I would be satisfied. I remember it didn't take long before I began to appreciate all the flavorful vegetables that had been missing in my diet. Chris also thrived. At least I think he did; I remember no major problems with him during that time.

I was encouraged by my employers to attend night school at a local community college, and since I had no idea how it would be to return to school, I decided to try it. It was amazing to me how much I actually enjoyed it, and I found out two very important things I didn't know about myself: I had an aptitude for both chemistry and journalism. I have a memory of yellow pads on my kitchen table filled with oxidation-reduction reactions,  a very satisfying memory. The other thing I learned was that I was smart. I did well, which surprised me as I thought anybody who had been as stupid in her life choices as I had been was deficient in intelligence.

Before this period in my life, I had never been in a relationship with anybody I wasn't married to. That all changed, as I took advantage of my good looks to attract men, date them, take advantage of them, and then leave them. I relished their vulnerability and got intense satisfaction when they took the bait and then got burned. But even though this was before AIDS, it was very self destructive behavior that eventually made me very unhappy. I started going to therapy sessions with a woman who showed me I what I was doing, and why.

Chris was entering puberty, and all these years had continued to visit his father and spend the summers with him. I knew he needed some better environment than I was providing him. Derald was really upset that Chris was not bonding during his formative years with any father figure, so I agreed to send Chris to live permanently with his father. The courts would not allow it unless Derald paid his back child support. (I never cared about this money and had set it as low as possible and did not encourage Derald to send it.) Derald had another demand: that I let Chris become part of his family and not have him visit me as it would be harder for him. I agreed.

There was a little of the "30 pieces of silver" guilt that I carried for years over that, because suddenly I came into what was, for me, a lot of money, and freedom from any child rearing, anything at all. Although I would occasionally call my parents, I didn't visit them during this period, I didn't feel any need to be reminded of any of my past life.

One thing I did start doing was to go Sufi dancing in the basement ballroom of a huge old mansion on F Street in downtown Sacramento. It was the home of a hippie commune, around 25 people living and sharing their lives together. After several months of going there to dance and being introduced to the people, I petitioned to join and was accepted. I promptly quit my job, lived on the child support money, and began another chapter in my life as a nomadic hippie. I was in my early thirties, maybe a little old to begin this life, but it was time for me to push my boundaries of who I thought I was.

Don's oldest son had been married to Donna, and she had left her husband and followed me to Sacramento. She also joined the commune, and we became good friends. I learned a lot about her that I never had known before, and vice versa. She and I would eventually leave the commune on a journey of exploration that would bring me to Colorado. But that is for another post.