CA votes on bill for safety and accountability in adult film industry, performers plead to keep stringent industry health protocols and privacy

This morning, California voters are faced with a vote regarding regulations in the adult film industry. Sponsored by Michael Weinstein of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation introduced by California State Assembly member Isadore Hall (D-64th), AB1576 would require adult film industry (AFI) performers to use condoms at all times. It also includes a controversial government mandate on testing and requires all producers to keep health records of their models’ results indefinitely.

“[It] will look to make all adult filmed in CA require mandatory condom use and will criminally penalize anyone charged with violating it. This is not just professional shows; this includes ALL webcam models, amateur performers and personal web content trade,” AFI performer Steven St. Croix wrote on Facebook. “We have to stop the intrusion of the government in our personal, private and professional lives.”

More than 500 performers have signed a Free Speech Coalition petition opposing the bill. Independent groups representing adult film stars, such as the Adult Performers Advocacy have joined the petitioners and the Free Speech Coalition, the adult industry trade group, to oppose the bill. The petition will be presented in Sacramento today at an Assembly Appropriations hearing.

Lorelei Lee is a performer and vocal opponent of the bill, calling it “insulting and paternalistic.” In a YouTube video by AFI performers that encourages voters to oppose the bill, Lee said that the bill would require CDC requirements for testing that, according to her, are much less stringent than the requirements in the industry. “And these are performer-developed requirements, performer-development safety and health protocols that have been extremely effective,” she said.

FAIR (For Adult Industry Responsibility) claims that AFI performers have higher rates of sexually transmitted infections (STI) than the general population. According to FAIR, a 2012 study found 28 percent tested positive for gonorrhea or Chlamydia.  In 2011, a study found performers 34 times more at risk for Chlamydia and 64 times more at-risk for gonorrhea than the general LA County population. Female performers were also 27 percent more likely to have a repeat infection in one year. They also claim that 23 performers employed by the AFI tested positive for HIV between 2004 and 2010.

“On porn sets in the last decade, there has not been one onset transmission of HIV, despite what you may have heard,” Lee said. “Active performers who have tested positive have done so after an exposure in their personal life. And the moratoriums that have been put in place after those positive tests came to light prevented the HIV from being spread to other active performers.”

The state Assembly’s Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media cleared the bill for vote on April 29.

“For too long, the adult film industry has thrived on a business model that exploits its workers and puts profit over workplace safety,” Assembly member Isadore Hall said. “The Assembly’s Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media soundly rejected the opposition’s arguments because they were based on fear, not facts. The fact is adult film actors are employees, like any other employee for any other business in the state. A minimum level of safety in the workplace should not have to be negotiated. We need to begin to treat the adult film industry just like any other legitimate, legal business in California.”

Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation said that at least two adult performers, Cameron Bay and Joshua Rodgers, became infected with HIV in the last year while working in the industry. Both Bay and Rodger testified in favor of the bill.

“AB 1576 expands and broadens worker protections for all California’s adult film workers on a statewide basis,” said Weinstein. “We are grateful that Assembly member Hall has shown the courage—and the vision—to recognize that workers in the adult film industry are entitled to the same safeguards and worker protections that any employee in California is, and we will do whatever we can to help pass this legislation.”

Weinstein has been in hot water with AFI performers since he fought the FDA approval of medication Truvada for use by people at high risk for HIV—including sex workers—to help prevent transmission of the virus. Weinstein allegedly called the HIV-prevention pill “a party drug,” and used plentiful resources to fight the drug’s approval.

Nina Hartley, a performer and registered nurse, called the bill “a solution in search of a problem,” during testimony before the state Assembly in April. “There has not been a single case of HIV transmission between performers on a regulated adult film set in over ten years, and yet they treat us like a threat to public health, using shame, sexism and fear-mongering to dismiss our concerns about privacy, discomfort, rights and safety.”

In the video featuring AFI performers who oppose the bill, Christian Wilde said that the AFI performers are safe and careful, and “don’t need outsiders telling them how to do their jobs properly and safely.”

Performer Anna Fox said, “I feel that every performer should have the right to choose whether or not he or she wants to use protection. And I feel that our testing definitely works for us.”

Wilde opposes AB1576 for imposing on his privacy. “[The bill states] that every performer would have to disclose very sensitive, personal and medical information to every studio that they shoot for. And not only that, the studios could keep that sensitive information and on file indefinitely,” he said. “And I don’t know about you, but to me, that sounds like a very drastic break of personal privacy.”

In another PSA, Lee expanded on how the bill would impact performer privacy. “If our personal medical records are being kept by a content producer, that means not just a very established organization, like, where we have airtight record-keeping,” she said. “It means anyone in the Valley who is shooting porn out of their bedroom and keeping your medical records who knows where.”

According to Stop AB1576, the bill would compromise performer safety and privacy, as well as choice. It would also drive adult production out of California, with a loss of a multi-billion dollar industry.

“This bill is written by people who have no understanding or knowledge of the way the industry actually works and what regulations might actually be helpful to performers,” said Lee. She added that performers lack a voice in this bill.

“The actual effect of the bill would not be to have condoms to suddenly appear in all porn films,” she said. “What would more than likely happen is that the industry would move to Nevada or underground. And if the industry moves to Nevada or moves underground, what happens then is the degradation of the health and safety protocols that we performers have spent over a decade getting into place…So this bill would make us less safe.”

Diane Duke, head of the Free Speech Coalition said in a statement, “Performers shouldn’t have to give up control over their bodies. We are a small community, and not always the most political, but outrage has come from all areas of the industry — gay, straight, trans, fetish, studio and independent — to fight against a bill that criminalizes sex between consenting adults.”

Lee added, “This [bill] shows a total disregard for performers’ autonomy and threatens a vital safety infrastructure that we have spent ten years building…If the bill becomes law, it will, in fact, harm the people it claims it will protect.”

Wilde said that by voting no on this bill, AFI performers can “continue giving you the quality of work that we are destined to give.” He added, “We need our voices heard. We need our advocates out there—our fans who love us and watch our work—to take this into their own hands and help us get out the word…To say ‘absolutely no, thank you’ to this bill.”

‘Twas A Bittersweet—More Sweet than Bitter, Bitter Than Sweet—Year

For me, 2011 was the year of truly living SingleInMy30s. At age 33, it was in fact the first time in my 30s I was not involved in some exclusive—usually long-term—relationship for the vast majority of the year. The V-Man and I finally ended our second attempt at being together a couple months into the year…and from then on, I was free.

I can’t say that it was an easy year. My body slowly stopped allowing me to beat it into submission, to work it day and night with little to no rest. Soon my dream job became a nightmare job for my immune system, and I was left facing four months of chemotherapy.

I was forced to go on medical leave from my job, and when I wasn’t back on my feet fast enough, I had to leave it outright. To be honest, I think that hurt more than saying goodbye to V-Man, though those losses are somehow linked. Still, saying goodbye to that old dream, that exciting chapter of my life has led to an awesome new career path and wonderful opportunities I would never have expected.

Most importantly, it re-taught me something I thought I already had down cold—how to listen to my body. Now I truly do understand it’s not worth Hurtling Against the Brick Wall—again. My mantra for 2011? Find your balance.

From the dating perspective, I enjoyed dating a variety of men, broadening my horizons a bit more than ever before. There was the Ballroom Dancer, the Christian Rocker, the Cop, the Karaoke Crooner, to name but a few Up Next On the Stage… I didn’t regret every single one, though there were a couple of opportunities for a bruised ego–most famously, the experience captured in The Appeal of the Exotic Woman. Yet I didn’t allow myself to get too involved in the hunt. Timing was certainly off in 2011.

With all the time I had for myself this last year, there was plenty of time for self-reflection. I dealt with the love I’d left behind in 2010 and finally learned how to say goodbye, with A Letter to a Love Lost & A Lesson Learned and several other entries. I gave the bird to societal expectations of where I should be as a woman of a certain age, Tossing Out the Ticking Time Clock, and embracing my own unique path.

I also focused on my self, recognizing my own faults and weaknesses, and embracing my new strengths, while acknowledging the me-ness that I sometimes allow to get buried behind bitterness/reticence/resignation or tucked under the plastered on happy face for show. With a little help from surprise, surprise Shania Twain, I was reminded about Finding Your Voice Again.

And then finally, sweet romance did sneak up on me when and where I least expected it. We fell hard and fast. Since it is my love life, it couldn’t stay smooth sailing for too long. So I wound up the year with the realization that I wasn’t actually in a relationship. It looked like one, smelled like one and tasted like one, but apparently it wasn’t one. And after that was established, it acted even more like one…conveniently for the holiday vacation anyway.

So I’m not sure where that leaves me in 2012, except that I’m not looking to bring drama from 2011 into this year. I am a survivor of last year. I more than survived, I thrived and feel more alive than I have in a really long time, and I plan to only go up from here. Nothing and no one is allowed to take me down.

Transformation Takes My Place

Metamorphosis by Eaglecaste

My life has been full of transformation over the last couple weeks. My boss put in her notice that she was quitting her position as regional editor next month, leaving her position open as well as, potentially, the intermediary position between hers and mine. Despite the ridiculousness of it, I threw my hat in for both, thinking ahead for my career future, not of the present where I am still on medical leave for at least another 6 weeks.

I am pretty sure I won’t get the promotion, which is fine since I really do love the job I have and the close interaction I have with my readership. However, I am nervous about who will take over as my boss. There have been so many changes at work with the role of my position this year already.

Of course, there was also the blowout with the V-Man. That emotional day also led to a blowout with my father, which had me wondering how on earth I was going to be able to move out of the house when I am currently unable to drive, can only partially take care of myself and I really need my family to help me get through everything right now. After several emotional hours, filled with PMS tears, my dad and I made up. And I stopped thinking about the V-Man.

I also enrolled in a yearlong program in integrative nutrition. I’ve been looking at this school and their program for more than a year now, and I finally decided the time was now to make my transition into my future journey in integrative medicine. It is really exciting, but I am a bit nervous how I’ll balance everything, despite it being designed for people who work full-time. I’m sure they didn’t have my job’s idea of full-time in mind. The good thing is I am starting now, ahead of the official start date, so I can get ahead before I start back at work.

Pumped by all the positive changes I have been taking in my life recently, I wondered what it would be like if I put that focused kind of energy into finding my next relationship. Obviously, I have been going about dating the wrong way for many years, being incredibly loyal to relationships that aren’t worthy of all that time and energy I devote to them. If something’s not working, it’s time to change the game plan.

I’ve been reading How to Be The One by Roy Sheppard. He has some great points about the vast amount of choices in dating we single people have right now, driven largely by the online dating market. While the chances of getting a first date are great, with so many other people out there, we can afford to be pickier than ever and never get to a second date.

If we find something wrong with someone on the first date, we move on to the next person. Sheppard says the competition for a partner is higher than ever. Thus having the qualities you seek in your potential mate is more important than ever. It’s an interesting way to look at the world of dating; to ask first, would I want to date me?

Sheppard calls a date an “Audition for Intimacy.” People who just roll in, like my date Tuesday morning who threw on some gym clothes and a bandana for our first meeting, are not putting in the effort for successful dating. The winners, says Sheppard, are “focused, passionate, dedicated, committed, talented and they are always ready.”

After reading this, I couldn’t help but think about how I am approaching dating. Yes, I am diving into the pool looking for a long-term partner. Yet, are my actions following my intention? Am I presenting my best self? More importantly, whether I am on a date or not, am I being my best self?

Would I fail a test asking me if I possessed the same qualities I claimed I desired in my potential partner? Would you?

It reminds me of the Tegan and Sara song “You Wouldn’t Like Me” with the pointed lyrics:

I feel like I wouldn’t like me if I met me
I feel like you wouldn’t like me if you met me
And don’t you worry there’s still time

Being aware of how critical I am of myself, I do think I possess many of the qualities I seek in others. I believe I am compassionate, encouraging, open-minded, passionate about life, a good listener and thoughtful. Yet, his Relationship Fitness Assessment also reminded me of the things I did need to work on:

  • Being openly honest with myself and others
  • Being more reliable and trustworthy—following through on my commitments
  • Showing more respect for my self—not allowing myself to get in positions where I am giving too much with little return, not allowing myself to heal by reliving past’s mistakes, not always pointing at myself as the stem of the bad things that happen in life….
  • And the ever-so-sexy working on my organization (my living quarters, and thus my mind, is full of clutter)

While it’s not as much fun to think of finding my potential life mate as a project, I know that working on myself is a huge step toward finding happiness and peace in every facet of my life. But that hasn’t stopped me from continuing to date…read more this weekend, after my third date of the week, on how I’m also approaching dating in a refreshingly different way.

Embracing an Entirely New Kind of Lover

Tonight you are my lover

Taking of me all that I am and more

"My Porcelain Lover"

With each passing day, your desire

Grows no less for me

Instead you crave to go deeper

To pull from as far inside

As my weakening body will allow

Yet I want to close up like a clam

Not let you grant so easy access to me

And yet there is that sickly sweet

Satisfaction of being able


Empty myself of this poison

I’d otherwise bear alone

Hurtling Up Against the Brick Wall

Don’t tell him I said this, but it turns out that the V-Man was right: there really is that brick wall I’ve been barreling toward after jumping head, shoulders, knees and toes into my new job. I feel it with my head, and I feel it with my shoulders, my wrists, my knees and my spirit.

There’s nothing wrong with enthusiasm, especially when you are doing something about which you are so passionate. But when your body starts giving you warning signs that it is gradually falling apart—rather when it’s screaming at you to slow down, you really should heed the lingering cold/sinus infections, the splitting kneecap and hip pain, and eventually take stock when both your wrists feel like they are broken.

by Lise Bourbeau

Really, now. It’s been 11 years this month since I first enrolled in the school of The Cost of Not Listening to Your Body. You would think I would have graduated with flying colors by now. You would think I would have written over three dozen honors’ theses on the subject, given multiple lectures and published endless books on it. Instead, I’ve written multiple poems and songs about it, devoted entire blogs to it, seen it destroy relationships and jobs because of my stubbornness and watch it lead to even more troublesome health issues.

But enough of that—it’s a long story, an interesting story, but not one for today. The point is that you’d think I would have listened to the burned out workaholic who found project after project to fill every waking hour with when I knew from my own experience the importance of balance.

Instead I found myself working on New Year’s Eve, later beating myself up for going out to dinner and movie that night instead of working on a regional story that no one would be reading until the morning anyway. Instead of allowing myself a well-deserved holiday yesterday or even a day off weekend day the day before, yesterday, I wrote three stories and wound up with more stories than I usually have in my publication on any given day.

AudWar from Flickr

Is it any surprise that I literally couldn’t drag myself out of bed this morning to write my second article of the day? Normally I would have already had that story in the can so I wouldn’t have anything to worry about, but I couldn’t muster the energy to do it last night. I, wait for it, actually was so burned out, I sat and watched an entire movie without a laptop in my hands. And I didn’t feel one bit guilty about it…until the last credits ran, and I realized I needed to put something up there the next morning.

Both my wrists felt broken all day today. The stories I was expecting to come in from others weren’t coming, yet I didn’t have it in me to push it. My second story wasn’t finished until almost 2 p.m. instead of 10 a.m. I didn’t chastise myself over it.

Because if there’s one thing I have learned, if I don’t listen now, when I really am at this brick wall, I really won’t be able to do anything at all for days and weeks, possibly months at a time. My job does not afford me that luxury at all. I am my job. Without me, this lovely machine grinds to a noisy, crunchy and terrifying halt. I don’t just disappoint everyone in town who has come to depend on me to be their source of news, my friends, my family, my co-workers, my bosses, the people who are looking at me and saying, “wow, look at the readership she’s pulling in.”

The real person I’ll be disappointing, the one who most matters, quite honestly, will be myself. Not because I tried something and failed doing my best at it. But because I pushed myself too hard, knowing better, and caused my own self-destruction.

Balance. Part of that journey is to have started a column to incorporate in my publication, doing a series on my experiences with different wellness and integrative medicine modalities, from yoga to Reiki, tai chi to acupuncture, reflexology to Pilates and who knows what else. I have found an amazing videographer who is up for the task of accompanying me on this journey, and I’m extremely excited about it—once I pencil in the time for it. An evening yoga class on a Sunday night is supposed to be our first foray into the series, as long as the weather holds out.

I’m optimistic. I’m also happy that V-Man has been so obstinate about pulling me out of the cyber-world.  “Shut it down,” has been his constant refrain. Even if we have to go to the mall for the umpteenth time, or to another restaurant, he is ready and willing to get me distracted. He, of course, has found other ways to take my mind off things as well, which are quite delicious too…I’m wondering where he is suddenly getting all this energy. I think my creative outfits might have helped a bit in this effort.

At any rate, my wrists really do need a rest, and I need some sleep. Yet I miss my blog family, and you deserve an update.

Yes, become a career woman. Raw! Be all those wonderful and amazing things you’ve always dreamed for yourself. But by God, don’t kill yourself in the process, okay?

Find your balance, find your groove. The Egyptian pyramids of perfection weren’t built in a day—they really weren’t. And that took teams and teams of people to do it. I am working on building my team and trying to be patient. Meanwhile, it’s time to find my pockets of rest while I can.

Be Careful What You Wish For…It’s Bigger Than You Imagine

It’s truly amazing how easily you can talk yourself out of something under the guise of practicality or protecting yourself. If you play those games on your psyche long enough, you can talk yourself out of a good relationship, grad school or a great job you’re meant to have. It really is a pity because it truly is a ruse. It’s not practicality. It’s not common sense. It’s fear, plain and simple.

I think back to my first quarter of college. I was 3000 miles away from home. I had been to Europe for a couple weeks before, but it wasn’t the same as living somewhere else. My brother was out there, but I didn’t see him often enough, and other than him I was on my own.

I came from a small town where everyone knew who I was. Seriously. People I didn’t even know recognized me for one reason or another, for better or for worse. It was one of the reasons why I wanted to go to school so far away.

I wanted a fresh start. I wanted to be known for someone other than that cute, 5-year-old girl in pigtails, that 5th grader who could do a dizzying series of round off, back somies at recess like I was circus freak performer. I wanted to be known by guys at school, the cute guys I really liked, as more than just that really sweet girl who was a great friend.

Of course, I went away to school 3000 miles away to create a new life. Yet I found myself missing my best friends who were all going to college on the East Coast. I missed my parents more than I imagined I would. I missed having people know who I was. I missed having smaller classes where I was the big fish in a small pond. And I missed my boyfriend who had never gone anywhere outside of the state, who was wallowing in misery without me and wasn’t afraid to tell me so.

So when being a small fish in a big, choppy pond turned out to be more intimidating than I thought, I came home. I wrote songs and fiction. I went to school here and excelled. I had my boyfriend, who was infinitely happier with me within driving distance. I could see my old friends. I had my parents. I definitely saved money. And then I was unhappy.

Because the reason I left that big pond was not so much that I really wanted to be back here as much as I was scared to be on my own. I was afraid of failure in that big, murky pond. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to make the kind of friends I had at home. And I was afraid of just moving on and growing. After I finally admitted that to myself, I sucked it up and went back out there.

I can think of hundreds of other examples. Being afraid of finishing the novel I’ve been working on for longer than I care to share here. What if it doesn’t keep the momentum of quality that it had when I first began it? What if I can’t find the perfect ending? What if people don’t love it as much when I do finish as they did when I started?

Being so afraid of passing time that I am unable to be patient in a long-term relationship. Not being able to just go with the flow and let time take its course. Listening to my close friend, well meaning but transferring her own past mistakes into my present love life by saying, “tell him to shit or get off the pot.” Putting a timetable on love, as if my eggs were shriveling up with each passing second. As though if I didn’t get married by the time I was 32 or 33, I was destined to become the old cat lady—I already had one cat baby. Sigh.

So what do I do? I push him away. He has this negative view of marriage with no positive examples in his close family or friends. I want marriage and kids—the whole thing, sooner rather than later. He doesn’t read, and I’m a writer. He’s exceptionally neat and likes everything a certain—I’m bordering on hoarding packrat who is more flexible in my expectations of others. He’s afraid of growing up—well, truthfully, so am I.

While he did need time to realize what he would miss without me and us, to figure out where his head was, as did I…time told me he loved me more than I ever gave him credit for. And time gave me the chance to see that he could be there for me more than anyone other than my parents at a time when I most needed the emotional and physical support.

I haven’t been above being afraid of a job. Either running away from one, finding faults in one that wasn’t perfect, only later to find it was infinitely better than the alternative. Or not going after the real prize out of anxiousness that I wasn’t experienced or skilled enough for it, thus losing out on the opportunity to see if I really was capable of getting the job done.

So I’ve grown sick of the fear. I’m sick of allowing myself to be a slave to it.

Out of nowhere (okay I did lay some groundwork without really knowing I was doing so), I found my dream job even when I didn’t know it was still my dream job, and I’m not running from it.

I’m writing the stories I want to write. They say no one wants to read long, feature stories on the web. Well, those are my most popular stories—go figure.

I have learned not to be afraid of calling strangers or going to meet strangers to get information from them that I want. I know how to be genuine enough to get people to trust me enough to share their stories. Having made a presence for myself in this community, I think deep down they realize I will do everything in my power to give their story, their words, their life justice.

I have learned to have confidence in my worth again. And that’s an attractive thing.

It shines from you inside and out. It makes you stand taller, smile bigger and love your life. The type of people you want to attract are drawn in by that glow of self-assurance. The people you always wanted to believe in you and be proud of you are doing cartwheels as your own personal cheerleaders and singing your praise.

It’s strange but a lovely feeling. Yet more important is the pride and love you start feeling for yourself again.

You’re finally getting what you’ve always wished for. Not without blood, sweat and tears—this isn’t a random strike of luck. You’ve put in your dues and your time, you’ve caught the wave at just the right moment, and you totally deserve this. You are finally here.

Walking That Fine Line

Some of you have been sweet enough to inquire as to my whereabouts in the last few weeks. Somewhere in between day of getting hired and launching a brand new online daily news publication barely a month later, I have gone from being Ms. Love, Peace and Happiness to being my own worst foe: Ms. Workaholic.

I am the one who sits down at the dinner table with my iPhone and laptop, working while trying to shove some kind of sustenance in my mouth. I go out for “fun,” and I have to check my iPhone every single time it pings with a work email.

If the phone rings at 8 a.m., if I can wake up, I answer it instead of sleeping in and returning the call after I’ve had enough sleep. More times than I care to admit, I have worked until 5 or 6 in the morning. I have actually stayed up all night working, not necessarily because I need to, per se, but because I keep thinking of all these things that need doing, and I feel if I don’t do them right now, they won’t all get done. There are simply not enough hours in the day.

I am on call 24/7. I would complain to you about this. But the truth is, I love my job. I love getting the scoop on everything going on in town. I love hearing from people that they love the site, that I seem to be everywhere, that I’m covering everything going on in a sensitive and refreshing way. I relish the positive feedback (and it’s also cool that my analytics are so strong.) It’s flattering that politicians and big media in the state are reaching out to me and not the other way around.

But most of all I love that I can look at my own work at the end of the day and feel proud of it, even if I am a damned perfectionist who is constantly editing and re-editing my own work. That’s just who I am, who I’ve always been. That’s what makes my publication what it is–something people want to read every day.

I do crave balance. I know I will find it when I feel secure enough with my freelancers not have to write all the important stories myself. I have some great writers for certain niches. Other freelancers, I basically have to rewrite everything they do, so it almost feels like I want to cover that stuff myself and write it correctly the first time than have to rewrite it without having the best material to start with.

It’s ironic that where I once felt slighted by my workaholic boyfriends in the past, I have now become that workaholic. The V-Man hates how I don’t sleep enough, forget to eat meals and feel like I need to be on the clock 24/7. He knows not all of my colleagues are the same way. This is true. He knows that I could get away with much less effort and still put out decent enough work.

Yet he also should realize, complete perfectionist that he is, that when he takes on a job, he’s going to do it his right way, no matter how long it takes him. He just never realized how similar we are in that way when I am in the zone of my passion. When we hang out, he wants me to not be distracted. Ah, the shoe is on the other foot now, isn’t it?

I bought myself a Wii during the early weeks around my launch. I’ve used it twice. I am determined to use it again tomorrow. This past weekend, I actually had a couple days where I wasn’t glued to my computer. It felt incredible. I saw the new Harry Potter. I watched another movie with my family (sort of). I baked brownies.

The world wasn’t going to spin off its axis. I had planned everything well. Each major article was written in advance and was set to go post at the appropriate times. I have the day after Thanksgiving off. I can have family time and not let work completely invade my dad’s birthday or play with my nephew and niece.

Tomorrow, after going to a high school football game for work (I know, torture, especially when it’ll be in the 20s and windy), I will go to the unofficial “reunion” night at the pub and catch up with Harlequin Hero, among others. I actually have cool things to talk about with my former classmates. It feels good to be able to proudly look people in the eye and not have to say, “I have been laying in bed for the last 6 months.”

My doctors are amazed by the changes, as am I. But now, seriously I really need to catch up on some sleep. Phones are going on silent. Tomorrow is going to be a crazy, fun yet busy day.

Turning Over a New Leaf

Contrary to what some of you may have feared, I have not fallen off the face of the blogosphere. In the last few weeks, I have accepted a new job, weathered a break-up that still has its dramatic aftermath, gone on a week-long vacation, had two days of training in a whirlwind trip to NYC, and then started putting in ridiculous hours for my new job because I actually love it that much.

Putney, VT

It’s exhausting and stressful in the the way my spirit loves–as my rheumatologist said to me in my appointment today, “You look a thousand times better today than you did when I last saw you in August.” My father has been hinting that he’s seen a miraculous transformation in me over the last week. And the drive up to Vermont this past Saturday reminded me that this is the perfect season for me to be turning over a new leaf.

With trees beginning to change into fiery reds, burnt oranges and golden yellows and the air getting crisp, my favorite season has arrived. I can zip up my fleece hoodies, snuggle under the quilt at night, and my best buddy Alexei joins me far more frequently for cuddles.

Alexei, the bengal

Sometimes he cuddles up under the covers at bedtime, but what I enjoy even more is when I am at my desk working, and he provides some much needed tension-relief with some purrs, finger-kisses, and the warmth of his n-shaped body around mine as I type away at the keyboard. Ever since the day he came home with me four years ago, my cat has been a playmate, a caregiver, a stress-reliever, a buddy, and a source of great joy in my life. When the world seems to come crashing down around me, a nudge from this little guy has always encouraged me that things are going to get better…and they do.

Men may come and go, but Alexei doesn’t. He’s been there through the worst and the best of my health situations in the last four years. He’s known when to be rough and tumble to inspire me to be active, and he’s known when to be tender and gentle when I just need a body to center me and bring me comfort. He’s even been my litmus test for men. If I can tell he legitimately loves a man in my life and that the man legitimately loves Alexei, then the man is worth keeping around for a while.

My new leaf this autumn also includes being single again. I am not dating. I am too busy to meet and try out new people. I’ve completely kicked to the curb the “friends” who’ve only really wanted a booty call. I don’t need it, and I don’t want it. I want meaningful connections and relationships in my life right now, romantic and otherwise. I cherish those people who’ve been there for me through thick and thin, like the V-Man, even when I haven’t been the best friend to them at times.

the start of my office space

The V-Man was awesome to me last week as I was working to transform my front bedroom into an office. I had gradually allowed my main bedroom to become my sleeping space/recovery room/writing area/home office, and in turn, it had become a huge mess that left me completely disorganized and discombobulated in all areas of my life. I needed a fresh start in my work space big time. So I dragged V-Man around with me to get much needed organizers, some new things for my wardrobe (he has the patience of Job when it comes to clothes shopping with me and my impossible-to-find-anything-to-fit-me-right body), and later, my dad grabbed the new desk and built it for me.

Each day, I’m adding something new to make it feel more like a workable office space befitting an online editor (yoga mat and all)–who just happens to work out of her home.  Thanks to the V-Man and my own troubleshooting, I’m learning how to use my new tech toys. Mom is helping me get rid of the clutter in my own bedroom. Both parents and my brother have agreed to train as some of the members of my street team to help me do business listings that need to be done before my site can launch. Getting me back on my feet is a family project, and there’s no better team I can have.

Each day I’m starting to believe more and more in myself that I am fully capable of doing this job for which I was hired, and that my body can withstand and endure the temporary punishment I give it as we attempt to put out a launch date a full month earlier than expected. I am so excited to have this new focus in my life, to have this career that finally feels like a perfect fit for me and all the talents and skills I bring to the table. I’m actually looking forward to the challenges and to the learning curve–imagine that.

After launch, I can focus more on the other aspects of my life. I can focus even more on finding balance. Maybe I can even explore a relationship that feels like home. However, right now, for the first time in a long time, that isn’t my number one priority, and I think that is a healthy place for me to be. I am the number one priority, not a man or a romantic relationship. It feels really good.

Back Off, Love

So apparently I am not even behaving appropriately while watching a movie alone in my own bedroom anymore. Somehow that is code for talking to someone I’m not “supposed to” after hours, to my dear boyfriend. This morning at 6:10, I receive the following text interrupting my deep slumber:

Stop protecting me using dishonesty. We said goodnight at 10, you watched a film until 11? Why tell me this? I don’t care who you talk to… [note to the reader: totally not true; if it’s an ex, he is definitely going to have a problem] But why hide it from me? U can’t watch a movie in an hour. and I don’t like this feeling that u have something to hide. Anything but that.

I was confused and also a little t.o.’d, to be honest. Last night, as Mr. E and I began a Skype conversation, I had put in the movie, The Invention of Lying (no, the irony of the title is not lost on me), to load up so it would be ready to watch whenever we were done talking. It automatically started playing the film  after the previews–I had it on mute. When Mr. E and I said our goodbyes, I hit the top menu, expecting that when I pressed play, the movie would start from the beginning. Apparently it did not.

According  to Detective E., who actually got back on Skype this morning to check our transcript for when our conversation ended to match it up to when I texted him goodnight, I missed 36 min or so into the movie.  I did notice that the movie didn’t really begin but the character was starting a new chapter of his life, so I didn’t really miss enough to think “I need to rewind, I must have missed some scenes here.”  I was pleased it was such a short movie because I was sleepy and ready for some zzz’s.

Now, this simple misunderstanding might seem humorous if a) it hadn’t begun at 6 a.m. and b) if it hadn’t followed weeks of distrust, insecurity and lashes of jealousy, and almost two weeks of steady arguments.

Sparking one argument was an ex asking me if I can help him work on a set list for a gig coming up. He’s a one-man band, uses a lot of effects, and I’m one of the only people he trusts to be honest about his sound. Still I put off helping him because Mr E doesn’t trust him at all, and it’s not worth an extra battle.

Then, as the she-devil Former Dream Girl who tore his life in pieces repeatedly tries to contact Mr E and he showed signs of giving in (he’s since accepted calls from her twice), I ask him why he wants to be friends with her. I don’t give judgment or tell him he’s stupid for wanting to, I simply ask why. He immediately attacks me for my friendships with men, and says being friends with FDG is just fair if I’m friends with my exes (who actually, you know were loving toward me and didn’t deceive me for two years.) Comparing bananas to jackfruit.  Of course, this still doesn’t answer my question, but it ruins a perfectly good weekend.

Then I get the new job. He feels threatened because he loses the chance for me to move in, take care of him, and he loses the ability to keep tabs on me. He loses control in terms of when and for how long he gets to see me because the news does that for me. He also is extremely uneasy that the videographer I’m working with for the welcome video to launch the site is none other than the V-Man himself.

Mr. E is most threatened by V-Man because we have the most recent past, are still very friendly, and while the conversation is “appropriate” (according to Mr. E’s eavesdropping), we talk too often, for too long, and too late at night (10pm after is my phone curfew apparently).  I understand Mr. E’s uneasiness with us working closely together, but V-Man is a complete pro, the best at the job, is willing to do this as a favor in his free time, and I definitely am not going to pass that up. This is a short work project, not a couple of romantic dates.

Mr. E. is also panicking at the loss of control over my time right now as I plan and organize ahead of time for work, while finishing up a picture book series assignment due next week. He’s trying to have some control over my one week family vacation coming up, and he’s hijacked this weekend to take me down to Maryland with him to see his sick friend. I, of course, am under deadline, have a ton to do in the next week and half, and cringe at the thought of losing three full days. The 6 a.m. wake-up call of course means I have a migraine and limited productivity today.

So this morning’s diatribe made me lose it. I’ve tried to be understanding. I know his last girlfriend was a deceitful ho bag of the worst kind (who’s still trying to tempt him to be her man on the side of her marriage bed), so he has trust issues. I know she and his ex-wife didn’t make him feel needed and wanted enough. But just how many excuses am I expected to give for his constant accusations, negative inferences, and downright idiocy?

This was my final response in our hour-long texting battle this morning:

Lately you’ve been overanalyzing and second-guessing even the most innocent and simplest things I do–or don’t do. It’s not fair, it stresses me, and it needs to stop. I think it would be best for us not to talk for a couple of days and maybe whatever circular thought patterns you may be currently stuck in will have a chance to die out. Otherwise it’s going to choke us and kill the good thing we have between us. I’m not being dramatic when I say this, I’m merely speaking truth.

Pinch Me, I’m Living a Dream

I’m still pinching myself over the phone call I received on Friday. On Tuesday, I had the very promising in-person interview with the woman who would be my direct boss. On Wednesday, I had a phone interview with a woman who has the job I was applying for and a phone interview with someone in HR who told me I had to basically completely revamp my resume. Surprisingly, having this blog and my other blog on health and integrative medicine were considered very big pluses, and I was encouraged to promote those on my resume. However, I felt a bit discouraged by her inability to recognize my very relevant-to-the-job, direct experience. I just let go of control, polished my resume as best as possible, and waited as they presented my application to the board on Thursday morning.

I was encouraged when the woman at HR called me again late Wednesday to discuss where exactly I wanted to work–my hometown or Mr. E’s. She had talked to the regional  editor I’d interviewed with, and  sounded much more encouraging. “In [Mr. E’s town] there are two other candidates,” she told me. “In yours, there are less than that.” Which meant, I was competing against one person or no one. Let’s see: being an expert on the town I grew up in and now live again? That’s a no-brainer.

Thursday morning I was being presented to the board. But I still had work to do. A writing test if you will–a sample story that I might write on a complicated arson case. I spent a lot of time on it and really enjoyed it. Maybe, I thought, as I read over my final draft, I can actually do this.

Mid-afternoon on Friday, I got the call from HR. “We want to give you a couple updates,” she said to me in her neutral voice. “We’d like to offer you the position of…”

After I hung up the phone, I yelled to my mother in the next room and began my happy, funky dance. I proceeded to get my foot caught in the nearby hamper and fall chin-first into my cat’s water bowl. Totally classic, wish someone had filmed it. Why? Because it captured the spontaneous joy of an opportunity I haven’t been able to taste for over nine years since I left California.

The first person I called to share the news was, perhaps not surprisingly, not Mr. E. I called the V-Man, who was so enthusiastically happy for me. He sounded proud. He wanted to know all the details. He immediately jumped into how we wanted to work on the welcome video I need to produce to launch the site. I had asked him previously how much he got for freelancing as a videographer, but he kept sweeping it aside, as if he was happy to do these kinds of things for me for free.

After a conversation almost an hour long, I called Mr. E. Immediately he was Debbie Downer. “This is what I was afraid of. You talked about the level of commitment you reach when you are living with someone, engaged, etc. Now, with this job, there’s not even a chance we can reach that level of commitment in, at minimum, a year.” He did say he was proud of me. He did want to clarify my title so he could brag about it to his friends. But talking to him almost zapped the pleasure of sharing my great news with him out of me.

The weekend came, and I needed to get organized and focused. He ignored my pleas to let me just rest alone with my family on Friday night and showed up at the house. He made me feel guilty for needing to get errands run, organize my work space, and start finishing up my fiction writing assignments on Saturday, leaving no time for him.

When I finally saw him on Sunday, after a girls’ day, I was extremely wary. We’d been fighting all week about his jealousy over everything and everyone. Yet somehow we managed to come together and enjoy our hours together late into the night, despite today being a work day for him. I got a better understand of his apprehensions. I shared my own fears about how I will handle the job.

Yet today, as I sit down to work more on my fiction and as my brain is already churning out more ideas about news stories on my town, I am wondering just how we’ll manage to survive when life gets extremely busy for me. I know from experience that he only gets more needy, frantic, and frightened the more of a life I have going on that doesn’t have room to constantly coddle and reassure him. Yet I know this path is one I desperately need and want to take. Something will have to give. I just don’t know the shape and direction it will take.