Life After the Burn

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The burn doesn’t really end until days, if not weeks, after getting home. Besides all the emotions of such an intense experience to sort through, there’s also the cleanup which, despite dizzying exhaustion, most try to get done quick. Playa dust seems next to impossible to get fully out but isn’t something you want hanging around when at all possible. I was amazed at how fast we managed to get it all taken care of. I think we may have broken a record. Well, minus the tent I splintered when breaking down during our burner couple squabble in the debilitating heat. Something that, luckily, turned out to be an easy fix with some super glue to seal in the splintered pieces.
Even the burn reminds me of one of the challenges I’ve found in travel and adventure in that it’s been hard to focus on living my beautiful life at home in California (San Diego County and the Bay Area) as opposed to being consumed by working on next trip. After all, they’re still my favorite places from those I have been to. At least so far. Finding some success with that after getting settled back in, I managed to keep up the fun with Jewels, her Brazilian boyfriend Andre and her fur-babies Sugar (aka: Sugs) and Annie (aka: Piggie). I even got to help out with the pups sometimes, including taking Piggie to the vet when she developed skin cancer. I got to hang out and write at my favorite neighborhood coffee shop, Te Mana (among others) and of course beach days that sometimes ended with bonfires and hitting the bars in my hood, Ocean Beach, San Diego. My pal Jessica’s birthday was a great example of that.

Previously having a great time for my friend Anna’s bachelorette party at a Spanish restaurant in La Jolla, visiting it again with Jewels and my sister, Wendy, ended my second experience with the opposite when the owner didn’t remember, or seem to care, that I came in to write about them for the magazine and then a male dancer flung and obnoxious drunk women against the wall right next to me when she wouldn’t stay off the stage. I may not have ended up writing about them but did manage to write about a fun and impressive new Brewery in Del Mar called Vistapoint Brewing Co a month later after hanging with the owner and head chef eating all kinds of their delicious plates paired with beers while they filled me in about each. Now those are the kind of perks that make writing for the magazine on top of everything else I have going on worth it.
The family chaos continued to climb as my brother and his fiance broke up and the rest of our family, who he had unintentionally mislead about the situation before they temporarily moved in with them from the Bay Area, was forced to move into an Airbnb for a couple months (where, by the way, I got Sean to make tribute posters of our pups who had passed), while they continued to look. Wendy stepping up through everything as the temporary hero and matriarch to our family lead to them finally finding, and unexpectedly buying, the Satterwhite Sanctuary in a small town in the bottom of San Diego County called Bonita. With its two houses, pool, basketball court, batting cage, built in outside bar, large fire pit and gazebo, it was perfect for my parents to have their own two bedroom house where even my grandmother could stay and my sister and brother to have the other large house their daughters. Perfect until my brother made it to the part of his marine vet PTSD (among other issues) cycle where he switched from sweet to angry and violent along with pointing the blame, in most part, at the closest woman to him. A place of darkness for him that was triggered in large part (this time) to the break with his fiance, the situation it created with their daughter, his unhappiness working as an RN in the psych ward at the VA and their living situation. Also from losing two of his dogs only a couple months apart.

This time his blame and hostility seemed to be aimed more at my sister, the woman who had been babying and taking care of him and way too many of his responsibilities (including mothering his daughter), though ended up peaking at me when he openly threatened premeditated violence after I hurt his feelings with an insensitive question (unfortunately I can be a stone-cold ice-princess bitch) when I got fed up and asked why he couldn’t wait until after my 40th birthday celebration before throwing more of his stuff at us. Time to refill my mace.

So many of us have a loved ones who face similar demons. Most know my brother for his good side only. Not only do they never see him when his inner monster comes out but also during the in between when he’s aware and not only trying to fight it on his own but also trying to get help. Also how regretful, heartbroken, depressed and feeling bad about himself he can get because of it. Only seeing him a couple times a year, mostly for my niece, I have kept a strong distance for years because of this cycle. Now that our family is involved, I can’t run away (in other words, fail him) any more. The family is also seeing and acknowledging it for the first time as opposed to dismissing my pleas for help in the past. There’s a rough road ahead of us but we’re together and closer than we’ve ever have been. They have a great property, us siblings can help take care of the folks and grandma (mostly sick pop) and they help take care of my nieces. I share all these experiences for those of you who can relate and because I am a writer. It’s how I process. It is also a part of my journey which is what I am trying to give you full honesty. My style is not just to show you the dream but also reality. Also to share part of why leaving again soon after for Costa Rica wasn’t as heartbreaking as it had been before.

Back to my home, shortly after Jewels and I had a Halloween pumpkin party with my nieces, followed by my celebrating Halloween in OB with Jess, the dog/house-sitting season hit and I moved out. Working on reconnecting with loved ones while I had the chance, I spent a couple nights with different friends and even managed to give Nik and Kate a chance to have date nights with their hubbies Brent and Kurt while watching their kids. I also got a chance to cheer Nikki on in one of my favorite neighborhoods, Mission Beach, while she participated in a mini triathlon. Super fun and exciting but also a reminder about hard rideshare has been so challenging on the wellness of my fitness and nutrition routine.
Landing a gig to teach ESL (English as a Second Language) remotely at night for a company called 51Talk, things were finally starting to fall into place. Taking a few steps forward then back, other plans for work and travel were still painful in that supplementing by driving for rideshare in San Diego was netting around a grand of the $3k I was pulling in from driving around 50 hours a week. That was on top of the family commitments that was occupying an exorbitant amount of my time. The most heartbreaking of all bills that began to fall behind because of this was not being able to pay for a blog hosting renewal. Not that I had time to write anyway.
Still, good times with good friends and family continued to be squeaked in as Wendy and I had a few awesome sister dates and I made it to San Diego’s regional burn YOUtopia. A festival I wrote about for the magazine and volunteered at as a greeter. Finding out quickly that I wasn’t a fan as it took more after the sound camp side of the burn (think rave) than art and connection with others, I was also quickly upset by a lead during my volunteer shift who had embraced the snarky side of the culture by constantly yelling at me. Still, I was thankful for the experience, the volunteer lead who was a sweetie and the friends who came with. Shout out to Juliette, Jessica and Morgan!

Moving on yet again to more moments worth a mention, an adopted little sis-pal from my first burn, Clara, came to visit and I volunteered at the soup kitchen where my pal from the last burn, Annie/Goldilocks worked. I got stood up there by a guy who works at Dixieline, where I go to pick up free scrap wood for bonfires and the fire pit, but hey. At least I got wood. Thanksgiving was a bummer at first when my brother’s baby-mama took their daughter and sister’s baby-daddy changed the flight for them to come from the Bay Area in the AM to late in the day. Well, that didn’t last long. Soon we ended up in the best and most hilarious sibling pool party ever (folks hung inside). This was before my brother’s break in February. I can’t remember us ever having such a great day together. Ever. Definitely topped the charts for the best Thanksgiving. Flying down to San Diego from the Bay Area a couple weeks later, my friend Svetlana talked me into going to a large event called the Naughty or Nice that three of the four people I had lost a few months before were attached to. She was also close to one of them, Wren, which was part of why I let her talk me into it. The experience was hard but in some way did seem to help. A trigger came soon after, though, when one of the bridesmaids from Anna’s wedding, a cool chick who I had bonded with at her wedding weekend, passed from cancer.
Managing to volunteer at the Del Mar racetrack to help take care of horses when California was being ravaged by fire, I soon after managed to get sick. Something Wendy pointed out be telling me I looked like shit and Sean by telling me I looked like I needed to take vitamins when meeting up with the fam at the Old Spaghetti Factory. Sienna, my niece’s favorite. For a month there on out, starting when dog/house sitting for Anna, I was a flu zombie. So much for starting to teach English online for that China-based company, 51Talk, who had hired me. So much, also, for saving to travel Central and South America for a couple months given that being too sick to work = not able to save. In contrast to Thanksgiving, Christmas and the day after New Years were the worst in that they were the days I was the most sick. Extra rough given that Wendy, needing to blow off steam once finally boiling over from all the massive amount of responsibility she had been handling not only for our family but also her high-level boss in venture capitalism, wanted to recreate our epic Thanksgiving by having a hot tub and champagne party all day. Sean was at work. The family had a housewarming/NYE combo party for which her closest friends had flown out and were staying at the house. I tried to keep up with both events through my aches, fevers, shivers and pain though it ended in my being on antibiotics.

Finally heading back to the Bay where I net more than twice as much driving for rideshare, I got sick for another few days from Svetlana’s son, as did she, but we managed to have fun with the quality time of my staying with her while she spoiled me and cracked me up by creating a vendetta against the shoe industry when getting infuriatingly upset about how hard it is to find my size shoe (12). During my stay, we managed to make it to the Woman’s March in San Francisco. My second and her first. Something I was extra excited about given that she is from a family and place in Russia that was not so great with woman’s rights. I saw Brandi there, if you remember reading about her, and she is just as fierce as ever. It was apparent, though, that our time is over. At least for now. While in the Bay, I also got time with my burner buds who live in the Santa Cruz mountains where I write among the trees and hike in the morning and we skinny dip beneath the stars at night.
Besides 51Talk, there is one other event that has catapulted my life onto the next level of all I have been working for. After Anna told me about her company, GLA (Global Leadership Adventures), a company that identifies as a Peace Corps for teens, I applied and was hired to work as a mentor for the summer in a photojournalism program, thanks to my blogging, in the Himalayas.
So here we are now. What you can look forward to next, dear FRFers, is the story of my turning 40 and Costa Rica, where I attended their local burn, Envision Festival, and volunteered at a place I found through the site, Workaway.
For now it’s back to the adventure.

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