We are star dust
We are golden…
And we’ve got to get ourselves
back to the garden —
To shake off my overwhelming sadness, I danced four nights a week in rock ‘n’ roll bars. Disclaiming I was “not a groupie,” I cherished my friendships especially with the members of Los Lasers and their fans, and eventually produced an award-winning rock video for them.
I dressed like what my parents would have called “a tart,” but in my mind I was helping all women of our culture reclaim the right to dress comfortably (without a bra). Only years later would I begin to understand I was probably also reclaiming my sexuality, extremely naïvely. I don’t like admitting how I acted back then, but this was my reality for many who knew me then.
Even though I didn’t own a TV, I worked toward a Bachelor of Arts in Radio and Television. I reasoned that these were the most powerful forces framing our culture, and I wanted to play a role in changing what was broadcast over the nation’s airwaves. I was a dedicated student, twice given scholarships, once when I didn’t even apply.
One afternoon, riding home on the city bus from the restaurant where I waited tables on the lunch shift, I saw a woman dressed in a cheap brown skirt and pale blue blouse, both clean and pressed, but unattractive and uncomfortable-looking, with her thin hair brushing the tops of her bony shoulders. She looked so sad it broke my heart, and I ached to do something simple – even just smile – to encourage her, if she would meet my eye.
Then suddenly I felt the reality of the millions of people in the world with sad stories. It wasn’t just me. Out the bus window, I saw rows upon rows of rooftops of middle class homes and thought of the families inside them, fighting, accusing, or lonely, mothers seeing no way out, children alone and frightened.
The world seemed so filled with sorrow, I felt a kinship with it all.
And a mission. The simple act of being nice to another person was profound, and something I could do at any time, even then, rather than focus on my own sad life. I looked behind me and saw a few Mexican women who, I surmised, might have just cleaned some rich people’s homes, judging by the route we were on, their clothes, and their tired and bored faces. The men had on uniforms with names on patches over their pockets. Only one woman met my gaze and returned a questioning smile.
My stop was coming up and I really wanted to meet the gaze of the woman in the pale blue blouse. As I moved to the front, I tried to meet her eyes, but she stared out the window instead.
An image came to mind of little boats in the dark, on a choppy, cold ocean, and the words “We’re all in this together” came to mind.
I wanted desperately to convey to others in this dark lifeboat that I was dedicated to helping us all. I wanted to make a difference, not just in their situations, but in their hearts. I wanted to make them feel peaceful, if only for a moment, and for them to know there was still love and gentleness in this world. But I didn’t want to embarrass us all. Since the one woman was still looking out the window, I consoled myself that another time would come.
I stepped off the bus onto the hard-packed dirt between the street and sidewalk. My sense of mission was filling me up, and I lifted my arms in exultation, inhaling deeply as if the air were pure and I were standing by the ocean. As the bus rumbled away and I began my walk home, I noticed an energy buzzing all around my body, that moved with me, that hovered around my arms no matter how I moved them, that moved with my legs as I walked. It was my aura!
I’d never sensed it before, and I loved it. I felt more alive than I’d ever felt, and I stepped brightly, almost laughing with my love for all the world.
At my apartment, I fell on my bed, waved my arms above me and experimented with how my aura felt as I moved. It stayed with me, buzzing, delighting, making me feel I could do anything, and life was a fantastic adventure.
The next day at school, I found it hard to concentrate, but that seemed unimportant. The second day, concentration was still difficult, and I was a bit concerned, but still very happy. On day three, I didn’t see how I could wait tables, attend class and do homework in my ecstatic state, so I told my aura it was really wonderful to experience, but I needed it to go away now, so I could function in the world. It disappeared in of seconds, and I was back to normal, disappointed.
In my last year of school, the spring of 1983, I interned in a commercial television station, the public television station and National Public Radio affiliate where I won a first place award from United Press International (UPI) – Arizona-Utah region, for a radio feature. I also won another award for a radio feature series on education. (I include these awards and recognitions for context, for when my story becomes quite strange and maybe unbelievable for some people.)
While my ex was in school in California, he left the kids with various mother figures. Toward the end of my next-to-the-last semester, their caretaker, with whom my ex was also sharing a house, called to tell me the children were being neglected while in her care – what an admission! – because she didn’t want the job, but my husband wouldn’t look for anyone else. Then she scolded me for abandoning my kids. In shock, I told her I hadn’t.
Angry to have been lied to, she suggested I prepare to receive the children, and gave me a particular date when she’d throw him out, when she knew he’d be too occupied by final exams to have any choice. Hopefully, he’d call to ask me to take them, though he might think it was temporary.
It worked perfectly and, two years after I’d lost them, I received them back and was able to care for them full-time for the next twelve months, while establishing myself professionally. This was enough to satisfy the court that my petition for full custody was worthy, and I was soon launched, happily, into the role of single working mother, with full custody.
When I graduated, I gave up my dream to be a radical reporter and instead took a job in public relations, for the nine-to-five schedule it offered – best for a working mom. I accepted a position at the largest PR firm in the state.
It lasted only six months. Sent to interview a new client, I returned to tell my boss that I thought the man was a charlatan, and they let me go. Soon after, for eighteen months, he was on the front pages of the newspapers’ business section every day for his arrest and trial on charges of fraud.