As a member of the Second Life virtual world community, I had seen her avatar at some social events that were focused around the arts. She loves art and beautiful things I think as much as she loves people and animals. I had no course to speak to her or introduce myself. At that time I was a post-divorcee rediscovering my potential as a hot tamale single in a virtual community, which to me was safer than going to a bar by myself in Toronto, you know? I had no idea who I was or what I wanted, but I found kind hearts and big brains in Second Life. And so I stayed and went on to make some incredible friends of all ages and backgrounds.
There was a charitable event for Warchild and some of the poets (I prefer to call myself a poetess) offered to write custom pieces for donations. I was not particularly well known by any means and there were many published poets in Second Life who were far more popular, some with PhD’s and such. On the day of the live auction, a friend alerted me to a bidding war at the charity location. He neglected to mention the bidding war was over me. There were three bidders, and one of them was Christina.
And she won. I was in shock that anyone would bid at all on a fairly unknown poet, but they did. In fact, the unknown Skylar Smythe received the highest bid amount out of all the poets in that particular charity event, thanks to a patron named Panacea Luminos. An interesting avatar name for someone who later I would grow to learn, made a habit of shining a light on others professionally, and personally in her friendships, mentoring and relationships.
I wrote a poem for her Autism exhibition at the non-profit educational installation for Southern Tier Healthlink, a regional health information organization in Binghampton, New York. While working with her on her custom poem about spectrum disorder, I felt challenged, and calm and intrigued. She was not a coddler and didn’t blow smoke when she talked. Concise. Intelligent. Balanced. Powerful. I could neither out think her nor blow smoke at her either. She was witty, experienced and had a playful sarcastic sense of humor that I fell instantly in love with.
Christina took the time to pull me out of the murk. There was nothing in it for her. She had a life, and a thriving career and she did not have to pour herself into me the way she did; but she did. As I began working on projects with her she inspired me to begin subcontracting, which to me was a new concept. She showed me how to take inventory of some of my talents and skills, and how to put a market value on them. She instilled in me a confidence and sense of possibility when I felt I was nothing… had nothing and that the world had completely forgotten about me. From affluence and being established to struggling to eat something more substantial than rice and Diet Pepsi in my studio apartment in downtown Toronto, there was this woman from New York who allowed me to spend time with her working on projects. Creating. Writing. And all the while enjoying the benefit of being around a woman who was far stronger, more intelligent and later I would learn, even more creative than I was.
I had a terrible heart break in Second Life and I have given up trying to rationalize, belittle it or regurgitate how or why it happened. What I will say is that when the death throes of that relationship happened, I found myself barely able to get out of bed on Saturday mornings. The numbness of that break up shocked me so deeply in ways I still do not understand. Ending a marriage of ten years did not disable me the way that break up did, and on the outside I desperately tried to be noble, strong, defiant and uncaring about the end of it. Inside… I lost the flavor for everything except caring for Diego. He was one of three things that kept me going.
The second one was Diane. The third one was Christina. Both of them could see how devastated I was despite acting out and public display. Both of them stood beside me in different ways. Diane was deeply worried, loving and nurturing, checking in on me to make sure I was still alive and eating, and taking my medication. Christina reinforced the steel in my spine by helping me to refocus on tangibles, growing my business and creative projects with her.
“It’s okay to fall in love and getting hurt is part of the risk of it. But you can’t let everything else go to Hell because you are hurting. Life goes on Lori.”
And it did. She remained (and remains) a confidante, mentor, inspiration… and the woman I tell everyone I wish was my Mom. Savvy, inspired, creative, gentle in her insides and fierce on her outsides… protector of animals, gardener, maker of beautiful artful vignettes and pretty things around her 100 acre farm and lake. Mentor to other women. Connector.
There are students of life and there are teachers. Christina is a teacher. And while I don’t know everyone close to her in her personal life I suspect that they all have stories similar. The way that she sees potential, offers advice and guidance, and steers people into their own strength. To me, that is the mark of the highest quality enlightened human being. Someone who gives to create impact in the lives of others.
In me, she awakened my self-value as a human being and as a creative. At one of the coldest and lowest parts of my life, she was a candle in a dark room for me. Whether you get it or not… she saved me. And the greatest source of regret in my life right now is how far away I am from both her and Diane, the two people who truly mean the most to me, and who had my back when no one else did.
Today is Christina’s birthday and my heart is full of love even more today than ever before. In ways other people may never understand, she is my Saint and the stick that I measure myself by. I suppose you could say I am one of her biggest fans and while I’ve had some economic set backs (and a passport that had to be submitted again for processing) my happy thought is the trip to her farm in the Fall. A weekend with my mentor, burning dinner and wandering swap meets for antiques and cool things. Because I miss spending time with her but have no intention of letting her go.
There are great human beings on this planet. When you find them, appreciate them. Try to return the favor and if you can’t, pay forward the kindness they have shown you in their honor. I have done so by inspiring seven women to write for profit and trained them for free. My way of activating their potential and creativity and paying the gift that Christina gave me forward to others.
Happy birthday Christina. I love you.