Monday, May 7, 2012

SL Mermaid Grace

Today I am chatting with Diane, better known in the virtual world of Second Life as GraceSWF Wrigglesworth, the founder of the Safe Waters Foundation (SWF) group for merfolk and other aquatics.

Cynthia: Hello Grace, please tell us about yourself.
Grace: Let's see, I'm a single woman over 50 that enjoys technology, communicating using technology, animals, the ocean and helping others. My goals do include having full time employment and a committed relationship - both seem to be eluding me thus far. I am a unique person in many ways - it just seems like finding a good match is difficult. I adore the ocean (obviously!) and discovering the ability to being a mermaid in Second Life has brought a great deal of love, joy and friendships into my life. Its also brought some tough life lessons but overall, the package deal to me is good. I am based in Central California but have worked all over the U.S. and a few foreign countries.

Cynthia: How did you get interested in mermaids?
Grace: Well, growing up my fascination was with the ocean (the sound, the smell, the feel of being in the water) and lake water as well. I grew my interest in mermaids in Second Life. I came to second life and joined a role play sim that had mermaids as one of the roles. Being a newb, I wasn't sure how to become a mermaid but one day to my surprise I saw a mermaid flying overhead (very rapidly) and I rushed to follow her and get more information. It was hard, I almost lost her, but eventually she gave me some information. It was still hard to become a mermaid in this new virtual world but with some effort, I did it. The joy of swimming, exploring underwater worlds and dancing as a mermaid - oh gosh, it was joyful! I was hooked on mermaids and just kept discovering more and more as I went along.

GraceSWF Wrigglesworth
Cynthia: Tell us how Safe Waters Foundation came to be, and who it is for.
Grace: Well, it started as a Second Life user group. Honestly, I got "married" in SL and my partner wanted me to give up my username (GraceSWF = GraceSingleWhiteFemale) and I didn't want to lose all my inventory and I liked my name. So one day, with more than a little good humor I created a group called Safe Waters Foundation (I was already a mermaid) without any idea what it was for other than to say - oh noooooo, SWF doesn't stand for Single White Female - it's Safe Waters Foundation. He fell for it and the group continued and eventually found a role.

When the group started getting active, I just dedicated it to helping new mermaids/mermen (I like to call them merms) in Second Life. I started with a little folder of notecards I'd update regularly and give out. Other people started joining, and we discovered the usefullness of group chat for finding other merms. We've got a mission, a charter, headquarters and a number of helpful programs now.

It's no longer "my group" - it really is "our group" - as so many have contributed their talents. So many people enjoy helping others become merm - and there are so many different ways to help. We do a good job of helping overall.

Cynthia: What are your goals for SWF?
Grace: Well that really is part of our mission statement:
  • To assist those considering a mer life.
  • To increase awareness in the general public that there is a mer option.
  • To make mer resources (events, projects, groups, retailers, sims [land areas], designers) visible and easily accessible.
  • To assist, as possible, with the viability of mer resources so they may continue to be available to the community.
There sometimes has been some confusion because of our name - our goal isn't to make the waters safe for merms. We aren't the United Nations for merms - seeking to intervene in conflicts and be the peacemakers. Quite the opposite - I've tried to steer us out of the "wars" that seem inevitably to come up - to let the parties involved solve it among themselves. I've lost friends over this distinction - but I just don't have the desire or the energy to be the peacemaker of Second Life merms.

The other confusion is that some people think that SWF is a Real Life organization - doing environmental actions to make the waters safe and healthy. I wish I was able to raise it up to that, but until now - that is beyond the scope of our little organization.

A personal goal for SWF that I still maintain is a hope to make it more multi-national. Right now everything is in English. I'd like to translate the core support pieces and even have chapters that meet in times that make sense for different time zones. We have one support group meeting weekly that is well attended but very inconvenient if you are in Europe, Japan or Austrailia!

Cynthia: Are you active in helping to save the environment?
Grace: I try to do no harm (not littering, recycling, using biodegradable products and never putting those plastic six-pack holders into the garbage - cut them up so wildlife doesn't get stuck in those!!) but am not a member of any environmental group or proactively trying to make a difference in that area. I would love to do more, but until I find steady employment and my real life stabilizes, I just can't add another layer of confusion to my life right now.

Cynthia: You were in Mexico for several months.  Tell us about that.
Grace: When I was in high school, I trained horses - through college actually and my first job after I got my bachelor's degree was as an assistant manager at a horse ranch. It was a large ranch, understaffed and I eventually figured out that it was a dangerous profession with no health insurance and not a way to build the more stable life I desired. So I stepped away from horses, which were the passion of my life back then. Life is such a journey - I've ended up with a doctorate in business and have reflected back a lot on those years - wishing that I could have done more work with the young horses and utilized some of the training methods taught by Monty Roberts.

A little over a year ago I went to a workshop at Esalen and we were given some time to envision the future life we would choose. Its a powerful exercise - if there were no limits on time, money, or anything needed - what would you do with the rest of your life? If there was a drive-up-window and you could just pull up and tell God what you wanted - what would you order? I ended up writing that I'd like to go to a foreign country not too far away and focus on raising foals the right way - to start them right with respect and gentleness - an ambassador of sorts but righting the wrongs of so many foals that are raised harshly and have lost any trust or respect for people.

About three months later, my sister contacted me - she had a friend of a friend with a horse ranch in Mexico - she was hoping to make a resort out of it and was dedicated to Monty Roberts' methods. My sister connected us, and I ended up agreeing to go out there for room and board - there were verbal discussions and restrictions. I was elated - it seemed like God had dropped the answer to my prayers right in my lap. Ask for it and plop there was the opportunity to do it.

I lasted about three months there I think. I guess the short explanation was there were plenty of different expectations that we didn't explore thoroughly beforehand. I'm not capable of hard physical labor but sure got into a lot better shape - but not fast enough for her. She thought people should eat these terribly small portions of very simple foods - if I ever doubted that I'm into food - eating three months at a subsistence level really convinced me otherwise. It also wasn't safe - the dangers one might think of (terrorist) weren't there because I was in a remote valley that was very isolated. It was more the isolation meant that if I was hurt, there was the potential of it taking over 24 hours for someone to even discover there was a problem. And there was a lot of opportunity to be hurt - the horses were extremely volatile and the ground uneven. I adored working with the mares and their young foals and made a small impact on one generation of horses, but there really is a cultural difference for how people interact with horses there. With my lack of physical strength, it really wasn't safe for me to be around these powerful and extremely spirited creatures. It broke my heart to admit I couldn't continue there. I like simple living but not willing to go quite that much back to the basics. So I returned.

I had always built SWF to be a sustainable organization - not dependent on my personality to be there for it to continue. That philosophy came from some of my international development work in the past. And SWF did continue while I was gone. As you know, Cynthia, you and some of the other officers of SWF stepped up and kept things running in my absence. I was welcomed back with open arms and can see where my personality definitely contributes - but it was gratifying to see how well SWF continued without me.

I came back obsessed with food. I'm trying new dishes, watching cooking shows and just really take the time to enjoy my food much more than I did before the trip. Feed this girl beans and rice for 3 months - it certainly awoke my passion for food into full bloom. Hey- if we have a mermaid retreat - I'll bring the guacamole - I know how to make some great guacamole now.

GraceSWF Wrigglesworth
Cynthia: Have you collected any mermaid or nautical items in real-life?
Grace: Since my last job evaporated (regionalization eliminated the position and I was caught by surprise - did NOT see it coming), I've been on this simplifying gig. I have fewer and fewer possessions - right now I'm going through the storage unit I rented and giving away like 80% of the things I've held on. But what I'm keeping is telling of my true self I think. I'm keeping small household items that are sea based - bathroom accessories that are shaped like shells, some art work, and the few mermaid books you introduced me to. I've read your web page before you started this blog and really have benefited from it. So I don't have a lot of sea items - but I have a few and where-ever I end up I will have some reminders of the ocean close by.

Cynthia: Tell us about your recent visit to the northeastern US.
Grace: Ouch, that is a bit of a painful topic right now. I met someone in SL - and became emotionally involved and committed. Yes, I think you can learn to love someone in SL.  We met in person along the Atlantic Ocean Coast. Now he has a lot of nautical items!  But its tough going right now and may just not work out. Relationships require two people to want to be together sincerely.

If both parties are open and honest (a big IF),  I do think the online world allows you to get to know someone "from the inside out."  You talk and react to each other without the distractions of physical interactions. Going to meet them in person is really a different sort of adjustment. You have to be concerned with safety (and we were) and yet at some point if it is going to proceed you have to step out and risk.

I'm resilient and will cope however this turns out.  I think though if this partnership isn't meant to be, I'm going to deal with it in Second Life as I do with most things - with humor.  I've created a nun mermaid outfit (which I'm wearing) and have started another SL group - Mermaids of the Broken Heart. We'll be celibate by choice, be spiritual - maybe read some books together. I don't know - is there a need for mermaid retreats?  There must be other mermaids like me, wanting a relationship but still single. Focusing on that (with a bit of a chuckle) will help me heal I think.

Cynthia: Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Grace: Oh, some gratitude I guess. I'm grateful for the multiple merms that have invested so much talent (and money) into making SWF a successful endeavor. You are one Cynthia, but I'm not going to go and list them all, as I'm sure to forget someone. This SWF has given me the opportunity to lead and has given me more confidence in my abilities - I just hope that gets reflected into real life and I find a way to harness my good heart and mermaidy tendencies somewhere.

I am embracing myself more and more - less apologies for my weirdness (hehe no I won't share those) and more celebration when things come together. I am grateful for Second Life and the opportunity its provided me - some lessons have been painful but I'm proud to say I'm learning. I wish I could get Second Life to hire me to help the newbs. We are doing that with mermaids - so well and in so many ways. Hey Lindens (pointing at self) - look - I've demonstrated my abilities - why don't you respond when I send my resume? (now imagine a mermaid splashing about and trying to get an landlubber's attention.)

And some humility. I come inworld and feel special and treasured and important because of my involvement with SWF and friends mostly. I think I get a little self-centered at times - it comes with being more self confident and setting some limits. You know - I wrote a list of the values of SWF that are built into our charter. One of them is "balanced lives with RealLife first". I struggle not to over-invest in my Second Life activities as avoidance is one of my coping habits - not always at a healthy level. But I rein myself in - taking SL breaks and making sure I'm doing the things in real life that need doing.

Online time doesn't have to be unhealthy - I think many of us reclusive sorts prefer to express ourselves in this form. I prefer to be a mermaid and have a lot of my friendships online and over emails and Skype. I don't see how this is any less healthy than those people obsessed with those noisy race cars - or whatever sport brings them joy in life. There is a bit of a stigma I think in online life - but so many people today are doing it. I highly recommend it if it bring you joy. But do it with balance and keep life in perspective.
Whatever that means to you. There - sage advice from an ancient mermaid. Grace is full of joy and is the mermaid side of me.

Thanks for interviewing me. If anybody wants to hire me - my email address is gracewrigglesworth (at) - lets talk!

Cynthia: Thank you very much, Grace: for all you do for the SL merfolk population, and for taking the time to chat with me today!

Best wishes and starfishes,
-Mermaid Cynthia
cynthia (at)

1 comment:

  1. Great interview Cynthia, and very interesting and candid story Grace. Thank you both for sharing it :)