Mandy Butera referred me to Leslie and then I ended up meeting her soon after at an event that Mandy put on. I love to meet people for the first time when I show up for our interview, so we kept that initial encounter brief. A few days later, I met up with Leslie at her studio space and we dove into conversation like we were old friends. We must have recognized each other’s sincerity because our conversation carried an authentic and vulnerable tone. I easily could have chatted with her for the rest of the day. I’m happy to introduce you to Leslie here and I hope you have the great pleasure of meeting her in person. Until then, this will have to suffice.
ACT: Who are you and how would you describe yourself?
LBG: I'm a maker, more than anything. I'm an aspiring writer. It's interesting, I guess, a feminist or identifying as a woman in this climate has been more at the forefront - really recognizing that. A wife. A step-mom. I don't know. I'm all kinds of things. I think it changes.
ACT: You said maker first. What does that mean to you?
LBG: So, you're sitting in the maker space (laughs). It's like painting or sewing or - and I haven't taken lessons on any of it. If I'm into something it's like, Oh, let's tie some yarn to a stick and hang it on the wall. What feels fun at that moment. The ability to be able to create something, I think is so important. Especially - we were just talking about technology - using your hands, using your mind, walking away from the phone - that is what keeps me sane. So, that's part of what I would consider being a maker.
ACT: The question that I keep trying to ask is what concerns you and what motivates you to do something about it? But I'm gonna add some clarification to it. While the goal of the project, of course, is to highlight our commonality and put out some positive news, I do think that can happen by sharing what makes us sad, too. So, what is it about life that breaks your heart, that makes you sad, that really gets under your skin? And then, what motivates you to do something about that?
LBG: Right. So, I would say Kavanaugh... he's been a trigger for a lot of women. Watching that whole thing go down makes me really sad. And thinking about the generations of women I know that have suffered abuses... and many of those women were women in a white community, right, so I can only imagine what it was like for women that are marginalized or in other countries. It's very emotional. So, trying to think about how I can help women. How I can raise a daughter that has a voice or have a niece that has decided maybe she's bisexual or pansexual and support her. And educate my parents. I think it's all these little things.
There's a group I want to get involved with called Represent Us that takes corporate money out of government actions. I'm really scared of the way that our country's moving. It's funny, I had just gone to an energy healer - Barb Largent - who might be somebody I recommend and she's like, You can't operate in the 3D world because you lose your sanity. The 3D world is 45 and all the horrible things going on in the news, but it's like the same churn every day, so it's not helping any of us lift up. On the flip-side, though, back to the woman conversation, I really do think 45 has catalyzed or motivated this generation of women to step up and go, Okay, fuck this. I'm gonna have a voice. I'm not just gonna be taken for a ride with this current administration. So, that's been the silver lining. So, with the fear I think there's hope that things are changing. But, then again, it's like an echo of the past - of the '70s. I feel like history does repeat itself just in different ways. And hopefully this time we take a different step forward. I think that was just a random train of thought (laughs).
ACT: On a practical level, what do we mean to each other, individual to individual?
LBG: Tell me on a practical level, how do you mean that?
ACT: This is one of those questions where I'll say, "What do we mean to each other, individual to individual?" and somebody will say "Everything". They might mean it. They probably do. They probably legitimately mean it. But what does that mean? What does each person - the people that are sitting beside you at the traffic light, the bank teller, the butcher, the confederate flag-waving, or the Lululemon ambassador decked out in her Tesla - what do we all mean to each other? Why are we here together? How do we function together? And what does it all mean to you?
LBG: So, the last two I think are bigger questions. The thing that was coming to mind when you were saying all these different people, I think we're here to teach each other. This lifetime is just a big journey of learning. And do I believe there are next lifetimes? I don't know. But it's like I have to constantly remind myself this guy with the confederate flag - he's triggering the shit out of me right now, but he has a belief system that there's something he's reflecting in me that I need to understand or learn about. And if I can have a conversation with him maybe I learn something from him or understand where he's coming from... to make a bridge or bring us together. I don't think humans are inherently meant... I mean, nature is violent. Right? So, I don't know that we're always going to come together or be one big love. I think we're here to learn from each other. (Long pause) I'd love that, but I don't think that's how it was designed.
ACT: What do you see for the future?
LBG: So, I think we're heading fast and furiously down a technology road. I think we're gonna have computers that we interact with more than people. We'll stop... even the card readers that have your attention and you stop looking at the grocery person. Now you're just gonna ask your computer or your robot to go get your groceries for you. Right? We'll just continue to separate unless we have that epiphany, that consciousness that so many people believe is coming. I've been told I'm a light worker - I'm supposed to help people come to that realization. How I'm gonna do that, I haven't figured it out yet. Is it just having conversations? Is it putting that perspective out there? I don't know. I feel like so many of the sci-fi movies that are out there that we watch about the future are this dystopian, sad reality. And when you think about that's what we put into our brain, so of course that's what everybody expects the future to be like. So there needs to be a major shift in like, Oh, it's gonna be this beautiful we've come together. We have very few of those movies where we figure out how to operate as a society. So, as long as we continue to consume the media that we do and read these books where everything falls apart, I don't know how we change that. So, it's a sad view of the future, for me. I want it to be different, but I don't know how you catalyze the masses to think differently. It's an age-old question, right?
ACT: What does community mean to you - being a part of community with all of the differences?
LBG: Burning Man - that is a community that has 10 principles that they try and live by. And even in Burning Man you've seen the change where people no longer even know what those principles are. But I think when you can come together as a community and you can be working towards a common goal... again, that's a slippery slope. You don't want to have rules, right? You have principles. You have things that you all want to bring together to make it better. In Bend, I think we're having a struggle with figuring out which way we're headed and what we want to look like. Like Sally Russel, for example, being the new mayor - I think she wants to bring that community together; she wants to put those principles in place; she's trying to form committees so everybody can have a voice. And I think that's really important for a community - for people to have a voice or feel like they're contributing. You know, that's the beauty of… going back to Burning Man, where you get to see on this little, microscopic level how you can come together and do that and then take it apart and come and do it again. And I think those people take that into their communities and try and create that there. I invite people in to do art with me here - friends, you know I haven't expanded it to everyone in the community and maybe I will in the future. But I think it's all those little things of coming together that make a community better or stronger.
ACT: Another multi-part question. Do you have a sense of purpose or a rephrase could be a compulsion to live with intention? And then do you feel a responsibility to affect positive change?
LBG: I do feel a responsibility to affect positive change. Again, I haven't quite figured out how I'm doing that. My husband just asked me yesterday when are we getting involved with this group that is non-partisan that wants to affect change for taking corporate money out of the government. Maybe that's my platform. Maybe not.
Living with intention, I think so. I don't mediate every day. When you asked who I am, I didn't call myself a healer. I've been told numerous times that's what my purpose is. I don't feel it yet. So, that's a tough one for me because I'm wandering around in the world going, What's my special purpose? So, it has yet to present itself. I do feel like there's something. I don't want to spend my whole life searching for it, so I try and be still and wait for it to show up.
ACT: This is a new one. Do you live according to your values?
LBG: Hmmm. Probably not always.
ACT: Is it on your mind? Is it something you strive for?
LBG: Going out and trying to be kind to other people, absolutely. Words matter. So there are things I stopped saying to myself a long time ago like, I don't have enough time or I'm late or I don't have the patience. Right? Instead I try and say things like I have all the time in the world and This is a learning experience. So, yeah, I guess I do... and all those things kinda tie together. And it's only been in the last two years that I've really tried to change my language so that I'm a better person to be with other people. And it makes a difference. 'Cause yeah, I used to say all the time Patience is not my virtue and then I'd be irritated with everything.
ACT: I had this really intense conversation through this project a couple weeks ago. This guy Russell was talking about feelings versus emotions and how our feelings are a bit more accurate. He described them as cat whiskers, which I really liked. I have strong feelings - I call them values or compulsions - things I'm not sure I can necessarily trace back or fully understand but that mean a lot and shape the way that I live my life. What are your thoughts on feelings and value systems and do people have them?
LBG: I definitely think people have them and certainly community shapes them for a lot of people. I've always thought I was kind of marching to a different drummer where I was a little more fluid in how things affect me. Sure, I've got things that are drivers in there that I grew up with or are deep-seated... I don't necessarily think that time runs linear, back to the quantum physics. Yeah, I mean, I think there are people that... I mean take my dad, he's a Trump supporter. And he truly believes that our country's going to fall apart because the liberals are in charge. And he had a narcissistic mother and a sister who killed herself and he was in Vietnam. So, when I look at him I go, All these things have affected the decisions you've made in your life and where you are now and what you believe about the world. And all I can do is send love to the person that I knew. Because he doesn't seem to be that person anymore. He was a product of being raised by a dad who had gone to World War II, who was an alcoholic. So, yeah, I think there's nature, there's nurture, there are so many things that affect how we operate and what those principles are for ourselves. And I think everybody operates from a different set. There's always gonna be some tweak. Like snowflakes, we're all different - unique, that's the better word. And sometimes we line up, right, and then we operate together, but even then, it's not always seamless.
ACT: Do you want to ask me anything?
LBG: What is the larger... what's going to happen with this in the future? Are you publishing a book? I see that you're connecting with all these amazing people and having these awesome conversations, but what is it in the end?
ACT: Yeah (laughs). It's funny... we're conditioned to want that answer, right? Me, too. So, I don't want this to sound preachy...
LBG: I already love the answer that you've given!
ACT: But I'm struggling. I'm struggling to make this something that lasts and will work because this is my third year, interview 116, with no funds. And so I'm wracking my brain on a regular basis of what does that mean? I'm not coming at this with a trust fund. It's just out of the wallet - kinda all the time. But whenever people want to say something it has to answer the question you asked. They need it to be something packaged. And I'm not sure I can answer it and I'm not sure I'm gonna find peace in it for myself because in some regards this is the whole thing. I'm doing this work that so many other people aren't curious enough or bold enough or audacious enough to do. I do it with enough skill that I can put it on the internet and make it into a podcast. I've published two books already. I try to make a consumable, but that's also just to reach different audiences. Some people just want to pick something up. Some people want to listen to something. And some people want to read it on the internet. So, I'm trying to meet those needs while keeping everything to my standard. Don't really want to have five minutes of ads at the beginning of the podcast. Don't really want to have a bunch of commercial advertisements in the book - not that people have offered - but, to me, it's nicer to just have content. So, I don't know. I don't know if what it is is a stepping stone for me to be hired by an organization where I get paid by them to go do this. I don't know if it's gonna take me 15 years of it before people start to understand the value of it. I don't know.
LBG: I understand the not knowing. It's very difficult. Yeah, very difficult. I cry a lot with the not knowing - being confused or... you know, they tell you to do the thing that you love and try to be in the flow of that and you're like, Okay, yeah, but I have to make the magic paper to live in this world. So, how do I be both of those things? Part of being a maker - I stopped saying I'm an artist or a painter or a jewelry maker because I realized that the joy of just creating something and giving it away brings me more happiness than selling it. But can I make a living doing that? No. So, I sell real estate. Right? And hopefully at some point that flow changes and I can do something that feels more meaningful and give up this make me the magic paper job. So, I totally understand that and where that emotion comes from and how you feel it in there. But you feel compelled and want to give back in a way. And it's beautiful because not everybody will stay in that. This discomfort, we so easily want to turn away from the discomfort.
ACT: Yeah, it's brutal. And lonesome.
LBG: That's really interesting because you're connecting with new people, but yet you feel lonely. Tell me more about that. I see it.
ACT: (Laughs) Therapy session. I don't know. For me, it's kind of wrestling with the issue that the world - awfully generic way to put it - is willing to pay me for any number of things. I've done a bunch of them over the years to keep this freelance lifestyle going. And some of the things it would probably pay me well. And I guess all I have to do is say how important that thing is to me and either pretend it or fake it until it becomes real. And then I can have the magic paper and do the life and buy the things. And feel like I've sold myself out and feel sad and feel unfulfilled and feel... I don't know... cheap. But the world won't seemingly pay me to do the thing that is really in line with who I am and what I have to offer and my skillset and things that I learned and went to school for and practiced a lot. So, I don't feel like I have many comrades. I don't mean this with some sort of mean judgment, but I just think many people aren’t doing it like that. And so, it is lonesome.
And you know, I'll sit here with you and this is so lovely - this is why I do it. But then I have tons of work to do that's all alone - lots of transcribing, listening to your voice over and over and over again, typing all the words, figuring out how to punctuate you. Right? We'll take some pictures in a couple of minutes and I’ll work on those and then I put it out there and it's just kinda like crickets, right? So, that's all lonesome, too. There's not a huge fanbase. I'm not getting letters every day telling me how much this is changing people's lives. So... what's it for? What am I doing it for? Who am I doing it for? I don't know. Maybe it changes - today, or tomorrow, or next year.
LBG: I feel like you're a Buddha. You're sitting in a cave - I mean, you're going to people and talking with them - by allowing people to come... and that's a lonely existence, right? Allowing people to come and tell their story to you and processing that.
ACT: I'm a Buddha that does home visits (laughs).
LBG: That's right. You let people reflect on themselves and then you put that out in the world and whether or not people consume that right now or maybe you die and become famous and they're like, Look at this body of work that he created and nobody saw it then, but how meaningful is it?! I think it's so meaningful. It moves me.
ACT: Yeah, it moves me.
LBG: I see that. I love that.
ACT: Do you have any last words?
LBG: Be excellent to each other, in the words of Bill and Ted. That's what comes to mind (laughs).