My Body Is My Boyfriend

I fell in love for the first time in the summer of 1995. I was 15. Love washed over me like a tidal wave spelling out the word Y E S. In all caps. The world opened up. The sky got bluer. Ridiculously blue. Flowers became more fragrant. Intoxicating. I was intoxicated by the whole wide world and everything in it. I was intoxicated by the boy. His lips. His lips on my lips. His eyes on my face. His hands on my quivering body. My body. My body exalted. My body seen. Allowing me to see it too, as if for the first time. I became a beautiful cliché. I fell without a choice. I didn’t even know I was falling. I didn’t know what was happening. I just knew I never ever ever ever ever wanted it to stop.

But then it did. And the tidal wave became just that. A regular ol’ tidal wave. Crashing down on me. Drowning me in sorrow. I felt like I was dying. A broken heart feels like just that, a heart broken. It hurts in a life threatening way. Which seems appropriate considering it is a vital organ keeping us here, above ground, out of the grave. When it stops, when it gives up, we stop. We want to keep going. We want to keep loving. Love is what tells us our heart is alive. 

Somehow I made it through. I found my way back to dry land. It took me five years and many ice cream sandwiches and countless jars of peanut butter and thousands of dollars worth of mediocre Indian food delivered to my tiny Brooklyn apartment and oh so many disappointing nights in smelly bars with sticky floors. But eventually I army crawled my way out of what had been an excruciating spell in exile. Five minutes is a torturously long time to feel cast out of love. Five years was unbearable. And yet, somehow, we bear it.

Evolutionarily speaking, rejection often meant a death sentence. Being cast out of the tribe was a pretty solid guarantee you’d get eaten by a tiger, or choke on a berry by yourself. The literal life or death importance of not being rejected led our brains to create a very powerful reaction to rejection. Neurologically speaking, emotional rejection is felt as physical pain. In one study it was likened to the equivalency of a broken leg. Imagine breaking your leg and then just trying to go about your usual business without properly addressing the wound. Walking around, wincing with every impossible step. Smiling with panicked eyes, saying “I’m fine,” when asked how you’re doing. 

Love hurts. But love heals too. And that’s why we keep trying.

In time, I fell in love again. And it did heal certain wounds. And it reopened old ones I had forgotten I had. And it gave me entirely new ones too. And my heart broke again with the ending of another beginning. And once again, the tidal wave. I have been brought to my knees more than once by love. Coughing up. So. Much. Salt. Water. Crawling onto the sand. Unsure of where I’d rather be. Underwater thrashing desperately around. Or alone in stillness on the shore, no longer a part of the ocean.

What hurts about heartbreak is the illusion that forms, that somehow love has been taken away from us. That we are a love castaway. That the best we can hope for (and deserve) is a wonky faced beachball named Wilson. Here’s the thing: LOVE DOESN’T GO ANYWHERE. Love is right where it has always been, in and around you. Everywhere. In the space between the wind and the swaying branches and the dancing leaves. On top of the mountain with a view of the the sun dipping with flourish behind the darkening edge of the earth. In the sheets, damp with tears, alone at night. There love is, where it’s always been, waiting for you to simply know it.

And that’s where I am. Just getting to know love. In the quiet places, and the crowded spaces alike. I am getting to know love, through me. Not through the hypnotic gaze of another. Or the dot dot dot of an unrequited text message. Or the tender (or awkward) embrace of a sexy stranger. I am getting to know love in the sacred home of my body. It’s a revolution. I am well aware of that. Using the same time, focus, energy, attention, intention, affection that I normally POUR into the love and adoration of another. Instead, redirecting that like the loveliest of rainbow colored U-turns, right back to me. Right back to this body. My body. My body is my boyfriend. 

And as I make this conscious shift to choose, say a hot date with a book, or a bathtub, or my laptop, versus going blind in the Tinder-sphere, or going cross-eyed looking for someone in a room full of potential soulmates, I start to connect with how it’s all just sort of the same longing. Energetically speaking, there’s very little difference between having sex and writing a poem. The desire to feel alive, connected and seen. The desire to honor the burning swirling need to express. Whether in low shared moans or the singing of a song. The holding of hands or the baking of muffins. Making. Making love or making something, anything, with love. And yes, I will acknowledge, when it’s working well, making love is a really really really nice form of making. 

Self-love doesn’t have to mean you give up on dating, or engaging. Self-love isn’t just a lifetime of solitary soaks in quiet apartment bathtubs. It doesn’t have to mean you don’t actually prefer being held in the arms of someone else. I love being held. And sure, I spend a great majority of nights holding myself. But I don’t stop holding myself in my desire to be held by the arms of another. In fact, I think learning to practice self-love in the presence of others is the real challenge. Self-love isn’t the absence of outside love, it’s the maintenance of the capacity to hold and give love, whether alone or in the presence of others.

What self-love is really about is not abandoning the body from which love is given and received. The filter with which you are able to maintain the tender task of love in action. And yes, it is a task. It is, contrary to popular belief, not a feeling. Love is an act of will, of courage, of service, of truth. It takes a tremendous amount of sacrifice. But sacrifice doesn’t have to mean cutting out your own heart and leaving it on an altar as you tragically bleed out waiting for some godlight to stream down from the dark and ominous sky. The word sacrifice comes from the root “to make sacred”. It means no longer pretending that you’re not performing the holiest of tasks when you offer up your heart to the higher plane that love demands. 

And where that starts is in your own chest. In your own soft belly. In the warmth and strength of your thighs. The will and grace of your hands. The power of your feet to hold you up and keep you here, firmly planted to this earth. Your ears to hear and your heart to beat. Your lungs to breathe. Your hair to enter into dialogue with the breeze. Your eyes to see and shine and communicate in saltwater when you have been moved by the moonlight. My body is my boyfriend. She wants me to know her. She wants me to listen. To respond to her text messages. To massage her when she’s sore. To hold her when she’s scared. To laugh with her when she’s dancing like a sassy gorilla in her granny panties. My body wants me to promise not to leave. To stay. To honor her needs. To know, that as other people may, and will, come and go, I will always be here with her. Loving her. Holding her, as she has always been holding me.

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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

The post A Plague of Giants appeared first on Elitist Book Reviews.

The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

The post The Art Of Gary Choo appeared first on Halcyon Realms – Art Book Reviews – Anime, Manga, Film, Photography.

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