She Knows

How many times can a heart break and still retain its shape? Its basic ability to work. To pump blood. To love.

I loved you. This pain tells me I still do. And even still I am learning to accept that love isn’t enough to keep us alive. Water and air. Patience and space. I am loving you by leaving you alone. I am loving you by surrendering my hope. I am loving you by letting you go. All I have ever wanted was to feel safe enough to stay. 

I didn’t feel safe with you. 

I know I played the role of that woman. Too well. Decades spent rehearsing. You played your corresponding role well too. You were good at being scary. And not in physical ways that would have made you easy to leave. But in subtler ways. In ways that made me question my own sanity. Had we each entered in secure in our separate skin, perhaps it would have looked different, you and I. But instead you and I equaled the perfect play of shadow on shadow. Together our darkness eclipsed our light. 

It broke both of our hearts. I know that. I know this pain is not my own alone. The aching plane we share, even now, apart. We became a part of one another, lines blurring, blame spreading out like blood on wet skin. 

Clichés are clichés for a reason. I am a cliché and I have plenty of reasons. Female obsession, is there a more powerful force? Mine capable of building and destroying entire cities in the minutes of an hour depending on how well I slept the night before. My tears can flood entire continents mourning the loss of men I have loved. I have loved them so deeply. So deeply my insides have ceased to feel right. Something has been carved into me. The belief that loving them would make everything alright.

Things have not been alright for some time now. It’s no one’s fault. We tried. We tried until we lost touch with what it felt like to not have to try so hard. We tried so hard, you and I.

Obsession is a response to feeling you don’t have control of your life, your body, your circumstance. What is deemed unhealthy is oftentimes born of the healthy desire to be alright. To feel safe. To have agency over your life. Women have been well aware of their lack of control over such things for millennia. My obsession has never been about men. It’s been about wanting a voice in a world that has been tuned to hear only what the men are saying. Perhaps I didn’t need them to love me as much as I needed to piggyback on their right to have a choice. Accepting powerlessness is its own form of madness. More than anything I have wanted a right to my own sanity. My own safety.

With every man I have loved, I have surrendered my own sense of correctness. The deeper I fell, the further I strayed from the seat of my own knowing. Confusion taking the place of my ability to direct my own course. Time and again I wandered off into the woods. Dappled light giving way to the darkness of self doubt. I became desperate, frantically waiting for the flash of their light. Their approval to find my way back to the path. A path I was firmly forging on my own when I first met them. What was my own making, insidiously becoming dependent upon their acknowledgment. It is crippling. Slowly the light goes out of me. I disappear. I am lost. I ask the man I love to find me and that only makes him angry. He too misses the woman I was before I met him. 

And who is to blame? Myself? The world I was formed in? These men who despite good intentions aren’t working hard enough to right the wrongs of the broken system that favors them?

This question has become increasingly more difficult for me to answer. When I was younger I clung to the comfort of the well-defined lines of black and white thinking. Women were the victims, men the perpetrators. And now? Now I see such an endless and hazy gray. My eyes burn from trying to make a clear picture out of a world that is on fire. Scorched earth hoping for rain. What I see now is a world full of deeply wounded men. What I see now is the sea of pain men are drowning in as they pull us under. I see this more clearly every day. The men in power squelching what is left of goodness and light in the world. As if on a mission to make sense of their own suffocating darkness. The men without power, tired of feeling dead inside, killing innocent humans. If the world looks like I feel, then maybe I’m not crazy.

More than anything, I think we all want to feel sane. To feel that what we are experiencing does not cut us off from the reality in which we are all trying to belong. The reality that acknowledges gravity as a fact. The reality that agrees we need air to breathe, blood to live. The reality that is capable of holding infinite truths whether or not our human minds can match that capacity.

The men I have loved were so different. Yet so much the same. They were all so skilled at masking their pain. The men I have loved scared me with how well they knew themselves and yet so often chose to forget. We can only hide for so long. And the better we are at hiding, the more violent the reveal. No one ever laid a hand on me, but they hurt me just the same. I kept loving them well past the point it was good for me, because I hoped so deeply to heal them. If I could heal one, maybe there was hope for us all.

It is so difficult for me to write this. Attempting to tackle the mountain that is male violence only to discover that a mountain is only the part you can see. How do we begin with what lies underneath? Millions of years of liquid heat hardening to rock. Unknowable depths. Can we possibly go that deep? Male violence, which I have come to understand is never so simple as testosterone fueled biological urges. It is layer upon layer of frustration, trauma, and shame. It is a seemingly endless legacy of repressed emotion, unacknowledged pain, and misunderstood suffering. It is the lineage of affliction passed on and dealt with in bloodshed. Repeatedly teaching the lesson that the only way to bear the injury is to injure another. Boys learning to stand their tenderness by toughening up. Men glorifying violence as a way of enduring the violence of the world. Those who wound, themselves being so deeply wounded.

I must give voice to what I have myself hidden from. I am ashamed that I let you abuse me. I know you didn’t want to. But I kept showing up to remind you of your pain. I felt the world judging me as I judged myself. Why couldn’t I leave? Why wasn’t I strong enough to stand up to your rage? Because fear is a powerful drug. But hope is an even more powerful one. It became hard to tell which one I was high on.

It’s ok to love yourself into an oblivion, just promise you’ll return to what has always been there. What is always waiting for your care and attention. The will of your heart to rest in a soft safe place that doesn’t require something someone isn’t willing or able to give. Quit looking for what isn’t being offered. Find someone who says, “Here, I want to give you this. This doesn’t have to be a war. Here. This is what I offer without hesitation, without contempt, without pain. The only pain is keeping this from you.”

Find someone who is available. Find someone who is stable. Find someone who is not a child. Find someone who is not an asshole. Find someone who will not panic and leave. Find someone who wants it too. Find someone who will hold your hand and smile while you pee on the stick and will cheer with tears in their eyes when 2 pink lines appear announcing your sealed future. Together. Someone who is looking for togetherness. Maybe not even foreverness, which now seems more like a pipe dream, but someone who isn’t looking to flee. Someone who is wanting to stay. Someone who doesn’t talk about pregnancy as something that ruins the female body. 

Someone who is real. 

Someone who exists in real time. Someone who shows up. Someone who doesn’t want to be elsewhere. Someone who understands that it has taken a lot of work to get where you are and sees you for your bravery at not having given up yet. Someone who is secure enough in their own bravery to celebrate yours. Someone who wants to find out what comes next when you decide to commit to finding out together. Someone who takes responsibility for their shit and knows that it’s perfectly normal to have said shit. That no one makes it through this trying life without their fair amount of shit. Someone who doesn’t pretend it’s not there. Someone who is honest. Someone who doesn’t smear their shit all over your face and tell you you stink. Someone who forgives you for your shit. Someone who is open to talking about their shit and your shit willingly so through acknowledgement you can both help each other in your individual journeys towards continued healing.

FIND THIS! FIND THIS BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!!!

 … 

Breathe.

It’s okay.

Breathe.

Inhale the part of you that knows. Exhale the part that doubts.

Keep breathing.

Let your breath lead you to the part of you that knows, no matter what, your life has meaning. Even when you are struggling with the feeling that where you’ve landed is painfully off the mark from where you’ve been aiming all these years. Trust the genius that hugs the curves of the question marks. Your lack of grasp is not proof of something missing. It’s simply your station as a human signed up for the mystery of living. The implicit unknowing that comes with the job. All around you you see what you perceive as people who have figured it out. People who know all the need-to-be-known things. They have shiny cars and beautiful houses. They have savings accounts and health insurance. They go to the dentist every 6 months. They smile more and cry less.

You may even appear more like one of them one day soon. It may not be impossible to get there yourself. Carving out some sense of structure and security for your floating spinning life. And yet, at night, when the world is quiet and the silence has the space to be heard, you will remember in subtlety what is now deafening. Uncertainty is the only certain thing. Lean in. Keep wanting. Keep surrendering. Keep desiring. Keep seeking. Keep curling up in the curves of the question mark. Find your home there. Find your meaning in finding out as you go. Find your strength in the quiet victory of no longer pretending. And then…

Find yourself. Fight fiercely to hold onto her once you have. Defend her needs. Speak her truth. Love her throughout all her rovings and ramblings. Do not abandon her. Trust her. Believe her. Follow her feelings like a flashlight in the night. She is leading you where you want to go. Even through the dark and scary places. Know that she is leading you where you need to go. She knows. She knows. She knows. Each day, give yourself permission to stop doubting that a little more. Each day, give yourself permission to believe in your own unique and sacred mission a little more.  Maybe one day the doubt will barely be a whisper hard to hear next to all the triumphant trumpets announcing the truth. You know. You know. You know. And you keep going. 

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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.

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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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