Archive for freedom

A Warrior No More

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on 2010/12/01 by R L Burns

A Warrior No More

Back in 1979 a little (?) movie was released, titled “The Warriors”.  It was all about a New York gang wrongfully accused of killing the leader of the largest gang in the city, and their struggle to get back home to Coney Island.  Along the way there are lots of fights, a little romance, police, and even the death of a couple of the members.  I really loved that movie and would go see it every Friday or Saturday night for one dollar at the midnight movie at the mall.  (This, of course, was back in the days before home VCRs and the like – although I freely admit that “The Warriors” and “Valley Girl” were the first two movies I ever pirated for myself.  Sad commentary on my movie tastes, eh?)  But, as usual, I digress.

The reason I mention this movie is for one particular scene.  When the Warriors finally get off the subway in Coney Island, after fighting, dying, and running, the leader, Swan, looks around at their town; it’s filthy and ugly.  He looks out and speaks some truly important words:  This is what we fought all night to get back to? As he speaks his voice is filled with disgust and not a little self-deprecation.  For years, that moment in the movie has made me sad for them but left me feeling a little hopeful, like maybe he realizes there is more out there for him.  Something better.  Brighter.

I had that same moment myself today.  A totally life-changing, era-ending moment.  And it came out of nowhere – as they often do.

I was looking on an old flash-drive for a copy of my resume.  My PC is broken and I was hoping it had somehow found its way onto one of the four drives I wear on my work lanyard.  I never found my resume, but I found something else.  Something I had written some time ago to a friend – well, that’s a misnomer, I suppose, so let’s say it was something I had written to someone I knew.  Without a great amount of unnecessary detail (especially since I have been taken to task on another writing site for exposing too many of those), I’ll just say that this person was depressed, I was told, because of a traumatic event involving one of his children.  The inference was that I was partially to blame for this incident and that this incident, such a horrible thing to deal with, was crushing him with guilt and despair, torturing him, and all those around him.  As I read my words, truly a sort of “sympathy” and “encouragement” email, I felt nauseated.  Sick.  Stupid.  Ridiculous.  Throughout my letter I encouraged this person, sent prayers for him, his son and his entire family, from myself and everyone in my family – we were all so heartsick over the episode – while at the same time explaining to him that it was not his fault, that he had done everything a father could do, that his children adore him and admire him…that no one could have asked more from him.  The pain I felt on his – and his family’s behalf – jumped out of that letter, as did my own feelings of shame for any part I had played in this, and brought tears to my eyes.

Until I remembered that he later told me it was all a lie.

Nothing had ever happened to his son.  It was an excuse.  A tall tale.  Told for what purpose, I will never know.  And now, I no longer care.  As I stared at the words on the computer screen I heard his voice in my head when he admitted it hadn’t happened.

And suddenly I felt like Swan, the War Chief of the Warriors when he got back to Coney Island – the home he had had loved, missed, and fought to return to:  This is what I fought all my life to get back to? This is what I almost jumped off a twelfth floor balcony for?  Slit my wrists for?  Cried my eyes out for?  Nearly destroyed myself for?  How stupid am I?

I can hear your answer:  Uh, pretty stupid.  Hey, I agree.

I came home after that, berating myself all the way.  And then I took off the rings I swore I never would – having once proclaimed that even if he was a liar, I was not, so on my hand they would stay – and gave them to my sister to cleanse in sea salt.

For some time now I have felt that I was free-ish of that circle of lies, but occasionally it would come back and bite me – hard.  Oddly enough, it’s gone now.  All of it – a flash or two of self-disgust at giving everything I had to a lie, but beyond that…nothing.

I am a Warrior no more.

And I am glad.  Really, really glad.


me  11.29.2010

Beware the Fairy Tale!!

Posted in Ramblings with tags , , , , on 2010/08/24 by R L Burns

In every fairy tale there is a seed of truth – a seed – but they are primarily morality lessons, aren’t they? Be good, kind, respectful and loving, and all good things will come to you: love, wealth, happiness. We are taught these lessons almost from birth, and some of us, sadly, learned them all too well. Myself included. Especially me.

Thrown into a life I couldn’t understand, a life of chaos and confusion, fairy tales, romance novels and happy endings became my only “reality”. A hope for a future in which I would feel special and beautiful – a future of peace and contentment, where Prince Charming would keep the wolves at bay with his gleaming sword held high – once I had saved him from the dark forces that threatened him. White roses would decorate every surface of our “castle” and he would protect me from all the evils in the world…We would have happy, beautiful children, no money woes, and he would look at me adoringly every day, ask me to dance with him in the kitchen every night. Life would be perfect. Oh, what a silly girl I was. What crazy, unrealistic expectations I had. Who could live up to that dream? No one. Not even me.

And certainly not my first husband. He looked the part of Prince Charming – if a bit short – with his blonde hair and grey eyes. He was quite pretty…on the outside. But he truly was a beast on the inside, and no matter what I did to help him, nothing changed. He believed he was Prince Charming, but he was actually more Prince Alarming, and the disillusioned little girl (me) walked away before she was too broken to do so.

My second husband had no interest in being Prince Charming. If one were to look up the word “husband” in the dictionary, I was always somehow sure his picture would be there, along with the following definition: hard-working, conscientious, never out late, good financial planner, serious, motivated, dedicated father. He was all of those things and more. But he wasn’t interested in being my friend, in playing games or going for walks in the rain – all prerequisites for a Prince. There was no gaiety and little spontaneity…so, eventually the disillusioned woman walked away, hoping he would find someone less complicated and demanding (which he did).

Ah, and then there was the man I believed to be THE Prince Charming. And he was. Is. I suppose. He stared at me adoringly and even called me a Princess. The words he wrote to me could make grown women weep with longing for a man like that. He liked the rain and poetry, words and ideas. He had all the makings of the greatest Prince Charming ever…but he was just a boy. As the years went by, no matter what I did or where I went, the memory of that boy stayed with me. Occasionally he would call out to me when his demons needed defeating and I would oblige – all good Princess-Wanna-Be’s would, right? What a powerful feeling it was, too, to think that only I could help him, reinvigorate him, restore his lust for life! (Oh, vain child!) And I dreamed about the life we might have had…the PERFECT life we might have had. The FAIRY TALE life we might have had. Idiot (me, I mean).

When, years and years later he resurfaced in my life, I thought, “At last! My fairy tale ending is here!! All those years of being good, kind, respectful and loving have paid off just as the fairy tales foretold!!” And I set out to win my Prince Charming for good and all. Only…he was really someone else’s Prince Charming. And in reality, I was not a Princess; I was just a regular old girl, with no special powers or irresistible charm. When Prince Charming climbed on his horse and rode away without a single backwards glance, when reality hit me, I fell spectacularly apart. How could I exist if Prince Charming didn’t exist? What was I, then? WHO was I, then?

I couldn’t know. The shadows of evil and doubt swirled around me, my mind was muddied, my soul in tatters. I felt aimless and confused, conflicted and abused. Poor me. Poor, poor pitiful me. How very dare he?? Again I say: Idiot!

Time passed and I became resigned to the emptiness, the flat affect, the “thing” masquerading as me.

I visited Prince Charming’s world one more time and bid it farewell. That helped a great deal. It cleared away most of the pain. I can’t explain why, really, it just did. It no longer mattered so much to me that I had been dethroned. I felt a little bit more like my old self – albeit a less fairy tale version of myself.

And then one night it all became clear to me. Crystal clear. And I understood everything. Standing outside under a blanket of stars it hit me – and I laughed. Laughed til I cried. I spun around in my nightgown loving the feel of its skirt swirling around and around and then settling against my ankles. It tickled, as did the grass under my feet. Suddenly I could hear rocks singing – loudly – again, when for ages I could only hear whispers. The wind sighed in my ear and whispered, “I love you.”

I whispered back, “I love you, too.” Then I spun around again, my arms open wide to all the peace, love and safety I felt pouring on me from the universe. I stood there, swaying in the wind, soaking it all in for I don’t know how long. Then I went inside, lay down with the sun, and slept the best sleep I had had in over a year, a smile on my face. A smile from inside.

Just what did I understand that night under the stars? Several things…In every fairy tale there is a seed of truth – a seed. And that’s what my whole life-long romance with the would-be Prince Charming was: a fairy tale. There was a piece of truth in there, but it was not really…real, in any functional way. It wasn’t just MY fairy tale, it was his, too, I suppose, meant to be read and enjoyed but not intended for every day use. It could never take the strain of real life. It was a mask behind which to hide, an excuse not to give too much of myself to anyone or anything, since I was always “waiting” for Prince Charming to return. In all honesty, though, I liked the mask because it was safe. Prince Charming was never going to really come back, so he was easy to love, easy to hide behind. And when the possibility of his return occurred, I was blind enough not to realize it was just a story – a good one, a sad one, a heart wrenching one full of star-crossed lovers and destiny and love denied – but a story nonetheless. I had once joked that our relationship and our words to each other were like, well, like writing a romance novel. I didn’t know how correct I was when I said that. It was a perfect story, a less-than-perfect reality.

Most importantly, however, I understood that I am me. That I am a little bit of a princess, even without Prince Charming. I don’t need Prince Charming to be who and what I am. Being good, kind, respectful and loving HAVE paid off for me – that’s the seed of truth in the fairy tale. I am one of the luckiest people alive. I have a wonderful, beautiful, miracle child. I have a loving family. I have a handful of incredibly wonderful, incredibly kind, incredibly loving friends who have done more for me than they could possibly ever understand. The clouds and the stars smile upon me, the rocks sing to me. The grass tickles my feet, Chewie loves me, and the sun warms me. For what more could I ask? Absolutely nothing.

How wonderful it is to be free at last…

No fairy tale can beat that.

The Sun King

Posted in Poetry with tags , , on 2010/08/07 by R L Burns

Drifting dreamily,
As if by magic,
I found myself in the bed of
the Sun King

His skin –
If ’twas skin at all –
Was so hot, it made me swoon,
almost ache to get away.

And yet…
The heat of his breath
Melted the ice from my
long frozen heart

The warmth
Of his hands relieved, at last,
The cold that had settled so
deeply in my bones.

The sound
Of his sighs – or were they
Whispered commands? –
sang songs to my soul,

Creating visions
Of dancing flower fairies,
Laughing streams, sunlit meadows,
and mist covered mountains.

The magician,
In the greatest feat ever performed
By man or God, had
saved me from myself.

Waking, alone,
I looked out the window
Only to see him mounting
his golden chariot…