So, there’s this character standing in the middle of a marsh taking down an enemy’s aerial army…

Reading Time: 4 minutes

… with the magical power of fire. It is still early into her discovery and use of her power and this moment, in the marsh, at the simmering convergence of powerful plot points in the soon-to-be 7-book “Throne of Glass” series, is the first time she has truly mined its depths and wielded it with a more adept control. Due to the themes of unconditional love and true – if never easy – collaboration that run through these books, it is important to note that during this battle she has the support of other characters with other magics. Additionally, every soul on their side of the fight has honed and lethal weapon skills. The might of them together lays waste to that aerial army and she and her friends and allies suffer no casualties.

In my mind’s eye, it is quite the sight to see. And, I’ve replayed it in my mind many times.

When VCRs were invented and a casual at-home human (as opposed to a film or TV professional) could suddenly record, rent, watch and rewatch parts of shows and movies, I was the kid with bright eyes, too close to the TV. I wore the little triangles off the remote control buttons as I did the dance of “rewind-play-rewind-play-rewind-play.” Though film and TV will always own a very particular part of my soul, I am no different with books and have read and reread this scene in the marsh many times.

On my most recent revisit, I found myself crying.

It would be easy to think that I was crying because of the way the main character’s best friend and lover uses his own exhausted magics to walk right into her triumphant if still-raging fires in pure awe and acceptance of all that she is. He kisses her with reverence and devotion and it’s hard not to wish to know a love that unconditional and fearless; it’s hard to believe it even exists outside of a book.

But, that’s not why I was crying.

I was crying because I feel like I’ve made it to my early 40s without having any real sense of what my power even looks like no-less discovered how to plumb its depths and wield it with an adept control.

I’ve caught glimpses, I suppose.

But, I’ve also – not unlike the heroine of this scene – spent so much of my life afraid of whatever it is that lurks inside me that I have drawn person after person to me who was also afraid of whatever lurks inside me. Some knew and said they were afraid, some simply found ways to contain me by way of protecting themselves.

And I let it happen.

Each time the universe mirrored my fear of myself back to me through someone else, I let it happen.

My empathy made me privy to their fear or discomfort in intimate ways. I do not desire to do harm. So, I allowed myself to be contained. My sense of their fear blended with my fear and whether the cage was forged by negligence, dominance, or even by admiration, I was broken by it and cowed.

So even when I have dared to reach in and down and deliberately touch whatever constitutes my power – tried to identify it and wield it – I never stay with it for long for fear that I will somehow do harm if I wield it.

That’s the excuse, anyway.

I know that whatever my power is, it informs me in all that I do whether I name and reach for it knowingly or not. I also know I have worked to put good in the world to the best of my ability as often as I’ve been able and my power must also be part of that. But, there is a voice in my head that says “you are being good and protecting others by not digging too deep into your power. People have been frightened of you for reasons.” My relatively comfortable middle class urban life does not offer me many opportunities to lay waste to aerial armies in swampy fantasy realms so definitions of “harm” are also up for grabs here but mostly… mostly I am more and more aware that that voice is a powerful and cunning liar.

That voice forces my power into dormancy and my power – whatever it is – is restless and it clamours for light and for love. It clamours for life. And, perhaps – given round after round of fearful mirrors and self-containment – my failure is more to sustainably, unapologetically use my power than it is a failure to identify it. Perhaps I do know what my power is but all the fear – mine and others’ – has struck me deep into denial?

I’m not sure.

I just know that I’m beginning to think that not using my power makes me more tired – more the wrong kind of tired – than would a direct engagement with it.

I want to meet it where it lives, cleave to it, allow it to take me on the journey of love and light for which it clamours. I want it to live.

The truth is, though they may not be my warrior prince lovers, I do have people in my life who are not afraid of me. I have people who want nothing more than for me to take that deep dive and unapologetically unleash myself on the world. They will, and have, walked into whatever constitutes different versions of my fire.

They trust me not to hurt them.
And I trust them even if I do not always trust myself.

I guess.
I just need to find my marsh.
And stand my ground.

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