Anyone can slay a dragon
he told me, but try waking up
every morning & loving
the world all over again.
That's what takes a real hero
(From Traveling Light by Brian Andreas)
The crisis is over. The dragon is slain. You've got the details. The decision is made to either stay or go. You've told anyone you're going to tell and hidden your pain from anyone else. All that's left now is...the rest of your life.
Scary huh? The rest of your life. Carrying the knowledge of just how deeply you can be hurt. Understanding just how wrong you can be about your own life and the people in it. But knowing too that maybe you did sorta kinda did know. That maybe that dragon had been circling for a while and you didn't want to see it. Or maybe that damn dragon really was cagey and clever and cunning.
No matter. It's slain.
And now's the time for heroism because it turns out it's not enough to just slay the dragon. We need to carry on, careful to strip ourselves of armour so that our hearts are exposed, but knowing that dragons are real. And that one might show up again.
The rest of our life can seem like a long time when it's dark. When we can barely make out what's around the corner let alone what's far ahead on the road.
And yet, thinking we could see decades ahead was a lie. A delusion that made our world seem safer.
It's not just us whose future is uncertain. None of us really knows what's coming. And for those of us who've been blindsided by any pain, including betrayal, that's particularly terrifying.
And yet, we have our toolbox. The same one we've always had. The one that can hold what we need to get through the days and years ahead: Compassion for ourselves. Boundaries. Self-care. Self-respect.
If we lack those tools, then now is the time to discover them. If we've lost them, now is the time to recover them.
We need them. We've always needed them. If we weren't using them, it's probably because we were relying on somebody else's tools. But somebody else can't build our lives. Only we can do that.
And we do it by being the heroes poet Brian Andreas refers to. By slaying the dragon, sure. But then by waking up every morning afterward and walking forward into our life. By removing the armour that protected us short-term but shields us from open-hearted living. By loving the world even when we know the suffering it can hold. By trusting ourselves to hold that love and that suffering in the same wide-open heart.
Anyone can slay a dragon though I take issue with Andreas' suggestion that it's easy. I think we do it simply because we have little choice when a dragon picks a fight with us but to battle like hell. And it's tempting to reach for our armour rather than our toolbox. To close ourselves from pain rather than arm ourselves with boundaries and self-care and radical compassion.
But the hero isn't the one who slays the dragon so much as the one who lives with the knowledge of them in the world and loves anyway.