Thursday, November 3, 2016

Our post-dragon lives

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. 


  1. As usual, this is exactly what I needed to read today. I am amazed that learning to love the world again took longer than it took me to love my husband again (actually not sure I ever stopped that one, but certainly pressed the pause button when Dday occurred). For several months, I walked around fearing all people and their motives. Not wanting to make new friends, avoiding eye contact, certain that every person I saw was out to get me in some way. Once I said this out loud to my H, I was able to look around and see the beauty all around me again. Other people struggling with other stuff, people going out of their way to be kind to me or others, little kids curious about the world with pure hearts, imperfect people doing the best they can to care about others... I no longer feel sad for newly married couples thinking, "There is only one outcome for them. It's terrible. I should warn them." I accept that this was my dragon to slay, but not everyone will have one. I certainly don't wish one on anyone, but if they ever do I hope they will say it out loud to someone if they hate the whole world. For me, that was the first step to challenging that idea and becoming more of the woman I want to be and living the life I want to live. It was not how my husband reacted that helped me, it was just admitting it and hearing my voice say it and acknowledge how terrible that feels. Hating the world that produced dragons was the worst part for me. I am happy to have been able let that go.

  2. This is something that probably took me about 18 months to process through but once I made it through that ugly part, I have to admit to how much I felt relieved when I first began to see the love and joy of the little things. One day at a time!

  3. Omg you ladies are amazing!! Thank you Elle and Ann, things I needed to hear. I felt the same way after DDay Ann. It has been 17 months since and I am finally feeling some peace.

  4. I am crying now, reading this. I have been wearing armor so long and I am afraid my heart is turning to stone. I would like to be compassionate to myself but am too busy looking after others. I am afraid that if I stop, I will collapse. But I know that the dragon is defeatable.

  5. As always this post is so well stated. When dday first happened I thought how will I ever make it through this. I surprised myself and made it through. Once I thought about it I feel like life did prepare me for that. Very much type A, task oriented. That first year felt as if it was filled with milestones and to do lists. Again not that it was easy but it felt like I could follow a plan. Also it was easy to google. I know I love to google everything and it was easy to find information.

    Now this is the hard part. It is nothing I can control. It feels uncomfortable at times. I feel lost or like everything is unknown. It is not an easy feeling for me to sit with. I think it is exactly as you say it is easier for me to keep my armor up to be protective of myself. That is the great question how to let my guard down, how to be vulnerable. I continue to try so hard but this has been my greatest challenge.

  6. Not sure if my dragon is dead. Bits of it keep twitching. But this post is beautiful. I know I have a gigantic heart and am so capable of love. What is happening in my life is so hurtful, scary, disappointing, full on trauma. But I am hopeful there will come a time where I can give my heart to someone who can see how beautiful I have been made by suffering and that my broken heart has healed wide open.
    I was surprised yesterday by triggers. Even though my marriage is over, and I keep telling myself "not my problem anymore, I don't need to spend my energy here," I still am set off. When someone from his old employer (where they met) views my profile on LinkedIn incognito, trigger city. When the vet tech is young pretty and maybe about the right age (my head goes, is that what she was like? look at how nice her skin is. and s on.) In a framing and art store and painting of a nude silhouette sets me off like nothing has in weeks (god she's naked, I can see her breast and the flat curve of her stomach outlined in the light. And I feel like a voyeur, lie I am looking in on them in one of their hotel room meetings) and I want to vomit. And I hate that it still hurts. and that this happens. I don't want to carry this with me into my future. So the dead dragon still burps up some fire even in death. But I stand in the flames because they will make me new. I hope they will. I let it pass. I take a deep breath. I meditate. I hug my kids. Cuddle with my dogs. Do some laundry. Design a notecard. Trying to carve a new life and self for myself.

  7. Elle awesome thought provoking post. Removing the armor that I thought protected me is the hardest part because it served me well for many years. My therapist said I got very good at protecting myself always in a threatened dangerous mind set. The biggest roadblock to taking off the armor was loving myself. I'm learning that even if nobody loves me, I have good reasons to love myself. I didn't think something like that included all that Elle listed. Boundaries, Compassion. Self-Care. This doesn't prevent life tragedy. I can't believe I paid someone to teach me what my family did not. I substituted the word dragon for adulter. I'm not sure the dragon is ever dead. My dragon is dying slowly. It still has the fire. I still have fire too. You can't control a dragon. Maybe it just lays there still burning an ember in its pit. And now I have a different set of armor, more dangerous, stronger, resilient, smarter and wiser. The dragon knows this too. Very encouraging Elle

  8. So amazingly written. This is currently where I stand...covered in armor. In fact I took a break from counseling because there was nothing left for me to learn, the facts were in, I knew what I needed to do to save my marriage and start moving forward. But nothing she said to me could make me pull off my armor and allow myself to be vulnerable, allow myself to "feel", allow myself to try to trust, to accept my husbands love and efforts. I came to the conclusion the only thing left was time to have to pass. My wounds would heal with "time". My heart would feel again in "time". So I have spent the last year numb when I wasn't spending it sad, or I would be angry because I felt strong and protected when I was angry. But your words are very true and I have been hearing whispers of these same words recently when I let down my guard just a bit. I know it comes down to making a choice...a choice to remain guarded by armor or a choice to be vulnerable in order to let the world back in and take a chance on loving again. I really love your toolbox analogy. It helps becoming vulnerable less scary when you paint the picture that way. Thank you!!!

  9. You are so very very wise. I am so grateful I found your blog, it speaks to so much of what I am going through and has many times provided me with encouragement as I stumble through this undiscovered country. It's hard for friends and family (and certainly, sometimes, me) to understand why I haven't completely broken from husband, and I feel like the ladies on this site get that there are choices other than "throw the bum out" or "forgive and forget". I appreciate your measured yet compassionate world view, and Thank You.

  10. "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. " You've nailed it once again, Elle. Two years and counting... I love the idea that the dragon is slain. It's not ow, it's the crazy. It's his dark, desperate pursuit of that external high. Will there be more dragons? Maybe. But we are eyes wide open, sleeves rolled up. I think of what we've built since d-day, and how much love is there. His moods still come and go, they terrify me, but we are determined. No fire-breathing monsters allowed. Stay focused, warriors. Well done, Elle!

    1. Snowbird, I love your words. Made me feel stronger.

  11. This this post made me ponder if I knew the pain that was coming would I give up the good days?

  12. Elle, this post just brought everything I feel into sharp focus for the first time. I can't bear the thought of being hurt like this again and I've said this to my husband many times. He promises me daily he loves me and is faithful and will be till he dies. It is so scary to think about opening my heart up wide to him and I have all kinds of reasons to justify feeling like this. Feedback welcome from all of you. Hubbys history is porn and transaction sex with prostitutes, escorts, whores. As long as they were young cute and Asian he would pay. How does one open their heart to someone who cares nothing about emotions as long as his sexual needs are met? His history of lies, lies by omission and deceipt have deep roots. Does someone like that really change? He says he has but am I to believe anything he says? Honestly I know I have to start believing some of what he says and we are together most of the time so he doesn't really have time to go find a whore. This is a huge block for me. I've read all about the sex addict thing but have problems with that definition. Yes his acting out is over at the moment. For now. How can I trust again? Suzanne? Elle? Anyone? I mostly feel like I'm doing OK. I still have a heavy heart so much of the time. The sad is mostly gone and the space is waiting to fill it up with something else. Maybe it is waiting for me to welcome loving feelings back again? Ugh. One step forward and one step back. I never, ever thought this would hurt so much and feel so bad for so long. 16 months and counting.

    1. Beach Girl, I always feel like I am reading my thoughts when I read your posts. This is exactly how I feel. And I have even said to my husband we are together all the time and it almost feels like a honeymoon phase now I am not thinking you will do anything now. I feel like he is very connected to me, us, his past mistakes etc. But I think what will happen with time. It took my husband 10 years of marriage and 15 years of knowing each other before he chose betrayal. I worry when a major stress such as a parent passing away or other things. I have brought all of this up. He continues to assure me in so many ways. But I go back to the same thing can someone really change. I keep focused on the words in these posts. I focus on me. I think what do I need and want. I continue to try and focus on the current reality. Also it was suggested on here to listen to the pod cast Love Rice and there was a specific one for boundaries called Heroic Journeys with Dr Brad Reedy. I really gained a lot from it. I plan to listen to others.

      And your last statement is what is hard for me too. I never thought at 19 months I would be where I am personally. I try to focus on the positives and how far I/we have come. But in the end it feels like we have been dealing with this forever and for me I think it is the idea that this will always be a part of my life is just a lot to take in.

  13. Elle, honey, you are spooky. In a very, very good way. How do you do it? How do you speak my thoughts?
    Yes, the dragon is slain. And yes, carrying on is hard. And yes, I am afraid to take off my armor. I feel like the world is full of dragons. Do I have the courage to open my heart again? I really didn't think so, but then only just this weekend I began to think that maybe one day I will. I need to get my life in order, but maybe, when I've made some progress, maybe I can open up and believe in someone again.

  14. My dragon is tenacious, 17 months post day and he still lurks around breathing fire now and again..... he is not totally slain. I actually think the final step is taking the armor off..... I am doing pretty well with boundaries, self care, self compassion. Ok.... boundaries are still pretty tricky!

    Take the armor off, seems counterintuitive intuitive but I think it is the way... the dragons fire will be quenched in the love of a truly open heart. I think this might be my life's work, maybe I should give that dragon a name, because he might be here awhile.

    Love and support sisters



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