On Love, Bravery and Equality

I like stories that require a character to be brave, and which give them the opportunity to be a hero, their own or someone else’s. Sometimes that means killing the monster, sometimes that means outwitting the evil mastermind, sometimes that means telling unpopular truths, and sometimes that means being emotionally vulnerable.

Loving is an often overlooked act of bravery, and my favorite romances show that. I am a connoisseur of stories about romances that require a little extra bravery, that in some way challenge stereotypes. Loving within our given social boundaries is hard enough, but I have so much admiration for the people who find love that doesn’t fit into the boundaries prescribed by other people.

I have a theory that most of the unhappiness in the world comes from moments of cowardice when facing the pressures of societal rules. Not that societal rules are bad in themselves. In many ways, they are our primary safety net in any interaction with other human beings. And because of this, when faced with the choice of being unhappy or of going against societal rules, it is easy to take the way that is safe, to follow the rules.

Love is never safe. Even if our loved ones return our feelings unconditionally, agree with us on everything of significance, and never betray our trust, the world does not let love remain a safe activity. Every day people get sick, die, move to new places, face new challenges, grow and change. Loving someone is one of the most dangerous and bravest things we can do, and something the human brain is programmed to seek out. And yet love is also frequently twisted and misused. Perpetrators of the worst acts of terrorism, abuse and violence often attempt justify their actions with twisted misinterpretations of love: revenge for a loved one lost, or against a loved one who didn’t see love through the same lens; jealousy and fear of losing love; or out of love of a deity, homeland or ideal.

It’s cliche to say there’s a fine line between love and hate, and I go back and forth on whether I truly believe it, but I see a parallel to the line between bravery and cowardice. I like the definition of bravery as acting not without fear but in spite of it. Both bravery and cowardice occur in the presence of fear, and in the moment of choosing between the two, that line can be infinitely wide or almost nonexistent, depending on the choices available in the moment.

And there is no clear line between the kind of person who will choose bravery or the kind who will be cowardly. Someone who always faces monsters bravely may shrink from telling unpopular truths. Someone who can outwit any evil mastermind may throw up every shield available when faced with emotional vulnerability. And yet, even when a character follows these patterns to a T, there is always room for growth, for facing up to a challenge previously avoided at all costs. That is often the greatest type of bravery, for it faces the greatest fear. We always have a chance to be braver than we were yesterday.

All of my favorite romances that challenge stereotypes also have an element of equality. I believe that when there is a perceived/constructed/chosen imbalance of power in a relationship, the love and the risk it brings are unstable as well. This doesn’t necessarily mean they are unhealthy, just unstable in some way. My interest in equality does not mean that all my favorite romances are about people who are the same. In fact, what interests me most, and what I am exploring in my own stories is how to weight the scales of power so that both parties come out equal, even when they both thought they were too different to ever find equality.

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Perception

Wow. I can’t believe it’s been ten months since I posted. I have been struggling with finding my voice in several mediums lately, and I appreciate finally having something to say and knowing how to say it, even if it’s short.


One of my favorite quotes is by Edward de Bono:

“It has always surprised me how little attention philosophers have paid to humor, since it is a more significant process of mind than reason. Reason can only sort out perceptions, but the humor process is involved in changing them.”

This quote rearranged my mind a little when I read it, and has stuck with me. I am often surprised by what changes I see in my perception when I encounter moments of humor. In particular, I have a very dear friend who always redirects my thinking with off-hand but hilarious comments.

Today I was reminded that art can also change perceptions while watching a contemporary dance routine on SYTYCD called Change is Everything. Change is an uncomfortable process, and usually comes with uncomfortable emotions, even when the change is positive. In that routine the song, the choreography and even the quality of the movement were uncomfortable for me to witness, but at the same time it was so beautiful that I couldn’t look away. It had my full attention, and made something uncomfortable somehow more bearable because of its beauty.

I have noticed that I tend to spend a lot of time in the land of the sticky-sweet, especially when it comes to reading and writing fiction, but I am hoping that I can find more of a balance and willingness to look those uncomfortable emotions in the face and make them more accessible. There is so much potential to connect through art, and to make emotional space for each other, especially as so many cultures around the world, and most especially mine, are sanitizing emotion, or turning the emotions of others into a distancing kind of entertainment. I am so glad to see art like this in the mainstream, and I hope that these pieces that transform discomfort into beauty without diminishing the experience can help us heal some of the damage created by distancing, stoicism and xenophobia.

Do you know what abuse looks like?

I started this post as the introduction to You Lured Me In. What Changed?, but when I realized that the introduction was becoming longer than the poem, I decided to make a separate post for it.

The poem came out of the aftermath of a relationship that went from mutually beneficial to abusive in a short span of time. A common misconception about abuse is that it only occurs in romantic relationships or between family members. This was not a typical abusive relationship. It was in no way romantic, and neither my friend nor I wanted it to be, but she and I had known each other since kindergarten, and there was a lot of history between us. I lived with her for most of a year in 2014-2015, and near the end of that time I decided that I couldn’t live with her anymore. At that time, things were still fairly good between us, but she had started smoking (again), which I have had a strong aversion to my whole life, and she was planning to relocate when the lease was up. She wanted me to move with her, but the new location would be very inconvenient for me and though I considered moving with her, in the end I decided not to. Read more

The Writing Battle

This might come as a surprise, but writing has been a struggle for me for as long as I can remember. It is one of the few activities in my life that brings out all of my insecurities. It’s not that I get hung up trying to impress you all. I don’t know you, and I have learned that I can’t make people like me. I was prepared to receive negative comments, cruel and unhelpful criticism, and general lashing out. I have seen plenty of that online. I set up this blog and started posting despite my expectations. Read more

Not Just a Different Color

This is a response to The Daily Post’s one word prompt: Paint


Sometimes I try to be different on purpose. It usually doesn’t work out very well. Most of the time, I get too focused on what other people think, and lose track of what I actually want. Sometimes, however, I do something very different, and don’t realize how different I am until later. That’s what happened when I painted my room. Read more