Saturday, June 6, 2015

I Am The Tiger

Post Soundtrack:  Unto the Burning Circle, by Andreas Vollenweider

I have been re-reading Jennifer Roberson's Tiger and Del series.  It's the first time I've gone through them again since my diagnosis, and I'm finding it somewhat self-enlightening.  Partly this is because several times these books describe excruciating pain, which I hadn't understood before, but do now.  But it was in the fifth book that I ran across a correlation that I had not expected to.  I wanted to share, to put my thoughts into words, so that others could see the truth of them.

Fair warning, I'm going to explain things that will be spoilers if you haven't read the book series and intend to.  This post is meant for those who either have already read the books, or don't care to read them.  This will indeed reveal things about the events in the books that you may not want to know ahead of time.

First, a little information about Tiger.  He's the main character, and the one I am going to relate myself to later on.  He began life as a slave, whipped and beaten and scorned.  When a sandtiger appeared and began to kill the children of the tribe he was a slave to, he took a sharpened stick as a spear and killed it to win his own freedom, but not before the sandtiger left its marks on his body, including four clawmarks across his cheek.  The slave boy took the name of the creature that bought him his freedom, and he became known as Sandtiger, easily recognizable by the marks on his face.  He left the tribe and apprenticed to become a sword-dancer.  He was a very good one, and won himself much fame, a name among men.  Later he faced off with a sword-dancer of equal skill, and ended up with a deep scar in his belly, a reminder of a dance he won but that nearly killed him.

He went sailing to find where his genes were from, and ended up on an island with a particular quirk of culture.  They had priest-mages that embodied magic, that could use magic.  However, it was believed that the magic drove them mad, and so they were shunned from polite society, relegated to their own island, where they became their own world.  They were known for being shaven headed, with blue tattoos across their scalps, rings in brows and ears, and magic in their blood.

Now Tiger had been having growing issues with magic, as he went about his travels.  He would feel uncomfortable prickles and creepy-crawlies when magic was near, and it would make him vomit if it became too intense.  When he came to the island, he began to suspect there was some connection between himself and those mage-priests, but he despised magic.  He hated it, wanted nothing to do with it.  But because of the way that society worked, soon he had no choice.

The mage-priests stole him away, kidnapped Tiger to become one of them, one of their own, to save the public from the danger his supposed impending madness.  Tiger was overcome by their magic, and with magic they removed all scars and indications of his history on his body, putting those on a corpse they left to be found by everyone else.  Then they left him to languish atop a spire, one he was expected to leap from.  Disoriented, befuddled, he fought with that impulse to leap, but eventually leap he did.  He survived, but met the world as a confusing muddle of new sensations.  Sound hurt.  Light was too bright, colors too fierce.  His magic had come alive, and it was uncontrolled, leaving him reeling most of the time in confusion.

As he stabilized, grew used to his new awareness, they began to indoctrinate him.  His old life was gone,t hey told him.  He was never again to be who he was.  He was not the Sandtiger any longer.  He clung to the one thing left him that connected him to his life before... the string of claws he'd worn since killing the sandtiger as a teenager.  In what was meant to be a final step in brainwashing him, his head was shaven, his scalp tattooed.  They cut the necklet of claws from him, then tossed them away one by one over the edge of the spire.  They then cut the pinkies from both his hands, robbing him of a vital key to the ability to wield a sword.  Brutally, they tore everything from him that helped him define who he had been before.

Tiger outwardly submitted to them.  He mouthed the words of chants, followed the rites, performed the tasks.  But inwardly he clung to who he had been, refused to let go.  One night he dreamed a vivid memory of the sword-dance that had nearly killed him.  When he woke, the deep, ugly scar once more carved into his belly.  His magic proved to be a means to regain himself, and he knew he could triumph.  Another night, taking a sharpened wooden stick with him to sleep, he dreamed the memory of facing, wrestling, and finally killing the sandtiger.  He awoke to a still bleeding cheek, now scored once more with four claw marks.  He also found he had killed the man who had worked hardest to remove his past life from him, impaling him with the rudimentary spear.

It was time to leave, whether they wanted him to or not.  He descended the spire and found most of the claws that had been thrown off the top.  He cobbled a raft together, and left the island to find and win back his old life.


So now I will tell you what I realized after I finished reading, the correlation that struck me strongly.  You might suppose that the magic was my Lupus, the source of all my trouble, and Tiger's.  But it isn't.  My pain is the magic.  The very thing I despise, but that helps drive me, make me stronger.  No, Lupus is the priest-mages.  How hard it seems to try to strip me of who I was before.  It piece by piece removes the means by which I defined myself previously.

My long hair?  Snipped short to prevent further agony of spirit.
A horse-lover?  What kind of horse-lover can't sit astride a saddle and ride?!
A gamer?  I no longer can pvp or raid in World of Warcraft.  It hurts too much.  How can I be a gamer when I can't even participate in the basic enjoyments of the game?!
My ability to skate?  Gone.  No strength, no energy, no gracefulness.  It's all gone, wasted away.
My devotion to being a Christian?  Half the time I can't even attend services!
A mother?  What kind of mother is sleeping when her child gets home from school?  What kind of mother flinches from her child's touch?
A home-maker?  My windows are filthy, my carpets are unvacuumed, dust is everywhere, and my hsuband does the dishes and cooking.  My son has to help me do laundry.  That's not the mark of a home-maker!
A wife?  When I force him to take up the slack of my inability to manage the house?  When he must bear the brunt of my tears and rage when I cannot contain them anymore?  When intimacy is rare, because either I am too tired or hurting too much?  What kind of wife does that make me?!

So many things that Lupus tries to wrench from me forcibly, and me without the means to stop it.  Just as Tiger was helpless before the magic of the priest-mages, so I often feel helpless before Lupus' ravages.  As befuddled and confused as he was, having to face a new kind of life, so I feel, seared by normal circumstances that no longer feel normal.  Just as Tiger felt despair and agony of spirit, so do I, as I watch what I was melt away.

But like Tiger, I choose not to let Lupus (the priest-mages) have its way.  I fight to retain what I can of who I was.  Some things I choose to let go, dross to be stripped away and left behind.  I do not need to define myself as having long hair.  That is not who I am, and so it is allowed to fall.  Other things, I redefine.  I cannot ride, true, but that does not mean I love horses any less.  It is the creature I love, not the action of riding.  I still can define myself that way, it still applies, and I refuse to let Lupus have its way in making me give it up as part of my heart.  And then there are the vital things to me, the things that truly define me.  These I hang on to doggedly, refusing to let my short-comings determine my suitability.  I can still be devoted to God, even if I am forced to stay home from services.  I have found other, additional ways to serve as well.  Instead of becoming weaker, I am now stronger.  My bond with my husband and child have grown stronger as they knit themselves to me to help hold me up.  I become more defined in our relationships because of my pain, my limitations.  Lupus will not defeat me.  I reclaim myself.  I acknowledge and work around the pain.  But I will not let it have its way.

Like Tiger, I daily pick myself up, cling to those things that make me who I am, and find my way back into the world that Lupus would keep me from (as the priest-mages attempted to keep Tiger from the world).  I refuse to accept the fate, the life that Lupus wants to insist I must have.  My life is what I make of it, not what Lupus makes of it.  Period.

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