post by: Ava Reiss
I’ve been reflecting on an experience I had vending. Some of you might now, this has been a promotional year for me. I’ve been setting up tables at local events to get my book and artwork out there. I’m also editing and writing, of course, but with lots of planned breaks for said events.
I met a lot of people while at the Cleveland Oktoberfest. Lots of interesting people. One woman in particular stood out. She claimed she liked my art, but told me, “There’s not enough pain. You should draw more pain. All I see are powerful women. The men are dwarfed in your images. (sic)”
What I think she meant was, “Humans love commiseration. Draw something people can relate to.”
Of course, I suspect she’d been drinking for a while… I could hardly get a word in.
She then proceeded to tell me about how she once, not long ago, purposely dated an abusive former detective just to get inside the head of someone who could be like that.
At that point, it didn’t matter that I could hardly get a word in. I was speechless.
I don’t like to share personal details about myself. I’m a private person. But I will share that when I was young and naive, I’ve found myself with an abusive person or two. There were some dark times. Why anyone would voluntarily want to experience that, is beyond me. Yes, sometimes it takes us a little while to learn and identify bad patterns and choices that we make. We can’t immediately recognize our poor decisions. Sometimes we want too much to see the good in people. And sometimes we’re complicit- too much of an enabler towards the abuser. Of course, I’m only speaking for myself. I can’t speak for anyone else and their experiences.
However, once we do see the patterns, we can start making good decisions.
I’m not sure what I felt towards the woman’s words at the time. She walked away briskly. In the weeks to follow, the conversation visits me every now and then. Sometimes I feel frustrated. She was clearly more than a few years older than me. And I’d hoped mistakes like the ones I’d made would be long past someone like that. But I’m not here to judge her decisions, or where she is in life. I don’t know her. I’m merely processing information presented in a way that’s relevant to me. It’s none of my business, true, but if someone is making the decision to be with an abuser, my instinct is to worry. Perhaps I’m projecting too much. Perhaps projection is another pattern I need to break.
Or perhaps I feel that way because of the mousetrap moral. If one of us is threatened, all of us are. (see here for a version of the short story: https://academictips.org/blogs/the-mouse-trap/)
Perhaps if I didn’t feel concerned, I’d be complicit. Perhaps if I didn’t feel a bit outraged, I’d be silently letting another abuser go undetected.
I write and illustrate strong women because I believe that’s what lies inside everyone. Yes, men too! – slight tangent here: In a book I once read (I believe it’s Women and Desire by Polly Young-Eisendrath, but I could be totally wrong! It’s been years), it stated that knights slaying dragons were an allegory. It was about slaying the male ego (dragon) to rescue the maiden. The maiden was the feminine, receptive nature in every person- including men.
It’s true, some of my female characters are gun-blazing, bad-a** operatives that take on the toughest, secret missions their planet has to offer. But I also write about the passively powerful.
Meliora from Fall of Ima is a young lady who doesn’t fall apart in the face of troubling decisions. And when she is upset, she isn’t afraid to cry, embracing her emotions. She allows herself to be vulnerable, and to seek counsel when she needs it. She is strong in the way she is sure of herself, her identity, even when faced with situations where she doubts her capabilities.
I believe there are different kinds of strong. To determine them starts with one healthy decision at a time. Though I write about plenty of pain in my novels, I feel I’d much rather illustrate the powerful moments of the soul.
This is not a sponsored post. Tune in November 19th for our next post, by Ticana Zhu.