The Power of Choice

One of my favorite stories as a kid, was the one about Sir Gawain and the hag.

King Arthur is challenged by a rival knight, Gromer Somer Joure , to discover the secret to the age-old question–what women desire most. King Arthur’s nephew, Sir Gawain (who was always my favorite, by the way, as he was the embodiment of Honor), sets out to save his uncle’s life by finding the answer to this riddle. He travels far and wide, and gets many theories and ideas from a lot of people. But it is Gromer’s sister, this hideous hag named Ragnelle, that promises him the correct solution if he marries her. Sir Gawain selflessly agrees in order to save his uncle, and Ragnelle tells him that what women want is, sovereynté, the freedom to choose. King Arthur wins Gromer’s challenge with this answer and his life is spared. However, Sir Gawain is obligated to marry the hag.

After the wedding, the newlyweds retire to their private chamber, and Sir Gawain is prepared to dutifully do the things that are expected of a man to his new wife. However, once in their private quarters, he discovers that the hag has transformed into the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen. She explains to him that she was put under a spell a long time ago to look like a hag until a good knight married her. Now that the spell has been broken, she will be able to look like her true self half of the day. She offers Sir Gawain a choice–either look like a hag during the daytime, so in public, the world would see her as his hideous wife while becoming a beautiful woman that only Sir Gawain would see and know in private, or she could look beautiful during the day for all the public to see, but in private at night, she would retire with Sir Gawain as a disgusting hag. Sir Gawain weighs the decision, and after a long time, he declines the decision and asks Ragnelle to choose the situation which would please her most.

By offering her the choice to decide her own life, Gawain gave her the sovereignty, the free will, to have power and autonomy over herself, thus lifting the curse and allowing her beauty to return permanently.

This story always stays with me. It influences how I deal with people (you should never force someone to make a decision. You can only advise others and decide how you will live your own life, and allow others the freedom to make their own decisions, no matter if it brings them more challenges or more expansion. The only choice you have is what you are willing to accept into your own life), and how I see my own life in how I project myself. Do I show my true self during the day, but in private, let others discover that what they love is an illusion, a projection of energy that comes from the universe to help them make their own discoveries, completely independent of one small, flawed human being who accepted a life path as a messenger? Or do I appear and do as others, and in the privacy of my inner quarters, project an entire universe that only a very small, select few can experience?

I had an interesting experience on Tuesday night. Someone unexpected got into me and ripped off my mask. It was not an unpleasant experience, because I didn’t let myself get defensive or feel fear. It was an experience based on mutual respect and trust. By relaxing myself to remain receptive, I was not afraid to stand pyschically naked and vulnerable in front of him, and was surprised that he was able to see me so clearly. We laughed about it, how people think I’m so complex, or I project myself in such a complex manner, but the real secret is that I’m actually a very, very simple person. How people think they’ve got a read on me, but it’s not entirely accurate…where I come from. How people sometimes perceive me of needing to be in control all the time, when in actuality, I’m not that way at all–my motivations come purely from not being controlled versus needing to be IN control. I don’t care what other people do, just don’t tell me what to do. And ultimately, at my core, I’m in love with everyone, no matter how I feel about them mentally or emotionally. The most interesting moment was when he said, I know the real Julia because I’ve seen her. You have this alter ego that you show the world, but this right here, right now, is who you really are. It’s like you’re magnetic and people can’t help being affected by you, and when you walk into a room, people can’t help but feel your energy and be inspired. Whatever you need to do to consistently be this person all the time, do it.

Honestly, this person has never struck me as deep and I’m not convinced he is. But for a small moment, it was like a door opened, and I got a message from the universe that had nothing to do with the man. So this is what it feels like to be on the other end, huh? I’m still trying to process all of the message I got that night, but I want the universe to know that I’m hearing it and I’m working really hard to be true to my path.

I wish it were so easy as solving a riddle, how to consistently be this person without fear that once I get close to someone, I will turn to dust.

Is it freedom that allows my energy to expand the way it does, this way where people can feel me and know that what courses through me is a higher level of peace and contentment, faith of a higher power in its purest form? Once someone is determined to catch me and put me as a fixture in their life, will it all disappear, shattering me to the point where I can’t remember where I came from and what it was that I once served?

I hope never to be caught, and one day, if I ever let myself, I hope that whoever that person is will help me structure my expansion to help me achieve my ultimate potential, rather than extinguish my fire.

For anyone to get close to me anymore, they must believe in magic. They must have faith in things they can not see, feel, smell, touch, etc. The reason I love David Gray’s White Ladder album is I feel it’s incredibly personal and truthful for him, that it’s all about the transformational power of love and faith. As he says, we have to let go of our hearts and let go of our heads, and feel what we know is true from the deepest part of ourselves. Because the only things worth living for are innocence and magic, and we can actually change our realities if we truly believe in that.

If someone can have that kind of faith and trust, if someone can earn my trust to the point where I truly feel that they have the courage and faith to welcome a life changing experience without feeling the need to possess me, if they give me the freedom to be myself, complete sovereignty to be a pure conduit, and can keep me safe while I’m in that place, then I promise them. I will show them the universe.

She was in my kitchen when I got home, opening my mail.

“How’d you get in,” I asked her, angrily surprised but too polite to be anything but civil.

“I borrowed a set of keys the last time I was here,” she said, holding them up, letting them glint smugly in the late afternoon sun.

“You stole them,” I said, to which she shrugged.

“You need to give those back,” I told her. It sounded weak coming out of my mouth. I was never good at asking for things I really wanted, never any fucking good. I went around her and poured myself a glass of water. I didn’t really want it but I didn’t know what else to do with myself. I was sick of her hanging around, always on top of me, crowding me. Not only did I not appreciate her as a person, but more importantly, I had no interest in fucking her and she knew as much, but I couldn’t tell if her constant clinging despite that fact was out of being naïve or brilliantly manipulative. It’s not you, I had told her once, it’s all girls. They’ve got nothing I’m interested in. So it’s me AND all girls, she said. Get a penis and will talk, I joked dismissively, and for a split second, I worried if she was the type who was crazy enough to actually go out and do something like that, just for the sake of dishing out crow.

“You’ve gotta pay your bills,” she said nonchalantly, holding up a pink letter, acting as if her letting herself into my home was the most normal thing in the world.

“Fuuuck,” I exhaled quietly, when I really wanted to say “Get the fuck out of my house.” I grabbed the bill out of her hands, then scooped the rest of the pile before she could get any kind of defensive position over them.

“Listen, I need a place for a while. I’ve gotta find a place to stay. You’ve gotta let me stay. “

I said no in my head. I mean, obviously, no way in fucking hell. But my stomach sank. I’m the world’s biggest pussy and I knew it.

“It’s just for a few days. You won’t even notice me. “

Why is it that she’s making it sound more like a statement than a request?

(let’s face it…there’s nothing on this earth that I can stand up to)

The drowning gets louder and louder in my head as something overwhelming fills my chest and lungs, and the next thing I know, I’m putting my cup in the sink and I’m dropping my mail into the trash…and I’m walking back out the door, quietly pulling it closed behind me.

5:12 am is a good hour to wake up drunk.


Her stray, wounded puppy act was getting to me, especially because there were times I looked at her and suspected her of being deceptively dangerous. But every time I asked her when she was going to leave, she told me I was passive aggressive. It didn’t even make any sense. “What is it about me that turns you off so much,” she would ask.

You just have to open your mouth and I curdle inside, I would tell her, with a tone like I was joking when I really wasn’t. Like I didn’t have the guts to just say it and mean it. And then despite her tough girl act, I could see her insides flinch, and I’d feel a rough twinge of guilt. She didn’t get it. Or was this part of her thing to get into my head? I honestly wasn’t sure.

Last week this woman with a deep smoker’s voice called for her at 2:41am on my home line. I’d been asking her not to give out my number to people, especially crazy female strangers picked up from bars whose insane jealousies didn’t adhere to normal waking hours. I could hear her in the living room, alternating between sniffling and screaming (fucking lesbian phone sex, I thought), as I cussed at her in my head and tried to plunge back into sleep. But when I got up in the morning, I saw her asleep on the couch with an expression so intent on hiding out in the underworld of sleep that it made me feel sorry enough for her to want to do something nice for her.

I stopped by the newsstand on my way home and picked up a few of those magazines she likes, those fancy architecture ones that are thick like glossy books. I can’t stand them; even the pictures bore me. But I think she liked to keep them around because they made her feel cultured. Maybe sophisticated. I got home to see she was in the exact same spot on the couch, even though she was now wearing my favorite t-shirt sans pants and my fucking UNDERWEAR. She was eating peanut butter out of the jar with a serving spoon, dipping and dipping again. I hated her. What was I thinking, doing something nice for her. It only encouraged her ridiculous sense of entitlement. I threw the magazines down on the coffee table like I wanted them to be an insult. “I found these at the office,” I said. “You want ‘em?” The intonation was equivalent to me saying “fuck you.”

She slipped that spoon into her mouth and licked it nowhere near clean then stuck it back into the jar. I wanted to kill her.

“Have you ever been in love?”, she asked me.

“No,” I said, quickly with finality, not even sure myself if it was a lie. My only concern was that I ended any kind of assumed intimacy she thought she had with me.

“Do you think the world is as complicated as you? Or do you just look at it that way so you have an excuse to stay locked up in your head?”

She swirled that spoon around in the jar.

I glared at her. I didn’t have time for her semantics and her incessant digging at my seams, her condescending analysis of me when what she really wanted was a way to claw inside me until she found a part of me that would need her. I didn’t have time for her shit, not when I find myself spending more and more time each day having to remind myself of my will to exist, when I find myself driving around with a mini-recorder to record my last words just in case…just in case something happens to me so there will be meaningful last words that were designated last words, not something worthless like asking for a super-size at the drive-through window that will serve for eternity as the bullshit echo of my legacy. Yeah, this world is fucking complicated.

“You’re so passive aggressive, you know that?” She said it so blasély as she took another lick off that spoon.

I smiled at her through clenched teeth, my blood pulsing at the end of each and every one of my fingers. I promised myself that if she said another fucking word, I was going to throw her and that damn jar of peanut butter head-first off the fucking balcony.

Here’s a little story:

During a long and particularly harsh winter, a woman gathering firewood in the forest finds a wolf lying by the side of a path. He is starving and bleeding from a wound on his side, and looks to be on the brink of death. Because she is a kind woman who could never turn her back on anyone or anything in need, she picks him up and carries him home. She feeds him and bandages his wounds and nurses him back to health, and for weeks, the wolf would lay at her side by the fireplace, letting her stroke his head as he slept. Sometimes, he would lick her hand affectionately to show his appreciation and love. She became used to the wolf and even loved him, as her unconditional kindness had created a bond with this wild animal and had made him her gentle companion. One morning, she awoke to find her door open and the wolf was nowhere to be found. Deeply saddened, she searched the surrounding woods and left food out on her doorstep every morning in hopes that he would return, but he never did. She never saw him again and the abandonment by her lost friend broke her heart.

Does this story seem sad?

Here’s the story from a different perspective:

During a long and particularly harsh winter, a wolf can not find enough food to feed itself. Starving and wounded from fighting for prey, he drops to the snow-covered ground, wheezing out what he believes to be his last breaths. Through his half-closed eyes, he sees an old woman approaching from the distance. The wolf knows that if he had more strength, he would rip through this woman’s neck with his teeth and take her down. But in his current state, this is impossible. Luckily, the woman is a kind woman; she takes him home and nurses him back to health, sharing the food off her table with him and bandaging his wounds. The wolf greatly appreciates this woman’s kindness. He lays by her side at night, and accompanies her during her foraging expeditions, loyal and protective. But deep down, something gnaws at him–he knows he is still a wolf and his nature is to kill. As his strength increases day by day, he begins to feel his predator urge creep up on him, particularly at night, when the woman lies sleeping in bed, her vulnerable flesh exposed. The wolf can not deny his nature even if he wanted to. Knowing this and because he loves her, one morning, when the door becomes unlatched by the wind, the wolf leaves, going back to fight for his survival in a harsh winter landscape rather than risk letting his nature hurt someone who has extended such kindness.


I came up with this story as an analogy to describe an understanding of a recent/not-so-recent experience (take your pick) which I won’t go into detail about. I figure, if you have been through this kind of experience, then you will understand the true meaning of this story. If you have not, then just take this as a story.

I remember when I was a kid, my parents would take me down to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. There was this merry-go-round there, with this long dispenser holding gold rings that you could grab and then try to throw inside the mouth of this HUGE clown painted on the side of the wall. I would watch older kids grab 2 or 3 of them each time they went by the dispenser and toss them into the clown’s mouth, and it looked like so much damn fun. I really wanted to grab some of those rings but I was scared to death–scared of falling off my horse, scared of hurting my hand when I made the grab, etc. I remember one trip, where the whole car ride over, I told myself that I was going to do it; I was going to face my fears and make a grab for the ring. I psyched myself up the whole ride there. I had visualized myself doing it and was so pumped up by the time I got on the ride, I couldn’t see any possible way that I could fail. But the minute the merry-go-round started turning, that old fear ripped through my chest. I worried that my hands were so sweaty, that when I reached out, I would fall off my horse and be crushed by the mechanisms below. I was afraid that, should I manage to stay on, the ring would get jammed and I would end up badly cutting my hand. Each time I went around, each time I watched the dispenser approach and then pass me by, I would tell myself that the next time around, I was going to do it. But each time, I passed it–too paralyzed with anxiety to even peel my hands from the pole, just looking at the dispenser helplessly. Even the clown seemed to know that I was fooling myself with its cracked, frozen smile, eternally taunting, knowing that by telling myself, “the next time around,” I was just delaying my inevitable defeat by cowardice. I told myself, “the next time around, I’ll do it” on the last turn and moments later, with utter disappointment and shame, felt the ride slow down beneath me. I thought to myself with remorse, “If only I had more time, maybe even one more time around, I would have done it. I just needed more time to get ready.” But deep down, I knew that I wouldn’t have. Deep down, I had told myself, “next time” only to buy myself enough time until the risk of succeeding, the risk of failing had passed and I would inevitably resign myself to the company and self-label of failure, a victim of unfortunate circumstances.

I never did get a ring. And I don’t even know if that merry-go-round is there anymore.

Now, years later, supposedly wiser and worldlier, I still believe that I often tragically fool myself. There are things that I want in life, but am so afraid of not getting, that I tell myself, tomorrow. Tomorrow I’ll try for it. Tomorrow I’ll write that script. Tomorrow I’ll ask that guy out. Tomorrow I’ll tell the man who has unraveled my soul that I forgive him. And when tomorrow turns into today, I call upon a thousand more tomorrows to erase the hope, to put off the risk, until my life has passed me by and all I have left to show for it is a collection of safe, uneventful yesterdays, dull around the edges from the near-encounters with sheer magic.

There is nothing that shrivels a soul more than regret. So grab that ring, kids. Because at some point, the ride is going to stop and there is nothing more devastating than realizing that tomorrow will never bring back what you could have savored today.