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I wrote a poem when I was 19 years old and living in Russia, called “The Dragon and I.” It came to me as an almost instantaneous “download” when I was in the middle of my Sociology class. A good friend of mine read it, and compared the symbolism in it to the story of Brynhild and Sigurd, where he found her in a ring of fire.

Very recently, there was a scholarship offered to The Viking Woman Workshop, which was created by Randi Buckley. This poem popped into my head when I read this challenge from Randi on the application page:

“Your Valkyrie self. Think about it for a moment. Where do you need that power? How can she help you in a powerful way? Is it for a real life challenge that you face, or does a vision of fantasy come to mind.”

Without being able to share the whole poem in 500 words or less, the basic gist was this:

I saw the dragon (power) and myself as two separate things, but others saw them as something combined and magical: a mysterious and enchanting woman with wings of flame.

It wasn’t until recently, 20 years later, that I’ve begun to realize that maybe — in this instance — the others were right. And you have no idea how hard it is for a strong-willed woman like me to admit that I’m wrong about anything.

I believed then that the illusion people saw was something unreal that I could never live up to. It made me feel frustrated and disempowered to think I had to maintain some impossible facade to feel powerful and alluring. But I clung to that illusion and threw every ounce of strength I had into maintaining it.

What I realize now is that the perceived symbolic separation — that the dragon and I were two distinct entities — was the true illusion. It’s never been something I’ve had to pretend to be. Instead, it’s something I have to allow.

A few years ago, my entire life was stripped down, and all illusions peeled away for all the world to see. Everything felt like one giant “fail”: a job I loved was eliminated, my marriage crashed and burned, our family home was sold to settle debts.

And then the security I built up after that was shortly thereafter stripped away, too: The company I worked for moved their offices to a very expensive neighborhood, and I couldn’t afford to live there on what they paid me. (It was 90+ miles away, so commuting was not really an option, and I tried negotiating a raise to match the cost of living, but that was out of the question.) So I found another job close to home, to survive. Then that job was eliminated last summer.

So the past year has been do-or-die. If at any time in my life I needed to bring out my inner warrior woman in the form of a Viking or Valkyrie, that time was now.

It was time to take a deep breath and soak in the realization that we truly are one and the same, the Dragon and I.

And we can fly.

Here is the original 20-year old poem that prompted this bit of self-realization:

The Dragon and I

Down into the dragon’s eyes I fly

Backward Forward

Leave me now as I seep into the dragon’s fire

Burn in my heart

Through my soul

Into my mind

As the dragon’s wings beat the wind

And I fall asleep beneath golden spires

The dragon and I, asleep

Beside the snow-white walls of the church we hide

In the blackened night

The dragon’s black eyes look into my mind

In those orbs like ebony crystals

I see my destiny

And even eerier, it sees me

In the dragon’s breath your face appears

Materialized from nothing before mine eyes

Your alabaster skin and icy blue eyes

That mysterious smile that I can’t understand

Your pale hand reaches out to touch my face

And you see only me

Not seeing the dragon writhing behind me,

Garnet skin and obsidian eyes glinting in the cold moonlight,

A slow twisting dance in the shadows

As I grasp your hand

The dragon’s fire surrounds us

And we stand alone in a ring of flame

And you still don’t see it

You see only me

You think the glow of the fire is my halo

The golden-red tongues of flame, my wings

And you call me danger

You call me beauty

You call me power and strength

They are one and the same

The dragon and I

In your eyes

PS: In case you were wondering, I won the scholarship to the Viking Woman Workshop with this entry. And Randi’s workshop is just as amazing as I hoped it would be.