Tag Archives: Romance

Love, life and new beginnings

The love affairs that drive our myths are powerful, epic connections that create wonder and chaos in equal measure. I’d never thought my own life would contain anything that momentous. A quite sort of love, a house, a child – I didn’t aspire to much. 

Love found me. Impossible and irresistible all at once. I fell in love with the gorgeous artwork and inspiration of a man I had never met in person. Divided by the Atlantic, and with me already married to someone else, it didn’t seem like a feeling I could pursue. But we kept talking, sharing work and ideas, very carefully not courting each other. We created huge stories, and there is a strange magic in that kind of shared creativity. There were all kinds of complications along the way, other people who passed through both our lives, times when we drifted away from each other a little, but we held those threads of connection.

Then, in the summer of 2009 Tom asked me if I would consider going to America for a Cthullhu convention some time, to promote the work. I didn’t even have a passport, and had never been out of the UK. But I thought about it. We thought about it together, and we dared to consider the consequences of being in the same space. After that, there was no going back. I crossed the Atlantic and we had a week together. It took us slightly over a year from there to jump through all the hoops. A year full of dramatic changes and challenges, that tested us both – for me, it meant going far beyond where I imagined my limits would be in terms of what I could feel and endure. Webcams kept us just on the right side of sanity, but to see and not be able to touch… to only have words to offer through those hard times. A friend of mine died, and those thousands of miles of distance were cruel indeed, needing to be held. But we survived, and stayed true to each other. We jumped though the legal and paperwork hoops and slightly over a year after our first meeting in person, Tom arrived in the UK. On Wednesday the 29th of December, we married.

No one in their right mind would volunteer to suffer. But at the same time, the trials we face teach us and make us stronger. In ease, we seldom find the true value of things. After all that we’ve been through already, I will never doubt the strength or sincerity of this relationship. We have been tested, and in proving true to each other, have gained far more than I can put into words.

I’ve seen, this last year, how others have responded to our story. The support from friends, family and wider community has been tremendous. Folk all over the world who know us only through our work and online presence have been there to cheer us on. There is magic in this, a sense of wonder and connection that ripples out in all kinds of ways. To those of you who have supported us with your words, actions and thoughts, we are both profoundly thankful.

I feel I have been given an opportunity here, unlike anything else in my life. Tom and I have managed to do a great deal working across the Atlantic, but being together, the possibilities are huge. This is not the end of a romance story, it is (I promise you) the beginning of something even more epic.

Romance … ???

Elen Sentier
… behind every gifted woman there’s usually a rather taleneted cat …
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Oak Man 2

Bran is on the train from London and is in process of meeting Jenni. He’s a solitary soul but is opening up slightly with her.

She’s intrigued by his battered fiddle case and asks him what “itinerant” means.

He talks of travelling, moving around but it’s the word gypsy that hooks her, although he claims to have no gypsy blood …

Elen Sentier http://WWW.elensentier.co.uk

Soul Mates

There are a few couples I’ve encountered who seem so profoundly with each other, that the term ‘soul mates’ feels applicable. A tiny minority of the lovers I’ve met have appeared this way to me. Those few have something between them that carries a magic of its own, illuminating all that it encounters and affecting the people who come into contact with it. These are the pairs about whom stories are told, and whose relationships bring inspiration.

The majority of people have relationships of other shapes – which may be powerful, engaging and rewarding, but are different. Not everyone wants to spend their life in the throes of a grand passion on that kind of scale. For some, a relationship that gives comfort, companionship and answers sexual need is more than enough. It’s better to go for the relationship that suits your nature and needs rather than being boxed into social expectations about serial monogamy, romance, and happily ever after.

The world of romance-erotica fiction is full of destined soul mates and one-true-love scenarios. Far fewer stories explore the reality of relationship as most people encounter it, which I think is a great waste. It adds to the feeling that everyone should be seeking this one earth shattering experience of finding the right person to be with forever. You can miss out on a lot of very good relationships and opportunities if you’re focused on a quest for the ‘perfect’ one. Soul mates are people too, flawed and complex and not perfect, just very right together. Seeking perfection in anything is an enterprise doomed to fail because nothing in this world is ever free from flaw or complexity.

Much of the ‘one true mate’ fiction is paranormal – frequently featuring werewolves. It’s very easy then to give your character a supernatural way of ‘knowing’ they have found ‘the one’ and thus removing the whole experience that bit further from real life. I’m going out on a limb here to suggest this may be because the vast majority of writers have no idea what a soul mate relationship looks like anyway. It’s really easy to write ‘I will love you for all eternity, he said, and they did, happily ever after.’ Any five year old can give you that kind of story ending. From what I’ve read, many authors resort to ‘telling’ this one, because they have no means of ‘showing’ it, not actually having experienced it themselves. What it creates is a fantasy of perfection that is more likely a hindrance in learning about real love than any kind of help.

Being a hopelessly romantic soul, I hit my teens looking for true love. I learned very quickly that certain boys will trade affection for sexual favours, and I settled for affection and trading. Aged nineteen, I found someone who rocked my world, inspiring wild and unfamiliar emotions in me. I cocked it up, and hit my early twenties believing that I had already found, and irretrievably lost the love of my life. Other relationships followed, and I invested what I could, and found nothing like what I needed. Told that bestowing affection on me was like pouring it into a black hole and a total waste of time, I came to the conclusion that I was the problem. I wanted too much. I had swallowed all those dreams of romance and they were wrong, and I was a fool and should make the best of what I had. Recently, I found I had been mistaken in this, and everything else. These were happy discoveries.

I did not magically ‘know’, when I first encountered Tom some six years ago, that he was the person I should spend my time with. Falling in love with him was not the earth shattering event of romance novels. In fiction, it happens once, and then people deal with the aftermath. Falling in love with Tom is a process, and I do it all over again on pretty much a daily basis. It is always new, always surprising, and a year in, it gets more so, not less. Once the rush of hormonal ‘new love’ has worn off, relationships normally settle down or burn out. One True Love fiction tends to step away well before that happens. Real life does not fade to pink, you get it served up day by day, and you have to live your love affair, in whatever form it takes.

I wondered, before now, if I had found the person I should be with. That’s perhaps the easiest difference to pin down. I do not wonder about Tom. I know. That knowing deepens as we progress. Time and oceans cannot weaken it. Sometimes I think the challenges we’ve faced have made it clear to both of us how serious we are – insight we might not have had if getting together had been quick and easy. But then, love conquering obstacles is another romance fiction favourite. Perhaps with reason. When you test a thing, you find out what it’s made of.

I have a number of conclusions. Live, and do not be trapped by dreams into missing what you do have, or be trapped by loss of dreams into not going after what you truly need. Write what you know, and if you do not really know what it means to find your soul mate, don’t add to the hollow, empty mythmaking that feeds other people’s despair. Write about life and love as you understand it, celebrate what is good. The passion of soul mates and happily ever after are not intrinsically linked. Think of Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Iseult. Make the best story you can, in life, and in fiction.

Oak Man

I intend to do a brief resume of the plot-so-far of my new novel “Oak Man” that I’m currently writing. I hope this update will go out about once a week on a free-for-all day :-).

Here is the first …

Tumulus Dawn

The accompanying picture is by a super artist-friend of mine, Wendy Davies. The story also uses (with her permission) her teenage adventure of finding three 4000 yr old gold torcs on the farm – again in the Wels Marches – where she grew up.

The story is a mystery/magic/romance … as usual for me 🙂 – and set here  in the Welsh Marches, based around the legend of the place where I live.

Elen Sentier

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Celtic shaman – Elen Sentier Oak Man … the beginnings of the plot

Seeing the Opportunities

And so I continue with the project of trying to milk meaningful thoughts and reflections out of the current mess of my life. There is that piece of wisdom, ‘when life sends lemons, make lemonade’. I’ve seen it amended in a number of ways lately. ‘If it doesn’t also send you water and sugar however, your lemonade will be vile.’ ‘Ask for salt and tequila’. There’s a truth here, and it pertains a lot to what scope we have for happiness. It does assume that there can be good in any situation.

One of the key notions in Buddhism is that life is pain and the only way to transcend that is to learn not to want. That philosophy allows a certain kind of contentment with very little, and a way of getting through hard times by trying to want and need less. I’ve tried that as a way forward, and I’m not going to recommend it. Learning to make do with less, can enable you to tolerate all sorts of things that it would be better to fight against. It can lead to a paring down of soul and self that is neither happy, or noble.

So, my challenge for today is to see the potential for good in what is happening to me. To stop drowning in pain and dismay, and try to find a way of relating to things that not only makes it easier to bear, but helps me move forwards.

There is always scope for learning. Whatever is going on, where there is life, there are things to be learned, even if they are things we have no desire to know. Accepting that possibility and looking for the lessons within experience can soften the stings.

I’m personally inspired by Brendan Myers work on heroic virtue (see ‘The Other Side of Virtue’ which is brilliant). Even if we have no apparent choice about our fate, there is always the choice of how to face it. Heroic cultures, pagan cultures, favoured facing your fate on your feet, with a weapon in hand. Certain doom can be faced with style, panache, courage and honour. Sometimes, it turns out not to be certain doom after all, because the insane, desperate attempt against all odds does work out sometimes. There is a solace of sorts to be found in taking a heroic stance, willing to accept whatever blows honour or passion demand. Celtic love stories are seldom happily ever afters, but they are epic, wild, and love burns very brightly in them. And so I will take it as a challenge, a chance to shine, not as a setback.

There’s scope for looking at accidental benefits that can be caused by challenges. The changes and demands of hard times can set us in new directions, creating new opportunities. Looking back at previous setbacks, some of them turned out to be blessings in disguise, most made me stronger, there were often unexpected ripples.

What do I have here? No shortage of opportunity to learn, grow, become stronger. I have a challenge to face, and it is going to take courage and determination. So be it. I have the chance to demonstrate to the love of my life, how far I would go for him, how much I would do and give to be with him. And he has the opportunity to do the same for me. Watching his eyes as we talked yesterday, seeing the fierce passion, the fire and determination in him, has affected me deeply. It is inspirational. Out of the pain we craft something stronger, deeper. Most people do not get chances to fight monsters and risk everything for the sake of their beloved. Life for most people most of the time is unremarkable. But I am caught up in something huge, shattering, hard, and I will have to fight, and so will Tom. My life is an epic romance. Seeing it in those terms makes it a very different thing to deal with.

We have this, now. We have moment to moment the breathtaking reality of living with a love that will cross oceans and do battle with bureaucrats. And I also see how this is touching all the people around us. Friends and family who are stepping up to help, and who are investing in our struggle. And so you too become part of this story. We had best make it a good one. Something worthy of remembering and repeating. A tale that in future years, people will look back on and say ‘I was there, I saw.’

Who knows what that might bring into the world?

Life and story

Dear friends, your support over the weekend has been tremendous. Tom and I are both deeply moved by how everyone is responding to our plight. For the time being, this blog is likely to be more personal than philosophical, because I’m struggling to think about anything else much. Neil Gaiman says ‘We have a duty to tell each other stories.’ It is also a way of having some control, some ownership over experience. Sharing our stories is often the basis of relationship, it shapes community and collective identity, and in times of anguish, it’s about the only thing that reliably helps.

So I will tell you my stories. Tom and I have been involved for six years, ish, first as friends, and creative partners, and now as lovers. He’s my inspiration, and my soul mate. It took both of us a long time to realise how we felt might be requited. Somehow, online, we managed something akin to love at first sight (well, emails, technically). This last year, has been a journey, the unfolding of an epic romance, a more profound love affair than I could have imagined before. I did not know love could be like this, or that I could feel like this, or that anyone could value me so highly and adore me so completely.

I’m quite aware that one of the conventions of romance fiction is the torturing of the characters, such that even though everyone knows it’ll work out ok (that being the main rule of romance) you start to believe it won’t. But this is not a romance novel, and we have no certainty of a happy ending. There is an ocean between us, and all the rules and regulations of countries who don’t really like folk moving around. We are not rich enough to have an easy ride of it. Officialdom is much more sympathetic to wealthy folk who want to change country for love.

 This morning I woke up, heart thundering, headfirst into full on panic. Yesterday was the same. I’ve got to try and get that under control, because my digestive system can’t take it, and it’s making me ill. Which is not going to help in the slightest. I sat with a lock of Tom’s hair in one hand, and my pentagram in the other – left to me by someone I think of as a craft parent, but that’s a long and complicated tale in its own right. Generally speaking, my druidry is more about communion, service and celebration than asking for help. I tend to assume I’m on my own for most things, I am not much of a god botherer. But right now, I need all the help I can get. I am praying for courage and strength. I am praying for a way through this, and not to be eaten by despair. Above all, I am praying for help. Never before have I felt so keenly that my life is in the hands of the Gods. I do not know what they want of me.

There are moments when I feel I am not alone, when there seems to be support and comfort from some external source. Moments I cannot explain. I’ve had them before in times of extremis. I survived those. But I want to do more than survive this, I want to win. I want to get my lover to the UK, marry him, live with him, have one life, one future, one story.

Today is my birthday. I am thirty three. I have never been more sure of what I want, and less sure of where on earth my life might be taking me, literally. So I dry my tears, and do the only thing I can do. I will tell stories.

Please, keep us in your prayers. I am thinking, when we get through this, there will be a handfasting. I’m considering Avebury, because it is huge, and I can invite everyone.