In Darkness (02-04)
Many Demons (05-10)
Coming Out of the Dark (11-15)
My Own Lao Ma (16-19)
Finding My Way (20-30)
THE HERO INSIDE OF ME
Xena confronts her demons in DREAMWORKER
 The way to one's own soul and to one's own heart, the spirit if you will, is a very difficult and challenging journey, especially that first step. Why is it so difficult to look within our own selves? Why is it so difficult to look at our reflection in the mirror and see what and who we are behind those eyes? It is because we are afraid of what we may find inside of us. Are we afraid that all of our fear will materialize and come true?
Dr. Mattie Merrill is not the best model for modern psychiatry.
 In a time of darkness and confusion in my life, I visited five psychiatrists in a period of three months to help me out of my darkness. Only one was successful. I felt comfortable with him. He let me talk and express myself without questioning my beliefs. I felt comfortable. Inside my head I was yelling and sighing, "YES! I finally found someone who understands!" Yet, one day that all changed. I remember it distinctively. He told me to go home, sit down in front of a mirror, and write down what I saw reflected in it. I was to bring it to our next session to discuss. I could not do it so I never went back.
 My darkness and confusion scared me. I knew with all of my heart that that this darkness was only the tip of the iceberg. I did not want to search and dig inside for answers because I was afraid of what I would find. I was afraid that my fears of myself would be true and that all the fighting I was doing to keep myself afloat would be for nothing. I thought I would have to drown eventually - that was the only way out of my situation. Yet, I did not want to drown! I did not want to let go of that little piece of me I had left, whatever that piece may have been.
 I felt like a warrior in the battlefield of a never- ending war fighting to live. On the other side of the battlefield were my enemies. However, these enemies did not frighten me the most. What petrified me was a different type of enemy. This enemy commanded all the other enemies. This enemy was the meanest, cruelest, darkest, and most agile enemy I could ever face. This enemy was myself.
The Xenaverse has a surplus of demons.
 My demons were many and I knew it. I had many things in my mind and the most difficult one to face was my sexuality. I liked women. I liked them a lot. I still do. Yet, those desires contradicted who I was in my community, and more importantly, within the Christian church and God. On top of all of that, I was a woman, but I was not quite sure I wanted to be one. I hated myself for being a woman and I hated men for being so carefree and so happy that they could be with women. If I only had been born a man! Then none of these problems and demons that chased me day and night and took my energy, time, and sleep would have haunted my existence. Why did God permit such an abomination? The desire of a man inside a woman! Why did He allow me to feel the way I felt? Why had He created me the way I was when He would just reject me at the end and let me burn in hell?
 The hardest part was dealing with the rejection of my parents and their guilt over the way I was. The most hurtful thing my mother ever said was that the devil dwelled inside of me. That was hard to hear, especially when I longed for and believed in God.
 I can sum everything into this: I was at the end of my rope. My hope was extinct, my love for myself was something I had never experienced, my self-esteem was non-existent, and my sense of belief, my spirituality, was running on empty. In other words, I was a wreck. Yet, I never showed it. I could not. I had a reputation to maintain. I was a pillar at the church, a first-born and a straight "A" student all the way to college. If I let go of the only reality I knew, I would fall into a cold, endless abyss called the unknown.
 I was the kind of person people looked up to for support and admiration. Who does a person like that set their eyes on for support and admiration, especially one with two faces? I felt I was fooling everyone who looked up to me. I never wanted to hurt anyone. On the contrary, I only wanted to help others and be a hero. I wore my masks very well, too well. So well that I even fooled myself. I was doomed. I was caught in a difficult situation. So I thought.
 This eternal damnation was to be my punishment for being what I was, for being gay. I had no way out except perhaps death. However, I was too chicken to do that. If God was punishing me for my homosexuality in life, then I could not even start to imagine what he would do to me in death.
 As I said before, I was at the end of my rope. No place to go, no place to hide, and no place to run. The only way was forward carrying the burden of my guilt and confusion on shoulders as Atlas carried the world on his.
Coming Out of the Dark
Resurrection does it to you.
 Then it happened. One day out of the blue, like lightning that falls from the skies without warning, without concern of where it may land, she appeared. She appeared the only way she knew how: like a wild animal that had been kept on a leash for the longest time and had just broken loose. She came into my life riding fiercely on a powerful palomino steed down a hill and into a village. The wind was crashing into her face making her dark raven hair dance and wave like a warning banner giving its enemy notice of their indisputable defeat. Her icy blue, cold shivering eyes were filled with rage, anger, darkness, and hunger for conquest. Her mouth and tongue worked in conjunction to powerfully enounce the roar of destruction into a fierce battle cry, and evict the words, "Take the village!" like fire breath from a hungry dragon's mouth. Her sword waved high in the air waiting impatiently to cut through any obstacles in her way. I came to find out that she was known to many as the mighty warrior princess and to many others as the destroyer of nations. At that precise moment I felt tied to her in ways that I could not comprehend. However, I was soon to learn why.
 It is funny how we can find answers, hope, awareness, enlightenment, and release in the most uncanny of places. Many people find them through a book, a religion, nature, or even a guru, but I found them in a dark, feared, ruthless, Greek warrior woman by the name of Xena, Xena of Amphipolis, the mighty warrior princess.
 I must admit that my keenness of Xena was not a sudden one. I remember like it was yesterday the first time I saw her and the feelings and thoughts that she provoked within me. It was the first season episode TIES THAT BIND (20/120). I was flipping the channels trying to find something worthwhile to watch, when all of a sudden I saw this woman, in the scene that I mentioned above. A warrior woman commanding an army of men. The first thing I said to myself was, "A woman commanding an army of men? Yeah, right. GET REAL!" The second thing I thought to myself was "A Warrior Woman. How fictional can you get? A woman could never be a warrior!" The funny thing is, I caught myself saying that, and I felt so chauvinist.
 Right before my eyes was the type of woman I had always dreamed of being, but was afraid to be. I thought it was a joke. After I ridiculed her, and after giving it some reflection, I thought and said to myself, "Why not? It could happen." Just like that, like magic a small flame ignited in my heart and in my soul. It was a flame of hope, that even though small, it was overwhelming me with the eagerness and the hunger to feed it and to make it grow. Although in many ways unaware, the journey within myself had began.
 I began to watch Xena: Warrior Princess faithfully. I became acquainted with Ancient Greece and the show's Mythology, with the characters, and for the first time, I met Gabrielle. I did not think much of Gabrielle at first. To me, she was an irritating blond. I do, however, remember her words in SINS OF THE PAST (01/101) to Lila, when she was going to run away from home, "I am going to become a warrior, like Xena." I related to those words. My focus was on the warrior Xena, and I decided that I wanted to be like her as well. So, very naively, I decided that if I were to be warrior I had to learn how to fight, just like Xena did in every episode. I wanted to kick a--. I always felt vulnerable being a woman, thinking that in any moment a man could come and have his way with me physically. I have always been afraid of that, but after watching Xena, I was motivated to change.
My Own Lao Ma
Everyone needs a Lao Ma.
 I started to look for a martial arts school to integrate, and my search brought me to the Lao Ma in my life, a man by the name of Ramon. He was a newcomer at our church and I learned from my brother that he was a martial arts instructor. This to me was shocking news, for Ramon was missing his right arm and shoulder. I also learned that not only was he a martial arts instructor, he was the best of the best in New York and Puerto Rico in the art that he taught. He was a black belt in the arts of Praying Mantis, Wing Chung, and Kali. Of course I had no idea what these arts were, or their value. I was VERY naïve in the subject of warrior arts.
 With the incredible, ignorant boldness that comes with the territory of being naïve, I went up to him and asked for information on which school of martial arts I should pursue. He looked at me, as no one had ever looked at me before. He had the same look Xena always had in her eyes. That penetrating warrior gaze. His black eyes penetrated my soul, and for the first time in my existence, I felt that someone looked at me. He then said with a smile, "I shall train you, with no pay other than your devotion for the art." My heart skipped a beat and I did not think twice. I agreed and I became his student.
 What Ramon taught me in those two years is the core of who I have become. The key to who I am. Every lesson, every word spoken was like water to a thirsty, dying soul. I learned so many things, so many lessons, but the most amazing thing is that every thing that this man taught me went hand in hand with the Xena episodes I watched every Saturday night. He took me by the hand and showed me that LOVE is the greatest power on earth (Xena and Gabrielle's friendship). He taught me that being a warrior was not all about kicking a-- it was about finding balance (PARADISE FOUND (81/413)). That being a warrior was not about conquering others, but about conquering yourself (THE DEBT II (53/307)). He taught me that a warrior's greatest weapon was not his sword but his wisdom (DREAM WORKER (03/103)). He made me see that sometimes in order to believe in yourself you need someone to believe in you first (FORGIVEN (60/314)). He showed me that a warrior knows the importance of laughter (all the funny episodes in Xena) for laughter is the greatest medicine of all. He taught me that the answers that we seek are never out there, but always within ourselves (FORGET ME NOT (63/317), THE WAY (84/416)). He taught me that friendship could sometimes bind you as close or closer than blood can (TIES THAT BIND). He taught me that a warrior's art can fortify and be fortified by other skills and arts within yourself (the Bard in Gabrielle). He made me see that religion was about finding God and freeing your spirit, not entrapping it (Eli, Eve). He made me see that when the going gets rough, FOCUS like Xena always did. Most important, he taught me the greatest fight of all is that which is fought for the Greater Good.
 The list goes on and on. I only took two years of Wing-Chung. Quite honestly, I do not see myself as a warrior, at least in a fighting way. I do not think I am able to fight, although Ramon says I am. I do know this: I am warrior, a warrior of life. I am an Amazon Warrior and I have overcome and will keep on overcoming every obstacle that comes my way, with balance, with focus but most of all, with LOVE.
Finding My Way
It took a while, but Xena and Gabrielle eventually found their way.
 As the years passed, I found myself learning from the warrior and identifying more with the bard, who was learning from Xena just like me. When I look at Gabrielle today, I see me. I see how much I have evolved just like her, from that little girl in Poteidaia who wanted to be a warrior like Xena to the Amazon Warrior Bard who fights along her friend today. Gabrielle no longer stands in Xena's shadow because she knows it is warmer standing in the sun (THEM BONES, THEM BONES (95/505)). Just like her, I have moved out of Xena's shadow and I shine in a light of my own.
 Within this journey, I have found self-love, self-appreciation, hope, GOD, and most important, courage. I found the courage to accept my sexuality and to be proud of being a woman. I finally see that being a woman is not an obstacle but a blessing. I finally finished college and found the courage to follow my destiny and that took me to Katy, Texas to become a teacher, and now to central Illinois. Through teaching, I have the chance everyday to reach children and to fight for the greater good by helping them not only in school but outside of school as well. I have also allowed myself the chance to explore my art and to actually admit to myself "GOD DARN IT! I AM GOOOD!" I am one of the best singer/songwriters you will ever find and my writing as a fiction writer is not that bad either. These are things that I could not even say to myself five and a half years ago. I still find it amazing that I can today. What a journey it has been! A journey started with a flame ignited by Xena of Amphipolis and her partner The Battling Bard of Poteidaia Gabrielle.
 When I look back now, I see the road that I have traveled to get to where I am at today. It seems a very long narrow one filled with many obstacles. Yet, I remember distinctively the day Ramon said the words that triggered my journey into the depth of my soul, and made me take that road. He looked into my eyes and saw my confusion and he said to me, "All the answers you seek lie within you." Nothing and no one can tell you what you need to hear or what you need to know but yourselves. This thought was reinforced by Lao Ma's words to the angry Xena, "To conquer another is to have power. To conquer yourself is to know the way." A transformation inside of me occurred like magic, because I found the courage to look within for the first time in my life. A transformation occurred because I found the courage to conquer myself. My thoughts, fears, and demons that had tormented me ceased to exist. They were replaced with something wonderful, something that I thought I would never be able to acquire and have. It was a peace of mind and freedom.
 Most important, though, I found something more valuable under all that darkness and all that confusion. I found myself, and I found out that I was a wonderful thing to be. Throughout my training with Ramon and through out my path with Xena and Gabrielle I found the courage to stop hating what I was. The anger I had towards men disappeared. Admiration and reverence replaced it. Ramon was a man and he was one of the most amazing teachers, for he was the one who showed me the way to loving myself and believing in myself. He became my mentor, my Lao Ma. With him and Xena, I learned that being a woman was a wonderful thing to be. Just because I am a woman does not mean that I should have obstacles in what I want to do. Xena proved that and Ramon reinforced it.
 Being a woman is never about being weak. There is not a day that goes by in which I think I want to be a man anymore. Sometimes, I feel sorry for my young self in the past forever thinking of it. I saw how confused I truly was. I am so proud of being a woman, that I cannot envision ever being something else.
 Through out my journey I also found out that every step of the way the amazing energy we tend to call God was with me. Its energy surrounded me and not once did I ever feel abandoned. That is when I realized that being gay was not an abomination. If it was then that presence would have never been known in my life then and still today. In Christianity, its believers appall homosexuality for they say it is a sin. However, I am convinced that it is not a sin, but that is a whole new subject and a deep one, which I shall not go into depth in here. I will say though that I am no longer a Christian. I may be a woman without religion now, but I know I will never be a woman without God. Xena helped me come to terms with the woman-loving woman that I was, and her relationship with Gabrielle is something that I long for in my own life. I also learned that I should not care about what people think, for only I can make myself happy or miserable. Happiness is something I must acquire on my own (IF THE SHOE FITS (80/412)).
 Robert Tapert once said, "Hercules is the hero we hope is out there. Xena is the hero we hope is inside of us." Those words to this day still thunder inside my head and my heart as truth. Xena was the first female hero on television who empowered women, who led them to believe that being a woman was a powerful thing to be if you believe strongly in yourself, and that it is okay to do that. It is not selfish to put yourself first on occasions, to not to lose focus of the woman you are. By putting yourself back into perspective, you can be a better mother, wife, worker, sister, or daughter. The bottom line is you will be a better woman, a better you.
 I have not only found a hero in Xena, but I have found a hero within me. The things that I have done and I am able to do now still amaze me. It feels good to know that I can count on and trust in myself when the going gets rough, just like Xena can count on and trust in herself to make the right decisions at the right occasion, time and time again till the end. With the hero inside of me, I found the strength to break every bond that tied me from reaching who I truly was, and who I am. It is good to know that she resides within my heart.
 It has been now a year a half since Xena's death as a character, and I cannot come to terms with her departure. When Xena died, I felt like a big piece of my life was gone. I had lost a friend and in many ways I had lost a place I called home. I felt emptiness and I felt something missing in my life, but I once heard that a person's life should be revered in their death and not grieved. For if the dead can hear our thoughts, they should hear the impact their lives had on us and how much we benefited from their existence.
 Although Xena is a fictional character, she did affect my life as no other woman has, so I decided not to watch the finale anymore. One time for me was enough. I would rather focus on all the episodes that brought me insight and joy. There are many controversies within me and the Xenite community about FRIEND IN NEED (134/622). All I can say is that although it is brilliant in its cinematography, it was a waste of effort, time, and money. Robert Tapert managed to not only kill Xena, but also what she stood for and all of us Xenites in the process. It makes me wonder if he truly understood and knew what that character, that hero meant to us Xenites. My thought on this is that he never truly understood nor knew. He created something that went beyond his expectations and his own understanding. Xena took a life of her own and escaped his leash. How can anyone ever think that they can control the warrior princess? No one can, not even her own creators.
 However, focus is what I have been trying to maintain in this situation. By letting it go I will be contradicting everything I have learned and said in this scroll. By letting focus go, I will be betraying everything Ramon and Xena helped me see and everything I fought with myself to be. The best way to view things is in the ending of a letter that I once wrote to Ms. Renee O' Conner. When I read it I can see the hero that I found within me speaking, and that is the way I wish things to remain. I wish to keep my cool and keep my strength, but most all keep my honor and focus. It is not easy even today. Sometimes it seems that it gets harder with each second, minute, day, week and year that passes. However, I know that the journey has not ended here. It has only begun. The ending of the letter goes like this:"As the show comes to an end this sixth season. I can't help but to be saddened. It will be like loosing and old friend. In a way this journey will be over, not just for me and all the Xenites out there, but I know that for you and Mrs. Lawless as well… but with all that has been learned and acquired from this show, for both actors and viewers, a new journey evolves, a journey which seems even greater still than that first one. Life awaits…Destiny awaits…and I ask you and myself… Wasn't it a privilege? Wasn't it a honor to have had Xena: Warrior Princess to train us, to prepare us for this amazing journey, for this "new" amazing quest called life? Her lessons will always live within me. BATTLE ON!"
Xena battling on.
A woman of mystery