So there are several big themes that I tried to develop with Lily and Stuart’s story, many of them drawn from my experience in life and what I’ve learned, and I wanted to discuss them a bit. May contain some spoilers if you haven’t read all the books.
1. We take a lot of things from our past forward.
As the story progresses, we find out more about Lily’s history. Her parents had a troubled marriage and after her dad died, her mom basically abandoned her and her brother to ‘find herself’. Naturally this resulted in insecurity and self doubt, and later we find that was further fueled by her mom’s criticism of Lily. I’m sure many of us have had – or know someone who has had – a relation or person of authority offer biting criticism that wounded. In Lily’s case it manifested as the inner voice that would chide and remonstrate her, repeating old tapes that diminished her worth.
Of course this affected her; she lacked a good parental connection for years (her aunt and uncle were wonderful and she loved them, but it didn’t eliminate the pain of her mother’s rejection), and she longed for some acceptance, something to heal her. It coloured all her interactions with boyfriends and the pain of those relationships ending was magnified by that nagging voice, reminding her of her imperfections. For introspective and thoughtful Lily, painfully thorough and honest, she could only revisit the mistakes she had made and conclude that indeed, fault lay with her.
As adults we need to be able to fulfill our needs on our own, but what happens when those childhood cups – where you learn you are loved despite your flaws, when you are nurtured and encouraged and develop self esteem – haven’t been satisfied and leave you lacking tools as an adult? It is difficult to recover when an innocent is betrayed by someone who should protect them above all – a parent.
2. Even if you’ve been hurt in the past, sometimes it is okay to put your trust in someone again.
So Lily has been painfully hurt, but wants to believe in love and trust – don’t we all? It’s part of picking yourself up and not surrendering to the bad things that life will invariably throw your way. We all want to love and be loved, accepted for who we are… but when you’ve been hurt so badly, is it worth the risk of being wounded again?
Deep inside Lily is an inveterate optimist, and when she meets Stuart she can sense the potential; here is someone mature enough and adult enough to deliver, and that’s what freaks her out initially. After wanting it, hoping love is in the cards for her, she’s presented with a tantalizing package in Stuart but she doubts herself; the tapes play and she worries she’s not good enough or worthy, or she will mess it up. It is hard to resist something that the heart wants so badly, however, and so she makes little steps forward although being who she is, it is difficult to not just open herself up entirely at the onset. Which brings me to…
3. There are good and bad times to run away.
Fed by her fear of failure, of pain, of more hurt, when Lily gets uncomfortable early on she runs away. This happens in Scotland when she goes off on her own because she is frustrated by Stuart and again at the beginning of “Step Across the Rubicon”, when it could have ended badly… VERY badly. Rather then wait for an explanation or try to work things through and face them, it is easier for her sometimes to run away so as not to be forced to face the disappointment she fears. It’s a natural, innocent impulse we have as a child – to hide and try to find a place that’s safer so we can feel less vulnerable, and really refers back to point one.
But that’s not always healthy, because things don’t get resolved, the other party doesn’t have an opportunity to make amends, and neither person can grow. All relationships have their ups and downs and running from discussion – however attractive it might be sometimes – doesn’t fix that. She had more of a reason when she accidentally found out about Stuart’s trips to Lina; you could argue that Lily deserved that honesty, although Stuart did make a promise to Lina he didn’t want to break. It all came about though because Lily wanted to know what was going on and followed him; the trust wasn’t complete and Lily’s fear once more of being hurt meant in some ways SHE betrayed a trust. (I’ll cover what happened in book five in another point.)
It is okay to take a bit of air – to think about something, come back to it, put it aside for a spell – but on the whole, it is better to eventually face it than run.
4. BDSM is about trust.
Even though the books aren’t meant to be an instruction in BDSM and there are some heavier bits later in the series, this holds true 100%. Not only is someone who is a Submissive trusting their Dom to understand boundaries, but the Dom is trusting that the Sub has been honest in her desires, limits, and will express them accurately. You don’t want a Dom pushing through a Sub’s limits, or a Sub lying to do something to please a Dom when she really hates it.
It can be an amazing dynamic, and definitely is part of the path to healing for Julianna. She can push aside the fears and voices of her ‘vanilla’ life, and be a private person with Stuart and explore things she is curious about, free from judgment. As the books progress Julianna learns to trust Stuart more and more and feels as if she can test her boundaries – scary for someone as wounded as her. It becomes cathartic, something she and Stuart own and develop together and that bonding, that sense of a journey together they experience is great. Which means it’s time for…
5. Even the best people can make mistakes and take someone for granted.
I spent the better part of several books showing Lily and you who Stuart REALLY is -patient, loving, thoughtful, supportive – all those things Liliana deserves but didn’t always get. I knew the fall from that pedestal was inevitable (and I detailed in another blog entry here how in retrospect I would have pulled that back a bit), because I knew what Megan did.
The point of it was – no one is perfect, everyone has a limit. Stuart did his best, fought to control the frustration, the disappointment, the anger over what Megan did to him but in the end he is only human and was pushed REALLY far.
What he was to Lily, Lily also became to him – someone he could trust, who was loyal, honourable, dependable and accepting, and at some point his desire to finally resolve things with Megan became a beast that nearly consumed everything in its path.
To be fair, part of that was because of Lily – because he realised what a mistake he had make with Megan and wanted to finish it once and for all so that he was free to marry Lily. But Megan’s deception and her games took such a toll on even our wonderful Stuart that he became consumed with resolving it once at for all, at almost any cost.
So he was thoughtless, and took for granted that Lily would be there, would understand, would accept he had to do what he had to do and the quicker he got it all taken care of the sooner they could really be together. Stuart knew Megan would be a problem otherwise, so he decided to deal with it decisively and since Megan was his ‘problem’ and he was embarrassed by his mistake in marrying Megan, he shut her out. (It was also a misguided effort to shield Lily from some ugliness.)
This was a huge mistake. He just wanted to end Megan’s schemes quick and dirty, but things got out of control. He underestimated how important feeling part of this resolution was to Lily – no matter how embarrassing or unseemly it was to him. In thinking it would be faster/quicker/easier to not rope Liliana in on everything, he alienated her with his singular resolve. It’s not that she thought what he was doing was wrong, but feeling like she couldn’t help and be part of it, a TRUE partner, damaged that trust in where they were at that moment.
Stuart sensed this on some level and their sessions became more intense, especially as he increasingly used them as a way to vent his pent up energy and emotion about what was happening, (and to try to keep some intimacy with Liliana). It wasn’t fair, but Stuart was pushed very far in my estimation. Here’s a man who tries to be straightforward and live by a code of ethics, and his ex-wife, in a bid to get sympathy and more money in a divorce, basically accuses him of killing his unborn child. Wow.
This is nothing he can ever resolve – Megan being who she is, he will never know 100% for certain if she was lying or not and God, that has to eat at someone like Stuart. It would wound me horribly were I in his shoes.
So he takes Lily for granted because in all of this she is the one thing in a way he CAN take for granted; she is steadfast and true, no matter what, while he battles demons he tried to keep at bay too long. So then Lily feels like she has no choice…
6. It is okay to let someone work their shit out alone./You can’t fix everything that is broken.
Some journeys need to be taken alone. Although Stuart helped Liliana with her mom, in the end it was her courage in seeing her mom and being who she wanted to be that was empowering to her. It was Liliana who put the kibosh on Brett’s renewed interest and she did that of her own volition, even when she walked away from Stuart, because she didn’t NEED that relationship, even though in the past she thought she did.
You can’t control what anyone else does, and this is especially difficult when a person engages in destructive behaviour. Julianna thought more than once that Stuart was more like a man possessed after the stabbing and after more of Megan’s lies; she tries to take on some of the pain, offer support, but when that was brushed aside she realised one of the things she learned in her journey is you have to handle your own shit sometimes. No one can fix something for you, you have to do the work so you can enjoy the benefit.
That’s a hard lesson. We all want things we don’t have, and if someone just gave them to you would you appreciate it? Would it change you for the better, or worse? Would you continue to make the same mistakes if you didn’t have to work through your resolution of the first time you fucked up? So this demon around Stuart needed to be exorcised and resolution needed to be entirely owned by him.
7. It’s okay to stand up for yourself.
Despite number six, that didn’t mean Lily had to take it lying down. She still deserved a certain amount of respect, being taken into confidence, etc., especially as it could affect her safety (as her proximity to Stuart had been a risk before). Stuart may have had to do his thing and come to resolution his own way, but that didn’t mean Liliana should allow herself to be treated like a door mat.
She pushed, she questioned, she asked – and this was in contrast to her behaviour earlier in the series, where she would just run away. Lily gave Stuart a chance to include her, explain things, open the door just a crack and acknowledge her perspective, and he didn’t. Remember, she snooped and knew about what Megan had claimed, and so there was definitely a lot of room for sharing on Stuart’s part.
But he didn’t. So finally, exhausted at what she perceived as a one sided effort, she walked away. Liliana didn’t want to pretend that she was okay being treated this way, that the relationship was just fine as it was. She knew what they had was special and it deserved to be treated as such, it deserved that respect. When Lily felt Stuart couldn’t meet her on that, she decided that taking a break was better than destroying what they had built. It was a signal to herself (and Stuart) that she had grown and didn’t think that dregs were good enough any more; that if he was serious about wanting to be with her forever, than she was owed more than he wanted to give. Despite being submissive in the bedroom, Lilianna is strong and definite in this.
Stuart didn’t have to give her everything, just move a bit more in her direction instead of relying on her blind acceptance. It’s called compromise, and rather than decline into self doubt and old tapes again, she worked, she tried, and THEN stepped back.
8. Independence/self-sufficiency is good.
So after a whirlwind period where Liliana was wooed by her soul mate, she finds herself alone. Whereas she had wallowed and mourned after she had received the pictures of Stuart and Megan, this time she became more productive, less destructive.
The universe moves towards entropy, disorder, chaos. We can only control what we can control, but that is something right? And it’s not an inconsequential something. We control how we act and react, how we internalise things, what we learn, what we pass on. People will act on our ‘system’ and disrupt it – like Megan did – causing disarray, but when we understand and relish in the control we DO have, powerful things can happen.
It might be easy and nice sometimes to want others to do things for you, fix things (see above), and it certainly is wonderful to have a good support system; to understand that in your moments of weakness someone has your back, that you can rely on friends or family for honest feedback. But the only person who owns every moment of your life is you – so being independent, knowing your weaknesses and strengths and consciously choosing your direction is THE most powerful role you can assume.
Lily was confronted by many circumstances where her choices, the person she cultivated inside, played a positive role in the world around her. She saved Stuart’s life – and that, despite her early protestations, was a direct result of the person SHE chose to be up to that point. She chose to be an active participant in life, and on the whole I think that is a positive thing.
I like to say life is a full contact sport, and I would add that it is, whether you want it to be or not. We may not have all made the same choices as Lily, but being deliberate and knowing who you are and what values drive you is incredibly powerful and self-affirming.
When she began to look at the possibility of moving to Portland, it was a productive thing, and channeled what normally would have been negative energy into something potentially positive. It didn’t matter if she decided to go or not, in those moments she was owning her life, irrespective of what eventually would happen with Stuart.
Once the craziness surrounding Megan wound down and the endorphin rush from the intrigue subsided, Stuart began to understand how he had alienated Liliana in his rush to be rid of Megan. Despite knowing that there would be a media circus around him and it would be obvious he was trying to win Lily back, he spent time waiting for her at her home, not concerned how it would be spun.
He realised he needed to come clean about everything, no matter how difficult it was to discuss Megan’s accusations and Stuart confessed, unaware that Julianna already knew. Life doesn’t always give us the chance to be able to corroborate someone’s story, but luckily for Lily in this case she was able to, and she saw how much the whole thing pained him.
Sometimes it is easy to forgive someone, other times it is more difficult. Liliana knew that what Stuart did wasn’t because he was TRYING to hurt her, but because he himself was hurt, and it clouded his judgment. She also knew from her months and months of intimate experience with him that what he did around the whole Megan thing wasn’t who he normally was – he was a cornered animal and fighting as a wounded creature for what he perceived was survival.
He also came to her and apologized; he didn’t try to blame her or minimize what she went through as a result of his actions, and so Lily felt the apology was genuine, and it allowed her to forgive Stuart.
I look forward to your feedback and comments, and thanks for reading this rather lengthy tome. 😉