Whoosh! Issue 59 - August 2001

By Lena Oak
Group Therapy Project
Content copyright © 2001 held by author
WHOOSH! edition copyright © 2001 held by Whoosh!
2297 words

Why? (01)
The Early Connection (02-03)
The Continuing Connection (04-08)
Just a TV Show (09-16)
What Remains (17-18)



Mary Pickford impression
Xena goes out in a blaze of... something.

[01] Xena, why did you have to leave me? Why did you allow yourself to be killed? You had redeemed yourself these past six seasons for the wrongs you had committed in your past. I will miss the show and, more importantly, you. I have not been able to properly express my feelings about these losses and I doubt I ever will, but will try nonetheless. However, perhaps I should go back to the beginning.

The Early Connection

[02] One of the first episodes of Xena: Warrior Princess I remember seeing was the third season finale, SACRIFICE II. I had been sober since June of 1998 and desperately looked for something to fill that void in my life left by the absence of drugs and alcohol. Before then, I came home, plopped in front of the tube after working a long and stressful day, got high, and wasted the entire night away. I would check out and not feel anything, not the anxiety over work, not the anger at my boss, or my fear about where my life was heading. Now, I was newly sober, scared out of my wits, and I came across an incredible show with a beautiful woman struggling to face her dark past and make amends for the harm she had caused (SINS OF THE PAST). She too struggled with dealing with her emotions and feelings. This resonated with me. True, I had not killed anyone or anything like that, but I was able to relate to her struggle. I quickly found myself hooked this time to something healthy.

[03] Xena, I will miss so many things about you. Where do I begin? I will miss you as a teacher as you have taught me so much these past four years. I learned from you and Gabrielle that vulnerability is a good thing. It is amazing to see your growth, and consequently mine, and how you allowed Gabrielle into your life. In the first season, in SINS OF THE PAST, when Gabrielle discovered you standing by your brother's coffin and tried to comfort you, you brushed her attempts away. As the time went on, you increasingly allowed yourself to open. In ADVENTURES IN THE SIN TRADE, you were able to mourn Gabrielle's "death" and let out your feelings. I cried along with you and felt your pain. You helped me to see that I do not have to be the tough and fearless person I always believed I had to be. That it is okay to be sensitive and let others in.

The Continuing Connection

[04] During early sobriety, I often felt alone, fragile and unprotected. I had faced a truth about myself, which left me extremely exposed. Many people did not believe I had a problem and consequently were not supportive. I was told I thought too much and was too sensitive, which were some of the reasons I actually drank. I dealt with this in a number of ways.

[05] First, I adopted Xena as a symbol of strength. I am grateful to USA network for playing reruns of Xena five days a week during my early sobriety. Not only was I able to catch up with the story line, I was also able to get a daily dose of a strong female role model who didn't let anyone push her around. When faced with situations that I would normally run away from, I tried to imagine what Xena would do. This gave me the courage to tell my boss that I felt she was taking advantage of me or to tell my parents that I needed space. Xena helped me to find my voice. Xena also helped me tap into a power that I never knew existed inside of me.

[06] One cold morning in December of 1999, my fiancee and I were training for my first race. With only a half-mile to run, I was exhausted and ready to give up. He looked at me and said, "Come on Xena!" (I love him for that!) I was able to think of all the times Xena faced insurmountable tasks (ONE AGAINST AN ARMY, BETWEEN THE LINES, THE WAY, LOOKING DEATH IN THE EYE, THE ABYSS) but kept on fighting. I was able to finish the run with a newfound burst of energy.

[07] It was also refreshing to see a strong independent woman who did not need a man, or anyone for that matter, to defend or provide for her. As a child, I grew up with my parents doing everything for me. At the time, I thought it was wonderful but now I see how it was a detriment. I lacked the confidence and self-esteem I needed to feel good about myself in this world. Repeatedly, Xena taught me that women could be strong and were able to take care of themselves.

[08] Secondly, Xena, Gabrielle, and the crew of Xena: Warrior Princess not only became my friends during this lonely time of early sobriety but also taught me the true meaning of the word. I saw the friendship between Xena and Gab blossom and grow stronger over time. They supported each other through good and bad times. There were times when the friendship was severely tested but their love and friendship endured. Xena helped me see that mistakes are a part of life and should be used as lessons not as an opportunity to beat up on oneself. Xena taught me that it is natural for friendships to have difficulties but that people can work through their issues and come out even stronger. Secretly, I wished I would be lucky enough one day to have a friendship like Xena and Gabrielle's. Ironically, my love for the show has brought new friends into my life.

Just a TV Show

Y'know, they look almost good enough to eat!
Saving those jellyfish souls.

[09] Another reason I grieve the loss of Xena is that I have never found a television show that has captured my attention quite like this show has. Everyday, like clockwork, I would race home to escape for an hour into the world of action, adventure, romance, drama, and comedy. I was so engrossed in the story that I would forget what was going on in my daily life. Initially dreading the weekend without my old "best friends" (drugs/alcohol), Xena became the highlight of my weekends, and Saturday became a much anticipated evening.

[10] The show was always entertaining. As the saying goes, "I laughed, I cried ... the whole gamut of emotions". When I first started watching, emotions were not something I easily felt or, even worse, displayed since I drank and drugged to avoid all that. Xena helped me to access them. I can see my growth in allowing myself to have and feel feelings by my response to the series finale. I woke up the next morning with a hangover, although thankfully this one was an emotional one. Throughout the two hour finale, I choked up watching Xena teach Gabrielle the pinch, Xena watch Gabrielle walk off into the fog knowing it would be the last time she would see her alive, and Xena bury her sword and breastplate for the second and final time. I screamed at Gabrielle to dump Xena's ashes in the fountain and sobbed during the last ten minutes.

[11] The logical and practical part of me says, "This is just a show. How can you allow yourself to get like this? What is wrong with you?" It screams, "Xena is a C-H-A-R-A-C-T-E-R on a T-E-L-E-V-I-S-I-O-N show. Grow up and get a life". I have discussed this with a few safe and loving people who have helped me to see that, yes, although Xena was a character on a TV show, she nonetheless had a huge impact on my life at an especially challenging time. I am slowly learning that some lessons come from rather strange places. Who am I to deny them?

[12] Xena, I will be processing what your death means to me for a long time. Just in writing this essay, I have gained even more insights as to how you have touched my life. Now when I ask, how did your death effect me, I know there are so many ways to look at it. Should I be shocked that my "best friend" was decapitated in battle? Should I be incensed at the scene of your body hanging decapitated and defiled in the rain? Should I question how The Powers That Be could kill you off? What does this say about the strong female role model being killed by a man no less? A nameless man, to boot? I can just see it now, the front page of the Amphipolis Daily News "Xena: Warrior Princess Killed by Unknown Samurai". You deserved more than that. Ares, Callisto, Caesar, Alti, the entire crew from Mount Olympus could not kill you and some unknown guy gets the title? Come one. Anyway, should I be fearful that Gabrielle and I are forced to go on into the world without you? What exactly are the implications for me of your death? Or that of Gabrielle graduating from her "studies" and taking your place as a warrior? I have asked myself these questions and many more, many times.

[13] Now that I have had some time to process Xena's death as well as the series ending, I no longer feel the initial devastation I first experienced. However, I cannot say I am at peace with anything, that is the ending of the series, Xena's brutal death, and Gabrielle being out on her own. To be honest, I have not allowed myself to watch the finale again or any other Xena episodes. After almost four times in about a day, it was just too much, too much to think about and feel. Therefore, I put the tapes away for the time being.

[14] Xena, you died the way you lived -- by the sword. Sadly, it would not have made sense to me to have you and Gabrielle ride off into the sunset. I salute The Powers That Be for doing something I am sure they knew would enrage a majority of the fan base. They stayed true to your character, which for me was quite bitter sweet. Sure, I would have cried a bit less with the sunset ending, however, the loss of the series would still have been there. Yet, your death and the way you died added a new grief I was not prepared for and certainly was not expecting.

[15] Xena's death scene still leaves me disturbed. Did she have to die in such a vicious manner? The arrows, the blood, that horrible look on her face right before she was beheaded. It shook me to the core. It used to upset me seeing her opponents (Callisto, Caesar, Alti, Grindl, or Najara) get the better of Xena, which did not happen very often. However, to see this was too much. I still cringe picturing Xena's headless body hanging like a piece of meat. I first watched the scene with a sense of detachment and knowing, or I thought I knew that Gabrielle would bring Xena back. Watching it a second time, with knowledge of the ending, was heart wrenching. I found little consolation knowing Xena wanted to die and was willing to sacrifice herself for the greater good. It helped but only a bit.

[16] Like Gabrielle, I feel I have lost my best friend and teacher. I wish I could take it as lightly as Gabrielle apparently did but then she got Xena's ghost to keep her company. Yet, I have only scratched the surface in terms of my identification with Gabrielle. I am hoping more will be revealed to me in time and in a few months time I can revisit the situation. I need some more space and time to process all my feelings.

What Remains

[17] All I have left are reruns, my taped episodes, Xena wallpaper/sounds on computer monitor at work/home, and trading cards that I keep scattered throughout my life, in my car, in my wallet, and used as bookmarks. I will miss Xena and Xena, the show, with all my heart. Xena kept me sane during an extremely difficult time of my life and essentially was a lifesaver. Xena was a friend to me when I needed one. She gave me a place to go where I could forget all my worries even but for a short time. She taught me that there was nothing wrong with being a strong independent woman who could at the same time be vulnerable, have feelings, and make mistakes. I feel like we grew up together.

[18] For all this and so much more, I am eternally grateful to you, Xena.


Lena Oak Lena Oak

Lena Oak was born and raised on Long Island, New York and now lives with her husband in Westchester, New York. She is 29 years old and currently works as a recruiter for a not for profit organization. She is an avid reader, loves photography and watches Xena: Warrior Princess as often as she can.
Favorite episode: IDES OF MARCH and FINS, FEMS, AND GEMS
Favorite line: Xena: "And you got a snowball's chance in Tartarus with me, ya got that?" A DAY IN THE LIFE
First episode seen: SACRIFICE II

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