New Year Resolution

Stag on Hillside Photocredit: Kev747 via Flickr
Stag on Hillside Photocredit: Kev747 via Flickr

So last Saturday I saw my ex girlfriend (Kitten) and her new girlfriend at the bar. It was no big deal. For those who don’t know the back story, she was my partner for 5 months and we broke up mid September. She reminded me a lot of my father / abuser, thankfully not in the sociopath rapist ways. She’s the first person I’ve dated who had so many profound superficial and deep similarities with him that I saw and recognized it as a gift, since it could not possibly be coincidence.

Okay, I’m going to get all Wiccan and spiritual on you here. If that’s not your thing, I won’t be offended. Continue reading New Year Resolution

New Year – Releasing, Banishing and Blessing


Yesterday I did a ritual of blessing and letting go with one of my friends. We both practice the same religion but hadn’t done any ceremony together before. It was her idea to burn things we wanted to let go of before we go into the new year, and to eat a dinner of black eyed peas and greens ( a southern US prosperity blessing practice).

I burnt three things. The first was a shield I’d made of paper, early into my healing journey. At the time, I was living alone and having night fears and flashbacks almost nightly. At the time I called them monsters. Come evening time, it was like I was haunted by anxiety and the sense that something was stalking me over my shoulder. I would be afraid to look around or to focus much attention on it, for fear the ‘monster’ would come closer.  Because most of my abuse happened at night in my bedroom, going to bed was particularly hard for me, and, although I didn’t know it, I was having memory fragments of the fear I experienced as a child and teen, waiting to see if my abuser would come down the hall to my bedroom and enter to abuse me or if he would pass my room by and go to bed. Since before he would abuse me he would usually use the bathroom across the hall from my room, I had come to associate bathrooms with bad things happening as well. However, I hadn’t had enough time and support to put all this together yet at that point, so all I knew was the fear.

I had created the shield with all of the sacred elements pictured on it, and posted it on my door as a warding to keep the monsters out. That, combined with some other ritual I did at the time, like writing down my fears in bed before sleeping, keeping a jar by my bed in case I was too scared to get up and go into the bathroom at night, and bringing a candle with me to bed so I didn’t have to walk across a dark bedroom, helped keep the monsters manageable until I could process more of the memory fragments. When I moved, that shield came down and didn’t go back up again in my new place, but I’ve kept if for the 20 some years since.

I burned it yesterday because there are no longer monsters waiting for me outside my bedroom door, and if fear fragments from my past emerge, I can name them and deal with them directly. I thanked the shield for protecting me and let that energy go.

The second thing I  burned was a journal from 2003. At that time, I was living with a roommate who bullied me. She had been asked to leave the house, but in the two weeks before she would actually leave, I stayed with a friend because I no longer felt safe at home. This woman, I’ve realized recently, was very similar to both my father and my recent other partner, so it felt fitting to burn my account of freeing myself of her at the same time I am freeing my self of my ex. I do not have to be connected with people who enjoy hurting others.

Also in the journal at the time my father/abuser was in the hospital after a serious car accident, and while there he had been diagnosed with cancer, which they were treating. My family rallied around to nurse him back to help, which felt like such a betrayal, and lessened my ability to deal with the abusive roommate. I now have no contact with my family and have many more people in my life who know my story.

Flipping through the pages, I came across a description I wrote after waking at 5 am to cry over the fact that my girlfriend (now wife), who I had been with three years at this point, was losing her sex driving in menopause, something she thought was only temporary and I should be patient with. Ten years later, we’ve resolved this issue, although in a completely unexpected way, by me having additional partners, something that has completely transformed and blessed our relationship.

I wrote at the time about feeling politically alienated from the queer community, because as a survivor of misogynist violence, my needs are different, and the most  important (only) gender issue for me is expanding power and equality for women for the purpose of protecting ourselves and children from misogynous sociopaths like my father.  When people wish to do away with the concept of ‘woman’ completely, it feels like they are trying not to create equality, but to make women and our struggles invisible.  This issue had come up for me that day in a queer poly group I have been dipping my toe into, that I was concerned would have a rigidly lockstep political stance on these issues.  Instead of being silenced, I spoke out, and got reassurance that my perspective would not be shut down from one of the moderators. Afterward, I re-read yesterday on my blog  a post where I had a wonderful comment exchange with Michelliana ( a woman of trans experience) about the conflict of trans needs and survivor needs. I realized how healing this simple, thoughtful, vulnerable exchange had been for me. All of these things have been ongoing issues in my life, and in the past ten years, all have transformed. It’s good to let that energy burn off and be released.

The last thing I have some mixed feelings about. I burned a bunch of nitrile gloves. As a Pagan, doing something so polluting was a dumb idea in sacred space (or anywhere) and I thought afterward that I could have just cut them to bits with scissors and put them in the garbage. The gloves had been purchased as safe sex supplies by an ex-girlfriend, and barely used. I had requested that she wear gloves, which provide a smoother surface and prevent fingernails and rough hands from irritating my skin, and so make it less likely that I’ll have a flare-up of the inflammatory skin condition I have around my vulva resulting from the assaults. She didn’t like the gloves that I preferred for this purpose and had bought her own, in a rough material and size so large it was wrinkly, causing more discomfort than the ungloved hand would have. They represented that selfishness and lack of empathy and caring that I don’t want to see again in a partner. This was the only thing I burned that was a true banishing, a releasing of something that disgusted me to see and which  I was glad to see the back of. The smoke clung to me afterward, and today I find myself with a headache. I would like to find a way to think about that toxic smoke amid my relief to have them truly gone, to have her truly gone from inside me as well. Perhaps it is reminding me that getting rid of something toxic leaves a residue, and it’s best to avoid those things completely in future, and not rely on my strength to withstand and clean up the damage later. When we are very hungry, it is tempting to take the food that is offered, despite the toxins in contains. It is important to ensure I never get that hungry again.

I think today, I will focus on blessing myself, my life and the people I love, on nourishing myself. Going forward, I will pay attention to my hunger, and figure out a strategy for meeting my needs without accepting toxic people into my life or at least removing them immediately.

May your 2014 be blessed. As my friend Kate says, “Good and Healing Thoughts to You.”

Dating your parents (no not literally, thankfully!)

I subscribe to the theory that what we are attracted to in a mate is often a reflection of both the ways we’ve learned to accept love as children and the unfinished business we have with people who were close to us as children.

And of course, by ‘we’ I mean me. Continue reading Dating your parents (no not literally, thankfully!)

Staying present and moving at the same time

Unladylike
I have two books on the go right now. Writing, not reading. One is a novel I wrote about three years ago, which I’m trying to polish and complete. The other is a self-help book for survivors based on this blog. Both are well along and both have a lot of promise.

I’m having a hard time getting to them and working on them.

I like to write, but it’s so solitary. I’m not an introvert. I’m a highly sensitive extravert. I think about things deeply, but then they don’t really have lot of meaning for me until I share them, understand them by talking about them with others. I like to connect with other people, but I’m happiest if they are people I feel good around and connected with. My skin is not so thick.

The novel has three main characters. Two are recently broken up lovers, who don’t interact much with one another during the book. The other is the new lover of one of the women. I have the plot mostly mapped out, and am just working on improving the dialogue.

I’m feeling a bit dead and hopeless right now. Not that my life isn’t great, objectively speaking, but I’m lonely. My introverted, asexual wife is not really meeting my needs for socialization and intense connection, as you might imagine. She’s also highly sensitive, but in different ways from me. She’s picky about touch and smells, while I’m sensitive to sound mostly. It’s not that I don’t love her, I do, but I need more intense and engaged physical and emotional connection. I’ve been getting out and meeting new women, but nothing has gelled yet.

The self-help book is about reorganizing the material from this blog, identifying gaps and then writing material to fill them, also putting in transitions to make it flow and make sense, changing the voice from time to time. I want it to still stay immediate, a conversation between me and other survivors, but to flow like a book.

What has all this got to do with staying present and moving at the same time?

Well, it’s all about resistance. As a survivor, I learned to close myself off from triggers, from memories, from anxiety, from feelings. I have a hair trigger avoidance process that’s hard to turn off or sometimes even be aware of. If I’m feeling anxious about my skill as a writer or what will happen to my book(s) once they are complete (who would want to publish them, for example, and all the rejection that might involve), I just avoid writing, almost without being aware of it.

If I’m anxious about whether the cute girl from my poly group is actually interested in me or just being friendly, and realizing that I probably need to make a move at some point, I can just pretend to myself without even realizing it at first that being a sexual person isn’t really necessary after all, and that the corresponding loss of life energy is just a normal part of being middle aged. Eventually I might forget what it felt like to have an actual interested, engaged lover and even believe that. [By the way, if you’re new here, (welcome!) I’m not talking about cheating, I’m in an ethically open, polyamorous relationship]

So I was re-reading a book – never mind the name right now, it has the word ‘bliss’ in the title – that talks about two reactions to things: expansion and contraction. People do both all the time, and often alternate between them. However, people get locked into the contraction and it turns into resistance, or as I think of it, the survivors old friend avoidance. Anyhow, the author’s solution to this is to ask oneself two questions:

1) What is happening right now? and then
2) Can I be (present) with it?

The idea is that by accepting what is and then allowing oneself to experience it, it shifts a person from contraction to expansion, and opens them to being able to respond more capably and happily. I should note that being with something doesn’t mean you’re endorsing it, approving of it or interested in that thing persisting, it’s just basically our old friend acceptance, the last stage of grieving. Once I accept reality, I can make choices about it.

So I’m trying to get into the habit of recognizing and accepting what actually is.

I’m afraid of what will happen when I finish my books – won’t I want to try to find a publisher? show it to other people? What if they reject me / my work?

I’m feeling protective of my heart and worried about judgment, but impatient to connect deeply with another woman again. I’m still feeling sad and angry about being rejected by my last lover, and questioning whether she was faking how she claimed to feel and think about me. If that was the case, then was what I felt any less real? Does it mean I made a fool of myself to bring my authentic self into the relationship? No. I stand by what I did and said. But it makes me feel a bit naive and cheated.

I don’t know how to express this, but I’m a rich handful to be intimate with. I’m grounded in a way that makes other people grounded. This brings them in contact with themselves in ways that they may have been avoiding, but which feel like a completion. I think people connect with their own wholeness, because I give myself permission to connect with mine when given the opportunity. People like it but they can’t always handle it. I can’t always handle it either, which is why I dip into my own richness and then avoid, but I hunger for it and I think I do a better job of being present than most people. This is particularly odd given my inherent survivor spaciness, but perhaps it is the discipline involved in undoing that which has given me this skill.

Writing that, I’m wondering if learning myself how not to avoid can help me better recognize who I can be intimate with? It seems obvious that the better I am at being intimate with myself the better I can be intimate with others. It also seems obvious that if I’m attracting people who hunger for connection but can’t provide it, I may be ambivalent about that process myself. Do I really want to be intimate with myself after all?

One of the recommendations I read online for self care for highly sensitive people is to make sure you get enough sleep and alone time, to meditate for an hour daily and to exercise outside daily. I’m trying to implement that, which should perhaps help. Meditation, after all, is about being present with what is and just accepting it.

I know this all is a bit of a ramble, but I hope some of it makes sense. Perhaps I’ll write more when I’ve figured it out a little better.

Ordinary Grief

Well, my new relationship is now over. She broke up with me about a week ago, by email, after spending a lovely day together. That was hard. Some people need to be the central person in another person’s life and the polyamory didn’t work for her. It hit her that I have a wife I love, and that didn’t feel safe for her. I get it, particularly in context with what else I know about her. I’m grieving but okay. It’s hard to finally have what you’ve wanted for a long time and then lose it. But at least my relationship with my wife is still solid, perhaps even stronger than it was.

This is ordinary grief. Somehow being so familiar with complicated and long term grief, the grief of tragically losing my family, sets me in good stead here. I know the road map. I know that my emotional and cognitive ‘bandwidth’ is going to be reduced for awhile, that I’ll cry easily, that I’ll be tired and overeat a little. This will actually pass and taking good care of myself will help. B vitamins help. Eating well helps. Being around people who love me helps.

I’m a bit anxious I’ll never find anyone. I had one of my poly friends look at my personal ad and she told me her feedback was that it was intimidating, that it looked like I had it all together. I do, actually, have it all together, or as much of it as anyone does.

Anyhow, I’m feeling sad, and it will pass.

Ethical Polyamory

Okay, I know this is a blog about later recovery from sexual abuse, and specifically waiting for my abuser to die so I can dance on his grave,  so what am I doing talking about polyamory?

Well, part of being a child sexual assault survivor, particularly once the flashbacks have died down a lot, is learning how to have an adult healthy sexuality.  Like many survivors, I have apparently picked a partner who is not going to make any sexual demands on me. Now earlier in my healing, this would have been great, ideal even. All the affection, love and support with none of the having to deal with trying to satisfy a partner (and remotely possibly even myself) without triggering a whack of flashbacks. Perfect.

However, now that I’ve done all the hard work of reclaiming my own sexuality and sexual desire, I’d really like to enjoy the fruits of my labours.  I have a lot to catch up on from all those years.

So why don’t I just divorce my wife and find someone who actually wants to make love with me?

Well, as a result of the abuse and neglect, I’m also what you’d call ‘insecurely attached’. This means it takes a long time to create a close mutual personal bond with someone else and as a result, these are priceless. I’ve been with my wife for over a decade. She loves me, she gets me. She’s almost the only family I have left. I want to keep her. She wants to keep me, and she wants it so much that my basically monogamous wife is willing to indulge what I admit has been a long time fantasy, having an ethical additional relationship with another woman.

My material life too, would be a lot simpler if I didn’t have to divorce my wife. We have a house neither of us could afford alone, and a lot of family connections on her side of the family. I help connect her to her family, and on a lot of levels, we work as a couple.

Is this non-mainstream choice another evidence of me being an abuse survivor? How the heck would I know? I had a really offensive commenter last year who said that I was gay because I’d been abused, and wrote a response on sexual orientation and sexual abuse that said that survivors often have difficulty figuring out what we want sexually, as a result of being forcibly divorced from our bodies and sexual autonomy at such a young age.

This, as they say, is not my first rodeo. I’ve been trying to connect with my true self, first my body sensations, my personal autonomy, my creativity and my right livelihood, my entire life. One of the benefits of having to work to connect with what is authentic and deconstruct the layers of slime put over myself by my abuser and upbringing, is that I get to dig a little deeper than most people, and to value my authentic reality more for having had to work for it.

I can say, honestly, that I’m not a jealous person. If my wife wanted to take a lover who treated her well and made her happy, I’d be happy for her. Of course, if she did take a lover, some of our other problems might be solved, as she’d have her sex drive back. I can also say, honestly, that I’m very Pagan/Wiccan in my sexual ethics, which means I support all loving, pleasurable sexual expression that doesn’t hurt anyone. I have strong reservations about BDSM, but I’m not going to oppose the practice, just stay away from it personally.

The BDSM thing is actually getting in the way quite a bit, strangely enough. It seems that most of the gay and bi polyamorists in my area, or at least the visible ones, are quite into what they call ‘kink’, which usually means BDSM. Sigh! Once again, I’m kind of unusual, apparently. I may be involuntarily celibate for a good long while longer.

I had a conversation once with a woman I was friends with, who considered herself a sadist top in the sack.  She was also, I knew, a child sexual abuse survivor. I asked her how she could participate in sex that recreated some of the activities and dynamics of the abuse. She said that by participating in them again on her own terms, she got to process them and get control of them. I still don’t think that’s a good idea, but that was her take on it. I think that acting out the abuse for pleasure gives some very dodgy messages to one’s inner child condoning the abuse. I also have said before and will say again that at the very least, we have a responsibility to ourselves to be our own abused child’s best allies. However, that’s my personal take on it, your mileage may vary and be equally valid.

So am I duplicating some aspect of the abuse here? Is my partner a stand in for my neglectful mother? Am I a stand in for my ‘philandering’ father? I can certainly see the mother end of thing, and that’s worth pursuing. However, I can’t see me trying, at this late date, to justify or condone any parts of my psychopathic father’s behavour to myself, seeing how I’m pretty sure I’ve worked out all residual needs to please daddy or pretend to myself that he actually loved me. I know from experience what bargaining to avoid accepting truth smells like.

Speaking of which, I’m more concerned that I’m bargaining with the inevitable end of my marriage by saying that if I just find a complementary second partner, I can keep what I have with my wife, by expanding it. A lot of people cheat on their partners in this situation, and that ends the marriage, or doesn’t. Some men have both a wife and a mistress for long periods. Obviously other people experience this kind of dilemma, but I am not willing to sacrifice my integrity or sneak around. I’m not going to cheat, and if my wife decides that me having another partner is intolerable to her, then we’ll have to break up.

And what about breaking up? Could we be friends and share the house if we got divorced? I think this time is a trial run for that too. It could go either way, really.

I’m having a hard time figuring out whether to tell anyone about our reasons for opening the relationship, seeing how my wife is clearly not at heart a polyamorist. It makes me look bad, like I’m the big slut who needs other lovers, even though I’m doing it really as a result of her inability to have sex with me. If I can’t provide that second bit of information, I’m going to look like I’m if not cheating on her, at least taking advantage of her.

To that I guess I have to thicken my skin. Guard your honour and let your reputation take care of itself.

Am I deliberately hurting her? I know we have discussed this and she’s in favour of our current plan, but we both know and have discussed that she may feel differently when it’s more than theoretical. In her heart of hearts, I’m sure she sometimes wishes I’d just give up and go back to how things were.

It was her decision to live and at times sleep separately in our house, even knowing that it might be a deal breaker for me, and to be clear that she has no sex drive. She thought that maybe having her own space would help her get it back, but so far that’s not happening.

It was my decision to stop waiting for her sex drive to come back, even though it might be a deal breaker for her.

I think both choices are the right ones and ultimately lead us to our correct path.  If it turns out to be a slower, gentler breakup instead of a new life together, then so be it. As long as we continue to behave honourably to one another, I’ll be able to accept whatever happens.

Quick Update

polyamory_heartsicon2Well, things have settled down a bit. We’ve moved into separate levels of the house now, and set up our own kitchens and bedrooms. We’re still sleeping in the same bedroom sometimes, but sometimes alone too.

I’m still grieving my wife’s decision to stop having sex with me, or her lost of libido or whatever. I can’t say that I’m feeling that graceful about it, but at least I’m not taking it out on her. She’s feeling much better having her space to herself, apparently having control over her living space really feels good to her, and I’m too messy for her.  She refers to it as her OCD. She may actually have OCD, or perhaps a light case of Aspergers. She’s got a very high need to have everything stay where and how she put it, and feels comfortable with a lot of routine. All this is not a surprise, but she seems happier.

I’ve told her that come January, unless something changes for us as a sexual couple, the relationship will have to be open to me having other sexual partners (at least one, since now I don’t have any). It’s possible that having her own space will help her release whatever resentments might be getting in the way with being sexual with me, but I’m not holding my breath any longer. That’s why the three month delay. She’s agreed that I can’t be expected to be celibate for the second half of my life just because she’s no longer interested in sex, and doesn’t expect that to change. She’s willing as long as I am discreet and don’t sleep with anyone at our home, since she doesn’t want to hear me having sex with someone else. That seems fair to me.   I’m kind of looking forward to it in a way.

It’s not all bad. I like having things my own way in my own space, and not being hassled if I don’t do my dishes right away or leave a drawer open or something. I’ve only told one friend, and we’re keeping it quiet for now. We’re not officially separated or anything. I can see us living together for awhile, perhaps long term, once things settle into a new pattern. It’s not like anything really has changed, except I’m not hitting on her or hopeful for affection and attention. She’s a bit more affectionate, knowing that I’m not going to press for sex, so it’s basically working out. We’ll see how that shifts once I start dating.

I’ve started to learn more about the polyamory scene in my province. Polyamory (other than the creepy sexist old geezer with young women kind) is where you have a sexual or romantic relationship with more than one person concurrently. It’s different from just sleeping around casually, in that you have ongoing relationships. We’ll see how it works out. I’m thinking I’ll try and connect with a nice woman who has a similar arrangement with her wife or husband, or someone who lives out of town.

Grieving and staying present

"The Wedding Couple, After Abott" Photocredit: Mike Licht NotionsCapital.com
“The Wedding Couple, After Abott” Photocredit: Mike Licht NotionsCapital.com

Last night my wife held me while I cried for a long time. She curled around me, spoon-style, and held me solidly. I cried for the loss of her holding me in just this way, when I wake with a nightmare or flashback, or just need to grieve.

We talked this morning again, easier in the pitch darkness of our bed (my room isn’t ready yet, so we slept together last night). I told her I still have her back and I understand why she needs to live separately, and we talked a bit about opening the marriage so that I can have romantic and sexual relationships with others.  One of our biggest issues is that her sex drive disappeared completely with menopause a few years ago. She’s tried various things, including natural hormones, to fix it, with little success. We are now facing the fact that it’s probably not coming back and that I can’t be expected to give up sex for the rest of my life.

It’s our 5th wedding anniversary today, and I’m feeling sad. This morning I thought of all the people who attended our wedding, which was structured as a relationship and family blessing and was very beautiful. I know there is a tradition that the people who attend your wedding agree to be there to support your marriage. This morning, I pictured myself asking them to hold us in their prayers, not to stay together or apart in a certain way, but to continue to bless us in behaving with love and honour to one another, and for everything to work out in the best possible way. We’re lesbians, we’re already different, we don’t have to do it like anyone else does. We can be loyal to one another and hopefully keep many of the things that are good (our connection to her family, our support to one another) while letting go of what has died.

If you are inclined to, I hope you will send us both some blessing that this transformation works out in the best possible way.

Blessed be,
SwordDanceWarrior