TW: mentions a pagan seasonal festival
I was just in a cupboard where I keep spiritually significant items, looking for something to put out for Samhain, a Wiccan festival that is coming up. I didn’t find the candle-holder I was looking for, but instead found a large folding knife. The handle has the image of an antlered ungulate on it, probably an elk, and it is metal with a rainbow patina, like an oil slick on water. Opening it, I noticed that it had been used for food and not cleaned well before closing it up, and that the blade also still looked sharp.
The knife was given to me by an ex-partner who was abusive. Lets call her Donna. Gaslighting, cheating, non-consensual sex and a tonne of lying. She bought the knife because she knew I liked images of deer with antlers, because it’s a symbol of faith for me, and the rainbow is gay. The thing is, you can’t just give a knife, particularly a spiritual knife, to a Pagan, it ‘cuts’ the relationship. I told her this, and that the workaround was for me to give her a penny and so buy it from her.
She wouldn’t have it. I had to get over my petty superstition and just accept the gift. I didn’t want to because at that time I wanted the relationship to work out. Long story short, I accepted the knife, and eventually broke up with her over her behaviour, although a lot slower than would have been ideal.
Now I have to figure out what to do with this knife. Obviously, I can’t give it to anyone. Perhaps I’ll sell it.
A couple of days ago I was walking with a friend of mine, another ex (lesbians often keep our exes as friends) and was telling her about the new relationship I am in. The woman I have been dating for a few months has some boundaries about her time which have been triggering memories of my time with Donna, and my friend was asking me about how that stood. You see, Donna would only see me on specific scheduled days of the week, before or after she went to work near where I lived. She would not see me on her actual days off. She used that time to cheat on me, I later learned, but at the time, it hurt. I got her when she was tired, and had limited time to spend with me, and she did not, frankly, care about me enough to want to see me on her days off, of which she had three a week.
My new girlfriend, lets call her Julie, and I have a scheduled date night per week and don’t see one another other than that. She arrives at dinner time and leaves before lunch the next day. We don’t text, we don’t call, we email a little but she wants to keep it short. No dropping by, no mid week dinners, no spontaneous walks or phone calls. No “I miss you, come over”. Her time alone is sacred. Can you see why I’m a bit triggered? The difference here is that our date is on Julie’s day off, she arrives early and rested and happy to see me, and is very attentive and loving. We are very compatable in how we express love. When she leaves, I am happy and feel loved up and sated. It’s a fundamental difference between this and how I felt when Donna left. However, when my friends hear about it, they are concerned for me, and I trust my seeing-eye-friends to alert me to problems in relationships which I am blind to, so this concerns me too. It took me a long time to extricate myself from Donna, so I want to make sure I am not deluding myself again.
I was trying to explain to my friend about my ambivalence about the one date a week situation. I said that it was bringing up memories of Donna. My friend said that Donna was so long ago, why would it still bother me? This is why it is good for me to talk things over with good friends, I learn things I didn’t already know. I found myself saying “Donna is just a proxy for my dad, because I was so open hearted with both of them. So it’s really about him, whenever I am open hearted, as I was as a child (and at first with Donna), I am afraid that I will be betrayed and harmed, and I want to push her away.” I told her that having the week between dates to settle helped me get over myself about that, so I was feeling ambivalent about it.
Besides, I’ve already talked to Julie about it. Her perspective seems to be that she needs solitude to do her own work and can only handle so much intimacy in her week, and that she sees me more than anyone else in her life, that she’d rather be fully present with me this one time, than to dilute things. I take her point, and I do enjoy how present she is. She says all the right things.
The thing is, I see her at the end of my work day, on Fridays, at the end of my work week, so I’m not always 100% for our dates. I feel a bit distant, or emotional or anxious sometimes, and less present than I could be, which affects my ability to be present sexually. However, she works Sundays and I work weekdays so there isn’t much alternative.
So how is this all about knives? Knives are a symbol of boundaries in my faith (Wicca) and there are only two people in my life who have ever given me sharp folding knives before – Donna, and my father. My dad gave me a small folding knife which I still have, and which he took away again for a time after I cut myself accidentally with it. I had a scar for a long time, but it’s gone now. I looked at Donna’s knife sitting on my counter and suddenly realized this was one more similarity between her and my dad/abuser.
I am never going to let anyone give me a knife again. And I’m going to sell that knife.
So what I’ve decided to do about this ambivalent place with Julie is to focus on my impulse to push her away. I’m warm and available and loving with her, but I can feel myself pull back, numb out, feel a bit separated from the experience of being with her. At first I thought that I was unable to process the intensity of feeling loved and desired, but I think it is me trying to avoid being triggered by the open-heartedness fear. When I get triggered, I go into freeze and fawn.
So what I’m going to do instead is to be very present and aware of my impulses to freeze or fawn. I’m going to stay present when she arrives today. Occupy my body and energy fully, and pay attention to how I feel, and to who she is with me. Connect with her, which I believe she wants to do, and take things as slow as they need to go to stay connected. I am going to learn to tolerate being open hearted for longer periods. I don’t believe I will be harmed (at least not most of the time), and if this relationship doesn’t work out, I’ll be fine. I’m going to get out and feel what there is to feel. My boundary is that I will not continue to freeze or fawn in my primary relationships.
That is where I cut the line.