The Beginning.

About a week ago, I was told that I needed to go back to the beginning in order to get some clarity on everything that has been going on lately. Mostly that divination was talking about more mundane matters, but it actually makes a lot of sense when looking through the lens of one’s personal religious shenanigans. Sometimes, looking back across the span of time is a good way in order to get a whole lot of perspective on what is currently infesting your life. So, I went back to the beginning…

Not that long after I gave in and officially embraced the idea of developing a relationship with Sekhmet, I began getting “Hetheru feels.” It was a little daunting and very worrisome for me. I wanted to be a one deity kind of gal; I didn’t want to have a multitude to be at the constant beck and call of. While one new deity doesn’t exactly equal to a “multitude,” it felt like if I added even one more to the mix, I was opening a door that wouldn’t be shut again. I wasn’t quite wrong but that is neither here nor there.

I was not interested in working with Hetheru.

Another part of the problem was that, to me, she embodied everything that I knew, deep down, I would never be. She is a deity about beauty, womanhood, sexuality, coquetry, sensuality, drinking, etc. All of the inherent qualities that we can think of when we hear the name “Hetheru” would come bouncing into my face, slapping me with my own inadequacies, and it worried me greatly that a deity like that would be interested in me.

You see, it made complete sense that Sekhmet was interested, but not Hetheru. Sekhmet’s interest wasn’t simply because I knew that we had done this song and dance before, but because I was a destructive, slow-burn kind of person. I felt like that was something that Sekhmet could both understood and respect having been in that place before. I didn’t see how this could possibly relate to Hetheru, at all. It didn’t make sense that Hetheru would be interested. My hard polytheism was showing, maybe, but the constant fear and worry I had at the idea of adding Hetheru into my personal practice was something that began eating me alive.

I quailed about this issue for a while before I gave in to temptation. There was just something about Hetheru that made me go, “okay. All right.” So, I purchased a statue and went looking around for things about Hetheru that would help us get jump started. And everything that I ended up finding about her only made my worries on the matter seem even more valid. All of the sex stuff was just getting in the way of everything else. I’m gray-ace though I didn’t realize that back then. (I hadn’t even heard of asexuality yet.) And I just kept wondering what in the world a sex goddess would want with someone with severe sexual hang ups?

Let me explain something: I thought I was broken back then. I just thought that I was severely wired backwards and incorrectly when it came to sex. I didn’t understand that there were people, like me, in the world who did not experience sexual attraction or, if they did, it was rarely. While that’s something that I recognize about myself today, it wasn’t an option then. As far as I was concerned, it just seemed incredibly strange that this sexual and sensual netjer would say, “yes, you are someone that I would like to have devoted to me.” I couldn’t understand it at all.

What was it about me that spoke to her in some indefinable way?

What was it about me that made her come to me in dreams and in divination and in random occurrences both on and off the Internet?

I began to suspect that, since I was “obviously” broken, then maybe that was the reason? At that time, it freaked me out and I thought perhaps that my freaking out was a good thing. So, I tried diligently to throw myself into a sort of loop where I worked on the things that were “broken.” The problem being that I wasn’t interested in working on those things and I had no business working on those things. Ace or not, I have had sex repulsion and that is due to sexual abuse. I thought that those elements to my sex repulsion were what I needed to work on in order to “not” be broken anymore and that was the point in Hetheru showing up.

This didn’t work out because, frankly, I wasn’t ready to look into all of that shadow work. I was not ready to even consider it. So, I ignored the sex stuff (possibly to my own detriment and possibly longer than I should have) and thought about what else Hetheru could embody. Well, she was a mom. She was a woman. She liked pretty things. She liked make up things. She liked feeling like a woman. Like, everything that makes you go, “yes, that’s a woman and she is beautiful and she loves who she is and what she looks like and that is fucking awesome” was everything that I associated with Hetheru.

So, I thought maybe I should try to be more like that?

But the thing that I have to admit to myself is that I’m not that kind of person. Make up is nice and clothes that make you feel good about yourself is okay, but I’m not really into it as much as other girls. I’ve never been that type of person. I hate putting on make up to go out somewhere and try to keep what I do wear, if I wear any, very basic. Clothes that are fitted don’t seem to fit me correctly. What it comes down to is that, basically, I am a T-shirt and jeans kind of gal. Give me a pair of sneakers over heels; give me a good book over watching You Tube videos about how to properly apply eyeliner.

It didn’t work out.

It made the things that I thought I should do that much worse.

And in the attemps to be what I thought she wanted me to be, I was causing serious issues in my relationship with her. I began to dread having her show up in dreams. I began to dread the idea of having her in my life. I began to hate her and everything about her. I just wanted her to go away and leave me alone. I packed up shop – I kept her statue and I gave her daily offerings when I finally got back into all of that, but to be perfectly frank, placing these sorts of “she wants you to be a better person; she wants you to be more like her” restrictions on our relationship wreaked not just havoc with my personal practice, but my relationship with Sekhmet as well.

It was wrong to do that.

I was looking through a very narrow lens and I wasn’t even remotely thinking that there could be a bigger picture to look for.

I was wrong.

I was very, very wrong.

I’ve gone back to the beginning and I’ve come to recognize a very real pattern here. I went into things with a preconceived notion, something that I’ve remarked previously is very dangerous and is generally not a good idea. But it’s something that I have only just realized, after being informed that I should go back to the beginning, just how dangerous it can be. My relationship with Hetheru has suffered because of those preconceived notions and it has only been in the last year, with all of the moving parts oil slicked and creaking forward, that I recognize the “bigger picture” bullshit that I’m tired of hearing about.

But there that bullshit is: bigger picture.

Looking back to the beginning, that rocky escarpment that I found myself perched upon when I tried what I thought was the point in our relationship… I have to say that it’s been a really long road. I don’t want to sound all “fate” about this, but I honestly have to ask myself if the rocky road I took on the path of our interactions wasn’t necessary in order to get me here. I went running towards Sekhmet, fleeing from the inescapable truths that I was not “good enough” for Hetheru, but kept Hetheru around anyway.

And in all the years since I first remember Hetheru appearing to me in a dream, I can see the little twists and turns that have brought me to today.

Look to the beginning, I was told, and I looked.

I found a scared newbie Kemetic, fighting through the brushes with uncertainty, poor self-esteem, and misunderstanding. That person was the person that Hetheru chose, maybe because she knew what I would end up being like one day. Or maybe it was all some predestined bunch of bullshit. In either case, I find myself awash in “Hetheru feels” again and you know what?

I’m ready for it.

 

Remembered Moments

As though to ensure that I was getting the most bang out of my shadow working buck, I started remembering things last night that I had long since forgotten. What startled me about this was that it related to the ex-boyfriend who, fortunately or otherwise, set the blueprint for my future relationships. While I was very busy attempting to fall asleep after a very long day, my mind had other ideas in mind and so, I went back to my sixteen-year-old self and got to relive things I had never thought of.

This started because I was irritated by the horror movie stereotype of their being an odd number of high school friends (who invariably end up mostly dead). The movie I fell asleep watching had seven friends: four guys and three girls. I was irritated by this because, for half of my high school career, there were six of my friends. And while there was inter-dating amongst the six of us, it was mostly A and her boyfriend, J and her boyfriend, and then myself and P, platonically (though everyone thought we had been dating since freshman year). I had dated P, I remembered, but briefly…

…and then in that sort of shadow lit haze my mind takes up before falling asleep, I went back to that sixteen-year-old girl who was desperately attracted to the blond-haired bad boy. The one who would help to mold me into the woman I would become, for better or worse, and he seemed very much attracted to my best friend, J.

I don’t know if I reached out to P in an effort to be not-alone while all of my friends were with someone and/or were desired by someone. I know that he and I dated very briefly that year. I think it was about a two week, all told, relationship. And it was before I even knew what date rape was, so my mindset was relatively okay. (I say relatively because I was acting out in ways that weren’t like me at all so subconsciously, I knew and understood that something bad had happened.)

P changed for me, which scared the absolute crap out of me. He was the kind of guy who wouldn’t demand compromise or force you to change, which was good. However, he was the kind of guy who would change for you. He was also the first boyfriend I had with a full on beard and mustache combination and it was very strange kissing him. What made it even weirder was that it was very much like kissing my brother. No dice.

But just because I wasn’t interested didn’t mean that he wasn’t interested. Even though he kind of, but definitely knew that I was very attracted to his best friend, the long-term relationship guy, he was still very interested in getting me into a relationship. I honestly don’t know if it was me that he liked or if it was something about me that he liked or if he was just a guy who wanted a girlfriend. I honestly don’t know and probably never will – P and I haven’t spoken in nearly ten years now for reasons – but while he was willing to let me break up with him, he wasn’t exactly not-willing to not try to get back with me.

If that sentence makes any fucking sense.

SO WHAT I MEAN is that P wanted to get back with me, even though I was more interested in getting with his best friend.

The thing is that I don’t think I ever said, emphatically, why I was breaking up with him. If I had said, “You frightened me because you shaved off all of your facial hair because it tickled me,” or if I had said, “you’re like my brother and this is borderline incest to me even though we’re not related at all,” things probably would have been okay? And I think that we could have had a decent friendship still. But I was worried about preserving that friendship so I didn’t say anything about that at all, but merely said I wasn’t ready to be in a relationship.

So, I kind of left it open a little that we would maybe get back together even though I was OBVIOUSLY MAKING EYES at his best friend.

I knew how to be subtle after having done the unrequited love thing for a year. (I thought I loved the guy and my mother was pretty sure I did, too, and maybe I did, but things and stuff.) And I knew that I had to play it weirdly subtle with P’s best friend, AKA long-term relationship guy, because he and I had been not enemies but not even remotely friendly for the previous two years, so I had to be like subtle and moody about all of that.

It was very weird, for me, to discover that someone who I didn’t seem to like was actually a really likeable guy. We had a lot in common. We were kindred spirits with outcast like mentalities, obsessions for dark poetry and prose, and as Goth as you could get without actually being Goth (I think.) So, I was already freaked out by the fact that I liked him as a person and I was even more freaked out when I realized how fucking jealous I was when he confided in me that he wanted to get into a relationship with my best friend. That was, actually, my first clue that I liked him in that more than friends way. And it was even stranger because I felt that tinge of jealousy when I was dating his best friend.

I’ll tell you what, now that I’m looking back. Having a really close knit pack of friends is okay and whatnot for high school but it can also be REALLY complicated. My group of friends was really complicated. It was my junior year that we began bringing in more friends, so it got a little less complicated, but at the start of my junior year, it was really just that core six of us with outliers, such as long term relationship guy and a few others, but mostly it was just the six of us. And it was really fucking complicated…

Anyway.

Perhaps I dumped P with the knowledge that I wanted to pursue his best friend and didn’t want to hurt him, but I’m not completely sure if that’s legitimate. What I do know is that he freaked me out when he shaved his face for me and it was like kissing my brother when we kissed. He was like the backup guy to take me out to a dance if I really wanted to go to one, and we actually did end up going to the semi-formal together that year. He was my friend more than he would ever be anything else, to me, and that, I think, is the main reason why I broke up with him even if I couldn’t have explained that to anyone way back then.

So, in November, I spent a lot of time with long-term relationship guy, moodily trying to figure out how to make it obvious that I was interested. It was only around then that I realized that I had been raped because someone else told me, so I had to contend with the ramifications of that (which I kept to myself for about a month or more) as well as dealing with hormonal surges from being a teenager as well as dealing with jealousy of my best friend, worry about hurting P if anything happened between his best friend and I, and everything else in between. Like, now that I am writing it out, it’s really a wonder how teenagers don’t end up going insane with all of these emotions and hormones. And it’s really a wonder that I, myself, didn’t end up losing my fucking shit while going through those emotions and hormones while also trying to assimilate the idea that I had been date raped.

Just… for fuck’s sake, the first semester of junior year was some fucked up shit all the way around, no matter how I look at it.

I remember that I skipped school on the half day before Thanksgiving. And I remember that I had been hanging out with long-term relationship guy and we had a really cool idea about meeting up with P at his bus stop. So, we went to his bus stop and we went over to P’s house because there was no one there and we all wanted to just hang out and be friends together.

And that’s not what happened at fucking all.

I don’t know if anyone, outside of myself, realizes how really fucking intense it can be when you’re hanging out with two guys. One of whom is interested in you and the other of whom is interested in your best friend but appears to maybe also be interested in you as well now that you had hung out enough times to establish that there was a baseline of attraction. IT’S REALLY FUCKING INTENSE. And what makes this even more fucking ridiculous is that the three of us had all hung out before as friends and it was fine, but for some reason, shit was fucking real that day.

P made a move.

I neither consented nor voiced my non-consent.

This is the key moment here and this, I think, is the point behind this shadow work. It wasn’t, specifically, long-term relationship guy that ended up making my consent button not-work anymore. It was an issue before him, but I had just forgotten this moment in time because everything that came after it was even more intense than my fucked up and shitty and asshole-filled first semester of junior year.

The three of us went upstairs and watched TV or something. And I was lying across the bed, falling the fuck asleep because I think more happened that day that made my emotional roller coaster of fucked up shit even worse than normal – I think I know what incident it was but I’m not 100%. In either case, I was fucking exhausted at that point and I just wanted to fucking nap. So, I was lying full across the bed on my stomach and I was blearily looking out P’s window and he was lying beside me, but partially over my back and his best friend was lying right next to me on his stomach, too.

And P kissed the back of my neck.

I remember his kisses – they were very cautious, but they were also very not-cautious if that makes any fucking sense.

And alarm bells were going off in my head.

Source unknown.

Source unknown.

I closed my eyes and turned my head away and reached out with my hand and clasped his best friend’s hand in mine, squeezing as much as I could. I don’t think he realized why I was holding his hand at all at first and I don’t think he fully realized what the hell was going on behind him because he wasn’t looking in my direction. I had my eyes closed so tightly and I was thinking, stop, stop, stop, stop, no, no, no, don’t do that. Say something but how do I say no without making it clear I’m not interested and I will ruin our friendship and no no no no no no. I remember enough to remember worrying about our friendship and how this would impact us as friends.

I don’t know if my worrying about his emotional state if I rejected him is normal when it comes to people in similar situations? I just know that I was absolutely fucking worried about how this would impact him. I guess, in one way, that’s really selfless and amazing, or something. But on the other hand, it goes to show what I was usually thinking when it came to failing to give consent or to reject the advances: I was too busy worrying about what they would think or feel if rejected. My emotional state in the aftermath of said occurrences didn’t merit, but theirs did.

Is that rape culture at work or is it just a really fucked up self-esteem problem?

In either case, now that I think about it, this moment crystallizes and clarifies, I think, the underlying issue when it comes to consent. I’m too worried about others to actively take care of myself in any meaningful way. Again, let me reiterate: in my head, my own emotional state of that moment and after that moment doesn’t merit a fucking second thought, but the boys who did things I didn’t consent to did merit a lot of fucking thoughts on the topic. So maybe fucking thoughts that I fucking never even voiced a yea or a nay; I just closed my eyes and silently wished it would stop.

Well, now, that’s some fucked up shit.

In this instance, I didn’t have to do much more. When I squeezed his hand hard enough to rub bones together, the long-term relationship guy turned over and saw what was happening. I may have looked at him, begging with my eyes, but I honestly can’t remember. He saw what happened and managed to firmly put a stop to it. (He ended up shoving his best friend off and lying on top of me so that I was completely covered head to foot and commenting about how that was how you cuddled a chick to make her feel safe. So, he cock blocked his best friend for me – at my silent request – and also crushed the ever loving shit out of me, which made me happy as hell because, you know, hormones and emotions.)

It was at this moment, maybe, that I fell in love with long-term relationship guy. At that moment in time, he was in tune enough with me to recognize what I needed without my having to say it. And that, to me, meant a lot more than anything else. Later, when we were in a relationship, he would often check in with me to be assured that what was happening was okay. For all intents and purposes, he did a really good fucking job checking in with someone as emotional frazzled as I was.

It just didn’t stick.

Or maybe he got complacent.

Or maybe I got even worse about consent.

Or maybe we were both really fucking young and fucked in the head.

In either case, long-term relationship guy wasn’t exactly the reason I had an issue with consent. He compounded the problem when he stopped checking in and stopped verifying that I had given permission to move forward. No, clearly, it’s something that I had an issue with before that, as evidenced by his best friend and the one-off guy before that and the kid when we were both nine-years-old.

In the instance with P, it was for fear of what our friendship would end up like if I said something. (Which was dumb as shit of me because it got a little strained when I did start dating his best friend.) In the instance of that one-off dude, it was fear of being unwanted that stayed my tongue. In that moment when I was nine, I think, it was fear of what he would do to me if I didn’t just do the thing. The point being that I’ve (A) had this issue for a long time and (B) reasons varied from individual scenario to individual scenario.

The lesson I should have learned with P was that I mattered enough to have a say in what was happening to me. The lesson I learned was, instead, that if I reached out long enough, something magical would happen and I would be saved.

Poking and Prodding.

When I first realized the type of shadow work Sekhmet was pushing me towards, I pulled a card to see what I could expect from all of this. It’s always good, I think, to be forewarned about what you can expect. That way, maybe, you can allocate resources to what you need to work on. The card I pulled when I asked her was from the Book of Doors deck and it was the “Satis” card. From my own interpretation (I eschew the book on this), it means, more or less, “inundation.” I laughed so hard after pulling that card that I cried. I can’t really say if what I’ve been dealing with for the last few weeks can really be interpreted from an outsider’s perspective as “inundation” but it certain feels that way to me. At the gist of the matter, I feel very much as though I’ve been stretched to the breaking point, given a wee reprieve, and then I have to get back to it again. I’m always waiting for that moment when I will actually break, but apparently, I know what I’m doing, or at least partially, because I haven’t broken… Yet.

When S told me that I needed to look into this, I think anyone who knows me can imagine the look I gave her. I wasn’t best pleased with how she pulled the rug out from beneath my feet to get me to admit that I had a problem regarding consent and I wasn’t particularly pleased at the prospect of yet more shadow work on any subject. But I also understood that everything is a work-in-progress, so to speak, including the souls of people under the care of the gods. I am, of course, no exception. Part of the reason I gave S such a nasty look about it was because, well, how the fuck do you assess where your issues lie? How in the world, once you admit you have a problem, do you progress to the next step in which you figure it all out? And how the fuck do you finally get to the end of all of this?

I had a basic rubric to follow – one that I’ve created myself – but I had a feeling that wasn’t really going to work here. I had to reform how I had dealt with other shadow work situations and work at it from a different angle. I couldn’t help but, almost affectionately wish that Hekate was back around to show me the ropes. Then, I snapped myself awake and reminded myself that all shadow work attempts are going to be different from one another and for all I knew, Hekate would drown me in a pool of my own blood in an attempt to “make better” the issues I was facing. Hell… that was probably something S herself could and would do, if the need arose, so I figured I should stop trying to figure how to do it and just throw myself into it. I ended up jumping into the river that is my soul and finding that I’ve always had an issue here.

Well, that kind of sucked to learn. I figured I could come to a single culminating moment in my life in which I found a neon, blazing sign with arrows pointing to it. That would, of course, be the earmarked moment in which I began having issues with consent. So, this leads me in other arenas as to why I may possibly have the problem in question (which will be discussed in another entry). But what it comes down to is that I have to, not only discern what happened and where, but I also have to discern how this has impacted my views on myself, my behavior in relationships, and how I can correct things, in future, so that I’m not an idiot for the rest of my life. This kind of feels like a really fucking tall order to fill, especially considering the fact that I don’t even know if this consent issue has impacted my across relationships.

I assume that it has, but of course, the only way to be really sure is, of course, to look through them all.

I wanted to enter this phase as logically as I could. It seemed prudent to go through all of the relationships I’ve had, since puberty, and attempt to discern where the issues were in said relationships. But as I started poking at the relationships I had early on in my high school career, I came to the conscious realization that it wasn’t going to be quite as easy as all of that.

Aside from the one-off moment when I was fifteen with a local boy, most of the boyfriends I had when I was fourteen and fifteen were in that “nice guys” kind of category, but not in that “I’m a nice guy and I finish last” jerk face category. They wouldn’t have even have moved forward with a kiss without verifying with me that it was okay. They were conscientious in a way that later boyfriends were not. In looking back, it appeared that I had discovered a certain category of boys that were aware that they needed to verify with me that permission was given or that it was merely that I had a really good radar for guys that paid close attention to my desires or that they were as fucking terrified of the prospect of having a girlfriend as I was of having a boyfriend that they wanted to be SUPER SURE that everything was okay.

These guys… the first two years in which I really started to date were the kind of guys that, I think, everyone should have dated at least once. They checked in. They verified. And in many cases, there was little more than a kiss or two. It’s possible that we were all just so unsure of what to do and how to behave and were conscientious of not being aware of where things were heading or what we wanted. Or, maybe it was just, like I said, that they were good people who verified with me. Whatever the case may be, most of my early relationships seemed to fall within what I think consent should look like. While I understand that my desires for what consent should like – the constant checking in and verifying with me and my doing likewise with them – isn’t the case for everyone, it’s what I want from my significant others.

For some reason, I went astray from these types of guys and ended up in a whole new category of other, which is probably where my present day issues stem. Or, again, maybe it was just the fact that things were so new and frightening to both parties that checking in with one another was a normal thing. In either case, things kind of went downhill when I started getting into that phase where “long term” relationships were in. Or maybe it was simply because those first relationships were just all short term. None of them lasted longer than two months. I had a thing for relationships that lasted at two something: days, weeks, months. I began to wonder if I had the ability to even maintain a long term relationship at all. Everyone else was doing it but me. Now that I think on it, if it was because we were so new and frightened and those relationships were only supposed to be pit stops on the road to a longer relationship status, then maybe I should have dated around instead of trying to be like everyone else.

My first long term relationship was that kind of relationship that, upon looking back, you’re just like, “what the fuck was wrong with me.” Don’t get me wrong; the relationship was okay in the grand scheme of things but there was so much fucking up on both sides that it’s amazing we lasted together as long as we did. I’ve thought long and hard about this relationship because it has defined me a lot in my sexual tastes and desires, but also aided me in growing exponentially at a stage in my life when I was very close to shriveling up and dying. I think that it was because I was able to screw up so badly and he was able to screw up so badly, but we stayed through it all anyway that allowed me to grow exponentially and define what I wanted out of a significant other. Then again, I could just be trying to put some positive spin on it because, well, it was my first love-love. As much as I hate to admit that he is my first love; he’s my first love. He was my first, this-is-for-real love. He defined what loving others would be like for the rest of my life and defined a lot of things.

He also let me grow, experiment, and make decisions on my own. All in all, I don’t think consent was an issue for us. He didn’t necessarily check in with me like my previous boyfriends had, but he let me make up my own mind about things. However, what I found in myself was that because I was so worried about him leaving, I would often give in to things that left me feeling uncomfortable or nervous. I think it is because of this deep set fear that I would be left in the dust by someone whom I cared for more than my hormonally charged heart could handle that I felt I needed to let things progress to various levels that weren’t something I would have considered on my own. But, since he was more interested in experimenting in things, I was able to make definitive decisions about: whether or not I could handle being in a polyamorous relationship (the answer was no); what sort of kinks I could or would not tolerate (don’t ask; it’s none of your business); and how much I really like cuddling like spoons (seriously, it’s the best fucking thing ever and I could live my whole life cuddled against someone like that).

But I also lost my voice after a while to make conscientious decisions about what I did or did not consent to. I did not consent to a threesome when I was very drunk and stoned out of my gourd; it took someone else to point that out to the boyfriend. I did not consent to having a third party enter our relationship (not in a polyamorous way) and side-seat drive the relationship boat. Part of the reason why I lost my voice was fear of his leaving and, I believe, it partially stems from my putting my foot down and saying, “I won’t be in a polyamorous relationship. You are with me and me alone or you are not with me at all.” I think, too, it was the knowledge that his feelings for me were strong enough to break up with a long distance girlfriend (they lived hours away but saw each other regularly, I guess) and also the fact that I took second place in his affections when it came to my best friend (whom he wanted to date prior to realizing I was girlfriend material). I was so worried he would leave me that I submitted to things that I never consciously consented to. And because of that, he tended to believe that I consented to things, such as the threesome, without thinking to check in with me about it.

As it was, I did consent to breaking up with him when he decided his best friend hadn’t molested me. Clearly, his friend did this as his friend admitted it to both of us on separate occasions. “Yes,” he said, “I did this thing. I was hoping to take X’s place.” (I did not have a chance to consent or not to that as I was high as fuck on muscle relaxers and drunk as hell on blackberry brandy.) I continued to remain broken up with him even though I often went back to him for affection and sex afterwards because he was still friends with this man and wouldn’t discuss it with me, either rationally or irrationally (of which I was quite capable of being at the time). Part of the reason I went back was out of fear of being alone and fear of never finding someone who loved me, even a little bit, like he did. But mostly it was something comfortable and obvious to me.

He was my defining moment in terms of relationships and it is through that relationship that, I feel, many of my later bad habits were formed.

I pushed integral parts to my personality down as low as I could so as not to rock the boat, metaphorically speaking. This is hilarious considering how completely up and down I was emotionally and mentally during our relationship. Much of that was not his fault; I was still attempting to handle the emotional and mental fall out from having been raped by a fairly popular jock in school. Not only was I trying to get a handle on the ramifications of all of that, I was still just trying to comprehend that I had been raped. I took out that emotional upheaval on my boyfriend and he handled it as appropriately as he could. Perhaps in consequence to the emotional issues my rape and its aftermath had caused, I subverted bits of myself in an attempt to keep him with me, to help me through the hardship of going to court (and that failure) as well as a reminder that I wasn’t alone.

I think, though, it was the fear of being alone to deal with the aftermath of my rape that made me stop worrying so much about consent, checking in, and had me agreeing to things that I never would have done on my own. It was a few months in to our relationship in which many, if not all things, became a sort of “inferred consent.” It was almost as though he thought that since we were in a relationship, it was okay to do whatever it was he had in mind. And in some cases, I was all right with this. In other cases, I was not. But instead of saying anything, I wanted for him to check in with me. And when that didn’t happen, I just went along with it.

I don’t know if this really means that I have a problem with consent, though. Doesn’t a sort of implied consent happen in long term relationships? According to Wiki, “Implied consent is consent which is not expressly granted by a person, but rather inferred from a person’s actions and the facts and circumstances of a particular situation (or in some cases, by a person’s silence or inaction).” This is, of course, incredibly dicey ground I’m treading. Technically, everything we undertook together could be viewed under the “implied consent” definition. I was silent about things that made me uncomfortable, submerging my emotional reactions to those things in an effort to appease him. So, based on that, doesn’t that mean that technically I always gave consent, in some form?

I honestly don’t think so.

Based on the poking and prodding of my remembered emotional reactions to things, I have to think that just because I didn’t say “no” doesn’t necessarily mean that I don’t have an issue with consent. Clearly, I have an issue voicing my feelings in regards to things and clearly, this pattern goes back to my first long term relationship. I understand the basis in why I have that issue – I had the deep set belief that if I voiced a differing opinion about much of anything, then I would be left to be own devices. My fear of being alone made me willing to submerge my own desires into someone else’s so that it seemed, almost, as though we were in tune with one another’s wants and desires. This was a myth, though. That wasn’t the case in our relationship, as is clearly the case when I look back at the stormy fights we had fairly frequently (partially caused by hormones and teenager hood, partially caused by emotional and mental hurts, and partially caused by two stubborn people – I’m a Leo and he is an Ares – getting together).

So, yes, I definitely think I have an issue with consent. And clearly, it’s an old one. The question, of course, comes down to “why,” but I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever know that. However, now that I can see the start of the pattern, now it’s time to see it in action elsewhere…

Black and Red Snakes.

I think I read a lot more than people realize. There are people who, knowing me, make fun of me when they see that books of 1500 pages or more haven’t been finished in a few days’ time. Everyone else, when they see me reading a very large book like that, they always stop to ask me how long it takes me to finish a book that size. I always overestimate, not wanting to let people know that I read very fast and that I can finish a book that size, if left to me own devices, in a matter of days. I tell them, “a week,” usually and go back to my reading, partially amused at whatever comments they make about it (usually, “I would fall asleep to read something that big,” or “It would take me a year to finish that”) or irritated that they feel the need to interrupt my reading.

I read a lot.

Most of the books on my bookshelves are books that I’ve read about a hundred times. Some books, I don’t read that often because they are so big. Nothing against the books themselves, but it can be a bit dicey, wandering around with a book of over a thousand pages in my purse for a spare moment to catch a few pages in. My purse is made of cotton and liable to break with sharp edged books residing within, so I don’t read the really big books as often as the others. Occasionally, I don’t re-read them because the next book takes years to finish (*cough* A Song of Ice and Fire *cough*) and I don’t want to be too irritated with having to wait so long, though I understand that the length of the books themselves causes a bit of lengthy time delay.

Whatever the case may be, I’ve read and re-read most of the books in my library a million times, but some, not so much as the others.

I’ve been re-reading a particular series that I have read from the first book, years ago. It’s historical fiction and it’s a love story. Well and good, I supposed, but sometimes, the books are a bit too graphic and the things that happen to the characters… well, anyone can guess what I’m alluding to. (And if you can’t, all I can tell you is that’s a particular relief that some people won’t understand.) Mostly, I read these sections with pinched face, in a sort of waiting for the other shoe to fall and end up getting through the section with a sigh of relief when nothing happens.

Something happened this time.

I knew it was coming because, well, I’ve re-read this particular series often enough to know when the “bad parts” can be. But I re-read them sometimes as a test, too. Sometimes I test myself with the triggers that I have, which are never the same – they’re all different and all weird and they come at me from different directions and of course, they’re never the fucking same one day, one year, one decade to the fucking next. Maybe I failed the test this time, but I don’t think I do. I think it was still a test, but it was… a different kind of test.

In the book, the main character is kidnapped and… well. She is married to a Highlander, a Scotsman who is a product from before the destruction of the clans at Culloden. And it is with his honor in his hands that he, and all the men of his new homestead, kill the vile cretins in an attempt to win back now only his honor but his wife’s honor. As the book continues, she has flashbacks but it’s not quite like I thought most post-traumatic stress disorder victims would go through. They’re kind of rare, all said and done, and I identify with her the most, not just because she is the main character, but because in this book, she has the moments so rarely… like me.

Even before getting to the part, the part where I would have a pinched face and rush through in an effort to test myself, I felt the snakes forming in my head. I tend to see them, picturesquely, like of red and black. They’re poison, of course, because that’s what a head full of snakes leads to. It leads to poison within your soul, eking out into the ethers that binds your soul to your body, and making everything ache in all planes. The red and black snakes hissed and snapped, looking a bit like the wild mane of snakes on a gorgon’s head. Only instead of turning people to stone, they turned me into a distant thing, unable to really string words together.

Periodically, TH would ask me if I was okay. I don’t remember if I was or not. The snakes didn’t lead me to a shame spiral. They have in the past. I am grateful they didn’t. I had other spirals to attend to, though, and I found this particular episode led me to look down at my body. I saw it all, clearly, the pouch left over from my son, and the spread hips, and the point of my nipples and all the other little imperfections that make me hide beneath oversized shirts and the pale hint of my skin – it’s so pale, it’s rather yellow in tone – and the sallow look of my face. The half-moon bruises are darker than usual and I’ve broken out, of course, because what thirty year old doesn’t deserve to have a fucking acne break out?

I wanted to climb out of my skin and slither away, a bit like the snakes in my head. It just seemed like I needed to climb out of it and set it aside for use when I felt well enough to use it. It wasn’t even, I don’t think, that I wasn’t fit to wear the skin, but that it needed to crack open and let me out; it was suffocating me. I know, literally, it wasn’t actually doing that. So, I worked on not feeling that way and was probably not a very good bit of company and ended up lost in my head.

I thought about that character and what her husband did to win back both their honors. He destroyed the guilty. He wasn’t alone; he had help. They were killed, every last one of them. I thought about that for a bit, turning it over in my head. I thought about it in relation to myself, really, and I turned that bit over in my head again. And I had to admit that, all things considered, it seemed like, possibly, it could alleviate all the stress of having PTSD because of bullshit.

I’ve had to deal with all of the ramifications of my own actions regarding what happened. I’ve had to contend with the fact that I will always felt just a little bit shameful and just a little bit guilty, even though technically, I shouldn’t. I’ve had to contend with the voice in my head that reminds me often enough, this will always be a part of you and you will live with it or you will not. I hate that voice; I don’t hate the person who said it to me, but I could wish that they had never said something to a young and impressionable seventeen-year-old, trying to contend with PTSD in an era where it wasn’t seriously thought of outside of what soldiers maybe dealt with.

I wonder if, maybe, the knowledge that he was dead would have helped. Maybe.

I don’t know if it’s really his death I want, ever. I should have liked him to go to prison, of course, and to have it on his record, but of course, state law had other things in mind. And then, of course, so too did the jury of twelve adults (allegedly my peers, but as we were in juvenile court, were they either of our peers? No.) came back and effectively said, “Well, you’re a big fat liar.” I’ve had to deal with that, of course, too, and I have to say that I don’t think his death, even after all of that, would have really helped me at all.

I should hope he bleeds in ways far more painful than my own. I should hope that his soul leaks out from his eyes, leaving nothing but a dried husk of a creature before everyone. And I could wish that upon his forehead was a scarlet letter R, carved deep into the flesh and filled with soot so that it scarred heavily, letting everyone know just what he was about. I could hope and wish for all of those things, but I don’t really see where any of that will lead either of us. I try to be a good person, on the face of it, and studiously not pray to the gods to unleash their chaotic Arrows upon him and let him feel their wrath. I feel, maybe, that is not quite in line with ma’at.

Then again, just to offer a second voice here, I recognize that magical protection and rites against people is absolutely indicated in just such a circumstance. But fourteen years later? It seems a bit late to unleash plague and pestilence upon him, right? Besides, I always have to come back to the idea that while justice, in my opinion, was not served, perhaps it was in his case. Two sides of a single story and I have what my side is and he has what his side is. However, I can remember the looks from that one girl… the one who he turned to all the time when he was bored and the look of understanding that passed between us when it hit the gossip mill of our high school… I remember her and I remember what she was like and I have to wonder how much of what she was like was because of him and how much of it was because of her own special brand of PTSD.

My heart quickens as I write that. I think it’s probably supposed to because these are things I don’t discuss often, willingly, either with myself or with anyone else.

Don’t fucking talk about it.

I can remember, and this has nothing to do with this entry per se, but just a single memory. I remember when I was in high school, I was in a very difficult phase, obsessed with serial killers. I spent a lot of time on the website, Crime Library, and read as much as I could find that interested me. I remember turning to my mother one day and asking her how she felt about Manson or Bundy and she looked at me in horror and said, “We don’t talk about that.” Well, she wasn’t talking about what happened to me – she was and is a big believer in therapy. But I think it always stuck with me a little bit?

Maybe it’s because it didn’t get discussed in family circles.

Okay, I have to stop and give some background.

We told my grandparents what happened to me, but only when we started going to trial. (The trial was continued three times and then some adults told me I was full of shit. It was a great thing to deal with at seventeen, I can assure you.) But we didn’t talk about it at all with anyone else. But when it happened, relatively recently (last few years; and you’ll be glad to know that he did go to jail for what he did), to TH’s cousin from a stranger who broke into her apartment, it was discussed. And the whole family was there for her, metaphorically and physically if needed. And the drastic difference between my family and his family was apparent.

I don’t think I would have liked to talk about it at all with my maternal or paternal family.

But sometimes, I think about what my mom said when I asked her about whatever serial killer and the shocked look on her face and the comment she made. I think about that and I think that I am definitely a product of that outmoded and outdated mindset, in some ways. I don’t talk about any of this with anyone.

So when the snakes come into my head, which is rare but does happen, I don’t know how to tell anyone that I am living with a rat’s nest filled with black and red streaks, scything through my brain like a farmer reaping what he has sewn. But have I really sewn anything? Not really. The snakes come in with their red and their black and push through the very center of my brain until I am left shaky and quiet, unable to voice a fucking thing that is happening in my head at all and I want to cry so very badly, but I don’t dare because I don’t want people to know what’s going on because it doesn’t even matter I won’t even be able to tell them anyway because we don’t talk about that. Yes, I suppose I very much am a product of that very outdated and outmoded mindset.

By the way, I don’t really blame my mother for that because she was also a product of that time, as if her family. I’ve done what I could to explain to my son that we can talk about anything at any time (unless I’m writing because, for real, that kid needs to respect that boundary as fucking sacred – kidding, by the way) because I don’t want him to become a hangover byproduct of a time when people didn’t talk about things. I want him to be comfortable enough to ask what he wants to ask and say what he needs to say. Sometimes, though, I would very much wish that I could have that ability.

I felt very much like jumping out of my skin all day. I thought maybe I could try it once or twice, but there’s something sneaky about skin. It’s all around you. And there doesn’t actually appear to be a way to get out of it. I know, I’ve tried before with any means necessary. It never really worked because I always woke up right the fuck back inside of it. I used other means than the horrifying ones I used to use. I tried to read some more, get through the bad part and into the better parts. That really didn’t help. I did dishes. Nope, didn’t help. I sat outside and felt the sun on my face, but I was too dazed to really notice.

I came alive a bit when the thunder rumbled in the distance, but it didn’t really do much for me, in all honesty, because it wasn’t a proper thunderstorm. It was just some thunder and then a fair bit of rain. It was lovely with the wind cool against my hot flesh and the gentle susurrus of the rain. It helped me to ground a bit when I cleaned the altar, I touched the prayer beads, and I felt a bit more relaxed in my skin again.

But then it came back later and I thought about crying, maybe. I hear that crying is supposed to be cathartic and sometimes, I force myself to cry under the principle that it is cathartic. Well, I wasn’t alone to cry. And I couldn’t think of words about the snakes and the skin and the shakes should TH or my son ask what was wrong. So, I didn’t cry, but I let Mother Nature kind of do that for me when it began to rain. A bargain, I suppose, but maybe I didn’t fully live up to my half, whatever it would have been, because it all came back and I was uncomfortable again.

It’s been a few years since I’ve had to deal with those fucking snakes. I thought I was doing better. Perhaps, it’s not that I was doing better but that I was just really that much better at keeping it under lock and key.

I don’t know if that’s really the way of all of this – to keep it under lock and key. I remember that voice telling me, across the dining room table in dim light. She had her usual diet Coke beside her in a goblet and she was earnest in her comment, “It will always be a part of you.” I had tried, at that moment in time, to look forward into the future and attempt to find bits of myself that were a part of that horrific rending of my soul when something I clearly did not consent to – at least I said no that time – ended up happening anyway. I didn’t want to be a part of me, but I think she’s right.

I am like the main character in my book in that the snakes don’t come so often. And I don’t really have flashbacks anymore, not of that single moment but of other things related to, I do. But not of that moment, at least. Maybe now it’s time to curl around myself and remind my soul that I am not rendered in shards of glass, easily broken or already broken, but rendered in steel and concrete, even if there are little dents in that steel and possibly some cracks in the concrete.

I lived with the snakes all day in some form or another. They’ve receded, at least. I can feel them a little, writhing in the recesses. They can retake me at any time and I have to admit that I am, at least, grateful that they didn’t overwhelm me on a work day. At least it was a weekend where I could give in to such things a little and be content with my own silence, even if I couldn’t quite remember what my day entailed fully because I was so overwhelmed with the snakes and their habits.

I remember those words about how it will always be a part of me. I hope that one day, it isn’t snakes that are a part of me, but something a little easier to manage. Snakes are things that slither around, poking and prodding at recesses better left locked. They can find ways into those recesses that destroy everything or at least make it harder to connect with the world in which we live. I fear that it will always be snakes, though, and I will never be able to tell anyone who it is that I go through; what it is like to have them writhe against me and want my skin to pull apart, my soul’s attempts to freedom.

I can see the cuts in my soul where I bled from other things as well as this one particular item that affected me so much this weekend. I can see the blood of my soul, welled up in its slash marks. I think about how the main character’s husband was able to buy back her honor with the killing of the people who hurt her so. And I could think that it may be an interesting experience or experiment to have something similar happen with someone who cared about me.

I don’t think there’s a way to get back whatever honor I may have had, though? I don’t even think there is a really way to re-forge my own soul into a working approximation of what it once was. I think it’s more than a bit battered and more than a bit shattered and quite possibly, it’s really just done for good. But I have the idea that I have been wounded thus in previous lives and I was relatively okay, I think, before all the horror came about and before I realized that I didn’t know how to consent or what consent was, really.

Even if I can’t find a way, in this life, to re-forge my soul, maybe I can do it much better in the next one.

Sekhmet laughs at me when I say this to her, sometimes, because it is truly she who takes the forge and rebuilds me to her specifications. I have no say in the matter and I don’t think I want to have one. She says to me in this life that I am stronger than I give myself credit for and I can do what I need to do in order to recreate the soul I wanted to be as a child. I don’t really believe her, not with the rending of those traumas I’ve been through, but other people have said as much as well.

I don’t think there’s a way to buy back my honor, either in blood or in pain or in any other way. But maybe, I can at least fit the bits of my soul back together again in a way that works. And maybe if I figure out a way to do that, I won’t have to deal with the red and black snakes that slither free and roam where I don’t want them to.