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The Dance of Protection & Connection
Hello dear ones,
This past week has been one of great sadness and heartbreak, as well as great joy. Which feels par for the course during these times. I hope that you’ll read through to the end, and consider taking the actions I’ve suggested.
Some reminders/FYIs before we dive in:
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Thank you, as always, for being a part of the CARESCAPES universe! It’s such a deep honour to have you here with me!
Content note: parental abuse, rape, sexual assault, drug use
There is a constant battle within me between the part of me that longs for connection and another part that believes that connection requires us to sacrifice protection. This is one of the hallmarks of relational trauma.
Growing up with an emotionally abusive and neglectful single parent, all I wanted was whatever scrap of connection was offered to me. I learnt that, in order to achieve that, I’d have to forgo my boundaries, renounce my safety, along with my self-worth.
This belief became solidified in me, when, at the age of fourteen, I was raped by a seventeen-year old boy in the woods near my house. He’d later tell everyone about our time in the woods, and I’d begin high school branded a slut, and spend all of ninth grade being slut shamed and bullied by my peers. It would take almost a decade before I could name what happened as rape.
In the intervening years, before I found myself replaying this scene: get high, have sex with some random boy, rarely with a condom, and repeat. Sex became the only way I could access connection — even if it was fleeting. In. my late teens and early twenties, I’d find myself in two abusive relationships, one after the other. I was all connection. No protection.
A lot has changed since then. I’ve done so much work in therapy, and through my friendships with my two besties, to learn that I don’t need to sacrifice my safety for love. I have boundaries now — boundaries that I articulate and uphold. I will not accept mere scraps when I know that I deserve so much more. I’m no longer willing to compromise on my values to remain in relationships that are clearly incompatible. It’s wild to me. To be this person now.
As a Cancer sun, I value open-heartedness and I love love. The part of me that longs for connection is terrified that we’ll swing to the opposite end of the pendulum. That we’ll become too guarded and closed off. While the part of me that was always screaming out for me to protect it, protect us, is like “We can’t go back to the place where you didn’t keep us safe. We must protect at all costs.” This is, what a friend of mine once so perfectly called, my emotional hunger games. These parts of me don’t yet believe that we can have both.
After having a 10/10 first date with a new human, I came into my weekly therapy session feeling crazy.
“This human is checking off all my boxes, giving me all the green flags I look for, and I’m fucking terrified,” I tell my therapist. “But this was the case with the last person I got excited about, and then they did a total 180. I know that I need to protect my heart, just a little bit, but I don’t know how.”
My therapist notices that I’ve instinctively moved my hands up over my heart, a protective gesture. “Let’s work with that.”
What we discover is that having my hands so tight over my heart is activating for my connection part. They feel like they can’t breath. And so we ask my protector part if I can move my hands out, just a little bit, to let some excitement in. My arms and hands move outwards to form a bubble of protection around me. Suddenly, I can feel the excitement of this new connection, as well as a sense of calm. Because both parts of me are feeling seen and heard.
“This is the dance!” my therapist proclaims. “You’re just learning how to dance.”
It’s always so funny to me how a shift in language can change everything. Instead of seeing this as some inward battle between parts, we’re able to reframe it as a dance. Suddenly, I can see my connection part grab the hands of my protector, and together they spin around in circles, dancing and laughing together. This is what it feels like to experience protection and connection at the same time.
Regardless of what happens with this new connection, I’m getting an opportunity to learn how to dance. I feel excitement and calm simultaneously. And it’s magical.
I won’t lie friends, I’m having a really hard time emotionally with all of the anti-trans and anti-drag legislation that is passing in the United States. ICYMI, I’m non-binary. I do not identify as a woman or as a man. For me, gender is so much more expansive and fluid than the binary.
I want to flag some pieces that cis folks can read and share. Because that’s one piece of what trans allyship looks like.
The other thing I’m going to ask you to do is to support trans stories. We need more stories about how trans people are surviving and thriving. My dear friend Carolyn Collado has just 38 hrs left to meet their funding goal for their book “Answering the Call of the Ancestors” or they’ll lose the $25K they’ve already raised.
While it may look like they’re far from their goal, if every person who read this newsletter contributed $10 (which comes with perks), they would make it. If you can’t afford to contribute, please consider sharing their Indiegogo to your social media and/or directly to folks in your life that may want to support this book.