I didn’t get what I wanted.
Or thought I wanted. I dared to ask Freyja for help with romantic success, because I had been harboring a crush for someone for years, plural, by this point. Raising my elderflower and rose lemonade, I asked her for the courage to try and get what I want.
When I got home after that ritual, fiddling with the little copper-colored Mardi gras beads, I elaborated on what I wanted: give me the confidence to take the risk of asking them out. I will get you a nice necklace.
She filled my head with bizarre dreams, and I bought her an amber pendant that resembled a drippy honey comb. Unbeknownst to me at the time, they were already well on the way into a partnership. I didn’t find out until several weeks later.
I didn’t call it heartbreak, but it knocked the wind out of me.
When I had finally gotten some energy back and I wasn’t calming myself by obsessively mowing the lawn, I railed against this perceived injustice, all the while knowing I still wasn’t ready. I didn’t actually want to be partnered, and certainly not with someone who didn’t want me. I had gotten into heated arguments with my therapist explaining as much. Vulnerability is agonizing. I am traumatized in ways I am still picking apart. Irrespective of whether I feel it’s ethical for me to bring this to a partner (and I don’t), I didn’t want to be in a position of risk.
It still felt like this was something being done to me. I felt like I had been lied to by Freyja, given symbolism in dreams that sang of interpersonal potential. Divination had been promising. I never felt the need to suspect any other outcome because we were making such good progress…I felt confident. And I had asked for confidence, right?
And of course that went right out the window. I verbally took a swing at her, demanding to know what the fuck she thought she was doing, and what she felt she was bringing me that another god couldn’t do better, if we were just going to pick at my psychological scabs. She responded with a vivid dream of my linden, my guardian tree, being methodically cut to pieces and eventually toppled. A blunt reminder that she could do far worse.
I went and stayed with my parents for a few days to celebrate being fully vaccinated, and on one of those days I felt like I couldn’t wake up properly. I ended up drinking two cups of coffee, already double my normal intake, and then going for an iced matcha coffee on top of that.
It took several hours to realize I was having about 600mg of caffeine when my normal intake is well under 200.
My sister and I left to go pick up furniture. I didn’t feel great going down to to the suburbs, but I was holding up. The return trip was a wildly different story, where I became violently ill and realized I was going to be in for a very bad time. I cleaned up, I made my bed on the couch, and I laid down, and proceeded to feel the entire range of negative emotion available to me as the sun came up. PTSD acting up badly. Sadness and confusion. Mentally scratching for the source of this sense of betrayal I was feeling. Was there anyone I could actually blame? Would blaming anybody achieve anything? I didn’t feel better when I tried. I realized the only way out was probably pushing through, forcing myself to feel the pain properly with ritual as a supportive framework. And hopefully, I might rewire myself a little in the process.
I had done this before, when I ceremonially burned items associated with my ex to formally send them off.
The finality in that particular detail overwhelmed me in the moment. I threw off the covers and ran outside barefoot, sprinting across my parents’s back yard to go sit by the creek that cuts through their property. I hoped the sound of running water would help level me out. A different kind of hydrotherapy, I thought. I wondered if the cold might also force me to calm down. Hyperventilating gave way to shivering. I suddenly realized the cuffs of my pajamas were soaked. My feet were freezing.
A dogwood tree in bloom caught my eye, and I felt like I needed one of the flowers. I walked awkwardly along the creek to pluck one off the branches. I didn’t know what it was for. But I had it now. I figured I could at least check what use they have in Braucherei, since that was the only spiritually relevant context they might show up in for me.
Dogwood is used for breaking fever. And that includes the metaphorical feverish state of neurosis I was in.
I placed the harvested bract by the microwave and passed out on the couch.
Eventually, several weeks later, I happened on information that brought around some clarity for me. A surge of anger and anxiety, at first…and then calm. And a level of acceptance I couldn’t have fathomed even that morning, having woken up already sad about the whole thing.
They couldn’t have given me what I wanted, anyway, and it was nobody’s fault. It wouldn’t have worked out even if everything had lined up the way I wanted it to.
I got what I needed and I knew it was time.
I wrote a letter explaining myself that I would never send, and then twisted rope from some linden bark, and rolled it up tightly. I gathered zines I had made but would never show anyone, where I had spilled my guts about all the fear and doubt and desire and self-hatred and constant warring between my traumatized need to protect myself, and the evolutionary imperative to seek companionship that I had alternately experienced as invigorating and coercive.
Dogwood for Freyja, to break this nervous fever and to further free me from my spellbound state.
Mugwort for Gefjon, to empty me. My early prayers to her were asking for help turning the old growth under, but when I had sat by her mugwort patch a thought had occurred to me that seemed too smart to come from me: “you’re always trying to bury things that you should be uprooting instead.” I asked her to tear out the weeds accordingly, so I can lie fallow and heal properly.
Wildflowers for Lofn, to further smooth their path and make their journey joyful. They don’t need my blessing. But they can have it if they want.
I watched the fire die down, making sure things burned to completion.The glow faded. The crickets got louder. A single lightning bug on a tall stalk of grass sparked hopefully. The rare cicada rustled and buzzed, and the mud chimneys they had left behind crunched under my feet as I moved around the dying fire. Life was burgeoning around me, and I felt that same potential in myself as this particular stage of it ended.
This was the good outcome, where all three of us get to be happy.
It was just going to take a little longer for me.