Several years ago I attended a workshop in NYC lead by Rachel Pollack (quite frankly if I had the ability I’d attend any workshop Rachel facilitates). The focus of the class was how we approach relationships. My card was the 7 of Wands. Looking at the image on the card I realized that it pretty much does describe my approach to relationships in general, not just romantic ones. I fiercely defend my perimeter and only let in those who have proven to be worthy.

When I first met my hubby, I was a prickly defensive, cranky bitch (oh who am I kidding, I still am all those things). I only had a small circle of friends because I didn’t trust many people. In fact I was more than willing to cut friends and even family off if they violated one of my “rules” or offended me in some way. Usually it wasn’t something petty (or at least I didn’t think so at the time) but what I considered betrayal or disloyalty. Of course in retrospect some of those issues do seem petty. The point is that I learned to shore up my defenses because I had enough experiences that supported my belief that it was essential.

I love seeing thins in mythic terms so I often describe myself as a Briar Rose (aka Sleeping Beauty) type. Not because of the fairy godmothers or sleeping thing but because she was surrounded by a thick hedge of sharp, twisted thorns. For someone to get through that hedge he or she had to be focused, determined and a fighter. Perhaps this is the same reason I’ve always felt a connection to the myth of Brunhilde the valkyrie. I understand and sympathize with her fury at learning she was betrayed by Sigurd. I would have sought vengeance too. For that matter I understand Betty Broderick’s actions too. These are women who are forced into violent responses because they have been betrayed by the men in their lives. They are defending their home, their family, their heart, their integrity. I’m not necessarily defending their responses, but I do understand them.

I have learned to lower my defenses occasionally. I realized that I can always raise those defenses later on if it became necessarily. It was not easy and involved me fighting against a lot of instinctive and unconscious behaviors. The first step was literally training myself to look at incidences when my defenses flared up and explore what triggered them. I also considered what might have happened had I been more open. In some cases I’m convinced my instincts were right. In others I believe they caused me to miss out on an experience, event or friendship that might have enriched my life. I think that was the final impetus to change my stance. It’s one thing to be protective of one’s boundaries but when they become isolationist and start preventing one from enjoying new experiences and friendships then changes are probably in order. Lots of introspective Tarot readings helped me work through this (although to be honest I got a lot of repeat answers – the Tarot’s way of telling me I wasn’t paying attention).

As a result of this work I am not quite so isolated and unapproachable. I like to believe I can still rise to my own defense if the occasion calls for it. I feel safe and secure in my life, my body and in my ability to protect and defend my boundaries. That was not the case in my childhood and it caused me to developed very well established and fiercely guarded personal boundaries. Maybe I’m finally moving from the 7 of Wands approach to relationships to the 9 of Wands. I know I can rest, lay down my weapons and allow others to draw close. What a relief!