journal entries

Holding Back

I’m restraining myself. Holding back. In so many ways that feel so unnatural, like stopping an object already in motion, changing trajectories when the path is already clearly cut in front of me.

A runner in a crouch waiting for the gun to go off.

A horse behind the racetrack doors, hoofing at the ground.

Even my friends are commenting on it lately. “You’re really restraining yourself here, aren’tcha,” my buddy from Seattle commented last week. He’s not used to seeing the emotions so heavy in me without the extensive expression.

“She’s just … I have such … I think I …” I swallowed, started again. Can’t finish those sentences. “Ilikeherlots.”

He laughed. “I can tell!”

It’s hard, I continued. Scary. Frightening when my body remembers what happened last time these emotions ran through me, what happened the last time I thought I could be with someone, last time I saw the future stretch out in front of me, paths parallel and touching and intertwining. I know how that ends. My brain knows that is still possible and wants it to be possible and aches for it to be possible and pretends like I can operate from a place where I still believe that is possible, but my body stops me cold. No, no, danger, danger. Don’t feel this, don’t like it, don’t fall, don’t.

Especially when my instinct is my chest broken open, heart wide and deep wine red, bursting, fingers spread wide, arms spread wide, head thrown back and laughing, five-points spread, everything aligned.

But part of me thinks, I know better now. I can’t do that, yet.

So instead I say, “I’m holding back. I can feel myself holding back.”

Kristen wrote to me yesterday: “The thought occurred to me that you might not be able to open up to the extent that you want to with me, that I might have to be “heart practice” or something, but that you wouldn’t ever get all the way there.”

But that’s not it. I know I can open up how I want to. I’ve done it before and it feels like my natural instinct here, like I am fighting against it constantly. I can do it. It’s just not time yet for me to unleash what I know I’m capable of, the full expression of the feelings I am already feeling.

I looked yesterday, I have ten emails to her in my drafts folder, from heartsore ramblings about missing her to links that I think she should read to poems I haven’t finished to lists of what I want to do to her. Instead, all I say is, “I’m holding back.”

But what that means is this: desire. I can’t say I want to hold your heart on my tongue, poised, sweet and succulent, so I say I’m holding back. I can’t say I am catching the first train to your house right after work and I know I’ll have to turn right around and go back home in order to get any actual sleep tonight but I have to, I have to, see you, even just for a few minutes, to see the light behind the blue of your eyes and smell your skin and taste your mouth, so I say I’m holding back. I can’t say I’m ready, I can hold you, bring it on, so I say I’m holding back.

But I aim for that expression of these feelings. And every week, every month that goes by [we just passed the four months on the 13th, officially the longest since], every weekend of deeper exploration of each other, I get closer. There is a softening around my heart. There is more confidence in my own space, more healing of the old wounds still weaving and seeping.

I can’t not hold back right now. But I’m also moving forward with lightning speed, thick walls cracking and falling into rubble, shaking sometimes with fear but looking it all right in the face, eyes wide open, wide open.

Published by Sinclair Sexsmith

Sinclair Sexsmith (they/them) is "the best-known butch erotica writer whose kinky, groundbreaking stories have turned on countless queers" (AfterEllen), who "is in all the books, wins all the awards, speaks at all the panels and readings, knows all the stuff, and writes for all the places" (Autostraddle). ​Their short story collection, Sweet & Rough: Queer Kink Erotica, was a 2016 finalist for a Lambda Literary Award, and they are the current editor of the Best Lesbian Erotica series. They identify as a white non-binary butch dominant, a survivor, and an introvert, and they live outside Seattle as an uninvited settler on traditional, ancestral, & unceded Snoqualmie land.

12 thoughts on “Holding Back”

  1. Lilly says:

    Instead of merely saying "I'm holding back" offer up a little more: let her know she's getting to you, let her know those walls are coming down. Ask for patience.

    I can understand your fear. But I'm also thrilled to see you're fighting and not running and you've almost given in.

  2. greg says:

    You don't have to say the words to know that you are already feeling them. It's already too late and you know it. Take the pressure off of yourself and trust her to catch you as you fall.

    This was a beautiful post, as always.

  3. B says:

    i like what green-eyed girl has to say: "trust her to catch you as you fall."

    it's good advice.

    i hope you start to feel less afraid soon.

  4. Britni says:

    I wish I knew how to hold back. No matter how many times I am hurt, no matter how many times I fall too hard and too fast and get my heart completed shattered, I still do it. I think that this one will be different, this person won't hurt me like the last one did, this one feels right.

    I understand why you are holding back; you're protecting yourself from feeling that hurt again. I wish I was capable of doing the same. I'm sure there is some functional level of falling too quickly (me) and holding back (you) that would be a happy medium between the two.

    But I totally understand why you're doing what you're doing. But from what I've read so far, I like this one. And so do you. :)

  5. you haven't asked for advice here, so I won't offer it.

    But I know that fear.

    I know that ache, that wanting to let go, dive in, to swim around with abandon, secure in the knowledge that you'll float and that nobody's going to throw you an anchor. There is something in our nature that wants to open us up to vulnerability when the rest of us is screaming "we're not ready yet."

    Good thing our natures do not require consensus or we'd never have any fun.

    Our pleasure – and our pain – are felt in intensities directly related to the amount of abandon we have put into whatever it is we are doing. Like a little, care a little, enjoy it a little, be mildly miffed when it doesn't work. But love? Love with all your heart and you lay yourself wide open for more joy than you imagined might be possible again, and for all the pain (and more) that you fear.

    I guess the question comes down to this: how much of any of it – good, bad, otherwise – do you want to feel? Do you want it all? Or some measured, moderate amount?

    You don't strike me as a moderate kinda gal. That's why I like you. You're real. You might be wrong sometimes, but I have yet to see you do stuff half-way.

  6. kitcat says:

    This won't turn out like last time. And I think you know that while you are saying you are holding back and trying to do so, your body, heart, mind, and soul have already gone ahead…

  7. lauren says:

    honey, open yourself. feel it all the way. let yourself crack wide open; let the walls fall and the dam burst. be you and be with her and be free. enjoy it because we all make mistakes, we all screw up, but not many fall hard and fast. find it, grab it, and value it. i know you do and i know you can do this. you are strong and wild and safe. trust it. trust your strength and her openness. (from one femme to another butch… trust me, sinclair.)

  8. rascalgrrl says:

    Each time a heart breaks it has the capacity to create more surface area for greater love…or the scars are tended so intensely that they become like a vise restricting the capacity of the heart's true purpose. You don't strike me as a person who wants restrictions on the inside. Imagine what it would be like to love so much that your heart filled all your empty spaces. Imagine what it would be like to let someone love you that way. That's why you're here.

  9. Siouxie_Suse says:

    carpe diem. credo vestri pectus pectoris. ruo. caedo.

    bonus fortuna! x

  10. saintchick says:

    Try and remember this isn't like "last time". You deserve this, you have been given this wonderful chance at the right time with the right person. You already know its there and already peeking out, just let it breathe !!

  11. Fran says:

    I love how all the femmes have commented on this. I was going to say what they've said, wise ladies that they are. I love fearless femmes who champion love. :)

    So I will only add this: sometimes when you write about your relationship with this woman it brings tears to my eyes and it makes my chest tight. You can tell yourself you have the power to hold back until the cows come home darling, but the fact that you're in love is unquestionable. It's in the writing. Even a stranger in Durham can see that much.

    Love is bigger than you and it doesn't give a damn about your time line. It only exists in the moment just like we only exist in the moment, even though we pretend otherwise. If it's strong enough it will break you. It's supposed to break you. The only decision you have to make in this whole thing is whether you're the kind of person who breaks apart or the kind of person who breaks open.

    My money is on the latter.

  12. You have Aphrodite's gift for writing about these things. My hands shake when I read your words.

    Sometimes I think the holding back is a test – if we can't hold it back forever, then it's strong enough to be worth giving a chance. If you're holding back, it's still spilling over the edges.

    I have no doubt you'll both be brave in your affections and I'm happy for you.

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