I read an amazing blog this week by Nicole Markardt shared by Jennifer Pastiloff – an awe and LOVE inspiring writer/yoga instructor from California. I read Nicole’s blog several times, actually crying; I was frantic to save the blog so I could read it again later, but was afraid to close it because I thought it might disappear and I wouldn’t be able to truly process all that Nicole was saying.
Nicole talked about a time during one of Pastiloff’s yoga retreats when women were sharing; sharing anything personal is very difficult for me, especially in a room full of women, so this resonated with me. But Nicole also talked about how the feeling and atmosphere in a room can totally shift when someone reaches out with three simple words: “I got you”.
As human beings, we’re constantly learning to trust. We think we know who we trust and jump blindly off ledges, praying we were right and the people we trust will catch us. But we’re not always right. Sometimes we have a little trouble on the landing. Some of our experiences leave a bad taste in our mouths. Sometimes we land fine but get slapped in the face afterwards. Sometimes, bad experiences are worse than aftertaste or a brief sting. Sometimes they can be catastrophic.
When we endure these experiences, it isn’t pleasant. It’s certainly not just a slap in the face; it is more like someone is reaching through skin and bone and ripping out your heart. So we build walls. Everyone’s wall is different, but they’re usually built to keep out the pain; the pain of abuse, abandonment, betrayal, bullying, etc.
When I started thinking about walls, I recalled the tale of The Three Little Pigs. Each pig went off and constructed their houses. Each house likely wouldn’t have faired too badly against the elements; until the big bad wolf showed up, all the pigs seemed to be getting on just fine. We can build up a wall and live safely within it until it is threatened because someone wants to get in.
Eventually there will be someone who wants to get in, though it’s unlikely to be the big bad wolf; though it very well could be (this is where having a peep hole in your wall might come in handy, it is always good to check someone out before letting them in). “Big bad wolves” generally don’t expend a lot of energy trying to break down walls; they just move on and find a more effortless victim. So the person trying to get in is probably going to be someone who loves you. They will be someone who cares enough about you that they don’t let you keep them at a distance. They will be someone who sees what’s going on inside the wall and wants to get in so they can get you out.
Sometimes it is easier for them to get in than others. Your wall may be quickly constructed of straw or carefully constructed of sticks. If someone wants to get in – it might take a bit of effort, but the walls will come down. The real problem comes when you have meticulously built up that wall with brick.
If you’re on the other side of someone’s brick wall trying to get in, please know that building a wall of that magnitude would take some practice and it might be really messy inside. When someone builds a wall, they might not start with bricks right off the bat. They might take a more relaxed approach. So by the time they’ve experienced enough pain to work their way up to building a wall of brick, they probably have a legitimately good reason to want to keep more pain out. This means you should be prepared for what you might find once you make your way inside. You should be prepared to handle whatever it is this person is hiding their self away from. Because if you’re not prepared, you’re probably just going to cause them more pain.
The thing I realize now is that if you’ve built a brick wall, no matter how hard someone tries, the only way in is through an open door.
People trying to get in may cause you to remove a brick or two – maybe some of the bricks weren’t totally wedged in. I played Jenga for the first time a few weeks ago; there are always a few “loose” bricks. You may even allow someone to make enough of a hole in your wall that they can stick their hand through and offer you some love or comfort. To offer an “I got you”. Or you might be so lonely inside your walls that you make the hole yourself and reach out with every ounce of strength to grab their hand. But they’re still not in, so you still can’t get out. You have to open the door.
Opening that door might be the hardest thing you’ve ever done. It might seem like an invitation for more pain. But maybe it’s really an invitation for love. While walls may be built to keep out pain, an unavoidable side effect is that they also keep out love. How can you ever experience love if you hold everyone an arm’s length away? How can you really experience love if you’re just holding someone’s hand through a brick wall, not letting them see what you look like? Not letting them see your face? How can you really experience love until you allow that person whose been trying to get in, knocking at the door politely, to wrap their arms around you and reassure you that they’ve “got you”?
I was talking to Katie Devine the other day about numerous things; she really challenged me on this front. I don’t know if she did it intentionally or unintentionally, but I really had to take a step back, read her message again, and realize that she might be right. When I expressed that I felt like all the relationships I’d purposely severed over the past few years were “shallow” anyways, she talked about some of her own past relationships: “They were shallow because I wasn’t letting them be anything else. Once I started slowly opening up myself more to some of them, they responded and our friendships have deepened considerably… It’s astonishing how deep relationships can grow if both people let them”.
We have to open ourselves up. We have to open the door. We have to let them in.
Katie was right. The relationships I was talking about were shallow because I wasn’t letting them be anything else. Even in looking at the past few relationships I’ve started building, I see that I go into them assuming I will be disappointed or hurt very quickly, almost with a sense of dreaded anxiety. So I never give my full self. I knew I had a bit of a wall up, but it wasn’t until I was writing this that I realized it was made of brick.
Now, I have started letting light in. I’m missing a few bricks here and there. I’m holding a few hands of people who seem to love me and I am trying to reach out to others. I understand now that I want the hand-holding to deepen considerably into anything else, if I want that hug that might change my life, it is me who has to open the door.
Maybe I won’t be able to get it opened on my first try – it’s been closed for such a long time; it could be rusted shut or something. And once it is open, I might not be able to leave it that way for very long. Maybe it will get easier with time and effort too. Maybe I will have to retreat back into my brick house every now and then. But at some point, I’d like to leave the walls behind all together.