February 10, 2022

When the Walls we’ve Built to Protect Ourselves (& our Hearts) cause us Pain.

“Being vulnerable is the only way to allow your heart to feel true pleasure.” ~ Bob Marley

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She sat there in the waiting room, awaiting her therapist appointment.

It had been a painful ending to what she thought would be forever.

She was lost. She was bereft. She felt as though the pieces that were joined together like a completed jigsaw puzzle that formed who she was, that formed her essence, had come apart. Her pieces shattered and scattered all over the floor.

Maybe she was broken and could not be put back together?

Her thoughts were broken by the rhythmic sound of the clock on the wall. Its pendulum swinging backward and forward. It struck her that the pendulum was a bit like her life—constantly moving, swinging left, centre, right, or in her case, past, present, future. Never staying in one place long enough, but never making any traction either. Never able to decide what caused her the most pain and what she was most afraid of. Moving back and forth, back and forth on autopilot but anchored in the space she was left in. The space she created to save herself. A place of self-preservation.

She had created some pretty big walls to protect her heart and her soul. She figured if the walls were big enough and strong enough, they could not be penetrated and she could avoid the hurt and pain another person can inflict. She could save what little was left of her splintered heart.

But what if those walls she built to protect herself were the very things causing her more pain?

She felt the beating of her traumatised heart, the same heart that gave so much love. The same heart that still loved. This heart that felt every tear that ran down her face. Felt every sob that caught in her throat. This heart that skipped a beat every time she thought of him, because no matter what happened, this damn heart still loved.

Surely, this delicate heart of hers could not take anymore hurt. It couldn’t take any more grief. It couldn’t courageously love like that again and risk it being destroyed further. Because surely another battering would be enough to cause it irrevocable damage—maybe it would even stop beating.

In her mind, those walls were necessary. Like a bunker where she could protect herself from any incoming missiles of suffering. She could avert any potential torment, any further torture of her heart. She could tightly wrap herself up, like a shield deflecting anything that tried to infiltrate. Letting nothing come close enough to touch this shield, let alone puncture or pierce it.

That wall was a fortress, but she forgot two things. Firstly, the pain was already inside the walls, it was already in her heart, and yes she could perhaps save herself from further pain, but those walls did not heal her wounds. Secondly, by constructing these walls to protect herself, she also blocked out everything else.

These walls so painstakingly built, so carefully constructed, are the very things stopping her from living. Stopping her from feeling the human experience in all its complexity and beauty.

In her desperation to protect her heart, she did nothing more than imprison her spirit.

She stopped her chances to feel truly alive.

See, these walls didn’t discriminate; they deflected everything. Joy, excitement, exhilaration, peace, love, freedom, beauty. Yes, these walls kept out the bad stuff, but they also kept out the good stuff. The great stuff. The chance of growth, of deep healing, the chance to open her heart to love again. Of course, the risk of love going wrong and breaking that heart more was terrifying.

But the risk of shutting herself off in her self-imposed prison would slowly close her heart. Slowly damage her soul. Slowly kill her spirit.

To live life fully, she needed to risk it. She needed to take a jackhammer to those walls. Her pendulum needed to swing more in the present. It could visit the past for a moment and it could look to the future, but it needed to sit in the present. Embrace what was happening now fully and embody it all—the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful. She needed to allow herself to feel. Become friends with those feelings, even the hard ones. She needed to learn to love those parts of herself she was running from, the ones that she thought were outside. The ones she was hiding from. The ones that would never heal by building walls.

She was me. The me who lay on the floor in the dark, feeling a pain that engulfed my whole being. The me who never ever wanted to feel that sort of grief again. The me who thought I was not enough, that I would never be enough. The me who measured my worth by the way another treated me. The me who thought happiness and love came externally. The me who thought my broken shards would be forever scattered and my trampled heart would be forever bruised. The me who wondered if the pain would stop if I just didn’t wake up the next morning.

It was a me I never want to be again.

So brick by brick, I pulled down my walls. I had a date with my grief, my darkness, and my pain. I asked myself what I needed. I asked myself, could I forgive? Could I forgive him? But more importantly, could I forgive myself? Could I forgive myself for my lack of boundaries? Could I forgive myself for loving him far more than I ever loved myself? Could I forgive myself for accepting the love I thought I deserved? I asked myself, could I find gratitude?

Today, I have forgiven. Him. Me. All of it. Today, I am grateful because this excruciating pain, a pain I thought I would surely die from, was the thing that propelled me forward.

Those broken shards of mine, which were scattered all over the floor, I managed to sweep them up. I slowly glued them back together. It took hard work, it took honesty, it took going within to see where the most damage was, it took all of my strength, courage, and vulnerability. I didn’t always get it right and had to move around some of the pieces. Sometimes I re-cracked some throughout the process, and they required more intricate work. Sometimes, I pierced myself gluing them back together, but I kept going.

Maybe they will crack again, even break, but this time I know what I need to do. This time, I love myself enough to only accept what I know I deserve. This time, I know I am more than enough, and this time I know that the love for life, my family, and my friends comes from inside me.

This time, I know that the walls we build are the very things that keep us trapped.

I’m different now. I put myself back together differently. The walls are gone and there are still visible cracks and they stand out—because I used gold.

I don’t hide my cracks as I’ve come to learn they are the most beautiful part of me.

“You build walls to protect yourself but sometimes you make them so tall and so rigid that they cage you. You built your cage by your very own mental constructs.” ~ Feora

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