I didn’t want to read this question. When I saw it on my screen, I wanted to push right past it and hope that the person who asked it never noticed that I avoided it like the big elephant in the room that it is. All joking aside, was this a plant question that was lobbed up to make me face this very real fear? I have some big ass walls, can you tell?
Walls. I am a master wall builder. In the beginning, they were constructed to self protect, as most good walls tend to be. But there was a shift in my teen years. Walls became a coping mechanism, a safe haven, from the messiness of emotions that I enjoy avoiding at all cost. As time has passed and the situations of life have become more intense and real, my wall building skill has made me a master craftswoman. I can slap a wall in your face before you see it coming. My ability to not just protect, but destroy with a wall is second nature.
So, to face this question is terrifying. I know what it takes to tear down a wall. Honesty. Vulnerability. Bravery. Risk. There are the four pillars of fear for an Enneagram 8. If you know anything about people like me, we are powerful beings. We hate to be controlled (by other people or by life circumstances). We are super strong willed and one of our greatest challenges is lowering our defenses (WALLS) in intimate relationships. Anything that makes me question trust is more than a trigger – it is gasoline on a fire that is sure to burn you. I know these things about myself. I know that these things trigger all the triggers, especially with the people that I choose to let behind the curtain.
Most days, I do a mighty fine job creating the perfect Emerald City that I want the world to see. The public imagery is ideal. It is shiny and pretty and has all of the happy, clappy dancing people to distract from the chaos of the fake voice and lever wielding fraud that works so hard to present the picture of perfection. I can do it all, be it all, save it all and most of all orchestrate it all. I CAN DO IT. (I may have come out of the womb with those words bursting forth from my mouth.) And, for the most part, I can. Until I can’t. And when those moments happen…when I can’t control and have power over and fix and heal…well, then my very first line of defense is a big fat wall that is tall enough to keep you and all of your flying monkeys away from me.
Life and its treachery are hard enough for those of us who love a wall, but relationships are hard in an entirely new way. My relationship walls are the hardest to demolish, and with that in mind, I have to be very honest. There are very few people that I have ever let inside the walls. As much as I try. As much as I work. As much as I want with all of my being to let you see the real me, my walls are often constructed because there have been unsafe people that I have learned to keep at bay. I need to be clear. Healthy walls are not walls. They are boundaries. And, boundaries are good and necessary and worthy. Boundaries should be honored and respected and loved.
Walls are the defense tactics and they are different. Walls require us to dig deep into the well of past wounds and in safe and worthy spaces, place ourselves in opportunities for growth. Be it risking a new job, relationship, conversation or adventure, the ability to scale a wall is dangerous. Every time we look at a wall that needs to be removed and begin pick axing the bricks that are falsely protecting our scared selves, we are brave. With each act of honesty and truth, we not only remove the cold stone of the wall, but we free ourselves from the lie that the fake front is actual protection.
One final thought about walls: they are tricky. I have enough wall experience to know that they have a way of reincarnating themselves in new forms. Just about the time that I think I have found distance from a wall, I am reminded that the wounds that often cause walls are never completely gone. My biggest walls are up because I have be injured in ways that still cause me to scream in pain. No matter how much good interior work I do on these wounds, even when they have been cleaned out, treated, medicated and stitched up, they often leave scars. On this scar tissue, walls tend to multiply like mushrooms on a spring lawn. Our job is to have the mindfulness to know that the scar is there; to not fight the scar (we survived, damnit!). We can see the scar and even recognize the bricks and stones that easily find their way to these tender places, and at the same time, call these moments for what they are. When we are brought back to the places where blood was spilled in the hard seasons of life, we are invited to welcome the treasured few that know the real truth of our lives to help us guard these vulnerable places from hate and anxiety and fear. Because it is in those moments that walls can exist and yet not define. For me, today, that is enough.