“All in all, it’s just another brick in the wall.” –Pink Floyd
In my life, I have come to believe that being open and honest about our lives is essential for developing the ability to emotionally connect with each other. My words are not meant as an indictment. My family is what it is. We’re all limited, imperfect. This is simply my experience, the way I feel. I validate those feelings here in writing about them. I have a right to them. I hold them within the walls of myself but by this admission, I hope to open a door. I want my heart to remain open. I need to give it voice especially when pieces of it are breaking. In this brokenness, I hope that others can find parts of themselves.
This last week a wise woman suggested that I focus on what is directly in front of me. She referenced Nehemiah, a book in the Old Testament. Their city, Jerusalem, was in ruins. The Israelites were discouraged and hopelessly flawed and yet somehow despite all their complaining, all the set backs, all the attacks by enemies and all the fighting among themselves eventually, they build the wall and reclaim something central to themselves. They needed a prophet to redirect them back to what was most important, to focus on the wall directly in front of them.
Walls are necessary. The provide a layer of protection. They keep things out and other things in… I know a lot about walls.
I started this entry yesterday and then left to spend most of my day bashing my head against a wall. The pain of it made me cry. I allowed someone to see how I really felt about all the years I spent standing before that wall and crying to be allowed in. Compassion and empathy were not the end result. Defensiveness and anger were. I am deeply saddened by the response but not surprised. Some walls can not be scaled. I’d been so busy trying to tear down that wall that I had failed to build my own.
One of the main reasons we moved back to the Pacific Northwest from Southern California was to be near family. As a child, my extended family saved me. There were people I could go to that made me feel welcome, who reflected back to me that I was a good person and that they liked and appreciated me. This was not a feeling that filled my home but since we never talked about feelings I was never able to give this voice. Instead, I blamed myself for being who I was and for not being likable.
Yet, hope dies hard. I wanted things to be different than they were. The value of proximity to extended family is one I desired for my children. Behind the scenes complaints got back to me. I expected too much. We were an intrusion in their orderly lives. I was very disappointed. Time and circumstance limited us to holiday relatives. Our presence desired on 5 or 6 occasions a year and then for a limited time. I accepted what was offered for the sake of my children. I wanted them to have a piece of what I had.
When fortune changed and the loss of our home guaranteed, I’d hoped that extended family would be able to tolerate our living in a trailer alongside of them. They could not. Shoes were out of place and in the way and so were we. My children came to me on a “test” weekend and said, “Mom, let’s go home. We’re not welcome here.”
I took them home that day and cried all the way from Sublimity to Vancouver.
Now, holidays are also inconvenient, too much effort, too much work. They are not occasions for visiting, celebration and enjoyment of each others company. Dishes can wait. People can slip away too easily.
And, so my little family and I slip back into our lives. My house is a mess. Inside my front door, there is a giant jumble of shoes. Some days I trip over them but I love those shoes and the people that wear them. I will miss them when they are gone. I know they’ll miss me and that makes all the difference.
I’ve spent 53 years trying to climb the wall that separated me from my biological family. I wanted in. I wanted to feel a connection. I wanted to feel loved. I wanted to look in the eyes of parent and sibling and see a better self reflected there, at least most of the time. I didn’t expect perfection. I expected them to try. I didn’t expect them not to make the effort.
I’ve tried too hard. I failed to build my own wall. I need a wall that doesn’t keep other people out but that helps keep me in. I’ve given too much of myself, too much of my own power away in hopes that the sacrifice would have a greater reward. By ignoring the signs, by questioning my own feelings and perceptions, I exposed myself to greater hurt.
I write about this wall today because feelings are important. Admitting feelings, talking about feelings, feeling feelings are what give my life color and depth. Feelings are the music that accompanies the story of my life.
I’ve spent most of my life trying to hide them, deny them and close them off. It has come at a great price. I’ve thrown myself against a wall without a door. I’ve spent my time and energy focusing on others’ walls and failed to build my own. I haven’t defined what I want or need and what I’ll tolerate.
Yesterday, brought a painful yet timely lesson home. Other people must choose how and who they let in. I can not force it. Wanting it isn’t wrong or bad either. It is simply what I wanted, what I hoped for, what I can not have. I can be honest with how I feel, how this affect me, how sad others’ choices leave me and then I can move on and work on becoming the kind of person who builds a sturdy wall around herself. In my wall, I will build a beautiful door. This door will open to welcome those people and things in life that come with open hearts. Just inside the door they can take off their shoes and add them to the jumble. Their shoes will make me smile. In my wall, there will be windows and flowering vines and plants growing in the cracks between the stones. I can focus on my own walls and build something beautiful. I’ve got a lot of work to do. I know it will be worth the effort.