If you ask me how to build a wall, I will tell you this.
You are allowed to protect your heart, that tender space where the molten distillation of your dreams and vulnerabilities swirl in constant evolution. There are ways to shelter these hot, raw bits that burn too much when touched by others.
Not enough people tell you this when you are young. From very early on, you are encouraged to be friendly and open to everyone. There is implicit instruction to say out loud only the things they want to hear, the things you are “supposed to” say. Girls, I fear, are given this advice in unfair and harmful doses.
But they never give you the full story of what can sometimes happen. Pleasing people becomes a bad habit, often done under the dubious auspices of acquiring requited love and friendship. Exposing yourself becomes a means to a tenuous end. You lose much of yourself in the practice. I can assure you it’s much harder to break this habit after many decades. But, thankfully, not impossible.
Yes, you are allowed to keep things for only yourself and that exclusive echelon of people who are not there just for the gossip and their overblown sense of entitlement. Not everyone is privy to the fossils of your past or the inchoate sparks of your future selves. Your dark secrets and base feelings never have to see the light of day if you do not want them to. You do not have to validate, explain, or ratify the rank speculation and assumptions others knit together based on what little they see at the surface.
Daughter, wife, friend, colleague, mother, relative—your role does not automatically afford others special privilege and full access. Read that sentence again. The expectations of others are not schematics. You do not need their permission to erect barriers.
The secret, of course, is how you decide to build your walls. They are not created equally. There is a marked difference between a citadel and a lean-to.
Will you build high or settle with a knee wall? Will you use concrete with barbed wire on top, making entry forever impossible? This might be best to keep out thieves of the heart, strangers foisted upon you, and those dirty pirates who have double crossed you in the past. Walls of thick, translucent glass allow for both mystery and filtered light to enter, but they can shatter unexpectedly. Wood weathers only with an abundance of time, yielding to a soft, grey patina of wisdom and discretion in due course. No matter what you choose, remember to reinforce with strategically placed stone and brick when necessary.
Will you add windows that open once in a while? You can let stale air out. You can also let fresh air enter in small doses, like those soft breezes scented with hope and connection.
What about a door? Can you slam the door shut or will it have a soft close? Sometimes deadbolts are necessary. Choose wisely when handing out keys. There is no rule that requires you to let everyone in. Keep a few spares at the ready. You never know when you might need someone to tend to things inside when you cannot.
You are the sentry of whatever walls you erect. You are allowed to evict unwelcome squatters who have outstayed their welcome. You are allowed to invite unexpected guests inside. It’s fine if there is mixed company that would make small talk awkward amongst each other. In fact, it’s probably better that way. The heart needs at least a few close yet motley attendants to help it beat wildly with a passion for life.
Just remember, sweet girl, that it does not need everyone.
Copyright (c) 2015 Kristen M. Ploetz