Build Pillars, Not Walls

pillars not walls

I don’t recall much happiness in my childhood and I don’t recall much sadness either. I recall some fun times with friends, but my home life not so much. I hear great stories of happy times from my siblings, but those times aren’t mine.

As I approached adolescence the looming divorce of my parents lead to the destruction of the life I once knew. As the youngest of four siblings and only child left at home at the time, I struggled with this change alone. As my parents and siblings struggled to put their own lives back together, abandonment, poverty and neglect slowly started to chip away at my pillars of childhood. As the dust settled the landscape of my life was quite desolate.

In turn, I withdrew into my young self. To ensure my own survival, I replaced those crumbled pillars with huge solid, sturdy walls. Finally I was safe again, no one or nothing could penetrate these walls. From the outside, these walls looked stable and secure, standing guard to keep out anything painful from hurting me ever again.  What took me 20 something years to figure out is that the walls I built created a house that was dark, dreary and lonely. As Brené Brown would say, “Numb the dark and you numb the light.” From the dim light inside of the house, you could barely make out the slew of claw marks and graffiti from a trapped young girl who wanted out.

It was the shroud of grief during my own divorce in 2012 that began to crack the once impenetrable fortress. Over the past few years, those cracks had become larger, and not too long ago the whole house crumbled into a heap (Only when the walls came down did I see that the little girl I had hidden away for safekeeping 20 something years prior was still there.) The years of numbing myself from pain, failure, judgement and sadness had given way to exposing myself to being vulnerable once more.  The funny thing was, until I tore down the walls, I really had no idea I was stuck.

In these past few years, I’ve spent time examining and sorting through the debris. And through the destruction, I’m learning how to build my own pillars, sturdy, strong and secure. I’m learning to lovingly embrace my darkness and my past and I’m learning to sort them both from my stories. Through my yoga practice, I have learned just to show up each day and do my work to be the best version of myself.  Some days, I can show up with my game strong and other days it’s a real struggle to be seen. What I have learned is this too shall pass. Nothing stays the same, all is evolving (and all is there for examination and interpretation). Most importantly, my practice teaches me that only I can radically transform my life, and I can do so by examining and embracing my own darkness. And I can do so only by being open to learning.

So today I’m learning to set boundaries, with myself and with others so that I can create more of what I want in my life (and release that which I don’t want). I’m learning that self love is the indestructible material of which my pillars must be built (I’ve heard there is a hidden quarry of it somewhere nearby…). I’m learning that in order to grow I must be pushed through myself into a larger, more loving and complex version of myself over and over. And each time I am pushed through myself I’m learning that it’s not at all about me and my stories, but it’s all about loving with all I’ve got.

This article was originally published on Mandy’s website.


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