Is it possible to live so defensively that you never live at all?
~Rachel Naomi Remen

This line jumped off the page at me the other day, because I do know people who have walled themselves off so effectively they aren’t really living at all.

Building walls around ourselves is a protective measure, of course. Many of us do it. But what a waste of a life!

Clinging doesn’t work 

Pain can come from clinging and holding on to things that are transitioning out of our lives, be it a job, a situation, a friend or even a loved one. It’s taken me many years to understand there is a natural flow to life, that all things come and go. Trying to control that is futile. When we do, we often end up with a sad facsimile of what we intended.

It’s ok to feel the loss of things. Yes, painful. But loss must be processed. For me it usually means beating it to death with a trusted friend or two, until finally, it loses its power over me. This started long ago, when my husband left me, which was the very first time I allowed something to touch me. I had walled off my childhood trauma (or so I thought) but there was no way to keep the failure of my marriage contained.

Processing with self-compassion

I wanted to cling on, to manipulate and when I look back, it’s with compassion for that young woman who had built walls instead of resilience. I was lucky to have a girlfriend who helped me pick up the pieces and I’m still lucky to have beloved friends who patiently listen and offer honest thoughts.

Now, I find myself going more with the flow of life. Don’t get me wrong: change must be processed, It’s healthy to work through our feelings. But now, processing takes less time. I am more self-aware. I “get it” sooner. I’m able to release those things I might have clung on to. I am more resilient and able to move past the emotions and back to my fabulous life. I don’t spend any time building walls.

The journey called life was never meant to be smooth. Truly living means we must feel the highs and the lows. If we build defensive walls against the pain of life, we are missing out on the big lessons. I’ve heard earth called “Soul School” –with good reason. We are students of life.

And in the end, it’s about what we learn.

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