Monday, April 4, 2011

In the words of Ronald Reagan... Or, brick by brick, beam by beam

I once dated a guy who confessed one night that he "felt bad" that I liked him so much and he didn't feel the same.  I almost choked with laughter when he said this, because I wasn't quite sure where he got the idea that I liked him so much.  Truth is, I liked him enough, but really we were just hooking up and I didn't think it was going to go anywhere - he was just a place holder.  When I asked him why he thought I liked him so much, he said that he could tell because "he knew me."  He said that he could tell by the way I talked to him and treated him (and here I thought I was just being flirty and nice).  I laughed really hard when he said that because I hadn't let him get close enough to know anything about me.

The poor shmuck only knew my name, where I worked, my favorite football team, the fact that I'm a poet and what I'm like in bed.  I, on the other hand, knew that his favorite meal is green chile chicken enchiladas; the sad stories of his childhood; what his fears about getting older are; his favorite movie; favorite football team; and favorite type of music. I knew that he had been hurt before and I knew how incredibly lonely he was.  We spent a lot of time together and a lot of time talking, but while he would share so many stories and thoughts, I shared nothing.

There are people who have zero boundaries - they let you know everything right away and hold nothing back.  I seem to meet a lot of these people - they feel comfortable opening up to me right away, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.  Some people are guarded - they don't let anyone get close too quickly but they are generally open to meeting and getting to know others.  Then there's me.  I have steel walls and a pack of rabid dogs trained to kill as well as an alarm that begins to sound the minute anyone tries to get too close to me. 

I don't ever remember a time in my life when I haven't been guarded.  I get this trait from my maternal grandmother.  While my parents are two of the most open, friendliest people alive, my grandmother was more reserved and didn't open up very easily, if at all.  If one was on the inside of her walls, however, she loved that person, and loved fiercely.  People don't know this about me (don't tell anyone); they generally think I am a very open and friendly person and while I am friendly, I'm not very open.  Take this blog for example.  If you read back to the early postings, my stories are very entertaining but not very introspective.  As I began to trust myself and you, dear reader, I was able to begin digging within - but it took some time (and the realization that an angry mob isn't going to show up at my door for the things I write).

As mentioned last week, I have ended the Strike, but I don't quite know where to go from here.  There was a reason for going on strike, and a purpose for staying on strike, but that purpose changed and it was time to move on and that transition has been harder than I thought it would be.  When I decided to go on strike, I cut certain people out of my life but I also closed the door on anyone who tried to get too close.  I didn't allow anyone to get near me because I was on a mission to learn how to be at peace with myself but also because I didn't want to get hurt -again.  It was easy enough to do - I was already guarded to begin with, so building higher, thicker, stronger walls was easy.

Six months later, I'm much more at peace, but I got so good at building up my walls that I have no idea how to begin taking them down.  My walls mean protection and I'm not sure taking them down is going to be easy - hell, I had no idea how strong they were until C. pointed it out a few weeks ago.  She said that she could see how reserved and quiet I am in public and how easy it is for me to shut people out (which is a shock to me, because I see myself as a one-woman-three-ring-circus).  She said it's understandable, but just like Ronald Reagan said to Mikhail Gorbachev - it's time to tear the wall down. 

I am positive that I made the right decision to end the strike, but I'm still not sure how to completely end it.  There isn't a representative for men who can sit down with me and negotiate the terms of ending the strike, nor is there any treaty to be signed.  There aren't thousands of people dancing on top of my wall, tearing down chunks while David Hasselhoff sings freedom songs.  There hasn't been any sort of symbolic gesture of tearing down the wall, so no wonder I haven't even noticed that it's still there - the wall has always been a part of my life and it has become a part of who I am. 

People change - I changed, and so there is no reason to keep this steel wall around me.  Just like I have learned to embrace being single, I can learn to be open to people and know that letting people get close to me isn't a horrible thing.  Granted, it's healthy to be guarded and have boundaries - that's normal - but shutting people out simply because I'm afraid of getting hurt isn't going to get me anywhere.  I'm not sure that I want a relationship right now, but I do know that shutting everyone out isn't going to help me figure it out.  Besides, I've let people in and gotten hurt anyway, so maybe the lesson isn't shutting people out for fear that I'm going to get hurt, but learning to pay attention to the signs (otherwise known as the uh-oh feeling) and moving on when something doesn't feel right. 

I haven't yet figured out how to symbolically take down the wall, but I am more aware of it, and that consciousness has helped me understand its purpose (and the need to shift my focus).  I don't want to shut people out for the rest of my life the way my grandma did, but I do want to continue following her other example - once I love, I love fiercely and there will be no question of who feels it more than the other.

Next week: One of the Guys


  1. that last line is a wowie--good musings on walls and grandmas; very open about not being all that open--a paradox!

  2. “Besides, I've let people in and gotten hurt anyway, so maybe the lesson isn't shutting people out for fear that I'm going to get hurt, but learning to pay attention to the signs (otherwise known as the uh-oh feeling) and moving on when something doesn't feel right.”
    I think that is the real lesson. Looking back at my marriage I can see so many red flaming flags that I chose to over look. But like you said, I was a totally different person then and now the healthier me can see those things and would go running the other way. Even in just the guys I have talked to in the 6 months since my ex-husband left me, I can see red flags more and more easily with each encounter. In the beginning it was hard because I was so desperate to feel something again and to feel like a guy wanted me and that there wasn’t something wrong with me, that I over looked a lot. Thank God those were just conversations and not relationships! Now that more time has passed, I can see so much more clearly and I know what I won’t settle for.

    I have a lot of hope for you. You can see what your ‘issues’ are and that is often the first step to moving forward. You know who you are is fabulous and now it is just about finding ways to lessen that wall a little bit. I have no doubt you will find a way because you are a strong smart girl. You only have everything to gain. Good luck :)