Last night I dreamt that I was attracted to a married man and agreed to a mastermind group with him in order to soak up his attention even though I knew it would be a one way giving street, me to him, and my friends all chimed in from some board room as judge and jury pulling up a CV of his meager and embarrassing claims to “accomplishments” while I squirmed and felt sad that I could not quite help my attraction to this person and did not want to see him exposed to my own rational mind. Then I found myself in a small vessel we can’t quite call a boat, like if you built a kayak with some discarded shingles to approximately one third the size. I was nestled in their WITH HIM, all disoriented by his manly arms around me (ew) on a journey from the Okanagan to Vancouver, at least some of which was supposed to be accomplished by flying via small motorized kites on our backs, which he had experience with but I was just learning. I at least wanted some guidance on best practices for falling into the ocean and then getting airborne again FROM the ocean (flashback to those terrifying childhood water skiing adventures when you’ve just swallowed a lake into your lungs and now must somehow balance your skis while trying to convince your nine year old body that you are not in fact dead and exert the force of a thousand men to not drink the rest of the lake while you are pulled back onto the surface again —bless water sport). I knew that I was going to fall, and my new beau (again ew) was glossing over my imminent demise. “Trust me”. That is what he said before I awoke in my bed to find my laptop jammed into my back on one side, and thirteen pages of the letter “n” where I had intended to write an engaging piece for you on personal defenses that get in the way of relationship. I glared at my laptop screen still reeling from my nightmare and to the thirteen page long n, I added a single letter “o”.
So, HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. The joke is on me.
You know when you are pregnant, or at least when I was pregnant my senses of smell and taste were amplified to a superhero like level, only less glamorous, because there are a lot of foods that are disgusting when you can taste them properly. Much of our culinary genius relies on shocking the tired taste bud to attention, by mixing say the zest of a blood orange from a remote villa in Spain with the fat from the bacon of pig who eats only organic slop and (why not) throwing in some taco seasoning and voila! What a wonder! Unless of course your taste buds are firing at the speed light x sound and then it’s time to run to the bathroom and only eat soda crackers for the rest of ever. Well during those times I had this weird sense that I was being taught how to empathize with my child who was about to come into the world with superhero like taste buds, so that I would avoid insisting that she eat things like onions and mushrooms and other acts of blatant cruelty on account of my ignorance.
Do you see where am I going with this? I woke up this morning with a strong sense of just how terrifying it feels to want something that at every given second seems to contradict your rational mind and put you in harms way while also painting you a fool. To not feel you can trust yourself. Damn.
Which is how many of us feel about entering into romantic relationship.
So when I talk about your WALLS, and how to tear them down, I get it. They are there for a GOOD reason. They are protecting you from falling into the North Pacific. I like to think that I am sensitive to your vulnerability, but thanks to last night, I am EXTRA sensitive to your vulnerability. And away we go.
Walls hold up our houses. They divide our rooms. They contain, and protect. They keep out the cold. They keep out strangers. They define a space. They compartmentalize our lives. I mean we don’t want to go around smelling breakfast when we are trying to go to sleep, or shaving our legs where we watch TV. We have to focus, friends. And we need encouragement for that. How am I going to get work done without an office desk and chair telling me that it is work o’clock? (Hey look over there at the bird flying and totally don’t notice that I am in fact writing this propped up on my bed adjacent 20 client notebooks).
And when it comes to emotional gate keeping we get truly reckless with our containment and our self protection.
I have walls! We profess and confess, but secretly we are PROUD of our walls. I am a tough cookie. If someone starts to mess with me, well, into my pocket I reach and I pull one out. I got this. We grease back our hair and stand like the Fonz, emanating cool desirability.
What does an emotional wall look like you ask? Well get your popcorn or your Starbucks and cozy up, because today we review a few crowd pleasers.
The prophylactic. This one stands on the other side of the moat and protects the castle from entry. It says, “I felt a feeling, and I am NOT so comfortable with that, so before you can respond to my feeling which is obviously apparent to you and my entire high school gym class who are chanting go Susan go so enthusiastically I trip over the very first hurdle and land the only version of ‘face down ass up’ that is NOT in fact sexy, I am going to skillfully MURDER that teeny seedling of feeling and prevent it from growing into full blown affection, or need, or a level of shit giving that humiliates me publicly before engulfing me into its flesh eating slime, sort of like the mother in Alien.
The Punisher. There’s another kind of wall that we raise in response to an infraction. This wall says, “You crossed a line and by doing so you have taken something completely lovely and whole and cracked it. And now I am going to smash it with a hammer, rather than endure the slow disintegration of my hope into a thousand pieces, a single piece at a time.”
Typically the infractions that trigger the erecting of a punishing wall are serious and substantive, and may include but are not limited to such shocking displays of moral turpitude as:
Liking the social media post of a member of the opposite or attracting sex.
Using an expression that reminds us of our ex. The one who slept with you know whom at the you know what that everyone knew about but us.
Being too busy to see us for a period of time in a way that could be construed as lack of interest or enthusiasm.
Always being enthusiastic about seeing us in a way that could be construed as needy or aimless.
Not telling us enough so that we feel excluded or left on the sidelines.
Telling us what we really didn’t need to know and now we can never unthink it, especially during sex.
Doing ANYTHING that triggers our hair trigger response to the thing that another person did that we swore we would never be so stupid as to fall for ever again.
The Can’t See Me: You know when kids plug their ears and close their eyes? This wall is a six planed structure intended to keep us fully enclosed so that we can arrive into a partnership without being seen, or understood, because both of those involve being exposed. Often we erect this one in early childhood, out of necessity, but it lands us in a relationship that is being conducted in an actual foreign language with an actor playing our self. We fight about things that are ten steps removed from our actual problem. We are living a life that doesn’t even make sense. You know that scene in When Harry Met Sally where she fakes an orgasm in the restaurant. Well we are there, 24/7. We are wining more Oscars than Meryl, but the victory is empty, and we are sooo tired. We’d rather be alone. Because we are already alone, but if we could get rid of that other person, bless their sweet soul, we could just stop pretending all of the time, which doesn’t heal our past hurt, turns out, it just digs it in deeper.
So here is the deal.
I am not going to force feed you onions. I am not even going to cook them in the kitchen if the smell slips under the door to your room and makes you gag.
But I will tell you with love, two super important things.
THING ONE: The relationship we want, the only reason we ever get into a romantic relationship, is to share. And sharing is an emotional experience. Whether it’s rappelling down the side of Mount Kilimanjaro, a noodle of spaghetti that joins you in a kiss, or glass of wine at the end of a long day; waking up to a friend, OR revealing your deep innermost thoughts and being seen the way you want to be seen; the sharing of it all with another being is an emotional experience. You want someone for emotional reasons. And you can’t have what you want without engaging emotionally. AND that is good, my friend, it is soooo good it hurts. JK. But also not kidding. There are no Oscars for most disengaging performance. The bad news is that you have to feel to have it, but the secret good news is that you actually secretly want to, which brings us to the other, more important good news.
THING TWO: Feeling things does not actually CAUSE us pain! All of the walls in Wall World cannot save us from pain. I reference my musing from three weeks ago here…the call is coming from inside the house. In other words those defenses lock you up with your pain, they don’t protect you from it.
And half of what we are actually trying to protect ourselves from is all SECONDARY EXAGGERATED BLOWN UP PAIN OF TAKING PAIN PERSONALLY. Do you realize what is involved in lining someone up who is a good match for us? It takes trying, and being brave, and putting the self out there, and talking, and sharing, and personal grooming, and making time, which CAN BE FUN, except that we put so much pressure on ourselves while we are doing it to do it just perfectly and smoothly, and to somehow be both be open and yet run our inner RED FLAG CALCULATING SOFTWARE, and then when something doesn’t work out, if someone doesn’t want what we do, or if they are more effed up or less effed up, or effed up a little more to the left or right than us, and one of us or both of us does not see it working, if they are never going to see us the way we want to be seen, we turn around and we scream to our sad tired self, YOU IDIOT! You failed to avoid this! You failed prophecy 101. What a fool! When what we are needing is a hug. And some encouragement. And a bigger better vision of what we are doing in the first place, which is NOT falling prey to weakness. But bravely advocating for better, for ourselves and everyone we love. Because when we are brave we are brave for everyone who loves us. When we try for ourselves we share that legacy with our families and our children and our world.
You don’t have to have a romantic partner to have a meaningful life. But if you are seeking one, well slow clap from me, because that means you are honouring your innermost self who has something to give, and something to share, and that is fucking important. It’s a big deal.
And maybe instead of piling a thousand pounds of pressure into your small raft made of roofing materials, or what feels as tenuous as a kite flying over the sea, what you need is a boost, a push, someone with a GPS for heaven’s sake. A LOVING voice not a finger wag, or all of your friends in a board room reviewing your attraction with agonizing scrutiny. Maybe you need some support to get your little kite off the ground.
So that you don’t wall yourself up in a room with your past hurts. So that vulnerability can return to a sacred state from a place of reckless danger.
And meantime, if a tall bald guy looking to heli ski through the Andies on broken hockey sticks visits your dreams call me up. I have a thing or two to show him.
— Love Erin
P.S. Need some knocking down your walls? Hit me up for some support or some information on what and how I do what I do to make your world less complicated.
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