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Walking Through Walls

Due to the craziness of the last 12 months, many of you have been thrown into a tangled web of roles you didn’t want nor are prepared for. How do I know? Well… I feel your pain.

I know some of you will hit a wall in the days ahead if you haven’t already. So here are some things I’ve learned about the proverbial “slamming into a brick wall.”

Acknowledge you’ve hit a structure you didn’t expect. This may seem obvious, but one of the most challenging elements of dealing with a hardship or roadblock of any kind is the surprise of it. Accept the reality of the situation and you’ll be able to have more composure and form a better plan. If you slam into the wall at full force, the first step is to find some bandages and patch up your wounds. You won’t be able to make a decision until you regain your poise and stop the bleeding. Be gentle with yourself, tender like you’d be around someone who actually had a physical accident. (Even if your wounds are on the inside, they can still hurt. Internal bleeding can kill you faster than you’d think and it’s so dangerous because you can’t see it.)

Make sure you don’t confuse fences and walls. With a fence, you have choices — you can climb over them, find a gate, create a gate, cut a hole through it, slip in between the wires, find an area of broken materials, etc. Fences slow you down, but they don’t stop you in your tracks. Fences give us a chance to look around and make sure the boundary line it has created is worth going past.

Walls, on the other hand, mean a full stop. To consider going over them, you’ll need a ladder and a support team. To go around them, you’ll need supplies and sneakers for the long walk ahead. For going under, you’ll need a heck of a lot of shovels and a few headlamps. You of course could get some dynamite and blow the whole thing up, but that might get someone hurt, including yourself, if you aren’t careful.

Before making a decision about what to do, ask yourself a few questions: Is this wall here to stop you for your own good? Is this boundary painful right now but healthy for you in the long run? Were you speeding toward self-destruction or self-pity, or just going too fast in life and needed help slowing down?

As you look at the wall, ask yourself if you would rather stay on this side. I mean, you always have a choice, even with a wall. We so often forget this. Perhaps your wall could make a nice surface for succulents. Consider attaching a string of Edison bulbs and a sun sail and take a rest there. Maybe you begin to paint the wall with bright colors, images that make you smile. Perhaps while painting, you notice a bump on the wall and then another. You wouldn’t have seen it before, but now you are closer to the wall, studying it, going slow. You stop, put the brush down, run your fingers over the wet paint, and discover… hinges.

Hinges?! Wait… you don’t have to blow this thing up or climb over it? Or repair it or build onto it?

The hinges were there all along — you just needed patient eyes to see them.

Is there a wall in your life that might have some hinges? A magical opening that allows you to go from here to there without violent explosions or dangerous actions?

Does the wall really need to go or should you go in a different direction?

Is this boundary a gift?

Is it possible to find immense peace even in a place of pain?

Here’s another thought: What if you are meant to repair this wall you just crashed into? Once it’s patched up, you might even want to consider building onto it.

Walls can be used to keep people out, but they can also be used to keep people in a safe place. The wall itself isn’t good or bad; it’s how we choose to perceive and use the wall that gives it power.

What if the things we fear are there to hurt us are actually there to protect us?

The beautiful thing embedded in this experience is the more walls you face, the more you begin to understand which ones to paint and rest under and which ones to blow up ASAP. You can spot hinges and secret doors more quickly. You feel less surprise and more curiosity. With enough wisdom and time, you even begin to welcome the walls, because you know that so often we have to hurt to heal. You’ve come to understand that the full stops in our lives are chances to reconsider our direction and our goals.

Instead of asking “why me?”, you begin to ask, “What am I meant to learn here?”

Next time you come upon a wall in your life, especially as we move deeper into 2021, choose to view it with a fresh perspective. Have patient and curious eyes. Teach yourself in this, and in all things, to not just see the cliches, but to see all the possibilities.


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