October 29, 1994
Dressed in my usual Wicked Witch of the West costume with my boyfriend Joe dressed as Zorro, we opened our doors (well, actually his door; it was his house) and welcomed guests to our Halloween party. Dressing up in costume was a must. It was Halloween after all, the most fabulous holiday ever. (Ok, not including Thanksgiving, where you get to eat, eat and eat and not have to buy anyone a present.) The house was full, the food was endless and the drinks were flowing when out of the blue, Joe called me over, walked me up a few stairs and gathered everyone else around us. I thought for sure a Great. Big. Huge. Chocolate. Cake. with 29 (yes, it was actually my 29th birthday, not a celebration of..) candles was somewhere in my near future and that everyone, at any minute, was going to breakout with the Happy Birthday song in three part harmony. Rather, what happened next took my breath away. Little did I know then, but something he asked me (and it is not what you think) has cross my mind many times since as I try to figure out this world around me. Yes, that was the night he proposed to me. It was wonderful and beautiful. We married in January and welcomed our first child, Brennen, into the world in June.
Fast forward to October 21, 2012
18 years later…
So, what was that question that has popped into my head so many times since it was first asked?? It went something like this … “Lisa, (while pointing to everyone gathered and watching) are all your friends here?” I looked out at all the guests at our party and my voice said “yes” but my head said “no.” Thank goodness this was one time that I didn’t say something out loud followed by “Did I just say that out loud??” And it isn’t what you think. My head said “no” not because Joe neglected to call and personally invite all my favorite peeps, it was “no” because at that time in my life I had no peeps. My best-est friend in the whole-wide-world was not only 2000 miles away, but we hadn’t spoken in years, many years. She pissed me off for some reason or another and, for lack of better words, I “un-friended” her before the word was even a word. The other “friends” I had in my life consisted of co-workers and a few acquaintances I had met along the way. At that time in my life my walls were thick and my walls were high. There were very few (okay, there was no one) that made it over the top to get close enough to my heart. I don’t know when it started or how it happened, but I was a full-fledge masonry; building walls so strong, so solid, so high, that no one was able to climb over or break through.
Rewind - October 2009
Joe’s battle with cancer came to an end on October 7, 2009. The six months prior to that (from diagnosis to his final breath) were days filled with anxiety and fear and became a time in my life when “the walls came tumbling down.” I had barely enough strength to get through my days let alone have the strength to keep filling in the cracks and holes of my walls that were tumbling down around me. In stepped friends I didn’t even know I had. All the people I had kept at arms length were upon me like a warm safe hug and like that blanket you reach for in the middle of the night when you leave the window open and the coolness starts to become too much. They took over my life at a time when I couldn’t. They got my children from point A to point B. They cooked and delivered breakfast, lunch and dinner. They helped plan funeral and celebration of life arrangements. At work, they took over my job and did what needed to be done when I couldn’t do it. Because of them, I was able to continue to go to Logan’s baseball games and Brennen’s football games with a smile on my face. The friends I didn’t know I had, because of the walls I had built around me, stepped in and took away all of the everyday things that I couldn’t do so that I could focus on holding on to what was left of my family, tight. To this day, there are no words to express my gratitude to those that were there for me despite the fact that I had always kept them at a distance.
Fast forward – today
I still battle every day with the wall-building. I sometimes think in my prior life I played a major role in the building of the Great Wall of China or the Egyptian Pyramids. I am a master wall builder. What I have discovered however, is that the most awesome feelings of acceptance and unconditional love can be felt when those walls – created to protect our hearts – come down. Yes, the feelings are more raw and all of the negative things that come with relationships – rejection and misunderstandings, cut to the core. But, on the other side … the love and acceptance you feel, from friends and loved ones, with nothing but your well-being in mind, are incredible and certainly trump and out-weigh the negatives.
I really don’t know why so many of us go through life hiding our true selves or cover up and pretend everything is okay, when in fact it is not. Or why, when we need them most, we shut friends and family out by painting a smile on our face and say “Great, everything is juuuust great!” when in fact, it is not. If I had to guess, I would say that pride, shame, insecurity, not wanting to be a burden, not wanting anyone to spend time worrying, are probably all on the list, among other things.
I also think that when our lives are going great and days are filled with lollipops, glitter and unicorns, we are good at communicating that to everyone but fall short on inviting others to celebrate that with us. So, when you reach the tootsie roll center, and the glitter is now on the floor and you have to sweep it up and the unicorns have disappeared, it somehow feels wrong to say “Hey, I didn’t need you then, but gosh, I sure need you now.”
In the past few weeks, I have been in the position of SAYING “Oh my gosh, I had no idea. I wish you would have told me. What can I do to help?” and have also been in the position of HEARING “Oh my gosh, I had no idea. I wish you would have told me. What can I do to help?”
Point being, we are all in this together and it is always going to be a give and take. We need each other, in good times and in bad times. To quote Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a French philosopher and Jesuit priest, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” And the “human experience” well, it’s not easy. We all know that. And the “spiritual experience,” well, that is just plain confusing!
For me, it all comes down to this … in the darkest, most saddest times of my life, what gets me through is knowing, feeling and believing that I am a “beloved child of God.” I don’t have to earn it or deserve it, it just is. And, when I focus on this it helps me kick down the bricks forming the walls that keep everyone else out. God puts people in your life for a reason. Let them in.