I have my books and my poetry to protect me; I am shielded in my armor
I am a rock, I am an island.
I’ve built walls,
A fortress deep and mighty,
That none may penetrate.
I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain
I have my books and my poetry to protect me;
I am shielded in my armor,
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb
I touch no one and no one touches me.
I am a rock, I am an island
–from “I Am A Rock” by Simon and Garfunkel
One year when I was in high school, I taped the words I AM A ROCK, I AM AN ISLAND to the inside of my locker door. Rest assured I was teased for that, but I was making a statement in that turbulent time, both to myself every time I got something from my locker and whomever happened to pass by and see the sign:
I am impenetrable. No one can get to me. I don’t need anyone and as long as I keep these walls up around myself, I’ll be safe and I’ll never get hurt. You can’t get to me!
Over the years I saw the futility of this message. Unless you’re a hermit and living in seclusion, you can’t help but have relationships with other people. And being human, we hurt each other. It just happens. We fail each other and hurt each other and no amount of self-protection is going to stop that.
And yet I would still build and rebuild the walls. I’d let someone in–sometimes even before trust was established–and inevitably get hurt or disappointed in some way or the other because that’s just what happens. Each time I’d look at all the broken pieces of the relationship and make a vow that I’d never let that happen to me again. It’s my fault for letting someone get that close to me, for being vulnerable, for being intimate with someone and letting them see the real me.
Up and up the walls would go. Up went the defences that signalled danger at the slightest sign of rejection, real or imagined; up went the false strength and self-preservation … and I’d wonder why people didn’t know how to approach me or why some brave souls would tell me I was a closed book and hard to get to know …
I was a sensitive little crab that would retreat to the safety of my shell anytime things got tough or personal.
But the truth is that hiding behind your walls for fear of getting hurt can be just as hurtful, if not more so, than putting yourself out there.
No (wo)man is an island.
Better when we're together
Yes, it’s important to tap into the wells of your own being in solitude and find peace in being alone. Trust me, as an introvert (albeit a highly social one), I know this all too well (and have blogged about it often). But like most things in life, it’s all about balance, and something I’ve been learning lately (especially whilst in Ireland) is that we need each other.
We were created for community.
It’s why Adam needed Eve. Why dynamic duos tend to get more done (and have more fun) than soloists. Why even the Lone Ranger needed his Tonto. We are social animals and we need to have community with other human beings if we want to survive.
This is not to say that we shouldn’t be careful and establish healthy boundaries in our relationships. There’s a fine line between cowering behind our walls and being wise about whom you trust and decide to let in. Let God guide you, and be as wise as a serpent and as gentle as a dove. Also realize that your time is valuable and a gift to whomever is truly deserving of it.
I’m learning this and it’s a work in progress. I can’t be friends with everyone and that’s okay. I’m blessed to have many anam cara friendships, a small and intimate church family, and a tight-knit blood family. I’m learning that the premium our culture places on independence and individualism is somewhat flawed.
I’m so blessed to have spent that time
With my family and the friends
I love with my short life I have met
So many people I deeply care for
–from “Red Cave” by Yeasayer
We need each other, and we depend on each other. Not for esteem and validation and to meet all our needs, but for support. Encouragement. To share in our joy and in our sorrows (as my cousin put it so beautifully in her blog
"However rare true love may be, it is less so than true friendship" -- La Rouchefoucauld
To my kindred spirit friends, my family, and those in my community:
I need you. I’m sorry if I have, in the past, pushed you away or let my fears of getting hurt impede our relationship. I’m sorry if I’ve shut you out and withdrawn when things have gotten difficult. I’m telling you now that I need you. I need your friendship as you need mine. I need your stories, your laughter, your tears, your triumphs, your sorrows, and your time. You are so highly valuable and precious to me and have helped shape who I am today and who I am yet becoming.
I love you.