Love like you've never been hurt. Is that how that saying goes?
We stand guarded. Most all of us, most all of the time. We present our guarded and protected selves to the world. In so many ways, it's societally necessary, or at least, subliminally demanded. We are constantly expected to be that which does not feel natural to be.
Recently, I watched the movie "The Mask You Live In" with my teenage male students. (Watch it.) The movie uses the metaphor of the mask to discuss the formal presentation that we often put forward, meanwhile, what is on the under-side of the mask is usually something far different.
This movie discusses one of the most important topics of our time, in my opinion: the pressure on young men to develop into an idea of masculinity that is ultimately harmful and actually juxtaposes the inherent male sensitivity to the expectation that males be tough and emotionally removed. It is damaging, damn it, in utterly corrosive ways. I am the mother of a son, I've spent a career closely engaged in the development of teenage boys, and I've paid very close attention to the men in my life. I'm no expert, but I've got vested interest.
There will be more blog posts on this topic of masculinity (and femininity), rest assured. I could write a book at this point. I bring it up here in order to attempt to nail down that our attempts to hide our true nature and protect our vulnerability is as old as.... well... they are very old. And guess what. Women, we didn't escape this either. I like to examine our collective pain through the lens of the masculine and feminine, but it's just one lens.
We are a society of hiding and shaming. We have wounds that we perpetuate because it isn't safe to admit them, bring them to light, and therefore heal them. We have very few safe places to do so, and one has to be pretty brave to even step forth. We shame those who have been victimized. We keep silent when we need help. We don't dance, so often, like we are comfortable being seen. It took me over three decades, and still, it's not likely I'll hop on the dance floor without looking around to see who's watching first.
And, sadly, we are often so confused, hidden, and protected when it comes to love - love of our partner, love of our students or coworkers or the guy bagging our groceries, and love of ourselves.
This is a blog post. I can't write the book on the examination of all of this and how to climb the hell out of it in a blog post. Here's what I want to say.
I want to love like I've never been hurt. I think I may finally be able and ready - a truth so amazingly sweet, and one I truly never knew when I was spending all of that time guarded. I was guarded for a reason. Trauma is real and never, ever, will I tell someone to just get over what they are going through. We don't just snap out of the reasons that we guard ourselves, because the memory (cognitive, emotional, spiritual, or somatic) of it makes it feel like staying guarded is necessity. Until we bring it to light. And we need to co-create safe spaces for us to do this.
We learn to love unguarded when we show up for one another. When, step by step, we are able to courageously admit that we are vulnerable, but that we'd like to step forward letting a bit more of our old story go, in order to create a new one.
May we start now, today. May we extend an unguarded hand. May we begin to know another way.