try a little tenderness

I’m thinking today about how boundaries and defense mechanisms are kind of cousins. I haven’t always had healthy boundaries, but defense mechanisms -- those I had to spare. Sarcasm, hypervigilance, making myself the most useful person in any room… when I didn’t know how to protect my vulnerable self-parts in healthy ways, these helped.

When I met my now-wife, one of the things she was able to reflect to me was the way I distanced from feeling through sarcasm, self-deprecation, and teasing. So I tried to stop. I would catch myself just before or (more often) just after speaking and feel terrible about it, shame myself for not doing better, being better.

Surprise: that didn’t work.

The only thing that did work was examining what was behind these words, what purpose they served. And once I did that, once I unpacked for myself the WHY behind these actions, I was able to let them go. Not squash them or pretend they didn’t exist or build detours around them, but look at them, thank them for the part they played in my survival, and release them from their work.

So often, we try to willpower our way through change, when what we need is some gentleness. To be able to look upon our flaws with love, and gratitude, and let them go so that something else can take their place.

If there’s a task before me this lifetime, that’s probably the one. I know the perfectionists in the room hear me. Let’s just today, just tonight, lift up something that once served us, thank it, and release it into the good air that sweeps everything clean.