It’s hard not to make this a battle.
It’s hard to draw my weapon and tell you to approach slowly, if at all.
It’s hard not to put up my shield and forget what your face actually looks like.
It’s hard to remember that, when our blood spills, we are both in pain; both loved; both cried; both suffered.
It’s hard to remember that, because I have been carrying my shield from a young age.
When I was a kid, I was sexually abused within the context of the “trusted church” (and other trust circles). After that point, I learned that the shield I carried was heavy, but it was mine to bear—and I was entrusted to bear it. No one else should help me carry it, no one else should see my trembling hands, or tear-stained face, behind it.
This shield had to go up. My weapon had to stay drawn. I had to protect myself from being hurt again, and I had to protect others from realizing that I was hurt.
I carried this logic into my discernment and understanding of my sexuality years later—though the abuse remains a separate matter (and my attraction to humans in general was solidified at a younger age), I employed similar tactics of survival. My shield was high, and my weapon was drawn.
No one should come to close, save they see my pain, or try to carry my shield.
Presently, I am trying--very hard--to put my weapons, and my shield down.
I am trying to believe that our similarities, as humans, will mean that—somehow—you will learn to love without hurting, due to our differences. I am trying to believe that we all have goodness to share—as we do—even if our evil spills out, and scars our skin sometimes. I am trying to put down my defenses.
But let me explain, my defenses are strong and sensitive and electric, because they have learned that pain comes quickly, silently, and often from places you wouldn’t expect.
My defenses are a result of being hurt many times (whether intentionally or unintentionally), in places I thought were safe.
My defenses perk up when certain words are used; my defenses perk up when certain books are recommended; my defenses shout and yell and my heart starts beating when a text comes unexpectedly.
I cannot tell you how many times I have seen a name on my phone screen, and my heart has started beating uncontrollably. What will they say? What do they want? How will this hurt?
I see my phone screen, and my shield goes up; my weapons come out; I try, once again, to prepare myself for pain from the places I love.
Here’s a beautiful reversal that has been happening—especially recently. I see a name, my heartbeat quickens, my shield goes up; I open the message, and instead of a stance, instead of a disagreement, instead of hurt, I see simple words; “I love you.”
My defenses shatter. My shield falls on my chest as I sink to the ground. My weapon slips from my hands.
(And usually, I cry.)
I am still learning that love doesn’t always have to hurt. I am still learning that new things can come from old pain. I am still learning that what once was, isn’t always what has to be.
And I am learning that our connections, and our compassion, can bridge the gaps that our differences create (when people are willing).
When I see you smile; when I hear your voice break; when you tell me about your day; when you love me, without adding an asterisk to the action.
I am still learning to put my shield down; my eyes are still peeking over, searching quickly from side to side, making sure the “coast is clear”. I am still nine years old, in some ways; I am still nineteen; I am still twenty-three; and I am still in every moment of deep suffering and pain I have ever experienced (as those things never leave)—but I am also, always realizing that there is so much more than those things.
And, there is to much more, behind my shield, than just pain.
It’s hard not to make this battle; but I must—I am trying—to stop calling you the enemy. We can learn from one another; we can learn *to love* one another. I will continue to try not to walk away. I am trying to remember that we both smile; we both ache; and there must be something that can bridge this gap (and maybe, it's us).
(P.S. Shields are very good and necessary at certain points, in certain discussions—and I’m not advocating we throw healthy boundaries down by any means. But; I am learning to put my shields down in places that are redefining themselves as healthy exchanges, where they were once not.)