Quite often, I have people approach me and ask about the changes in my life. Some are close friends who are curious what the catalyst was to changing my career path. Others ask about my weight loss, wondering what diet and exercise regimen I utilized. And, I continue to be amazed by the emails and messages I receive from people who have read one of my books to share their personal journey, and thank me for either the characters I have created or for sharing a piece of my story. Many times, they ask if I honestly believe in true love, or that the world can change.
I am always unsure how to respond. I cannot provide a checklist of do and don’t items. A few years back, I adopted a philosophy mentally—“Life is a journey. Not a destination. You create it.” At the time, I was attending Indiana Wesleyan University studying ministry. Faith has an interesting way of weaving itself through life. I have found that the more I open myself, the more I begin to feel what is right for me, rather than searching my mind to decide what that might be. That is the key to all the change in my life. I am continually learning to trust my heart over my head. There is a sense of indescribable freedom when you allow yourself to obey the sense of knowing what is in your heart and trusting it above what you hear others saying around you, even what you have been taught to believe. Listening to that inner voice produces stillness within the blaring sound. It provides peace amid questioning. But, it is not an easy road to travel.
In recent months, the news has been ablaze with talk of building walls, some metaphoric and some literal. Walls represent safety for many of us. We erect them to keep danger out. We learn to guard against pain, pain that comes from disappointment, loss, and betrayal. We build walls as the result of fear, fear of the inevitable moments of pain that life brings us all. The truth is, life is not meant to be happy in every moment. There is a necessary balance to life—love and loss, give and take, birth and death.—some call it yin and yang. By the very nature of living, we are placed in a position to experience a range of emotions.
Endeavoring to be safe is understandable. There are dangers that we should attempt to shelter ourselves from. I would never suggest that recklessness is a healthy way to live. However, in order to live fully, risk is a necessary component of life. Just as there can be no loss without love, there can be no gain without risk.
Walls often seem as if they would serve us well in life. We all build them. We build them with the intention of keeping the “bad stuff” out. What we often forget is that the walls we build to keep danger at bay, often become self-imposed prisons. Unintentionally, we shut ourselves off from the world that lies beyond. For many years, I did that without even realizing I had done it at all.
I was surrounded on all sides. One wall protected me from the judgment of others. I had built it to keep the slights and the put downs at bay. One wall protected my heart from being broken. Another wall kept me from physical harm, or so I thought they did. The truth was that those walls had become my prison. At some point, they had stopped protecting me and served only to limit me. And, the ironic part of all of it was that I was hurting more than I could express. I was suffocating in a protective barrier of my own creation.
There isn’t one answer to how I made changes. I believe all of us hear our inner voice speaking at times. Those are the moments when something cracks your walls slightly. It might be a person that comes into your life. It might be an experience, even a song, a walk in nature—something starts to let just a little bit of the view from beyond the wall inside. When those moments happen, we all have a choice—plug the hole or let the light keep shining until the crack widens a bit more.
As I enter 2016, I am grateful that I decided to let the light filter in. Do not misunderstand, my walls have not completely crumbled. They still exist. Each day, I endeavor to let a little more of the light break through, lowering the wall another inch, another meter. I spent nearly my entire life building walls. I want to spend the rest of it learning to build bridges instead. Bridges help us cross precarious roadblocks on our journey. We understand that bridges can fail, but when we look out at the possibilities beyond, we accept the risk and trust that the bridge will support us on our journey. We continued forward.
If you want my two cents, life comes down to how we choose to live it. We are all builders. I have come to believe that the secret to living a life that feels fulfilled is to build more bridges than walls. Trust the journey. It has only one inevitable, unavoidable destination. Walls have one purpose, containment. Bridges have one purpose, movement. Be a bridge builder.