What do you see in this photo? My friend marveled over this leaf on our hike across the Inca Trail en route to Machu Picchu last July. Its magnitude and heart shape enthralled her. This came as no surprise to me, as this woman herself has a huge heart, exuding love – for herself and others. Little did I know that this hike and this leaf would change my life.
I marveled, too, at the size and shape of this leaf, albeit briefly. What struck me and would not leave me were the parallel strands of barbed wire hovering over the leaf.
Wow. I started judging myself. My friend sees the heart and all that beauty therein and I see the barbed wire.
This realization was profound. The purpose of my Peru journey was not only adventure, but also connection, to my own heart as well as to others.
This was a healing journey and my intention for the two-week trip was to access the love inside of me I had trouble finding. I believed it was there and I wanted to see it, feel it and have it envelop me with its brilliance once and for all.
Now that I was obsessed with the barbed wire, I contemplated what that meant. Barbed wire shields, preserves and guards what it protects from injury, neglect, attack, harm, and exposure.
How had I preserved my own heart over the course of my life? And, what was I shielding it from?
Protecting My Heart
Ultimately, protecting my heart allowed me to survive for many years. I looked great on paper. I was hoisted upon a pedestal, admired by many who valued a girl who was studious, popular, athletic, and loved by her family and friends.
So, what was the problem?
I became a puppet who came alive only when others pulled my strings. I ignored my own instincts and put others’ needs before my own, thwarting my full expression.
I kept my heart safe by not feeling its range, especially the joyous parts.
For most of my childhood and beyond, I knew I was unhappy. Living like a robot, devoid of emotion, does not make for a happy life.
I received Ivy League undergraduate and graduate degrees. However, it all felt meaningless because the goal had been the pursuit of the degrees; inspiration and passion, both of which I lacked, were not even factored into the equation. I didn’t even know what interested me because I wouldn’t allow myself to be curious and explore.
All life decisions were based on the barometer of a numb person.
How has your childhood or other life events shaped you? Do you feel free and empowered? Or are you still hiding your true self? Maybe you don’t even recognize yourself anymore?
Read more of Wynne’s story here: Divorce was a Gift.