I’m three decades old today. Old enough to say, over 20 years ago I remember what happened. I was 10 years old. It was a heated election year; I didn’t really understand what that was about. Not sure I do now either. The Berlin wall fell just a few years prior and we had a piece of it framed on our wall from my uncle. I looked at this piece of history for years, but didn’t know the value of this little chip of concrete.
Walls were coming down around the world and my own family mirrored this as well. My parents moved towards divorce. I put away my Barbies and my American Girl Doll, pretended I was fine and we all marched on. That’s what time does.
Ten years ago, I was at Disneyland with my mom. I wore a crown and thanked every employee who saw my Happy Birthday button. I had a broken heart and where else does one go to be cheered up? My mom knew what I needed. Our family was broken again this time by a slippery slope by brother took. It tore us all up and left more pieces to collect. Walls could’ve been built, but it forced us to reexamine our relationships and history.
I also met a young man who seeped into the cracks of my own life and stuck around when he discovered the flaws. We married and moved into walls that held their own beginnings and pasts as we tried not to build more of them. And still time kept ticking.
Today I turn 30 and I’m proud, I really am, that my twenties were about taking down walls and not building them up. I sit here today not broken, but on a journey of restoration. One where I am starting to receive the reality that I am deeply loved and that shatters walls in profound ways, letting in the brilliant light.
I’m done with walls and I wish the world was too, but it’s not, as ones like the atrocity in Palestine are built encasing real tragedies that harbor emotions like bitterness and resentment, lack of understanding and even more so dialogue. It’s amazing what happens when one can’t see what lies behind walls – when blindness become normalized because we get so used to them.
Cracks cause us to reevaluate our walls. Lots of time, money and energy are spent on rehabilitating walls, wrinkles, and barriers to maintain a false sense of security – a sense of reality that wants instant fixes and cures and not a journey of healing.
I’ve spent the last decade working to break down walls in my own heart. I’ve also prayed for magical cures and been whittled down to huddling in dark corners, with my face covered in tears. I’ve lost an organ, had radiation, faced job “restructuring,” panic attacks, and the judgment that comes from living an open life. I haven’t lived an untouched life. I see that now and I also see that I wasn’t cured. However, I have been slowly moving into healing for the past 30 years. Slowly peeling back layer after layer to see the image of God that is in me – constantly refined, constantly loved, constantly healing… if I can keep chipping away at the walls.
When I do that, I have to face the different versions of myself – the bitter competitor, the chubby adolescent I tried to hide and ban, the ignored daughter, the jealous friend, the addicted perfectionist… there are days I want to build the wall back up and not deal with any of them.
But the truth crept in, and when that happened, I could see through a tiny key hole that God was sitting there with all of them… just sitting, just waiting, just loving… and I needed to do the same. So I’ve sat around a lot in my twenties, having conversations with myself, accepting myself and trying to grasp what these things called free will and freedom of choice are.
I had a choice to show up to my walls and start to break them down. But last night as I looked around one long curvy table with 60 of my closest companions, I realized that they were all there next to me with a chisel too. On my left, on my right, they all picked up the hammer and helped me see who I really was. Others were waiting on the other side to embrace me just where I was at any given point. I was never alone with my walls. I just had blinders on at times.
A wall was given to me last night but it wasn’t a wall, it was a tree. A tree beautifully crafted by the hands of my husband and a close friend and most of all with the loving words of my dearest friends and family. The words, images and colors made a tree of life – a tree of my life – built by my community.
I remained speechless on my knees reading their words late into the night. I still can’t fathom everything that was said and pictured. My life of breaking down walls wasn’t only about deconstruction, but has been about rebuilding, with the help of these people, to not build another wall, but to plant trees.
Last night as we sat in the orchard surrounded by fruit trees and amazing food, I felt like this was the first day of the rest of my life… a life no longer surrounded or defined by concrete and rules, but a life lived where light can get in. A life lived where nourishment and learning and laughter are the ingredients of abundance. A life lived in awareness with no more walls. One where we live with a passion to plant trees by streams of water, which yield their fruit in season and whose leaves do not wither—whatever they do prospers.
And to my friends, I thank you abundantly for helping me to see this – my tree of life.