“Sometimes our walls exist just to see who has the strength to knock them down.”
― Darnell Lamont Walker
I’m surrounded by writers. Everywhere I turn, another friend or acquaintance has set their proverbial pen to paper and launched a blog or started writing for local media. Nowadays it is so easy to get a byline by simply releasing your thoughts through your keyboard and pressing “publish.” Some of it is quite good too. I find myself in awe of the talent and ideas that are making their way into the world. I admire those who diligently find topics and put their mind to pulling together 500 or 1000 meaningful words day after day.
I am not one of those writers. In fact, I have never labeled myself a writer. Despite my never-ending desire to release the words that desperately sought refuge from my brain, I never felt much confidence about my ability to write and I resisted the urge for many years. After spending four years in college as English major with an emphasis on journalism, I wimped out when it came time to get a job. I ended up on the business side of publishing and never dipped my toe back in the creative waters after I left school. In fact, the genesis of this blog was as a business function. I started writing it 5 years ago because I thought it would help my business. My goal was to write about topics that my clients cared about to help develop a voice that people would pay attention to. I wanted to be taken seriously as a thought leader. And, as I have shared before, without much intention, my writing quickly turned personal and I, quite unexpectedly, found an outlet for all of the words locked deep within me that needed freedom. I found salvation through the tapping of the keys. I released so much of what was bottled up and needed to be said. I gave myself a voice that would otherwise be silent. I knew I would never be able to utter the words I wrote as I could craft the message so much more elegantly and eloquently when I escaped to the quiet of my desk or with my laptop in a remote spot wherever I was traveling – setting free whatever was burning inside me.
And then, without warning, it stopped. The well had dried. My ink had run out and there was nothing new to say. No interesting or compelling way to share my joy or mitigate my pain. No opportunity to offer wisdom to others who might be suffering silently and would be moved by my message. After all, what was the point if not to help others? What is my purpose if not to change someone else’s life, helping to move another human being even an inch off the spot where they currently sit? My fear became that of the tree that falls in the forest and no one hears… Without the receipt of my message, to me there is no point. I might as well just sit and talk to myself.
I suppose people might still have been reading but I lost interest in myself and didn’t feel like anything I had to say would shake anything up or create a safe port in the storm. I began to bore myself with my same old story. Nothing new here, folks. Just the same old baggage that I cannot spin one more time. Yet, words still churned around in my mind, aching to get out but without an adequate site for landing. They just spun around and around, attaching themselves to one another, forming familiar sentences and paragraphs as I drove or sat on a plane or looked wistfully out of the window of a train. They seemed so interesting and alluring as they danced around, mating in my mind but, as I began to scribble them onto paper, they looked exactly like the words I had scrawled so many times before.
So, here I sit.
The words need to come out so I will try a fresh approach. I will tell a new story. I will share my words in a new way that might not look as familiar as the ones that came before…at least not to me.
There is a stone wall that sits far in the woods. Over many years, the wall was erected, one rock at a time, mixed with concrete to hold it together. Its materials are varied, pulled from loose rocks that were leftover from other projects. Not carefully chosen but, instead, grabbed aimlessly from a large pile that lay, ready for disposal. The wall is repurposed. The care and effort that went into building this wall is questionable. On the one hand, it is sturdy and solid and, on the other it might be perceived as vulnerable and weak. This wall was designed for security and privacy. Its stones are thick and, despite the lack of care that went into the construction, there are no cracks in the seams and no light shines through. When the wall was fully built, it completely eclipsed the light, keeping out evil and good equally. A design flaw, for sure, as the intention was always to keep out the dark and leave a space for the light. But, in its haphazard design, no such space was created.
This wall is ugly – not one that sparkles when the sunlight reflects off of it. It is unsightly and anyone who might encounter it would find it hard to look at. Those that stumble upon it are confused by it and find its isolation odd. When they try to push against it, certain there must be a weak spot, an opening to gain entrance, they are met with failure. Attempts to apply pressure and find a crevice to begin to dismantle it reveal the strength and impenetrability of this neglectfully composed structure. Ironically, there is no compromising its integrity. The stones will prevail against any effort. Of course, most discover it rather accidentally and are not equipped with the proper tools to destroy it. And, most give up quickly, realizing that it is not worth their effort for this is just a random wall in the woods.
This wall was intended to be retractable and temporary – a shield against the elements, pulled out only when needed but, because of the shabby design and poor materials, it has only one position. It is either up or completely destroyed and no longer in place. And, no wrecking crew has deemed it destined for destruction. So it stands firmly in place, keeping out the light, without its cracks, without its leaks.
Sadly, the craftsman who slapped the wall together forgot to build a door so he is destined to live inside, trapped. In his sloppiness, he forgot to build a door or window that would allow him to escape and he is imprisoned, calling out loudly for help but no one can hear him for, despite his poor work and mismatched materials, he is a brilliant builder and he could not help but create a solid, masterful structure. He worries that he will forever be held captive by his own calloused hands. That is, unless, someone realizes, after some time, that he has gone missing and they seek out to find him. Unless someone can sense the absence of his presence and realize that he is trapped inside the wall he so carelessly built around him.
This wall was intended to be retractable and temporary – a shield against the elements, pulled out only when needed but, because of the shabby design and poor materials, it has only one position. It is either up or completely destroyed and no longer in place.
Alas, our craftsman has lived a quiet life. He has kept to himself mostly so, while others would smile and wave and perhaps chat about the fine weather when they would see him in the village, he lived mostly invisibly and it would be quite some time before anyone actually noticed that they had not seen him. It would be a long stretch before anyone might wander past his lane to see if he had fallen ill or was simply busily working on his next masterpiece. Because he was inconspicuous to most, he may be destined to spend his eternity, encompassed by that stone wall, never seeing the fine weather or never glimpsing a friendly face again.
But, perhaps, one guileful adventurer might be so intrigued by the wall that he might build a ladder and climb to the top, high in the clouds and begin the painstaking effort of loosening the bricks, using the powerful tools required to loosen the stones and soften the concrete, allowing the wall to begin to tumble, freeing our quiet craftsman. Maybe one person will have the vision and the might to take on the project because they see that the stones, while shoddily glued together, all have beauty and can be repurposed in the most magnificent ways. It will be worth the effort to tear the sad wall apart and reclaim the materials and unleash the unfortunate artisan, hoping to teach him to be more careful in the future.
And maybe, once freed, with the hindsight that only time and reflection affords us, the builder will learn the true meaning of his seemingly unintentional work.