I always was a guy that guarded his heart by putting thorn bushes around it, even better with some mythical Cerberean dogs patrolling. Needless to say that it was a way to protect my self from more inner hurt than I already had had to digest during my bumpy life. From an adolescent that already got upset by a negative remark about his clothes, to a young man that swore he would never let anyone hurt his sensitive heart anymore. And yes, if you are not aware of the consequences of such an act of self-love, there comes a prize to this way of self-protection.
A guarded heart is a safe heart, but it is also a heart that does not feel as much anymore, a heart that is controlling and won’t let go of its reigns. It eventually can even become a selfish and egocentric heart…. a hard heart.
This was my heart for many, many years. It suited me fine. It loved me abundantly (so I thought), it always put me first, striving for the best, it nurtured and took care of me. Whenever someone, mostly love partners, came too close and showed up vulnerable, it closed its shutters with a bang! It raised the palms of its hands and shouted out an undeniably firm “NO! Back off, you needy bitch! Get your shit together or get the hell out of here! There is no place for deprived women here!”
You understand that, even though this heart of mine acted out of utter goodness, it did not create deeply rooted, conscious, soulful, and emotional love relationships. In fact, the connections I had, were quite one-dimensional and, might I even say, sort of shallow and egocentric. Because I always placed myself above the feelings of others. Whenever my significant one tried to scratch a piece of the surface of my heart, it roared its protective head and – in the best case scenario – started to freeze or – in a worse case scenario – shot icicles at the vicious perpetrator, with the sole purpose to make them shut the f*** up.
Not really mature, aight? Nope, I cannot differ on that. But it was needed. My heart had always been so overly sensitive, so fragile and delicate, always had to be handled with the utmost TLC (tender loving care) for it not to break into a thousand pieces. I had to guard my heart to be able to become stronger. Although this might sound contradictive, it definitively was precisely what I needed to grow into the man I am now. This guarded heart was necessary for me not to get totally overwhelmed by the emotions, needs, expectations, and thoughts of others. It helped me to get more acquainted with my own desires, my own feelings, and aspirations, and therefore allowed me to grow stronger roots and to ground myself innately and tenaciously. It helped me to stand strong with my own truth and my individual needs.
And it served me well. I survived several relationships without getting shipwrecked, I loved without falling overboard. Beautiful, flirty girls. Extravert, wild women. I loved timid ones, big ones, skinny ones, dominant and passive ones, meek and monumental ones. I loved them with all my heart (so I truly believed). I even married one.
And then, at the respectable age of 43, I met a Swiss one. One that threw my whole world upside down. One that made me believe again in a love I had stopped believing in. One that took me by surprise, as it eventually also took me by the heart and slowly reeled me in. One that set my whole being on fire. THE one. I had dreamed about this one, already since I was a boy. Not in a romantic way, but in an actual tangible and terrifyingly realistic way. I honestly had been DREAMING about her. This one appeared IN MY DREAMS, appeared even in my meditations, where I could see, feel, smell and hear her. I don’t have to devote this love any further, to make my point: This was the woman I wanted to spend my life with, this was the woman I wanted to love fiercely and wholeheartedly. Wholeheartedly…… YES!!!
But, you already guessed it, to love wholeHEARTedly, there had to be something done about this cautious heart of mine. A guarded heart loves partially, skips certain parts and levels, and continues to love a little bit more. But can it love wholly? Ehm…. I have to say NO! No beating around the bush. If you want to show up to your lady, you can not love halfway. You have to love completely. And so I did! Ahum….
Easily said than done, by the way. It was a f***ing struggle, might I add. This heart of mine kept closed tight like an oyster on acid. Sometimes it opened a bit, slightly letting in some light, but whenever it had to be compassionate about the feelings of my love, whenever it had to allow in the pain I had never dared to look at, reflected in the pain of my woman, it would close viciously with a big thud. BANG!!! So scared… and so
Today, as we were sitting on the couch, and my love shared the same pain she was carrying around for such a long time and which I hadn’t been able to truly see before, I could not hold the walls around my heart up anymore. I simply couldn’t. In one nanosecond they crashed down. I had to cry immensely. So much pain. It was the pain of loss, the pain of mourning, of grief. As if I had lost several old, beloved friends – my defense mechanism, my guards, my need for control, my self-preservation. And I am not saying that I am done now, over and out with it! This man is healed! Hallelujah and amen! No! This would be bordering to a miracle. But it showed me the tremendous feeling of surrender, of release, or – even better – LOVE, and with that, I do not mean the halfhearted version. I mean wholeHEARTed love, as in: with the entire heart involved. So painfully beautiful and on the other hand so beautifully scary. Scary because of scars that all of a sudden got kissed by warm, tender lips, igniting the cold, immovable skin and making it feel alive again.
And although a big, fat cliche, it is the truth: guarded hearts cannot truly love. They can act that way, they can be temporarily needed for growing into your strength, but – in the end – it is merely a lack of self-love, a lack of existential flow, in whatever direction.
My heart has felt freedom, short and overwhelming. It craves for more! And there is the real “Hallelujah and amen.”
Text by: Bas Waijers
Image by: Isai Ramos (