Being Cactus

Even with all that armor, cacti can be beautiful.

Even with all that armor, cacti can be beautiful.

Speaking truly from the heart can be frightening. What if the listener doesn’t understand? What if he/she doesn’t feel the depth or breadth of what we are trying to say? What if the listener is uninterested, and you feel like you’re casting pearls before swine? What if the listener scoffs at something that is so heartfelt for you and ridicules your feelings? What if you are so psychologically armored that you can’t find your heart, living strictly in your head? When that happens, there is little ability to speak from the heart.

More beauty among thorns.

More beauty among thorns.

I have often been too far in my head to be able to find my heart. It was so much safer in my head, where I didn’t need to worry that my feelings would be laughed at or I would be ashamed. I spent many years in a place where anger was the only safe expression of feelings, and it took me quite some time to unlearn some of those habits and find what lay in my heart. It took even longer to find the courage to speak from my heart when the need was clear. It’s been a long struggle to be at a place where I could speak the truths that lay in my heart, and I’ve not entirely arrived. I vacation there more often now, let’s say.

This cactus has grown tall, strong, and flowered magnificently.

This cactus has grown tall, strong, and flowered magnificently.

It’s like my heart was the squishy center in a strong, healthy cactus, protected by a thick skin and prickly spines. My heart was protected and as I psychologically armored, my body grew to reflect that same level of armor. An armored body is quickly one in pain, and I spent many years seeing pain as my enemy before I saw it as a lesson. As I learn to release the pain, the armor eases away, and I’m leaving my soft center more exposed to the world. I feel vulnerable and worry that my feelings aren’t safe. But to remain armored is to remain so defended that my heart cannot find another’s. Is that any way to live? I don’t want to live safe and sound but isolated and alone.

Sedona cactus 3All my life, animals have been my safe harbor – the one place where I felt truly safe to love with an undefended heart. I am now boosting my courage, hoping to expand the small circle of people whom I trust and love. This small circle has begun to feel confining. Wish me luck, and godspeed, as I release more of my armor, my spines, and thick skin so that I can place my heart in a more open place. It takes courage to be so vulnerable – but it also leaves me able to live more freely.