What is a fence anyway? Protection? A shield? Perimeter of sanctuary? Boundary? Edge?
Long standing question as to whether fences are designed to keep another out, or to keep us in. But I see them differently, maybe fences are there to give us the illusion of something solid, a boundary that cannot be breached. A wall that provides safety that isn’t really there. A separation that gives us the illusion that we are in fact separate from others.
Do not get me wrong. I love my fences. All of them. And I have worked hard and long to maintain them, keep them upright and solid. And with that work, I fostered and maintained the delusion that a fence somehow kept me safer. And the truth is this: that a fence is only a barrier to someone who sees it as too much work to scale. A fence is nothing to someone who has the motivation and desire to get something on the other side.
And we all are motivated that way sometimes.
For me, I like the delusional safety a fence provides. Separating me from others. Me from “them”. And yet, I struggle, struggle hard for connection and grace and intimacy. All while loving and maintaining fences in my life.
It does occur to me that working at both connection and separation at the same time is self defeating. It does occur to me, but does not really make me feel like changing. I love my fences and feel super unsafe at even the hint of tearing them down.
What I can see, is that I need and want balance, the right amount of connection and intimacy but not too much all at once. An easing in over time. A trust that develops over time that boundaries do not always need a solid barrier, that a boundary can be respected even if it is an imaginary line in an endless field.
We give ourselves and others labels. Descriptors that are loosely based on fact. Some come from others, in a fit of anger or overwhelm. Some are accurate but only for a discrete amount of time. But for us we pick them up and make them permanent. They are fixtures in our lives.
I am not good at relationships
I am hard to love
I am difficult to get along with
I am too particular
I am too demanding
I am just not worth the effort
No one will ever love me
And labels are convenient in making it almost impossible to change our minds about much of anything. Ourselves or others. Labels becoming these largely fictitious boundaries, eclectic fences if you will. All designed and maintained to protect our hearts, but really just become prison walls that no one can scale, escape or endure.
There are a lot of way to fence people out. And just as many ways to fence ourselves in. I am not sure that I ever want to live in a world where there are no physical boundaries. I am a person that needs solitude and privacy and quiet. I need to be alone, a lot. More and more as I age. And fences, the metaphorical ones and actual ones do a great job of providing me the space and time I need.
But the labels kills curiosity while fences can increase it. What is behind that fence? Is a question often posed. While the same it not true for a label. We accept it at face value and make it absolute, unchangeable, permanent. When really, neither label or fence is permanent. Every idea is temporary. Every feeling, boundary, fence, all cannot stand the test of ever unfolding time. Eventually, if we can remain open to the limitless possibility of the future, everything eventually fades...be it fence, boundary, idea or label. Eventually if we can maintain a curiosity about life, all things can and will come to pass.
And perhaps that is the lesson we all avoid. Time. The hardest life lesson of all. That the fences we build, maintain or create, eventually, must come to pass. And so must our labels. So must our ideas about ourselves, each other. We are ever changing beings if we are lucky. Who I am today, doesn’t have to be the person I am tomorrow. I can curate a living curiosity about myself that eschews labels that keep me stuck. And instead, create a life that is based on an unfolding, evolving curiosity about who I am, what I am and how I show up in this world, for this life.
And I can do the same with the fences I need. The fences I build up and around myself, reinforced with the barbed wire of my labels about you or me. I can see that fences are not bad or good but have their place and it is just a place after all.
It seems to me right now that being curiously open to all that comes, be it fence, or boundary or label, and take the time to turn it around in my mind, to release the need to “know” and open to the idea that sometimes a fence is needed. Sometimes a boundary needs reinforcement. And sometimes the label is correct. But there must always be a time for reflection, a time to allow for further or re-evaluation. Without granting grace for this, we become mired and locked in to beings without a path forward. The past being the only thing that guides us, when the present is here beckoning us to grow, flourish and change. It is ok. We are not who we have always been unless we insist upon it. We can and shall be different if only we examine our reasons, beliefs and insistence that just because we always have, doesn’t mean we always must.
Fences are here to outline and perhaps highlight a barrier, a distinct border between you and me. But whether it be made of metal, wood, rock or stone, we are the ones who make it more than what it is. And without examination, without a curious, inquisitive mind, we shall remain forever locked in place, surrounded by something that we erected to keep us safe, but now only keeps us stuck. Fence or label, it remains the same. And each can begin to erode with a simple thought, who am I without that fence, that label, that idea. Who am I indeed...
Thank you for the inspiration Dalis...