I feel like I am always writing about how I got to or am trying to get to the better parts of me. I feel like I am always ending my writing with a “today though...”
But what about all my thorns? The thorny, prickly parts of me that cause others and myself to be pricked and poked and bloodied every once in awhile. Or more often?
What about those?
Why are we all so reluctant to talk about them?
And when we do, we smash them up good. Always condemning them and feeling like if we could rid ourselves of them that our lives would finally and mercifully be grand.
I actually have a lot of experience with thorns. Mine and others. I have had a life that is full of them, in fact, once upon a time I would tell you that is all I had, no flowers only thorns. But that was just my perception at the time.
But my thorns serve a purpose and that purpose is not unlike the plant’s thorn’s purpose...for protection. Plants have thorns to keep animals and insects from eating them. Pretty clever really. Plants have developed a system of thorns, prickles and spines to ward off predators. Not that it is vitally important for this metaphorical talk on thorns, but thorns are modified leaves or stems whereas prickles are outward growths from a plant’s epidermis or cortext. And unlike plants, I have all of the above: thorns, prickles and a spine.
My thorns are my most effective defense mechanism. They are sharp and will cut you. They will get you when I feel invaded or unprotected or scared. Whenever I feel threatened, I have the thorns to back me up, to get you away from me in seconds flat. Sometimes, you are less intrusive and a prickle will do the job. Sometimes, I need only to remember my own spine and that is sufficient to ward you off and keep me feeling safe.
But unlike a plant, I am not rooted in one spot. I am free to move about the world as I wish. Very few restrictions on my movements (well not right at the moment but you get what I mean). I am sure that if I were rooted in place, my thorns would be far more visible, needed to keep away predators. Since I have the freedom to roam, my thorns are much less visible. You can’t be moving about the world, thorns exposed and expect to really get anywhere...people tend to object to passing you on the street and getting jabbed by your errant thorn.
And yet, it happens. Being out there in the world, getting jostled about, and much to your chagrin, out pops a rather nasty thorn that you were trying very hard to keep under wraps. We hide our thorns, we pretend like we don’t have them. We lie about them. We wholly ignore them. But they are there in all of us. Defensive traits designed to keep us physically and emotionally safe.
I am going to say something controversial now...I believe that my thorns are pathways to the best part of me. I am, of course, more than my thorny outgrowths. But my thorns are some of the best parts of me...I know, how can I possibly say that??
My thorns show me where I am still stuck. Where I was wounded in the past and still need healing. They show me how I keep others away and create disconnection instead of connection in my life. My thorns are what show me, daily (sometimes hourly) where I am off course and headed for trouble in my life.
What I get at 50 is that I need far less protection than I think I do. I really do not live in a world where people are out to hurt me. It is not junior high where you are literally under siege everyday. A lot of my defensive thorn throwing came from that era of my life, but it is not relevant today...not by a long shot. Why?
Because I have learned to love and manage my own thorns and in turn the thorns of the people I allow to be part of my life. If I am going to love me, I have to come to love all of me. Even the thorny outgrowths that cause me problems in my relationships. I can’t love myself and ignore, pretend or delusionally believe that my thorns don’t exist. They do. They are here and will be forever. My only hope is to be able to prune them back...sometimes daily.
The work I do to find the beauty and love for my own hard thorns, helps me love yours when I am on the pricking end. If your thorns are out, you are giving me important information about you, about me and about the status of our current relationship. Something has triggered a defensive response and if I love you, I should slow down and examine what might have triggered you. I can see if I was a cause or condition and regardless of whether I am blameless or totally at fault, I can grant some grace to both of us as we muddle our way through the thorns that will always be found in any kind of intimacy.
I have learned that the thorns might really be the best part of me. They are certainly the most honest. They poke, injure and demand immediate attention which is more than I can say for some of my more acceptable qualities. Hard thorns teach hard lessons. But sometimes they serve another function altogether. Sometimes thorns or prickles grow downward which enables them to be used for growth. I can cling to my surroundings and use my spiny outcroppings for anchors for growth. Roses do this. They use their prickles to maneuver their way into the sun to give their flower better access to sunlight. And I do it too. Sometimes at your expense...and that gives me a lot of information about me.
Even though my life is fairly cleaned up from having threatening people in it, I still need protection. I am not so evolved that I can walk the earth defenseless. But I am more capable today of showing my thorns well in advance, knowing their triggers and inclinations. I can even talk about them today and share my experience with them. And when I do this, I can see where I am stunted, where I am withering. Where I am refusing to grow.
If I can see them, my hard thorns, I can perhaps talk about them. And if I can talk about them, perhaps I can not deploy them against you. I can just allow you to come closer and relax into the defenseless state of intimacy. Connection cannot happen in a bramble...no one is comfortable there. But I can connect if I am honest about my hard thorns and their location. Perhaps, just maybe the thorns are the outgrowths of the best part of me. The part of the leaf or stem that has been transformed into something greater than originally intended. Perhaps if I can love the hard thorns as much as I love the beautiful rose, I can finally be at peace with both of us.