If I had to describe myself with one word, it would be a difficult task as many appropriate adjectives come to mind. However, one that I feel is a bit more distinct amongst the rest is nostalgic. I have an affinity for the past and observing progress through matter of time. I love digging up old records I used to listen to, watching films that I grew up on, reminiscing with old friends about past memories, but even greater, I love looking through old pictures. I believe snapshots of life can, in and of themselves, hold so many stories.

I would say that on average, I go through through a nostalgic photo binge about once or twice a month.

On my most recent binge, I couldn’t help but snicker at one specific time of my life that I kept coming across. Just to paint the picture to its fullest, this was a time of my life when Hot Topic was the go to store and the “emo” music culture was a viral fad, and I milked it to the fullest. I had the all-black attire, millions of plastic bracelets, the My Chemical Romance t-shirt, and the long, streaked bangs that covered half of my face. I’ve found that typically when you move on to other trends as a teenager, you tend to hold on to a fraction of those old trends and bring them with you through the upcoming seasons of fashion evolution. That, for me, was the hoodie. You might be thinking, “how were hoodies a trend?”

I would then have to pose to you that normal people wear hoodies in a cold climate, but the “emo” crowd wore hoodies year round…and it was awful. Living in south Texas and wearing a hoodie year round for the sake of a trend is near martyrdom. It was miserably hot more than half of the year but at the time, going to any length for the cause seemed legitimate. Now looking back, I wish I could’ve gone to that silly teenage kid that I was and snatched that jacket right off of his back. It not only looked silly, it was silly.

As I ponder on this humorous moment of my life, I can’t help but see a blatant connection between that jacket and another aspect of our lives: defense mechanisms.

You see, just like there was a season where the hoodie was fashionable and even necessary, so there too was a season when our defense mechanisms were justifiable. Maybe we learned to help others because we wanted to feel needed. Maybe we learned to be “go getters” because we wanted to feel important. Maybe we picked up an addiction because we needed to escape the reality we were in. Maybe we shut down emotionally because had we not, we would’ve continued to get emotionally and maybe even physically abused.

At some point, our defense mechanisms, like the hoodie, protected us from the cold wind of painful experiences.

The problem is that many of us get into relationships and marriages, seasons of warm radiance, with our jackets still on. The season has passed, and yet we are still holding on to the hoodie, sweating, uncomfortable, and sometimes even miserable.

I don’t know about you, but nothing has revealed my own defense mechanisms to me quite like this first year of marriage.

It has shown me parts of myself that I never thought existed, and quite honestly, sometimes I never wanted to see.

For many, this is a scary experience: to be utterly known and transparently exposed to another human being, understandably so. However, the brutal truth is we can never experience the full warmth and pleasure of a glistening relationship if we refuse to take the hoodie off.

My challenge to you is a challenge I’m giving myself: Acknowledge one defense mechanism at a time and commit to disposing of that hoodie, making a little more room for love.

For some, it may be overspending, getting consumed in work, and rage, but for some, it may be withdrawing emotionally, people pleasing, or oversleeping. Whatever that is for you, be bold in recognizing it, be accountable through confessing it, and be courageous in letting it go. Till next time.