I’m deep into the Summer of Me and every day finds me working on my Happiness Project. This week I’ve researched setting boundaries.
Admittedly, I haven’t been very good at setting boundaries in the past. How do I know this? Because of my feelings of resentment towards the person or object that intruded into my metaphorical personal space. Tuning into feelings is #2 on the list of the 10 Ways to Build and Preserve Better Boundaries as seen on PsychCentral.
Unfortunately, until recently, I wasn’t able to name my limits, which is #1 on the list. Through my recent soul-searching and self-discovery, I can now point to things that are clearly important to me and my well-being. In the past, all I knew was frustration…an unnamed, nagging frustration that showed itself as anger and pain.
I can point to things like my physical home space and recognize that, while the space doesn’t have to be large, it does have to contain a place for me to relax without work or chaos staring me in the face. I need a comfy chair by a window to read my books. I need a clear, clean view from my chair with no laundry baskets, cluttered computer desk, or a patched and unpainted wall. The rest of my home can be stripped down to the studs and it won’t bother me as long as I have that one area of oasis.
Growing up as the oldest of a large brood of children, I was taught to be a caretaker of others. I learned that my dreams were something to be put on hold until the time became available to tend to them. I carried that through to adulthood and marriage, putting both Husband #1’s career and Husband #2’s business before my own goals. I take full responsibility for this and realize to get what I want out of my life, I have to step forward and take action. Sure, the people I’m in relationships with may balk at the idea of my wanting something from them, but if I’m helping them achieve their dreams, I expect the same in return. I’m not asking for too much. I’m asking for equal treatment.
One of the hardest things has been to seek support. It’s not in our nature, our culture or our popular media to ask for help. We’re rough and tumble, rugged Americans raised on a steady diet of pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps and stoic individualism. To ask for help is to appear weak and vulnerable. But here I am, enrolled in a Divorce Support group, seeing an individual therapist, and reading books on how to be more vulnerable while fighting my tendency to be emotionally isolated the more I hurt.
So I’ve started small. With each small victory, I practice for the larger boundaries. And when Husband #2 emailed me earlier this week, I stood tall with my boundary of no contact even though I wanted very badly to email him back.