Congratulate me. I am the proud owner of a few adorable, little, bouncing baby…boundaries. I remember, not all that long ago, that I didn’t know squat-ola about what a boundary was, how I create one, how I figure out which ones I need, how I communicate them, how I nurture them. If they get wet will they turn into destructive little furballs that take over my space, baring their fangs where just yesterday gums shiny with saliva were visible, all rosy and harmless?
I remember feeling that a boundary was a hand to the face. A DO NOT TRESPASS sign. As if squaring off for battle. Don’t you go there. Oh, and not there either. I was stymied by how I would communicate my boundaries to someone. Do we have a boundary conversation? Pull out our lists, judging them first by the length of the paper, then the final tally of line items?
And, to have a list, don’t I have to know what my boundaries are?
I couldn’t come up with any beyond the obvious. You hit me and I vaporize you and then divorce you. You mess with my children and you’re going to believe, deep down in your soul, that I have trotted off the pages of the Twilight series books and am about to go all wolf-mother on your ass. If I see you harm someone in my presence I will not look away. I will call the cops. Then I will put my size 11 flippers on your backside and introduce your face to terra firma.
I wasn’t sensing that my instinctual boundaries were geared toward creating a gentle, peaceful, loving environment for an encounter to blossom. I can see the boundary conversation now…sitting across the table from a man I fancy saying, You know Sigourney Weaver in the movie Alien?
I’m the Alien.
I left boundaries aside for awhile. Still unsure how to craft them. Then, unsurprisingly, I was forced to revisit them by circumstances, situations that were occurring, patterns that were repeating.
I distinctly remember thinking, If I create a boundary, how am I going to remember it? As if it existed outside my being. How will I know it’s right for me? As if I were deciding between two methods of training to swim the bay. How will someone react when I tell them my boundaries?
I had this feeling that I would be viewed as an uptight, divorcée who had HAD IT, and was putting her stiletto down, hard, dislodging a half-dozen bobby pins in her too-tight bun upon impact. That’s just not me. Boundaries didn’t seem to mesh with my goal of being open and vulnerable and free-spirited. Why have them anyway when I can just deal with things on a case by case basis?
I know right from wrong. Jeez!
We see the effects of winging it, ending up with blurred boundaries that often result in very destructive behaviors, on the news every night. (I used to, anyway. I don’t watch the news anymore.) People sending pictures of their penises to other people who shouldn’t be seeing their penises (There’s been a lull in this behavior, and for that I am exquisitely grateful.), parents throwing a kegger for their high school graduate and friends, people skimming other people’s money, little here, billion there, teachers having sex with students…it doesn’t end. Right down to infidelity. And on and on.
Winging it is not effective.
For boundaries to thrive they have to be lived before they are tested. Crafting a boundary on the fly is like wearing a bikini two sizes too small. I may be able to squeeze myself into it, but it’s going to be pretty easy to swipe aside under the right circumstances. Boundaries need to be more like a second skin, as authentic as the original. Coming from the inside out.
When I sat with that idea, I came to feel that boundaries don’t begin with what others can’t do to me or what others shouldn’t do, and if they do, I have to walk away. Boundaries begin with what I expect of myself. When this understanding came to light, I felt the gears inside my core turn and unlock a small safe that held within boundaries that I need to abide by in order to live an authentic, genuinely happy life. I absorbed them from the inside out. And now, these I know to be my boundaries for myself:
I expect of myself that I will be quick to listen and slow to respond,
that I will come from the heart,
that my words will be genuine and true,
that I will not judge people,
that my state of happiness comes from within not ordered out,
that I will not control or manipulate outcomes,
that I will walk slowly and deliberately on my path,
and I will love myself and my journey here on the blue marble with my whole being.
I’m going to have to sit with this one for a bit, but ponder it with me, please:
What if I only succeeded in upholding those boundaries for myself and didn’t ever attach a boundary, so to speak, to another person? Is it fair to say, then, that we don’t have to have the dreaded boundary conversation? (Do they even exist? I’ve never had one, but that’s not saying much. Maybe I’m one of few.)
I imagine if I were to truly walk that walk, I would dissipate or repel many situations that could knock me off my path. Some uncomfortable scenarios I would chose to experience, because the gain is worth the grind. But those times when I feel like I’m being led around by the nose? They can’t happen if I’m abiding by my boundaries. Anything else that comes my way I will be free to respond on a case by case basis.
Wait. What? Didn’t I say that wouldn’t work?
I am starting to see how I can be vulnerable and totally safe at the same time. How I can be open yet protected. How I can live in the moment in a situation and know that I am able to express my needs and be really okay with walking away if they aren’t able to be met. And no hearts will break. No feelings will be hurt. No bridges burned. All encounters intact, just doing their typical morphing.
Overtime, as my boundaries adhere to me like moldy pumpkin to a blue velvet couch cushion, I will be able to wing it and not just pull it off, but make that ability my greatest asset. The ability to respond from a calm, centered place because I’m not making it up as I go along. (Where, you wonder, did I get that from? Oh, from the moldy pumpkin I tried to scrape off the cushion of a couch that means the world to me – thanks, kids. The couch was stored in the garage. Pumpkin’s been there since Halloween. Yep.)
Eventually, my actions will speak louder than my words, and my boundaries, to others, will just simply be who I am, how I am.
I’m not even sure if these classify as boundaries. But I’m calling them Boundaries for Myself. And I’m pulling them on right now. It’s gonna take some time to get all fluid with them, but I’ve got some phenomenal practice sessions lines up.
And one that already happened with Mr. Jackpot that I’ll tell you about next time…