Category Archives: boundaries

In Defense of Me

I had a little text exchange earlier today.

My sister sent me a picture and two videos of the kitten she is giving me in the fall.  I did not want a new cat as I have three and that is enough.  But my sister cleverly sent a picture first and then asked me if I would like to have a new kitten.  She would pay for all the shots, the spaying, and bring her to me from N. Carolina since they were coming up anyway.  It was a cute cat, and my sister always gets her way, and one of my cats is 19, so how long would I have to wait to be back down to three cats anyway.  So, I said yes.

Now my sister sends regular updates via text, which is considerate, I suppose.

Today I felt compelled to thank her for her efforts which are allowing me to see my kitten grow up even though she is hundreds of miles away.

Instead of responding with a “you’re welcome” she texted back with “You’re welcome to come down and see her and bring her back with you.”

Gahhhhhhh!

Why would I want to drive myself all the way down to Asheville, NC to pick up a cat (that I probably shouldn’t have said yes to) when you’re coming up to New York anyway in September???  In fact, all of this was your idea to begin with.  In fact, about a hundred whyshouldI’s raced through my mind when she responded the way she did.

The safest answer I could come up with was, it wasn’t in the budget to make a big trip this year.

Her answer:  Budget?  It’s a couple of tanks of gas!  We have plenty of room for you.

Gahhhhhhhh!

This convo was exactly like nearly every exchange with my mother.  No matter what I say in answer to any question, large or small, my answer is up for grabs, correction, improvement.  How did these people get so far into my brain?  Why do I have to defend everything all the time????

It’s the boundaries again.  I never learned good boundaries.  Neither did they.  But they are okay with it and I am not.

I can not be okay with poor boundaries.  I will never get better if I don’t firm up the boundaries.

And why am I still thinking about it and turning it over and over in my mind an hour later?

I get so stuck sometimes.

I probably should have sucked it up weeks ago and turned down the kitten even though she is super cute.  But I didn’t and now I am entangled.

My answer that shut down the exchange: I would have to fly.  That’s a hell of a drive and I’m not up to it these days.

She had nothing but an “oh, okay” for that one.

Score!

Such small successes in this journey, but I’ll take it.

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Filed under anxiety, boundaries, bullies, decision making, decisions, dysfunction, family, getting along, growth, history, honesty, journey, pressure, progress, self-care, self-respect, Uncategorized

“Ripen into Your Authentic Self”

The phrase “ripen into your authentic self” was part of my horoscope from Rob Brezsny this morning and it was one of those aha things that I just love.

I’ve been having a little bit of trouble with a family situation lately.  We haven’t heard from our oldest son in over a year and it is bothersome.  Luckily with the internet I can keep faint tabs on him, but still.  This is the kind of situation that most parents dread and are confounded by.  I am no different.

Fortunately, I found a recent blog post he wrote–the sign of life I’ve been wanting.  The subject matter is one I am quite uncomfortable with personally.  However, it is not a surprising subject.  It is consistent with the kind of person he has always been.  Which makes his absence from our lives quite understandable.  He is being considerate of our feelings as well as being true to himself.

I was pleased to see that he is a fantastic writer.  And a person with integrity.  His interests are not interests I can share, but I can respect them.

I feel very proud of him.  But it is still strange and uncomfortable for me that I cannot just call him and say, awesome blog, tell me more.  I have to give him the kind of space that most parents would be uncomfortable with.  And I miss him.

It’s hard to know what to do with a relationship of this nature.

But the thing we have in common, and that all people have in common, is the desire and need to be our authentic selves.  And for many of us that takes a great deal of time.  Some people never accomplish authenticity.

I had to learn to get out of my own way to even begin ripening into my true and authentic self.  I think my son had to learn the same thing and over a year ago he made his move.

So here is to all of us finding our true, authentic selves and the peace that it can bring.

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Filed under blogging, boundaries, emotional health, family, getting along, growth, healing, honesty, human nature, love, self-care, self-respect, Uncategorized, wellness

Christmas Liberation

Christmas is crazy isn’t it?  I don’t know why more people don’t just cry uncle and start doing what they want for the holiday instead of what they think they have to do.  Maybe they just haven’t hit that brick wall yet.  I hit the wall years ago thanks to the Terrible Job.  And now I am slowly building a celebration that makes sense and has a quieter kind of joy to it.

There was a bit of a glitch to deal with last week, though.  My aunt in Texas sent me a second Christmas card which kind of startled me.

Then I opened it and got really pissed off.

Inside was a $25 gift certificate for IHOP.  The Christmas card contained her instructions for what I was to do with the certificate.  She wanted me to enjoy lunch with my mother on her.  She hoped my mother would learn someday that people are more important than things.  As “your wise aunt” has already discovered.

Knowing what I know about the terrible rift in their relationship, I found this to be incredibly condescending.  And I was very resentful that she elected to put me in the middle of it as her peacemaker.  Did she really think I would team up with her against my own mother?

Old me would not have seen this boundary violation for what it is.  Old me would have obediently followed her instructions and then gotten hugely whomped on by my mother who would have been more than happy to vent all the toxins right back on me.  Old me would have been buried in the unhealthiness of both sisters and a rift that had absolutely nothing to do with me.

Phew.  Old me is gone.  But new me did not know how to make this into a fun or satisfying mission.  Life is just messy I guess.

I had to think for a couple days about what to say in my note when I sent the card back.  I came up with a benign yet truthful explanation for why I was returning the gift card.  Personally I thought my note was a work of art.

But my aunt was pissed.  She emailed her response to my note.  It contained an interesting mix of charm and aggression–what we call “stroke-slap” at our house.  Stroke-slap is a way of putting someone in their place without totally alienating them.  Sort of  like the Stockholm Syndrome without having to physically hold someone hostage.

Needless to say, the email did not win me over to her “side”.  I am not without a certain amount of understanding of why she would be angry with her sister (who has been my very own mother all these years).  I can understand both sides and I can understand how it all came to be as the inevitable result of being raised by my grandmother who had untreated bi-polar depression.

We ALL need healing.  We ALL need to build a self from the ground up since that process got interrupted very early in life.  And we pretty much each will have to do this individually.

Or maybe parallel-ly would work better.  That should be a word because it is definitely a thing that I am trying to do.  It’s my way of being in relationship with someone who does not understand boundaries WHILE I am building the necessary boundaries.  And hoping that some bit of it will sink in so that the other person can begin to see that boundaries are a thing and that they are good.

Boundaries have the potential to liberate a soul.  And that is what we all want even if we don’t realize it.

My response to the somewhat astonishing email was short and to the point.

And she responded AGAIN with the stroke-slap business.

I decided to let her have the last word which was a smiley emoticon.

If nothing else, I can now see when I am in over my head with people.

Yes, this did bring me down while it was happening.  Luckily I have such low expectations of Christmas that feeling down wasn’t exactly a tragedy for me.  I let it flow and did some comforting self-talk and Voila!  The down feeling gradually receded on its own.  This healing thing is really happening!  It’s taking a long time but it’s happening.

This Christmas just might be a turning point in the journey.

 

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Filed under boundaries, dysfunction, family, getting along, honesty, journey, self-care, self-respect, Uncategorized

True Story!

In fifth grade, ecology was a big topic.  So that year, the downtown merchants association held a poster contest.

I was so excited.  My idea was to draw an example of road-making using recycled glass bottles.  It was something I had seen in one of the ecology films they showed us.

It was tricky artwork.  I had to draw a steam roller which was very difficult.  I planned to use colored cellophane for the broken glass in the blacktop.  And of course, there was a human figure sitting on the steam roller running the thing.

The girl drawing next to me admired my work but I was highly critical of it.  It wasn’t coming out as perfect as I wanted and I said I would probably draw something different for the contest.

She asked if she could copy my idea for her poster and I kind of scoffed.  Then she offered to split the prize with me if it won.  I didn’t really think it would win, but I agreed.  We made a deal.

She copied my work down to the very last detail.  It couldn’t have been more identical if she’d used tracing paper.

I went on to draw a very perfect and very ordinary picture of bottles being washed out in a sink.

Amazingly enough, when the prizes were announced, my “partner” had won second prize!  It was $5.00!  So, $2.50 for me!!  Not a huge prize, but woo hoo, it was money!!

When I noticed how proud and happy she was acting, as if the whole thing had been her idea alone, I reminded her that she had said we would split the prize if she won.  My expectation was that she would acknowledge our deal and let me know how I would get my money.

What she actually said was, “I did NOT!  You’re just JEALOUS!”

I wish I could go back in time just to see the expression on my face.  It must have been comical.

I did feel a little stupid as I realized what I had done to myself.  I guess I should have gotten it in writing!!  But I was not jealous and I was the opposite of a liar.  She was the liar.

So here we are in the year 2016.  How has each of us fared since grade five?

I am an unemployed civil servant who had a nervous breakdown and will likely never work again.

She is a nurse with a masters degree who was hired a few years ago to set up a brand new cancer center with all the decision-making powers to go with that job.  She hired a head-hunting agency who found this job for her.

On Facebook she likes to post heart-warming memes to boost morale.  She posts every time she gets a manicure or massage or goes on a cruise or meets someone famous.  She looks very happy and I imagine she is.

Maybe I’d be happy too if I didn’t have to worry about the impact I might be having on others.

We are both married, she for a second time, and have children and grandchildren.

I don’t want the same things she wants or has.  Except maybe for her supreme sense of self.

I can’t be the only person she has treated that way.  I think most people will take advantage of someone who doesn’t know how to take care of themselves.  They might even tell a little white lie to soothe away any tiny bit of guilt they might feel for taking advantage.  It appears she does far more good in this world than harm.

For me the most shocking thing about that story is that a ten-year-old girl was able to come up with such an ugly lie so quickly and naturally:  I did not, you’re just jealous.

At least she got $5.00 and her picture in the paper.  And I got the first of many, many life’s lessons.  And I still don’t know what to make of most of them.

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Filed under boundaries, decisions, dysfunction, friends, history, honesty, human nature, injustice, peer pressure, self-respect, Uncategorized

Out to Lunch

Today I took myself out to lunch at our local Wendy’s.  It has been three and a half years since the last time I ate there.

Wendy’s was the nearest place for lunch when I was still working at the Terrible Job.  Back then, I went there most days for lunch.  The last few weeks before I quit, I’d sit at my table furiously eating my spicy chicken sandwich and fries and looking at Facebook on my phone.  I mean that I was actually furious.  By the time my lunch break happened, I would have already had a lousy day and it would have been about six hours since last eating anything.  As hungry as I was, I never finished my meal either.  It was during the time period that I was restricting my food intake–sort of an act of aggression but directed at myself.  I’d eat about half my food and then angrily throw away the rest of it and drag myself back to work.

Yes, I was quite a mental mess by then.

Since today is Sunday, I knew I would not run into any former customers or former co-workers.  It would be safe for me to eat there.

Growing up I was of the mindset that I had to go where I likely would be treated badly.  I didn’t really have a policy of avoiding troublesome people.  Well, often enough there was no other option.  I was a kid, I had to go to school.  Going to school involved walking on public streets.  I was just a kid.  What else was I going to do?

Some unhappy kids skipped school, did drugs, got into fights.  Those did not seem like good options for me.

As an adult, I kept up that habit of staying in bad situations.  Often I volunteered for such.  Then came the day when I was at the end of my rope and I decided to go home from the Terrible Job.  I promised myself I would no longer do things that were sure to end in trouble or unhappiness for me.  No longer do I tolerate toxic people or situations.  Sure, it limits where I can go at certain times of the day in this small, crappy town.  But this is my little gift to myself.  I no longer participate in my own victimization.

Today it is Sunday.  I can go to Wendy’s if I want.

I ordered my spicy chicken and fries.  I ate until I was full.  I people-watched.  It felt so normal and safe.  It felt like taking back a little bit of my life, but on my terms.  No self-judgment or self-criticism.  Nobody prying into my personal life.  No having to explain anything to anyone.

It’s really hard to basically start life all over again but not moving away to do it.  Old habits and old distractions and old dangers are everywhere.  I am new, or at least I want to be, and I am surrounded by old.  It has been a very good exercise in letting go and learning how to be detached in a healthy way.

I can do this thing.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under anxiety, boundaries, bullies, decisions, depression, emotional health, enemies, getting along, growth, healing, human nature, peer pressure, progress, PTSD, self-care, self-respect, social phobia, Uncategorized, work

Blast From the Past

I was Halloween shopping at Wal-Mart last week when I heard a familiar voice call to me.  I turned around to find an elderly man sitting in one of those motorized scooters and, though the voice was familiar, his appearance threw me for a loop.

It was Doug!  He had been a contractor at my old place of employment and back then, he had been a very large and very intimidating man.  From the very first day I had to deal with him I was very uncomfortable.  He came into our office every single morning and every single evening to do his job.  He was foul-mouthed, bossy, angry and left a mess for us to clean up every single time.  Nobody liked working with him.

However some employees knew him outside of work.  They didn’t have to work with him like I did.  He was a gentleman around them and they clearly liked him and would stop to chat him up when they saw him.  They knew him from church.

That was so odd to me as I found not one thing to like or appreciate about the man.  My only experience of him was as a sexist bully.

Eventually he was fired when he pissed-off someone who mattered more than those of us who had been complaining about him for a couple years.

So in that moment at Wal-Mart, I had to make a decision.  Should I be short with him and try to get away like I would have had to back in the day?  Nope.  He has no power over me any more.  So my decision was to talk with him as if the way he is now was the way he had always been.  It was still an odd conversation.

When he talked about how surprised “we” had been when I quit my job, I wondered how he could possibly know about that since he had been fired and no longer worked there before I left.  When he said I was missed, again I wondered how he could possibly have known that.  He was speaking about my quitting the same way people who really had liked me have spoken to me about it.  The truest and most tactful thing I could say in that moment was that I missed a couple people there but not too many of them.

It was an odd encounter but it made me realize some things.  For one thing, I guess that he has both of those people inside of him–the miserable, selfish, and aggressive person I was stuck working with and the polite, friendly, interested church-goer who is capable of making a positive impression on someone when it suits his purposes.  I wouldn’t have thought something like that was possible!

For another thing, I don’t have to be affected by either of those versions of Doug.  I don’t have to waste valuable energy trying to figure this person out.  I don’t have to like him.  I don’t have to approve or disapprove him.  He’s got his place in this world and I have mine.  I don’t have to be affected because I have boundaries now that I didn’t have back then.  Boundaries are so very important!!!

The last thing I realized is that I have been very powerless throughout most of my life.  Many people have taken advantage of me in order to benefit their own situation or at least make their lives easier.  Those people tend to become my enemies.  Casting people in the role of enemy has often been my only recourse–a boundary of sorts.

As I heal and gain power within myself, I am also gaining skills and that may help me to repel the people and behaviors that would take advantage of me.  Only time will tell but right now it’s looking pretty good.

 

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Graceful Exit

I have belly dance tonight and I don’t want to go.  It has not been fun for me in quite some time.

As usually happens in my life, either I have outgrown them or they have outgrown me.  Usually when that happens, there is a sudden break.  Something ugly happens or I have to just quit and people end up being shocked and hurt.  Bridges get burned.

The graceful exit is something I have had to teach myself.  It’s hard being a bridge burner in a small town!!!  But I didn’t really think I would have to do it with the belly dancing.  Belly dancing,  and this troupe, has meant a lot to me and I just didn’t foresee things evolving the way they have.

There are factions now.  Roughly split between younger and older.  One group wants big venues and recognition.  One group likes the learning and fellowship and exercise.  One group seems able to successfully do both with little stress.  Our teacher wants to be the good guy and try to please all and offend none.  But she really, really is drawn to the big venue and recognition group.  And everybody brings to it personal issues that are as individual as can be.

Then there is me.  I really thought that if I explained myself (and what I need because of my anxiety and what I will try to do to support the group) that it would work.  I imagined that they in turn would help me find my way.

That did not happen.

I am disappointed.  While I am certainly not quitting, I am now on something of a break while I wait for the opportunity that will welcome me within my limitations and help me to thrive in some way.

Tonight I’m going to rehearsal as moral support for my friend who has been left in charge while the teacher is overseas.  Also, I have a finished sewing project to bring in for another dancer.  So, there is that.

One big reason that I have declined to participate in an upcoming big performance, in a very large venue, is that I remembered the incredible stress from last year when much of the troupe made little effort to come to rehearsals, etc.  I vividly remember having to perform a dance that was not polished and it actually flopped.  It was a pretty big venue where we wanted to do really well.  We older ones had begged and begged ahead of time, and warned and warned, but nobody listened.  Everybody acted like it was no big deal, like we were being unreasonable.

When we started up again in the fall, I made several suggestions to fix a couple of the big problems and got dismissed each time.  I shut-up about it.

So, imagine my surprise this year when someone else made the same suggestions and they were embraced!   Of course, now there is much less time to work with.  Those very same dancers are now soooo nervous and verrrry eager to have extra rehearsals.

Oh, at first they said the same old things–it’ll be fine, it’ll all come together, it always does…. Then suddenly they got high standards.  There’s only a few weeks until the gig!!!  And they are starting to be critical of the weaker dancers to the point they don’t want to include them.  Hmmm.  We have always been inclusive before and supportive.  But now that they are calling all the shots, things have changed.

It’s insulting and disappointing.  But I am taking it as a valuable learning experience.  I don’t think I have burned any bridges, though I feel certain that I am being misunderstood.

The graceful exit is not the simple solution I thought it would be.  There is still a lot on my mind and a lot of work to do to salvage something out of this.  I guess I’ll just have to wait and see how it turns out.

 

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