Boundaries. The theme is coming up for me in my relationships, work, and even the tarot cards I pull. I didn’t pick this lesson; it seems to be choosing me.
I am grateful for the loving, accountable and patient people in my life. I’ve not always had that, and I fondly remember and honor those who helped me sow the seeds of what I’m harvesting today.
I also feel the painful parts of certain lessons that are still healing. Like most of us, I have lost friends, romantic partners, pets and family members. Favorite sweaters, jobs, hats and treasures.
I hear the word percolate through our collective language; boundaries. Words take on lives of their own, nuanced meanings for each person who utters them. They are our best guess toward things we will ever only partially comprehend.
Human behavior is never as simple as we say. Like mist settled around trees, some things are clear, others hidden and the whole effect is ethereal, even magical.
We put words to work defining and even shaping the world around us. By shaping something, naming it or labeling it, we feel a little bit safer. The idea or illusion of control serves a powerful purpose; to decrease discomfort.
We talk about boundaries, but I don’t think we know what they are. We don’t seem to understand they are not universal. I know what people say boundaries are, but the definition varies from person to person.
I know how to look it up in the dictionary or lose hours of my life into google. I can observe someone setting a boundary, and I can observe someone disregarding one. Still, some aspects of what I observe are clear and some are not.
Since the world of humans outside of ourselves is so interesting, frightening and compelling, it’s easy to lose track of ourselves in the commotion. Infinitely, we ponder. When it’s time to retreat to our inner landscapes, we find them unfamiliar.
We protect ourselves, outward focused and blocked from discovery. Around every corner we hear a whisper that he, she or they “don’t have boundaries.” In some cases it’s true. Boundaries are disregarded by the unknowing and the uncaring. Some wear honest concern that we may become this ill-boundaried warrior.
Most people never stop to unpack their good intentions. They push through a person’s boundary, certain they are doing the greatest good in the moment. Who am I to say they’re wrong? I can only tell you how it feels to clearly communicate something and have it disregarded. It does not help me draw that person closer into my heart or allow myself to go willingly toward theirs.
And it’s something we’re all learning together, for the duration of our lives.
When it comes to clarifying our own boundaries, it starts by coming to know ourselves; our desires, fears, preferences and ambiguities. Our limitations and prejudices. What inspires us and what bores us? What do we need and loathe? What wraps us in a sense of safety, and what disrupts that?
We must crave to know more about ourselves than any other thing, craft, person or idea. When we take the time to know ourselves, we can be ourselves. More clear, more connected.
The second part of staking boundaries, is to concern ourselves less with what judgments, labels, praise and disdain may come our way. This is the next step toward freedom, where we stop moving our fence lines to accommodate the whims and needs of others.
Our clear lines declare something to others. Maintaining a boundary involves staying safely centered within it and allowing people and opportunities to come and stay or go. We are not serving our own needs when we indulge the impulse to chase, castigate or interfere with things that need to leave or that are not right for us.
The who and what of our lives always changes, and there will be hurts and celebrations. There will be ruptures and repairs. All of that is difficult enough to navigate without scrambling to answer the whims of others placed upon us. From inside our self knowing, we can more easily emote, release, rest and recover when the hard work of maintaining our own boundaries hurts ourselves or another.
As I gain quiet ground on self knowing, I become more certain about what I am unwilling to participate in. I am able to define more clearly what concerns, emotional terrain and struggles are mine to contend with and what belongs to others. And while I will always care, not all points of conflict are mine to unravel.
When I microscopically dissect out my own grief, empathy or caring in response to another’s circumstances, it helps me clarify where I have become enmeshed. When I am enmeshed in another’s experience, I become disconnected from my own life. My heart and family fall into dusty disrepair.
For those of us with deep, violet wells of heart, this is a fine line. Believe and encourage yourselves; there is a line. Our work is to discover it.
With every step home to myself, I am better able to understand, respect and respond to boundaries laid out by others. Not all of my whims will be received. Sometimes the capacity is not there, though it may be next time or the time after that.
With ample space between people, there is room to breathe. There is more courage, meaningful conversation, and less pain. Notice I did not say no pain.
Vulnerability. Trust. Healing. Growth. We need to know, trust and enforce our own boundaries in order to invite these.
I recently told a friend that nearing any new relational commitment, feeling myself on the verge of a courageous leap, my system consistently shouts a solid No. Sometimes I push through, awkwardly, but commitment leads to vulnerability. Vulnerability is 2 parts honesty mixed with fear, and sometimes this is the gateway to judgment, rejection and suffering.
Rejection hurts and I don’t trust others to handle my secrets with care. I prefer to clean my own wounds, thank you. That is a boundary I’ve enforced for a very long time.
Why now, this push from the universe: Clarify your boundaries and find those who honor them. I honestly don’t know, but I can see I’m making space for bravery on the other side of it.
I want to trust and grow, but I want to move through this life untethered to anyone else’s expectations. I want to indulge myself, rather than others. I want to reallocate all the external focus into finding what brings me joy. It’s oddly terrifying.