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Where I Stop and You Begin

I've got boundaries on the brain. For many years, actually - probably since I was in grad let's say for the past 11 years, I've thought on and off about boundaries. Mostly because the concept of acknowledging the space between us is hard for me to grasp. In my family we were one big blob of togetherness. There was little if any separation between parents and children. We had a shortage of space between us. We lived in our own little commune out in the country on a dirt road (on a street with other families unaware that our home housed a commune, mind you). I think my parents designed it that way. Just the four of us sharing a small space, taking on each other's pain and joy, ganging up on each other, and determining our own sense of well-being by absorbing and projecting what was happening around us...

I thought that was how it was supposed to be until one day I was sitting in one of my graduate classes learning about families and the different ways they might function and the instructor said something about a "healthy" family dynamic being one where there was a clear boundary between parents and children. Flexible? Yes. But FIRM nonetheless. Ohhhhh......

We learned about terms like triangulation and about families who were enmeshed. My instructor explained individuation and self-actualization. I sat there thinking, "Shiiiiiiiit." I was a grown woman married and with a child of my own. I lived in a house with just my husband and our child - 50 miles away from my parents. AND, I was totally and completely enmeshed in my family of origin. We had been triangulating for years. I was, much to my surprise, NOT self-actualized. Shit.

So there is where I started my quest to develop and maintain healthy boundaries between myself and other people, places, and things. I've been working on it for 11 years and I feel quite sure I will be working on it until the day I die. There are VOLUMES of books written on boundaries, researchers who study them and professors who lecture about them. There are stones that protect them and sprays that cleanse them. Boundaries are kind-of a big deal.

This week Melody Ross discussed boundaries in her Soul Comfort class. She presented two short videos on the topic. My jaw was hanging open through both videos. I wish every single person on the planet could see these videos and hear her powerful words (read: if you haven't already, please take this class already!). The topic of boundaries is popping up everywhere for me lately and I am seeing this as a sign from the Universe that I need to tune in and pay attention.

It seems to me that when we talk about boundaries, we most often think about them in terms of the lines we draw between ourselves and the things around us. Mostly people, but also places and things. What I hadn't thought much about before is that creating good boundaries between me and what is outside of me is not where my work ends.

I also need to create good boundaries just for me. Sometimes making a boundary is about protecting myself not from others, but from me. Ouch. Drawing a line in the sand might be about deciding that I am done taking crap from myself. Deciding that I will no longer tolerate hurting myself with negative self-talk - being mean to myself, saying things I would never ever dream of saying to someone else. That could be one of the most important decisions I ever make. Maybe deciding that guilt is just not allowed to cross through space and time and into my bubble anymore would be a very healthy boundary to build...

It could be that maybe, just maybe, the key to creating good boundaries in relationships lies in looking IN, not out. Perhaps I need to start with me. Where on God's green earth do I get off telling myself that I will not take on your crap, but it's okay to stew in mine? I think that is crazymaking!

If I'm on to something here, and I think I am, creating boundaries is a lot about being really honest with myself about the ways I am holding myself back. It might also be about the ways I need to start taking responsibility for ME rather than blaming other people for the circumstances in my life (like a lack of boundaries, for example...). Admittedly, I have done a lot of work in this area and for the most part I believe that people (parents, partners, teachers, coaches - people we might blame for things) do the best they can with what they are given. Whatever damage has been done to me is my damage now and I get to choose what to do with it. I gave up blaming others for the crap in my life when my dad died three and a half years ago and I realized it just wouldn't get me anywhere. Mostly because the person I liked to blame for my crap was no longer around. That was hard.

I am way oversimplifying this and I am being kind, I think, in telling this story as if I am the only person I know who faces this challenge. The truth is, we all do this. We all, at one point or another, look outside of ourselves for the source of our turmoil and we tend to want to blame that source for our current state when really we will move beyond the turmoil much more quickly, if we start by looking within. I still do it too sometimes and that is why I think this boundary stuff is a lifelong job. This line of thought always leads me to one of my husband's favorite movie scenes. It's from Bruce Almighty and God asks Bruce, "You want to see a miracle, Son?" Bruce nods and God says, "be the miracle." (quick clip from Bruce Almighty) It is a moving scene and it chokes me up every single time I see it.

In a lot of ways I think creating boundaries makes way for miracles. It opens up space for a whole new way of living life. A freer and more spacious way of moving about the planet. Knowing when to say when is important. We even teach our kids to say when. "Say when!" we say and they tell us when to stop filling their cup. If we don't stop, the cup will spill over and not in a good my cup runneth over kind of way. I think that if I can start making some clear boundaries - a line between my heart and soul and my crazy monkey mind, I might just make way for myself to be the miracle.

You be the miracle too. Leave all that crazy talk behind. Let's do this together. When we're finished we'll work on staying out of each other's bubbles. That would be the next best thing to do.