217 Days Remaining
It's hard to believe it's 2013, but here we are, ready to start another year. Obviously, it's a logical time to start thinking about changes we want to make in our lives - a new, fresh start for a new year.
Even though January 1st is the time most people make resolutions and try to begin afresh with all the things they've known they need to do, and procrastinated on, any day is a good day to start making better choices. Every day brings with it new opportunities to do something you've never done before - or stop doing something that you've been doing for too long.
For myself, I've been thinking a lot over the past week or so about setting boundaries.
The other day, Fig called me "a pushover". This hit home for me and actually hurt my feelings quite a bit, although I know he was saying it lightly, and did not mean to upset me. The thing is, it's true - especially with my kids - and it wouldn't hurt if it wasn't. I tend to do a lot for my children when they are with me, and I need to stop doing so much for them and just be with them. Otherwise they come to take me for granted and expect me to keep doing everything for them. It's tough, though, especially with teenagers; if I don't make proper snacks for them, they'll eat junk. If I don't take them to the mall (or the grocery store, or youth group, or wherever, even though they have bus passes), they hang around and complain and make our time together so much less enjoyable than it could be. That's half the problem right there: sometimes it's just easier to give in. And it's easier to do things myself (such as clean up after their mess) than to have to spend so much time and energy hounding them about it. (Plus, it will get done much better...I tend to be a bit compulsive when it comes to cleaning...)
As well as with my kids, and - obviously - in relationships with other people, I also need to set boundaries for myself in what I share and don't share. As I talked about earlier, I do tend to share too much, whether it be information, physical touch, or emotions. I feel in a lot of ways, I've been applying boundaries to my blog, but I want to continue analyzing what is appropriate and inappropriate to share. For example, I try not to talk about my children too much, so even the above paragraph has been scrutinized and edited to ensure that I am not bringing up things that would be either embarrassing for, or disrespectful to, them.
As I mentioned, I'm planning on seeking counseling, but as I have not yet found a counselor, I'm reading some self-help books and researching online. At the moment, the challenge I am taking upon myself is learning how to set some appropriate boundaries.
I did some online research and found this great and insightful counselor, Karen Wells, who is based quite nearby, in Prince Rupert ("close" is relative when you're in the online world!). She had a helpful and hard-hitting list as to why it's hard to set boundaries. (You can click the hyperlinked title below to reach her article and full list, but I'm just summing up her points here.)
2. We do not know what we want. The whole idea is that many people don`t set concrete goals, and are not sure what they want in life, but just meander through it with the hope that it will somehow turn out all right. The part that really resonated with me was that often I "have trouble distinguishing between
self-care and selfishness, making it impossible to act upon legitimate
needs". For many years I was told that I was selfish and that I only acted in my own benefit. Although in some ways it was true for quite a time, it isn`t any longer, but I have a lot of difficulty doing anything just for me, because I am still so afraid that it will be seen as selfishness (or that I will fall back into old patterns). I'm learning this distinction, but I really struggle with it.
3. We are afraid of what we might lose. Too many times in the past, I have hung on to a relationship that was not worth saving because "the risk of
losing the relationship [seemed] more overwhelming than the present
situation". I have fought like crazy to keep people in my life who I wasn't even really certain that I wanted in my life! I have got to focus on my Dealbreakers, focus on my list of what I want (in a man, and from my life), and learn to distinguish which things are worth keeping, and which things don't matter as much as I give them credit for.
4. It is hard work. "New boundaries do not change over night." Like I mentioned above, sometimes it feels easier to just give in than to stand up for myself. This needs to change.
5. Afraid that others will get mad at you. My kids will be upset if I don't do everything for them (potentially true, but not tragic). My significant other will be hurt or upset or angry if I don't give in to what he wants rather than what I want (then it is not a real relationship). My friends will feel I am a liar if I don't tell them everything about me (no, they won`t - and trust me, they don`t need or want to know everything). This nice man won't like me if I don't allow him to kiss me or go on another date with him (so what? If you don't want to go on another date with him, why do you care if he doesn't like you?). Sound silly? Maybe, but unfortunately, I have gone way too long operating in this line of thinking.
6. You do not want to make a mistake. There have been times when I have been so paralyzed at the thought of making a mistake that I have made much bigger ones than the one I was trying to avoid. Karen's words are reassuring: "Nobody gets it right all
the time. Yet, if you determine to problem solve and search out wise
advice, the potential for making mistakes is greatly lessened." This is why I have decided to seek counsel, to read, to learn about myself, and to spend time in a monthly prayer group with two of my amazing girlfriends who can work with me to get out of these unhealthy patterns.
I identify so strongly with these points and know that they need to be addressed. The good things is that there is so much literature out there that can give me tips and pointers on how to fortify these boundaries, so that I don't end up where I have been so many times before. I'm aware, I'm stronger every day, and I am determined. You'll see; I will become a fortress. It may take some time, and will definitely have its moments of weakness, but I know where I want to go, and I'm learning - slowly! - how to get there.