this month's collab for Journeys:
What are your boundaries? How do you defend your boundaries? What does it feel like when your boundaries are invaded, or crossed without your permission? What strategies do you have to keep your boundaries clear and defined?
Red Rover, Red Rover
boundaries are amazingly fluid things. you wouldn't think that as a kid, perhaps. boundaries then are things set for you by other people, by and large. adults are the keepers of your boundaries. or, more accurately, the enforcers. there are words you can't say, things you can't touch, times you have to keep, vegetables to eat. there are chores to do, thank yous to say, homework to do. you have to share your toys with your siblings, and you have to remember to put your napkin in your lap, otherwise the adults will get upset. boundaries, as a child, are about pleasing the adults.
then you grow up a little, and discover that boundaries are for challenging. so what if you miss your curfew by half an hour? you still wore your seatbelt, and called to say you'd be late. in a rational world, you negotiated an extension. but it never seems like the adults are about negotiation. the fact that you stayed late at rehearsal because that last scrim had to be painted and hung - didn't matter. you were still late. the chore was assigned to you. coercing your brother into taking out the trash? one would think that the fact it was taken out was good enough. nope. and staying up late to finish that last chapter of Tolkein? you should get brownie points for wanting to read. and you do get the brownie point, as well as the demerit.
and then you move out. you go to college, or find a job and an apartment, and you're out. you're on your own. you don't have to pick up the dirty socks on the floor or do the dishes. no more boundaries, right? wrong. they're still there. but now, you have your own as well. and things start to shift.
where it was a one sided laying down of the law, it becomes a delicate dance of becoming peers. it feels odd. it feels odd to you, and to them. the first time you say 'well, no, that's not how we do it here' - seismic tremors go off in your emotional landscape. those are words that have never left your mouth. you've only heard them. and in some surreal way, you suddenly hear your parents speaking though your mouth. it's as if Gepetto is pulling the puppet strings, high over your head. you watch from a distance, and marvel (or wince) that you sound just like them.
once the shock wears off, you wiggle around a little and stretch your wings. you discover that it's alright to decide what you need, and what you can't tolerate, and tell others how to play. you go a little overboard, trying out this new skill. someone crosses your new boundary, and you come back strong. you step on toes. and you back up, reevaluate, make apologies, consider what's important, and try again.
as you keep discovering how to be an adult, how to be your own person, there are more changes. in the beginning, you try to be very clear. but as time goes on, it becomes less important to be black or white. grey becomes part of your spectrum. compromise is acceptable. and the place that comes from? knowing where you are. you need a little time where the world is black and white, where everything is either right and wrong, before you can step back and acknowledge everyone else. gradually, you discover that allowing others in doesn't cost everything. you find a way to share your space, and it becomes all the richer for having others there. they teach you, open your eyes, touch your heart, and you gain. they gain. you build something new, and it's scary, but it's so worthwhile for being able to share your life with them.