The Beautiful, Generous Boundary

The beautiful thing about boundaries? I get to make them up as I go – and so does everyone else! I write that with my tongue firmly in cheek, because I have recently had a(nother) brush with boundary issues. Boundaries in general, my boundaries, understanding them, making them, and enforcing them – these are all ongoing challenges for me. I am a survivor of childhood abuse, which probably mostly explains why I have boundary confusion – even at my age. I must confess that, until last year, I wasn’t clear on how to even define “boundary.”

But Brene Brown cleared it up nicely:

This is okay. That is not okay.

Okay, even I – the boundary-challenged – could understand that. Simple, right? Well…

Yes – and no. It’s easy for me to decide – after being angry and resentful for a few weeks, months, or years about saying yes when I should have said no – that I will say no next time, as I stomp around and decide I have been the victim. I can grump around and complain and call you selfish for having asked me to do something that I don’t have time for as long as I like. But it doesn’t change the fact that it’s really only me that deserves that anger – if indeed, anyone does. No one twisted my arm or held a gun to my head and made me say yes to your request.

So, deciding what my boundaries are is easy: Anything that I know will (or has, in the past) cause anger and resentment in me is off the list of what’s okay for me. And really, we all learn what those things are over time. And those lines in the proverbial sand may shift around some depending on what else is going on in our lives and/or who is involved. However, like most folks, I suffer when it comes to enforcing those boundaries I so angrily and self-righteously set for myself while I was boiling with resentment. I’m afraid of what you’ll think of me if I say no to you. I want you to like me. I don’t want to disappoint you. If I say no, will I be thought of as selfish, mean, dysfunctional, uptight, etc.?

So, I went back to Brene Brown to listen to what she has to say about boundaries to try and understand what she means when she says,

Generosity can’t exist without boundaries. And we are not comfortable setting boundaries.

What Prompted all This

I said no to someone who thought I would, and should, say yes to her request to help out someone else. And when I kindly (and, I thought, humorously) explained that (my personal) Rule #2 for me says I cannot enable and/or hand-hold a grown-ass adult because I know it will make me angry and resentful later, she was definitely not amused.

I even explained to her that I also know I am mostly a coward. So, I know that once I say yes even though I should have said no, I will most likely not come back after I discover saying yes is making me angry and resentful and say, “Oops, I said yes when I should have said no. I need to take that back.” So that means, I explained, I have to say no right up front.

She was (and still is) most unamused.

I think maybe she was assuming that I was calling her an enabler, because her reply was only, “I was thinking it was helping and not enabling to do this for him.” But after some more thought – when is helping enabling? Is it person-specific? How does it relate to boundaries – yours, mine, his, hers – the proverbial light bulb came on for me. I get to choose my own boundaries. She gets to choose hers. And we all get to choose what we define as “enabling” or not. One person’s “enabling” may be someone else’s “helping.” If she can do this for someone and do it cheerfully and without getting resentful and angry and not see it as enabling, then she is the better person than I. I just know myself well enough to know I can’t do that without becoming angry and resentful.

The Requisite Takeaway

Does that make me a lesser person to know I will succumb to anger and resentment in such instances? Maybe. Probably. But it also may just mean that I am finally beginning to understand this whole boundary thing.

Do you understand them? Are they easy for you? And as always, Godspeed, my best beloveds.

Photo free at Pixabay.


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Grace Cooley

Poetry, ranting, spirituality, art, prose—from a flaming, Earth-loving, tree-hugging, save-the-bees, believes-in-faeries, bike-riding, card-carrying, spiritual-but-not-religious, hippie cowgirl liberal poet photographer—yep, we…

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