So, first, this isn’t my sexy bathtub picture. This is a representation of the beauty of what setting boundaries has done for me. I’ll get to the explanation of it in a bit.
I was given a book by this counselor I’m seeing at this Christian Church called “Boundaries” by Cloud and Townsend. The thing I have been discussing with her the most is how setting boundaries has had terrible ramifications for me and feel wrong for doing it.
I happened to mention something along the lines today of “truly realizing and becoming a strong woman has become the worst thing ever”. I said it slightly different and meant it as an irony as I’m definitely happy I’ve come to know my strength, but it’s REALLY hard. She stopped me and told me that the power of language is powerful and that there is not one strong woman in history that ever had it easy. She’s absolutely right. Standing up for what is just, right, doing the loving thing for self and others, and demanding to be treated kindly isn’t simple.
So she gave me this “boundaries” book. I was excited to read it along with about 20 other books I have stacked up around my house. Due to my neurological diseases, autoimmune diseases, chronic pain, and who knows whatever else, it’s really hard for me to hold a book laying down, which is where I find myself often.
It might sound strange unless you experience it, but a book feels too heavy and awkward. It makes my hands go numb. The kindle app on my phone will make my hands go numb even quicker. My iPad is even more awkward for laying down. My only reading time is when I’m sitting up in my living room, which I often reserve for friend time or business or pleasure type phone calls, or creative endeavors. The other problem with reading on a kindle app on your phone is that even with turning it to a night mode, you still end up with that screen light disruption from sleep.
I basically gave up on the idea of reading as it wasn’t feasible for me. I know many of my chronically ill friends enjoy audio books, but I find them hard to follow, the noise too stimulating, or I’m asleep within minutes. I was the kid that would pretend to go to sleep and pull out the flashlight to read for hours under the covers at night. Books were an escape from a traumatic childhood that I know many others that used as a coping mechanism.
Something I learned from the “boundaries” book is that boundaries are permeable. A direct quote from the book in regards to people who experienced trauma as children is that, “they reverse the function of boundaries and keep the bad in and the good out.” I cannot even begin to tell you how many people I know who surround themselves with people who are bad for them. Raising my hand super high for being that person who still finds myself doing it occasionally!!
I was afraid to set boundaries as I didn’t want to end up alone. Well I set boundaries and was totally alone for a long time. It was painful. In that time of being pretty alone, I contemplated a lot, including deciding I must be a terrible person. (Umm. Nope!) I even went back to some of those people and groveled for their forgiveness with apology after apology. They wouldn’t accept it as they didn’t have impermeable boundaries, they had walls. I’m SO glad they didn’t accept me back into their lives now as I would just be back in utter misery.
The hardest boundary I had to set was with my son’s father. There were some troubling things I wanted to discuss with a neutral party. I never claimed perfection, but I was tired of the blame going back and forth where I never got a voice. I knew I had an extremely special relationship with my son. We had some difficult times on my harder days, but we did some amazing things like two incredible camping trips this past summer with a disabled mom that took him all by myself and the exclamation of joy when he caught a fish was an incredible moment I will always remember. I hope he does too.
In saying we needed a neutral party, I said I would take him every few weekends until we could come up with a plan and he could call whenever he wanted. I was blocked from everything the next day. That was exactly 3 months ago. My medical and educational rights were removed. Lies have been told about why I “disappeared”, but I had to set a boundary. I am strong. I grieve my son constantly, but I will not be broken by it. When we reunite, I want him to see the same strong woman he saw the last time we spoke via FaceTime 3 months ago.
Despite the ugliness of the ramifications of that boundary. It had to be set. I won’t go into the history of why, but I will say I have truly embraced the concept of “love thy neighbor as yourself”. I love myself. I send love to my son’s father so he has peace in his heart and is living with love and contentment as that’s what my son needs, and I always hope he will see my importance to my son and in his life.
So back to my “sexy” bathtub picture. I am reading on my new kindle. It weights about 6 ounces. I can hold it with one hand. It’s waterproof!, meaning I’m more apt to take my Epsom salt/baking soda/ aromatherapy baths to help my chronic pain as I can read forever as I luckily have an awesome water heater in my old house.
This kindle was on a Black Friday special gifted from a very dear friend as part of a Christmas present that might possibly be better than the “Barbie dream house” I got when I was 6. I got back the gift of being able to read that I have terribly missed without figuring out.
Boundaries have taught me to be surrounded by the good, to be permeable, and that it is absolutely ok to cut people out, and to say no even to my new wonderful friends if I just can’t. If anyone is interested in having a conversation about why, I will. I have also learned there are people with healthy boundaries and people with unhealthy boundaries.
People have cut me out. As I look at them, they are still stuck in being in that need to be surrounded by that wall of bad. They would never give me any explanation. You know you are there when you refuse to get help, stay with people who make you feel bad out of fear of being alone, engage in self damaging behaviors and so it goes. This isn’t my opinion, I read it straight out of the book and it resonated, as I’ve been there. I stayed there a REALLY long time. I have no judgment.
If you are locked in a boundary wall of bad, learning to set boundaries, feeling guilty for setting boundaries, or need a reminder of how great boundaries are for all of us, I highly recommend reading it. (I’m only on chapter 3, so my 5 star rating may change, I’ll get back to you just in case 😊). It is written from a Christian perspective, but I find it loving, not the hate filled rhetoric I grew up with and unfortunately gets the most attention in the media.
Go set some boundaries. Let them make you feel terrible for awhile. Then feel them come full circle to grieve what you lost and rejoice in what you are gaining–SELF!!