On boundaries & love & counting myself in & the Say That In A Kind Voice Now Please Mummy days:
I have been reflecting today on what 'boundaries' mean to me at this stage in my life.
And I realise that I have only really made friends with this term in recent years.
When I first became a mum, I really thought boundaries meant rules and I resisted embracing or even reading about them. I wanted to be super flexible, accommodating, sensitive and generous and I thought I could just give and give without filling myself up. I found that if I just kept bending, giving, allowing, everything was alright. Except for the - ahem - minor detail that I had left myself out of the equation. And that I had totally missed the point about boundaries: I thought they were about creating fences around my children, I did not realise that theirs would take care of themselves once I quietly established my own.
And then I became a mum all over again when my son was born a few years later. All of a sudden, any pockets of reserves that I had relied on in those early days were gone. I found myself snapping, barking and doing all the things I didn't want to do. I found sudden wells of frustration and resentment and, honestly, I was shocked. I have discovered things about myself over the last few years that I just didn't think were in me previously.
And from my current perspective, I can see that it is all very well having the wisdom, the awareness, the intention to love my children and those around me in a steady, integrated way AND that it is a whole other thing actually being able to do it.
Here is a by-no-means-exhaustive list of a few of the things I have figured out about this modern-day challenge I think so many of us face:
1. Half the time, we have no idea how tightly we are stretching ourselves. We are meant to be so much to so many and cope with such a high number of balls in the air and we have adjusted to this so deeply that we don't even know how much of our energy is leaking out, leaving us with so little. Often, we only discover that this is happening when we explode (or implode) because we simply have nothing left with which to navigate the waters we find ourselves in.
2. Becoming aware of our boundaries means honouring our own needs and wants and taking the necessary space for ourselves. And it is absolutely OK to do this - we are fully entitled and deserving of this.
3. We must learn to say No with grace and sincerity if we want our boundaries to stay functioning. Our Sacred Yeses can only be born if our Sacred (sometimes hard-to-deliver) Nos pave the way for their arrival.
4. We must have clear boundaries inside ourselves if we want to be a loving presence to those we adore. Giving, giving, and yessing our way through life can only lead to burnout, exhaustion and sudden pulling away and explosions of anger.
5. All of this comes coupled with the fact that we have higher expectations of ourselves than ever before. We must be the most fair, kind mother. We must raise sensitive, spiritual and emotionally balanced children. No longer is this just a case of keep them alive but keep them spiritually, emotionally alive. This is a big deal and a huge pressure. And it brings great oceans of guilt when we lie down at night and feel we are failing miserably in our mission.
6. We do not suddenly figure this all out. We do not wake up one morning and say 'Oh lordy, what a wonder: I now know how to comport myself in all situations, I can say No when I mean it and Yes when I mean it and from now on every day will look like that scene in Sleeping Beauty where the bluebirds whistle in unison and land on my finger when I open the shutters and my teeth kind of sparkle in the sunlight.' Instead, we learn that this is a journey, a learning experience, a gradual, conversation-by-conversation, moment-by-moment unfolding where we become bit-by-bit clearer as we go. Some days we are strong, other days we find it tough. All days are to be honoured and treated with gentleness and care.
7. We need each other. We need to lean on our friends and our family and we need to build community and we need to fill ourselves up with the love we feel for each other. Because when we feel loved, we can learn these things and we can get clear and we can grow. And often love is experienced by someone washing up the cups in your sink or letting you have a good cry or having a snort-your-drink-out-of-your-nose kind of a laugh together at something you really shouldn't be finding at all funny but suddenly the hilarity grabs you in the pit of your stomach and you have no choice but to ride the wave. We must create space for this kind of connection and treasure it like nothing else.
8. We need to learn to be kind to ourselves as this journey unfolds. We must forgive ourselves at the end of the day when we have been less than our best. When our children have said things like 'Say that in a kind voice now please mummy.' (My daughter actually says this to me.) And when we have stomped our feet with resentment and irritation as if *we* were the three-year-old.
9. When we ask ourselves what we need to honour in ourselves and, very simply, WHAT WE NEED, this is not a selfish act. In fact, it is the opposite. If we want to have a trace of selfLESSness left in us, we need to take care of ourselves first. Anyone who has let a resentment build slowly and then experienced the volcano eruption that follows a while later knows this to be true.
10. There is boundless help we can call on with all of this in the form of a constant presence of love and unconditional support. A prayer, even with swear words included and through gritted teeth, and even the tiniest inch of surrender will put you back in the flow of opening to a clearer, more true version of you - to a platform of love that feels more like how you want to be in the world and with the people you are so committed to.
I am learning that whenever I feel like this might just be me, it is usually just the opposite. So I am sharing this in all its rawness and unfinished-ness in case anyone else is on this journey too. It is a slippery one to pin down - it has so many faces, expressions and flavours for all of us. It is hard to put into words and yet when the volcano blows, it brings this all into sharp relief and we know we need to attend once again to the ground that holds us, to the boundaries that mark out what we can and cannot do, the ways in which we can and cannot meet the needs of those around us. And how we must must count ourselves fully into the equation if we want any balance at all.
And if it's feeling bleak in your landscape right now in this area, take comfort in the fact that you are never, not even for one moment, alone in your journeying. We are in this together, all of us. Let's join each other in the drink-out-of-nose-snorting inappropriate laughter as well as the volcanic eruptions. All of it, all of it, makes up the fullness of the ocean of everythingness and it's all OK.