My compliant child self rammed my oncoming no down my throat rendering me speechless. Feigning some feeble excuse, I got off the phone without answering and immediately tended to the newfound perimenopausal heart palpitations that were making it imperative I deal with this once and for all. It seemed to me that in our family belonging meant- boundaries without borders. No wonder that to this day, I couldn’t or better yet wouldn’t get too close to people.
For those of us brought up in homes where any type of ism was taking place, scrambling to pay the rent, infidelities, substance abuse or mental illness know the madness it takes to normalize the abnormal. Sons and daughters become surrogate spouses, mothers and fathers and when the one suffering from an ism returns from the underworld either gender can become the newly appointed counselor at any given moment day or night. To survive in our family where every ism mentioned above loomed, we forfeited individuation and became a sum of missing parts. Individuation meant death to the whole and as children what were we going to do? That Helter Skelter performance of a lifetime came flooding back. Surrendering my keys would be a one-way ticket back to madness -I simply couldn’t.
It is without a doubt, those who trample through your boundaries in the first place can sniff out the vulnerable in a heartbeat-they just know. They salivate while watching you struggle to mark your territory calculating with precision the moment your guard drops from exhaustion- and it will. Once they crash through your make shift walls, suck you dry knowing your weakness for loyalty, they get drunk on your kindness and amuse themselves with your talent for adaptability.
I like to call them boundary bullies. It is not closeness, intimacy or relationship that they seek but blatant soul theft. The boundary bullies made me notorious for not answering the door or phone, giving out the wrong number, not returning calls in fear that I would, have to stop what I was doing adjust to someone else’s needs, endure a visitor until they were ready to leave, do something I really didn’t want to do, accept a date then have to get married, take a job I really didn’t want - all or nothing.
I devised a safe haven or so I thought- a safe haven of increasing loneliness and isolation. It was clear, I was still held hostage over the impending wants of others. I was guilty of shutting out any real chance for opportunity growth or intimacy. How could I ever know what was out there in my shut in? Could I keep the bullies out and let life in at the same time? So, I answer the phone, open the door, go on a date with that guy I kind of like, take that job but it all turns out to be something I don’t want- now what?
It was getting painfully clear, before I could utter a word to anyone about what I wanted or didn’t want, I needed to bid farewell to some deeply entrenched beliefs. I needed to drop the guilt I felt towards my own individual rights and know that no one’s life was reliant on my compliancy- I wasn’t that important. I was an adult dealing in an adult world where every one has access to resources other than me-childhood was over.
I needed to face the fear of not being a good girl, and then abandoned. Lonely in my all or nothing mode- I had nothing to lose. Individuation is a skin shedding and sometimes you will outgrow jobs, people, places and loyalty can demand at times moving on.
I needed to release false loyalty to stagnation. The more I took self- care seriously the more I could grant others their individual right to outgrow, define their space and chose friendship over intimacy with me. My skills, talents personality, conversation and looks weren’t for everyone and everyone surely wasn’t for me-it wasn’t personal.
I need not think anymore that I or anyone else would be in the throes of a paralyzing fetal position over, “I changed my mind,” or, “no thanks,” or, “I’m not comfortable with that,” if they were, the problem was much bigger than the newly staked out boundary that any kind of compliancy could ever fix. I needed to restore my confidence and most of all- my self -trust. If I ever wanted to effectively advocate and discern what was right for me they needed to get on board.
All the understanding was useless if I wanted my life to change. I needed to go back out there apply, say and do everything I had come to know. I had to remember that old conditioning wouldn’t exit without a gut wrenching fight to the end. My old compliant self would have to pledge allegiance to a new order despite the labor pains. As for the boundary bullies, they not only needed to be avoided but firmly dealt with. They needed to know that I know and now they know and the buck stops here. I needn’t pussy foot around these types because with what they dish out, they could take right back with a full on roar. If ignorance drove them in the first place, they would adjust otherwise they would leave and thank God almighty.
The day my father called was an opportunity of a lifetime to rewrite the original crime scene of my youth. I longed for a new script. I returned his call, cleared my throat and said “ Ah, umm, no, I’m not comfortable with that,” got off the phone and ran for cover. A split finger peek revealed that all had survived but not without a cost. Every no or negotiation that moved my self trust a notch higher demanded that I give up one more time blaming anyone for my unhappiness and grow up just a little bit more.
Yes, the day had finally come to boot my own ass out of the crowded nest of yesteryear. I simply had outgrown it and the first rule of thumb was to release my loyalty to stagnation- I believe I was on my way.
I am an artist currently residing in Montreal and also work with children. I will be completing my Personal life Coaching certificate progam next April.I am always fascinated by those pivotal life changing emotions that ask us either change or stay the same. I can be reached at leeanneharris.soulvisions.@hotmail.com