On Boundaries, In Love

I first heard about boundaries about a year ago, when I was still seeing a career counselor. We hadn’t really been talking about my career for a while. But it would still be a few weeks before I would stop seeing her and start seeing a therapist whose specialty was more fitting.

Boundaries came up in the context of my family and food.

I had just stopped dieting not long before that conversation, and as I told my counselor some things that worried me about seeing my family in this new context, she explained to me that I need to set clear boundaries with my family. I need to tell them what I’m ok with their commenting on, and what is off limits for them.

I was astounded.

You see, I was brought up in a family with very few boundaries. I believed that if you love someone, there shouldn’t be any boundaries. I believed that wholeheartedly.

If you’re someone with healthy boundaries, you’re probably shaking your head right now.

If you are someone like I was, you’re either rejecting this notion all together or a light bulb just went off in  your head.

I’ve been spending a lot of this year building boundaries with people. With my family, with my friends, with my therapist, and my coworkers. Sometimes I am more successful than others. But it’s been immensely freeing to be able to say no to people. That’s really all a boundary is at the end of the day. It’s a no. It’s a line that says I need you to respect my space on this topic.

A year ago I was convinced that needing boundaries meant I didn’t love someone fully. Now I’m realizing that boundaries just mean I love myself.

If you struggle with boundaries, there is a lot of literature out there on the subject. I read Boundaries by Anne Katherine and would recommend it. I also suggest you seek a therapist.




Fearless Friday: Living on Timelines

Part of what made my birthday really difficult last year was my subconscious was very much aware I was hitting a milestone. Both my sisters were married by the time they turned 26. And there I was on my 26th birthday and married I was not.

At the time I was happily partnered, but unfortunately when you’re unaware of a belief/story that you’ve formed (that you should be married by 26), it’s hard to stay mindful and present. That was not a skill I had cultivated at that time.

When I became aware of the pressure I had been putting on myself, I worked on it. I processed it. I let it go.

But I think a lot of us have a tendency to live on timelines.

I remember in high school when my friends outlined what they hoped their lives would look like by 30. I have friends who have decided how many kids they want to have before they turn 30. I have coworkers who have decided that they want to reach a certain level of management before they turn 31.

30 seems to be a magic number.

And it scares me.

It scares me that instead of getting rid of my 26 cut off date for a normal wedding, I just pushed it back. My brother got married when he was 33. What’ll happen on my 33rd birthday if I am still unmarried?

I don’t really have answers to this.

I realize on my 26th birthday I was not mindful, and now that is something I’m cultivating. That makes me think 33 won’t be a big deal.

More importantly, I realize I’m happy not knowing my future. Not in the I feel trapped when I do kind of way. I generally feel very safe when I think things are chugging along just fine and I’ll be in the same place in a year that I am now (not that I’m one for staying in the same place for very long).

I’m happy not knowing my future because that sense of safety was false. Nobody knows their future. But I’m just now starting to realize that. I’m just now starting to look at that with love and faith instead of fear and nausea-level anxiety. It took losing a future I thought was locked down to realize just how scared I was, just how in control I felt I needed to be.

This year I challenged myself to surrender. To surrender that need to control everything and everyone. To surrender a need to know exactly where I’ll be in a year, or five, or ten. I  was scared surrendering would leave me powerless. That in surrender I will wither away doing nothing. But surrendering has freed me. It’s allowed me to try things without getting attached to a certain outcome – or at least to try.

I hope I’m done with timelines. But knowing myself, knowing human nature, knowing recovery from anything is never linear, I have a feeling timelines will come back into my life. Maybe when I turn 30, or 33, or 40. I hope by then I will have this mindfulness and surrender stuff down. I hope by then I can recognize it more quickly than I did last year. I hope but I’m not sure. I’m just doing my best for now.


A Break for My Birthday

This is typically the day I post “Beautiful Words” quotes, mainly from books, but sometimes from songs, podcasts, or anything that I happen to consume. Recently, this is the day I post quotes from Roxane Gay’s Hunger. And there is one more of those coming next week, so hopefully you’re not sick of them yet.

Today, however, is my birthday.

Last year my birthday was a mess.

For whatever reason, I was emotionally raw. I was convinced no one would remember my birthday. I was worried that not that many people would post happy birthday on my Facebook wall.

Under the advice of someone misguided who loves me very much I got rid of my Facebook the day before my birthday last year.

Of my four closest friends, only one wished me a happy birthday.

My birthday lunch with my family involved a lot of drama that had nothing to do with me.

To summarize it, until I went out to dinner with my then partner, I felt that that day was not about me at all. And dinner and his treatment of me on my birthday truly made up for all of that.

This year we are not together. This year I was convinced my birthday without him there to save it would be absolutely terrible. Thanks to my own work on myself, I realized getting rid of Facebook was not the answer.

Thanks to a great therapist, I faced something I was too sad to admit, that I was dreading my birthday. Thanks to her well-guided advice, I sat down, and figured out exactly what it was that I want on my birthday. And I’m making that happen.

I’m excited for my birthday today. I’m excited to be celebrating this day with new friends that I’ve welcomed into my life this past year.

It’s true that a lot of things aren’t where I imagined they would be when I turned 27, and it’s true that sometimes I’m upset about that. But it’s also true that I have chosen to focus on the good. I have chosen to stay hopeful. I have chosen to try (to the best of my ability) to approach life with more love and less fear.

Happy Birthday to me!