Honoring Boundaries You Didn't Create
The text message thread doesn’t carry the same tone of voice. Your phone calls don’t hold the same importance. Your presence is no longer requested… and this time around, you didn’t set the boundary. Honor it. The new year has come and gone, and so has the relationship – or… lack thereof. Ushering in a new year brings many changes to our lives. While new friends are coming in, there’s a chance that some old friends are waving goodbye. With so many of us establishing clearer, more intentional boundaries, this letter is for the folks who are on the other side of the fence. We often tweet, post, and share conversations on “self-healing” and “creating boundaries” for the sake of mental and emotional well-being, but can we live it? When it is not our turn; when we’re not the person who needs to sit in solitude, when we’re not the one who gets to post about “making it through the storm”, where does that leave us? Some turn to anger, blaming the other person for their faults or for not speaking up about grievances sooner. Others, turn to self-pity, blaming themselves for not showing up or not realizing issues sooner. Most of us are tasked with the balancing act of sitting inside both perspectives simultaneously. Breathe. This isn’t a moment to obsess. This is a moment to assess. It is easy to find yourself re-reading texts, looking at everything they post, and talking to mutual friends about the disconnection. What’s not easy is simply accepting the fact that it happened. The separation, distance, and/or disconnection have been actualized. I know exactly what you’re thinking about now. It’s not that memories no longer matter, and it’s not that those moments weren’t “enough”. It’s that people evolve and need different things in order to stay in motion. It won’t always be you. So where do we go from here? Let’s self-assess. There comes a time in everyone’s life when we must self-examine. In The Deeply Formed Life, Rich Villodas shares an idea on self-examination where he says, “… the goal of self-examination is not navel-gazing. The goal of self-examination is freedom – freedom from destructive thought patterns, inner messages, and the ways we wrongly perceive things” (Villodas 101). A key component of emotional intelligence is to recognize the social cues when another person is no longer satisfied with the circumstance at hand. Emotional maturity will give you the tools to respond rather than react. The use of self-examination is a self-assigned and self-administered surgery. We use self-examination to enter into our hearts, minds, and spirits to diagnose the challenges we face, and then begin the reconstructive work to mend the wounds. This isn’t to perpetuate or instill a “victim” mentality, rather, quite the opposite. The use of self-examination can help us recognize when we may have been the perpetrator. In turn, we pinpoint which thorn of our own has been causing our hurt, and/or, our hurtful actions toward others. Conversely, in reflection, you may find that there was no ill manner done on your end, and in fact, it was their false perception all along. Regardless, acknowledge the distance, and allow them the time to come to their own conclusion. Remember to breathe. There isn’t a right or wrong here. There simply is. In the meantime, focus on your “isness”. The ideas of “closure” and “reconnection” are compelling and attractive. However, the reality is, they aren’t guaranteed or promised. The real resolution comes from the work you decide to do in response. Not necessarily in response to their distance or disconnection, but more so, in response to what occurs inside of you emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and even physically. The most important step is to honor the boundaries set. It’s to acknowledge the fence and sit in patience – without trying to climb over it or yell to get their attention; it’s to understand the chance that the fence may well be there indefinitely; it’s to find the ability to move forward with the facts of the known and the mysteries of the unknown. We do this by taking our time with ourselves, rather than making ourselves busy. We do this by living with and feeling our emotions, rather than living without them and feeding into pride or excessive solitude. We do this by choosing to proactively learn about ourselves and others daily, rather than reactively in order to maintain the ego. Remember, it was probably hard for that person to build the boundary. This isn’t an excuse to treat them any kind of way, or as if they are less of a person. This is, however, an excuse to treat yourself better, and be mindful of treating others better, too.