Boundaries

One of the things I love about my therapist is that when I go to her with a problem and tell her how upset I am, then judge myself for being upset, she says, “That makes you human.” Because really. What’s the use in judging myself for being upset about something? I’m not a robot.

Another thing I like is that she has never suggested that I’m weak, sick, troubled, or helpless in any way. She confirms that I have a right to feel however I feel. A couple of years ago when I was going through my divorce I was so full of anxiety and extreme confusion about everything. Six months after I left my husband, I left my marketing job, and I had no plan of what to do next. My therapist at the time wanted me to revisit the past in a way that I was uncomfortable with, and I can’t remember the exact words she used, nor do I know her intent, other than to help me, but I felt like she thought I should be doing something other than what I was doing.

The point is, my therapist now looks at my life today, and helps me to focus on what I need to do today to get by. She lets me draw my own conclusions and decide for myself how my life should go, and then she supports that. “What do you want to do?” she asks me. I’ve grown to really like her.

One thing I really can’t stand is the feeling that someone is ignoring me because they’re angry with me. I’m left wondering why they’re upset. Did I do something wrong? Was it that thing that I said or did the last time we talked? Or maybe it was something else I said. Maybe I’m taking it all personally, and that person has something else going on in their life that has nothing to do with me. But if it is that thing I said or did, then maybe I shouldn’t have said or done that. Or maybe they should just get over it. Eff them anyway. I said my piece and if they don’t like it, they can deal with it. I don’t feel like talking to them right now anyway. I have my own shit to deal with.

…but would they please call me back?

Something my new Codependents Anonymous (CoDA) sponsor said that really resonated with me was this:  “That person is not allowed to speak to you like that,” Oh. Not allowed to. She was referring to a certain something that a certain someone had told me, a point of view that they expressed as truth, as my reality, when in fact that particular point of view was just their perception. She was talking about boundaries. A new concept for me.

The common denominator in all of my interactions was that I had a feeling that I didn’t express.

“Where’s your anger in all of this?” she asked me. Well, it’s there. Yes, of course that thing pissed me off. But I didn’t know I had a right to my anger. The moment had passed and I missed my opportunity to express it in the moment, because my initial feeling is usually confusion: Why is this person telling me this right now? Is this true, what they’re saying? The reason is because this person is explaining to me how they see the world, not how the world really is. They’re determining my reality for me, and I’m allowing them to. And that pisses me off. At myself more than anyone—and that has to change.

My mom told me something that stands out to me now. She said that she used to be quiet, that it took her a long time to speak her mind. For her, it happened when she started selling lawnmowers at Sears. She would’ve been in her 30’s then. It must’ve been the late 70’s or early 80’s, and it was more of a man’s world than it is today. She called it the Boys’ Club. She had to learn how to sell lawnmowers, to men. She had to work with men who thought she should stay home and take care of the kids—which I think she’d have gladly done could she have afforded it. She had to wear heels to work—in retail. Standing all day, in heels. Anyway, she learned to do it. She learned to sell lawnmowers, and she was good at it. She learned how to speak her mind.

The thing is, I never knew her to be otherwise. She was 27 when she had me, her youngest. A key part of her personality was that she spoke her mind. If something didn’t seem right to her, she let you know it. And those were her last words:  “Something ain’t right.” And then she collapsed in my stepfather’s arms.

Anyway, I can’t imagine her any other way than as an outspoken, feisty woman. If she bought a product that was defective, she returned it, and she let them know why. If they didn’t want to give her money back, she demanded to speak to a manager. When she found out my nursery school teacher spanked me, she marched up there and told them they were not to touch me. She kept up with the news, she voted, she signed petitions, she volunteered. She took action. And if someone else didn’t like it, that was their problem.

When I grow up, I want to be like her.

One small victory of mine occurred last night when my boyfriend called to tell me he decided to give his daughter the same coat he’d bought for me for Christmas. He’d gotten two at the same time, different sizes so that he could be sure of which one would fit me.

“I should’ve consulted with you first, but when we got back to the house, the coat was lying there and so I suggested that she try it on. Well it fit perfectly so I said she should have it. It helps me because I don’t want to deal with the hassle of sending it back, and she needed one for her upcoming trip. I hope you’re not mad.”

My first thought was, why would I be mad? She’s allowed to have whatever coat she wants, and he’s allowed to give her whatever coat he wants. It doesn’t matter to me if it’s the same as mine. Then I realized we’d be spending the day together, and I didn’t sign up for matching mother-daughter outfits. And I remembered what my sponsor had said about speaking my mind.

“Well, I don’t care if she has the coat, but I hope she ain’t planning on wearing it tomorrow, because that’s my coat, and I’m wearing it.”

The old me would’ve wanted to be Mother Teresa, and would’ve worn my old coat today so she could wear the new one. But the new me is human, and that’s my damn coat.

A little while later he texted to say she’d changed her mind and decided not to keep the coat. The old me would’ve felt guilty, because most likely he convinced her not to keep it, and maybe she really liked it and wanted to keep it. And I can’t lie, the new me feels a twinge of guilt. But it’s his damn fault! He can clean up his own mess. Which he did. And I’m proud of myself for speaking my mind. So there.

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