I stumbled across a quote that reads, “Draw your boundaries in pencil.” I stared at the words on the page and couldn’t move past them. There was something stirring in my guts that I couldn’t quite digest. Those five words stirred a hundred questions…
“Is that so I can change my mind?”
“Is that so someone else can erase the line?”
“Wouldn’t that make everything drab and graphite-grey?”
I was in a tumble of confusion and not sure I would properly consume its meaning
I struggle with boundaries; I’m very aware of this. [[I went as far as to claim “boundaries” as my word for this year.]] I was assaulted more than once in my childhood, my boundaries weren’t honored or validated. My parents were aware of one such assault and their boundaries on the matter were to build a brick house around it. To not discuss, or even acknowledge it. It took many years, and counseling, to understand that my perpetrators had no boundaries of their own. Let alone, honor mine. I coped with some very destructive behaviors and OCD tendencies. My boundaries through my early years seemed to be drawn out with a line of feathers, scattering to the wind.
I married young, and was a mom even younger. I sought out someone to care about me, to care FOR me. I was certain I could mold myself into whatever shape was necessary to have a happy adulthood. Looking back, I can see that I shed my own boundaries and chased after other people’s boundaries. I was certain that I could make everyone happy if I looked at their lives, their boundaries, and colored them as mine. It’s as if my boundaries were hula-hoops laid on the ground. I could stand in a circle, briefly, and when it no longer worked, I could jump to the next hoop. I chased the circles, striving for acceptance. What I didn’t realize then, there was only room enough for one in the circle. My circle provided protection, isolation, keeping others from discovering my real self and the secrets I carried.
It wasn’t until I was 40-something, that I discovered that I had not established healthy boundaries for myself. I went with the flow and the herd. I evolved faster than Darwin could diagram. I shape shifted to please everyone else and had no idea how to make myself happy. I’m certain that had I set a boundary that I could honor and live with, earlier in my life, I could have saved those around me from a tornado of confusion. The day I stood, knees trembling, unaccompanied in a courtroom, listening to the judge grant the divorce, I knew a new boundary was being birthed. This boundary had been signed by a judge and now on record. This boundary was now a river, me standing on one side, and all that I knew as my adulthood on the other.
I’m learning more and more about boundaries each and every day…
I’m learning that some boundaries are to remain flexible, like a piece of string, so that you can change its shape to allow others in or to ask them to step out.
Some boundaries are to be like a picket fence. A barrier that has a visual boundary for both sides; to look through and see the rest of the world. To occasionally extend your hand through the slats, to shake the hand of a friend. Equally keep an enemy in sight and yourself somewhat protected.
Even as I evaluate my boundaries, I look out my patio door to the chalk drawings, on the concrete, drawn by my 3 year-old grandson. Brightly colored shapes and smiley faces. His innocence and sweetness hold no boundary to his imagination. To be honest, I have no idea what some of his artwork is. But he does. He smiled and laughed and was so delighted in his creation. I’m extra careful when I water the neighboring fairy garden, so that I don’t wash off his joy. I will let the rains have that responsibility. Maybe some boundaries in our life are to be drawn in sidewalk chalk. A new creation. A joy to our own soul. Let no one wash them from our view. And when the rains from above wash away the color, we have the opportunity to create again.
“Draw your boundaries in pencil.” I don’t think so.