Beware of ….Self.

“When people show you their boundaries (“I can’t do this for you”) you feel rejected…part of your struggle is to set boundaries to your own love. Only when you are able to set your own boundaries will you be able to acknowledge, respect and even be grateful for the boundaries of others.” 
— Henri J.M. Nouwen (The Inner Voice of Love)

Sitting at the kitchen table, looking out into the back yard that makes me feel so…not me, in a house that I used to swear a spiritual connection to- I thought to myself,

I’m not being authentic.  I’m still not able to be authentic.  I still have no boundaries and to be honest, the whole boundary issue isn’t what it was described to be.  Much like codependency really.

Boundaries aren’t just to protect us from others- it’s broader than that.  Boundaries make you think of fences, walls, lines not to be crossed, but I think that they are more about containment.  Not just or always to contain ourselves in the safety of our own yard, but to keep others safe from what’s in that yard.  Think of the sign on your neighbors fence that says, “Beware of Dog”, except ours says, “Beware of Self”.  I’m sure someone, somewhere, has spoken of this, just not to me or not that I have found…maybe I didn’t look because of what I had already been told.  If I’m told that boundaries are there to protect me FROM OTHERS, and I Google that, those are most definitely my results.  But realizing that I’m codependent has led me to see that victims often, if not always, in small and large ways, become the ones who victimize.

It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”
— Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451)

We have to learn to set the boundaries that protect us- clean out the yard so to speak, build fences where there were probably none, fix the gates and the holes in the fence so that we can keep the dog in.  We have to weed, feed and water…so that we can see what’s left.  How does the grass fair beneath the feet of our heart?  Were we left with dirt?   Is there a garbage pile to remove that others left behind for us?  Is there anywhere fit to run, rest, play, lay on the ground of our souls and stare up at the sky, daydreaming?

We do the work.  We cry over what was there- the work we did before we let it all fall into dilapidated ruins, the days we lost enjoying the sun, the things we forfeited…all so willingly unwillingly…We know in our hearts that we did the best we could and beg God for the compassion to forgive ourselves because our best was pretty much downright awful.  We struggle with blame- the blame of ourselves and others, until we humbly accept that there is no blame, just this weird and uncomfortable new skin that makes us itch called accountability.  We look out onto the yard and we see that it isn’t there yet- that what was there is lost, but that there’s room to plant, grow, and carefully, slowly, tend to.   And yet, yet somehow, this newness, it’s uncomfortable.  It’s quiet.  We look around and there we are- you me and self.  We feel unstable, insecure, combustible, desperate.  We may think, “Wait, I volunteered for this?  I mean ya, it looked junky and cluttered and in disarray, but I wasn’t alone.  Maybe I was wrong?  Maybe it looked ‘lived in’, not lived out…”

Life becomes an identity crisis.
LIfe becomes a contradiction.
Life becomes a confusion that we have to sit with and wade through until we find sense.
Life becomes slow.
We literally plant new seeds and

And people watch us.
And I want to open the gate.

I don’t know how long this feeling I’m sitting with lasts.  I used to view the world as a threat to me.  I used to think that everyone was welcome, until I wanted them gone or discovered their weaknesses…but the truth is, that’s how I controlled the environment that ultimately, controlled me.  The truth is, I searched for those to save, then punished them for being unable to save themselves, then I wallowed in the defeat of us both. Now I’m not afraid of others coming into my yard.  I’m afraid of me.  I’m still at that step where I’m more a danger to myself and those around me because I lost control of my control.  I’m just sitting in the grass, watching the ground, unsure of what is going to grow from that seed I planted.  And I’m no master gardener.

“It hurts to let go. Sometimes it seems the harder you try to hold on to something or someone the more it wants to get away. You feel like some kind of criminal for having felt, for having wanted. For having wanted to be wanted. It confuses you, because you think that your feelings were wrong and it makes you feel so small because it’s so hard to keep it inside when you let it out and it doesn’t come back. You’re left so alone that you can’t explain. Damn, there’s nothing like that, is there? I’ve been there and you have too. You’re nodding your head.” 
— Henry Rollins (The Portable Henry Rollins)

I feel alone and isolated because I’m afraid that the only people I will attract are the people who are at my level not that there is anything wrong with that…It’s just that I tend to get lost in what I deem others needing.  At this point in my recovery I think I could find someone who is going through what I am, which would be wonderful…except I’d lose myself in fixing them and then blame them later when I realized that I neglected to water my own yard.  I’d let the dog off the chain so to speak.

Later that day…
Let me tell you what writing does for me.  It shortens the distance between where I am and where I’m going.  From the moment I end what I write, things shift on an unseen, but undeniable level of my being.  Perhaps I’ll do the same behavior, but I’ll be aware now.  Perhaps I’ll start to do the same behavior and then stop.  I may not take the sign off of my fence, but I might stand at the gate and make small talk with the neighbors.  I may stop staring at the seed for a while and trust that it’s still doing what it does without my focus (aka control) on it.  I’ll have faith that even though I stumble all over myself for words, my Self will be walking a little taller, stronger…with more purpose than before.  Faith is believing that I can’t see where I’m going, but I know there’s a step to take in getting there.  

I know that after writing this my life will be different.  It will never be the way it was.  Sometimes I think that being authentic happens by mere wish.  One day I said, I want to live an authentic life…and there was no explosion.  Heavens didn’t open.  Seas did not part, God and the Universe did not bestow upon me the one epiphany that would forever alter my life…What happened was that it became increasingly impossible to be inauthentic.  I didn’t go from one to the other, I was just put on this path that leads that way.  When I unwittingly made the choice I did, I was left with no other choice at all.

 The good news is this;  I finally realize, understand and am hellbent on accepting that without self-love, I cannot properly, dependably and authentically love others.  Some days, that’s also the bad news…but it’s the absolute truth.  Boundaries are set for everyone’s safety and protection…and I believe that it’s an art.  You build.  You remove. You make bigger, smaller, taller…You adjust.  Life is an adjustment process.  I’m pretty sure that’s it.

That my friends, is a shift.

“Consider whether you want the same things today that you wanted yesterday. A shifting of the will indicates that the soul is at sea, blown by the wind.”
— Seneca


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