Friday, February 18, 2011

Good Fences

Good fences make good neighbors, they say.

I couldn't agree more.  They also make good family members, when it comes to setting boundaries.

I grew up in a home where boundaries didn't exist.  It was chaotic.  It didn't feel safe.  Someone was always imposing his or her will on someone else.  And if the one so imposed upon complained or objected, they were liable to get beaten up, depending on the mood of the moment.  Or there would be a guilt trip thrown to manipulate the person into conforming to the agenda imposed.  (I hated that.  I still do.)  As I was telling someone today, I didn't know that I even had the right to HAVE boundaries, that is, that I had the right to occupy space on the planet and have room to move inside that space.  

Not until about almost two years ago actually.  I was early in recovery, originally to help an alcoholic (typical of me, getting into therapy to help someone else - but there you go...) and realizing that I was as much if not more in need of help than he was.  Right about that time he relapsed, and someone crossed a very important boundary, one she had crossed many times before - but never to this degree.  Even I knew it was a boundary that nobody calling himself or herself a friend should ever cross.  And I blew up!  

My reaction was like it usually was - I exploded.  And the person gave me some space, and then a few weeks later (as usual) apologized.  But by the time this apology happened, I had begun to see that this was a pattern of abuse that had started back in 1971 and had continued all my life since then - and it was going to keep happening.  

So I chose to look after myself.  I didn't let the apology - if that's what it was because I knew she would do it again in a heartbeat - make me go back to the way things were.  The friendship - if it was indeed one - ended.  I grieved.  I moved on.  And the world didn't fall apart.

So lately things have gotten a little more close to home.  This time it's a family member who's consistently sneaking across my fence and trying to run my life according to her idea of what I would like, because that's what she would like.

The old me hates confrontation with a passion, but the new me realizes that sometimes one has to speak out or the other person will never be aware that there is a problem.  

And that's what I finally did.  It took me an hour and a half this morning when I woke up early and couldn't sleep, but finally - after 30 or more years of putting up with it - I put up my stop sign.

I'm sure that there will be repercussions, but I know that whether or not the issue is resolved, at least I have stated how I feel, what I believe the issue is, and what I need from her.  

I know that at this point my responsibility has ended.  But for her sake and the sake of everyone in the family, I'm just hoping that she gets the message.

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