Saturday, October 5, 2013

Stopped at the border

Several months back, one of my kids decided to take a trip with her (then) boyfriend to visit his parents in the States. She had just gotten her passport, and she was excited about meeting his folks. Everything was fine ... until they reached the border. 

The standard questions revealed that she had no job or schooling to come back to ... and the border guards promptly kept her on the Canadian side of the border while allowing her boyfriend through ... and they wouldn't let him come back to Canada. They told him to go home. 

In five minutes, her plans were foiled in spite of both of their protests. The rules were the rules; she was a risk of immigration fraud and they were sending her back home. She called us from the border ... and we hopped in the vehicle and traveled the 7 hours to get there and pick her up, and the 7 hours back were spent in pretty much total silence. It took her weeks to get over that incident.

Rejection. No matter what the source is, it hurts. 

It hurts even worse when the rejection (or even a perceived rejection) comes from someone who is close to you: a family member, close friend, or respected leader. 

Sometimes, though, the rejection isn't really a rejection at all; it's simply a border. A boundary. 

I've been learning about boundaries the last four years or so; before that, I wasn't even aware they existed and was extremely offended if someone prohibited me from entering a certain portion of his or her life. After all, I let the people I love to walk uninvited into my life, so they should do the same, right?

Wrong. I was wrong to not set up boundaries and protect my own space, and it was wrong of me to assume that they should be as dysfunctional as I. 

I'm still learning - learning to set limits with people, and learning to respect their limits as well. Someone expresses a need for me to change something about the way I do things, and in most cases if I know the reason, I will usually accommodate. 

Sometimes, though, that learning has a few speed bumps. Like last night, in a discussion with a family member, there was something that she asked me to change about my cooking, and I reacted. BADLY. I felt personally attacked and rejected and I lashed out! Then she decided to rub salt in the wound by telling me that I had hurt HER feelings, that my insensitivity (MY insensitivity??) had disappointed her, and then by proceeding to tell me what my reaction was going to be to her assessment of my character as well. 

And she was right. I was furious! 

After she left, I started examining my reactions. They'd been so intense - and what we were discussing was nothing to be that intense about - so I had to wonder what was behind them. In essence, I was looking for the deeper meaning underlying why I was so upset. There had to be more to it than just the surface issue.
Photo, "Businesswoman Asking To Stop"
courtesy of imagerymagic at

It took me a while to find it. What I discovered was a whole belief system surrounding food, what it meant, (not just sustenance, but love), how I believed family members were supposed to react to something someone prepared for them to eat, and about a tremendous load of what psychologists call "performance anxiety." I had compartmentalized it; I'd found ways around it, like cooking two separate meals for the people in the house or taking things out of the bowl or pot for her use before adding other ingredients that she either didn't like or couldn't have. But this - this was the last straw.

At the heart of it, I felt rejected. I'd already made so many changes to what I cooked, how I cooked it, and even WHERE I cooked it, to accommodate this one person's needs. And now this. It was the tip of an iceberg of accumulated perceived rejections, the existence of which I'd not even been aware. So, naturally, my reaction was not just about the tip of that iceberg, but about the whole thing (even though I wasn't consciously aware of it).

To me, it was the same thing as having my love rejected. And as the saying goes, "Hell hath no fury...." 

To her, it was "only one thing." She didn't understand my reaction and was hurt by it. To me, it was "every last thing." I was wrong to react the way I did, lashing out like that. Human behavior sometimes baffles me - especially my own - but it proves I'm human!

And sometime today, I'll have a talk with her, tell her I'm sorry for lashing out, and explain what I was thinking. 

As for my belief system about food ... hmmm. It's tied into how I was raised, and into my own brain systems surrounding reward and punishment. It took a long time for me to develop these beliefs.

That will take a little longer to fix. But at least now I am aware of it. That's progress.

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