I guess I’m finally ready to start really being an adult. I think that it’s taken me so very long because I have been terrified of becoming like other adults I’ve had in my life. Being an adult to me was just stoicism and stonewalling. As a result, I have been reticent to stay quiet for any reason whatsoever. Talking through difficulties and problems became my method of coping. And I still very much believe in working through difficulties and problems – when the people that you are trying to talk to are reasonable and reasonably mature.
However, because I have had such a hard and fast rule about not going silent, I have ended up with no boundaries. Historically, if somebody engages with me, then I engage with them. I would not go silent under any circumstances. Even if they came at me with pointless cruelty. It would have been far more mature for me to cut these people out of my life at different points in time. The difficulty is that these people that I truly should have released from relationship were those that are often the most difficult to release: my mother, my sisters and my husband. I could name multiple reasons for thinking that that would have been the appropriate thing to do. But it wasn’t ever that simple. And I thought that perhaps I just wasn’t trying hard enough to make the relationships work.
So, boundaries. I am reasonably sure that setting boundaries would have naturally cut these people out of my life years ago. And that scared me. I didn’t want people falling away. I wanted good relationships with everyone. I wanted to try harder, do more, convince them of my goodness, make them like me. But the more I tried to do that, the more they looked down on me, felt superior to me. I was giving them the power to treat me poorly. I trained them that that was ok. So, I’m retraining them now.
My new mental image involves fences. I have a fence, which I have never had before. Most people are allowed to come up to the fence and my goal is to shine my light across my fence and out into the world. A very, very few trusted friends get to come into the fence. I also wait to be invited into other’s personal territories. Allowing one another inside the fenced area is sacred. Or it should be. I was allowing anyone in and letting them shit in my yard and even come inside my house and hurt my children. I would shoo them out but then turn around and allow them in yet again for another chance. And again, they would shit in my yard and hurt my children. And the cycle repeated endlessly, with me looking crazier and crazier and crazier chasing them out with my broom and my shotgun.
The truth is then that I have not been abandoned by my family. I have been mistreated by my family. And now I have chosen to close the fence and keep them out. And that is the adult thing to do. It is the disciplined, non-fanciful way of living. I am accepting the reality of my situation and I am living within that reality. I was so scared of losing people to my boundaries that it never occurred to me that I should have been more afraid of keeping them locked inside my fence while they were damaging me and my children.
It’s time to turn the light on. It’s time to be an adult. I have a lot of adult-ing to do. I have precious children that deserve the best that I can be.
So, a few key points that come to mind:
- Boundaries are not cruel. They are important. I will establish them fearlessly and let people drop out of my life as they will.
- Self-Discipline (the ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses; the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it) is not boring, it is stabilizing and reassuring. I will exercise self-discipline proudly.
- Evangelism and Being a Good Samaritan – I will keep most people outside the fence, but that won’t stop me from shining my light over the fence onto everyone.
- I am not a victim. I am choosing my path.
- I do not need to explain myself. Even if I am not 100% certain of my decisions, it’s ok to proceed fearlessly with my head held high.
- Practice faith, instead of fear. Trust that all will work out as long as I act with integrity and let my light shine.
I am very grateful for where I am in my life. I don’t have as much as some, but I have far more than others. I thank God for what I do have and I truly pray that I can be a gift to those around me.