I think, that just maybe, I might be beginning to get it.
“It” being what this thing called boundaries is really about.
If you’ve read previous posts, or you know me, you may know that I seem to be a magnet that attracts folks with narcissistic personalities. Far too many family members to list here (don’t want to ruffle too many feathers), friends, colleagues, acquaintances – heck, there may even be a tendency or two in my own sweet self. Whatever! At any rate, one of my strong tendencies is to make room for those narcissists in my heart, my thinking, and my way of being. Which has often resulted in the crowding out of me – and the taking on of tremendous chaos and turmoil, even when that is not what I wanted or how I felt inside.
But, like I said, I am learning and beginning to just let people have their own stuff without allowing myself to be dragged into it. Yesterday was a good example.
My daughter came down to take care of some stuff in Bellingham and run errands. She asked me if I wanted to go along with her, which I agreed to do. When she picked me up she was already irritated. Seemed it was somehow my fault that the border line was long, that they had changed the traffic pattern causing her to have to backtrack a mile or so, and (it seems to me) just the fact that I exist and I was not the perfect mother to her. It doesn’t help that we are very different personalities and approach life from opposite points of view.
As we drove along, I was being myself – asking questions and trying to have a “normal” conversation as we drove. This seemed to only irritate her all the more, so after a few attempts I chose silence. In my silence, I committed myself to desiring and praying that my presence could have a calming affect, a pleasant affect on our time together.
I think I need to explain that I’m not a big fan of my daughter’s driving. Another area we are very different. She is a very aggressive driver and is often loudly irritated with all who enter her space.
So being a calming agent required that I stay calm even faced with the irritation she expressed so vehemently. Not always easy for me. We made it to Bellingham, took care of one of her errands and headed on to one of mine. It was approaching noon, so I asked what she had planned for lunch. I am on a restrictive, cleansing diet with limited choices for what I can eat, so I was thinking that maybe we could share a fajita at a Mexican restaurant and I would just not eat the tortillas. BIG EXPLOSION!!! I suddenly became the leaching mother who always took advantage of my daughter and who never showed her any respect. The back and forth began to happen and I decided I just needed to back off and realize her explosion was her explosion, it didn’t need to become mine.
At this point it was clear to me that we did not need more time together that day. We finished my errand and I had her drop me off at Costco to wait for my sons to bring me the car on their way through. I had a great afternoon (more about that in another post coming soon) and time to reflect. I was amazed at how I was able to remain at peace and not be drawn into the chaos of my daughter’s inner conflicts.
I’m learning it is highly unlikely that I will be the one who can speak into her life and help her sort through these conflicts. And I’m beginning to be okay with that. I can release my desire to make it better for her and trust that when the time is right and she is prepared, the healing will truly begin. My developing healthy boundaries is not just about what I choose to let in, but also to how I assert myself into others’ lives.
Not just with my daughter, but with all the others in my life whose persona emanates what feels like chaos to me. I am learning that sometimes it is best to love from a distance and allow room for others to deal with their own stuff. I’m even learning to not dissociate (disconnect from myself or the other) in the meantime. And I am learning I can choose to just be me – even when what I want is to run far away and leave the chaos behind and not deal with it or the person.
This is what boundaries looks like to me. I realize it can be very difficult for others, particularly for those with narcissistic tendencies, to understand and honor my (or any other person’s, including their own) boundaries. And it is difficult for those of us who grew up learning how to appease the ones we loved who were narcissistic and how to focus on their needs and wants and not our own, to learn how to establish and maintain healthy boundaries. It is a process.
It is a process that requires a lot of forgiveness and love and the willingness to live fully aware of the messiness of our humanity. It is about developing a deep sense of presence and not running away from ourselves when things feel threatening or uncomfortable or destructive. It is about running to the arms of God and sitting in His lap and being honest about the pain and the fear and hurt and doubt and the places of death. Sometimes it is about mourning what is lost to us. In the end, it is about true hope – because our hope is in God Himself, not in each other.