In the fall I wrote some rules for myself. I had opened the door and allowed someone back into my life that I thought I was done with. I kept in mind the red flags, I looked at who she was and knew what I was dealing with but I believe in second chances and third and more. I knew that we are not the sum total of our mistakes and that we all are deserving of grace and mercy. God knows that has been extended to me.
Through my personal and spiritual work the past year the one thing that has spoken loud and clear to me (more like yelled like James Earl Jones in a very authoritative voice) – BOUNDARIES. Damn they are so hard to respect and follow at times but they are a must in every relationship. It doesn’t matter if it is with your friend or your spouse or even yourself, we all need boundaries. So one night, after a glass of wine and listening to some Tracy Chapman I scribbled a list of rules for myself in my art journal.
And I am going to share them with my readers. My rules. The boundaries I set up for myself. Keep in mind I am a work in progress and often break the rules. But I wanted to share because we all need boundaries. We all need to define for ourselves whether publicly or privately that some lines are not meant to be crossed. That in order to respect the boundaries of others, we need to really love ourselves and not allow people to walk over us or upset our “house” (our spirit).
These are my rules, I challenge you to write your own and commit to them. To say to yourself “I choose ME”. To break your give a damn and not worry so much about what people will think or say when you draw the line, when you say no, and when you choose joy and peace for your own life. It may require you to give up control, bite your tongue, and even walk away from people you care about. Sometimes though it is best to love people from a distance, especially if they cross boundaries or cause you to cross your own.
1. Do not chase after people. This is a hard rule for me but a necessary one. I do not like to lose anyone. I do not like conflict. (some of you are laughing out loud over that) If I love you, I am loyal to you. I will apologize for something I didn’t do, I will work hard to make things work out, and I will compromise/sacrifice to keep people in my life. I realized in 2012 this was a dangerous practice and that it allowed people to take advantage of me and hurt me. So I have committed myself not to chase after people – not even family. If you want to be a part of my life, my inner circle, you will be but it won’t be because I begged or chased after you.
2. Work hard at not telling others what to do even when they ask. I think this could be the hardest one for me of all. I am the mother of five children and my instinct is to mother hen everyone. I am pretty sure I fail at this one routinely. There is definitely a fine line between giving advice and telling people how to run their life.
3. Listen more, speak less. Practice makes perfect right? I am quite the talker. I like to ask questions. I like to add to the conversation. This is a skill and I am not sure if people are born with it or taught it, however I am working hard to become a listener.
4. Do not feel guilty for having a good life. Some people may be surprised to see this as one of my rules. For awhile as people close to me experienced hardship I began to feel guilty for the life I had and the life they didn’t. I am not sure where the guilt was rooted but I decided that instead of guilt I would be thankful. Mr. K and I have worked hard at creating the life that we have and I am grateful.
5. Do not cancel plans to deal with drama. Sometimes I let my service oriented work get in the way of time with family and friends. For awhile it seemed like someone or some thing always needed my attention. If I developed a friendship with someone I was working with or were already friends with them and they called on me, if they needed me I would put everything down to attend to them. Long conversations interfered with dinner, time with my kids and husband, and even my sleep. Sometimes I would leave home to take care of other people’s problems or children and while leaving my own at home. Which leads me to my next rule.
6. Keep your family and yourself first. The fact of the matter is that if I do not take care of myself I am of no use to anyone after awhile. I can only run off anti-anxiety meds, coffee, and sugar for so long before I just collapse into a jumbled up mess. This happened more than once over the past few years and to the point I physically made myself sick. While my family has rarely complained about my activities outside the home they have often gotten the least of me when they should have gotten the very best of me. We need to remind ourselves it is more than okay to say NO. Whether it be to a friend or loved one or even your boss.
7. Be grateful. Appreciate it all. Be thankful for every fuck up. Be thankful for every success. You accidentally hit a dog on the way to work – be grateful it wasn’t a child. Give thanks for the little things in your life, the simple things, and the hard things. Being grateful is a huge part of my spiritual life. I am one of those people who believes everything happens for a reason, even the no good, horrible things that happen in our life.
8. Trust your gut. This may be the one single piece of advice my mother gave me that is completely true. Sadly I think we are taught from a very young age to not listen to that inner voice – to deny our “Truth Teller” or the Holy Spirit or as some say our conscience. Every time I do not listen to my Truth Teller I learn a very valuable lesson, one that often comes with pain and hurt.
9. Be mindful of my time. There is nothing wrong with wasting time, playing video games, or surfing the web but when we let it consume our lives to the point we are not actually living it is a HUGE PROBLEM. I am guilty of getting sucked in to Facebook, the Internet, or a phone conversation and ignoring things I should or could be doing. I personally believe that a lot of people would be a lot more productive, including myself, if we just managed and were more mindful of how we spent our time.
10. Do not get sucked into others fears. This was a revelation I got while doing art therapy this year. I didn’t even think this pertained to me, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I have allowed myself to get sucked into others fears. In fact the religious up bringing I had was centered around fear, and often the fears of others. I do not believe that God wants us to live in a spirit of fear. Nor is this something I want my children to do. I do not want them to absorb or have fears about life based on other people’s experiences. I could probably write a book on this one rule and how I have allowed fear, fear that I learned or absorbed from others control my life.
11. You do not have to save anyone, you are not Jesus. You might think this rule is funny but it really is a big one for me. From the time I was a small child my mother put me in a position of taking care of my younger brother, like his well being and safety depended solely on me, and as I got older, that reached even further. By the time I was a teen there was some major codependency going on. I took care of things, people, pets, and anything else that was asked of me. I am still like this which is why this rule may be the rule that gets broken. It is engrained in me that if I have the ability to do something to help, save, or spare another person from hurt or harm than I should. Which goes back to rule 2 in many ways.
12. Relax, Restore, Refresh. This sounds simple right? Not so much with an active household. However I have learned that as I head towards 40 that there is something to that saying “If mom ain’t happy, no one is happy”. It really is important to take care of ourselves. To get rest. To spend time alone. To do things that make us happy outside of families. I was Kim way before I was a wife and mother. It is important to tend to her goals and dreams. It is important to eat well, take care of myself, and get a little pampering every now and then.This rule also goes for my marriage. It is just as important to spend time alone with Mr. K without the pressure of children. We need to refuel our relationship and sometimes that can be a date night or a weekend away or just a few hours locked in our room watching a movie.
Rules are made to be broken. I know that there will be times that I break some of these rules when certain situations present themselves. But the spirit of the rules is to establish healthy boundaries with myself and with others. Having these rules gives me the permission to say no and not feel guilt over it. Having these guidelines helps me keep my identity and distance myself from situations or people that really are not emotionally or spiritually sound for my life.
Question as we head into 2013: Do you have trouble developing and setting boundaries for yourself or others to follow?