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energetic boundaries

The humble work of being human

Well sonofabitch you guys. I’ve been feeling great.

Even though there have been some familiar and unfamiliar problems, I’ve still been rocking it.

I’m embarrassed to have just written that here because this blog holds my past up like a mirror. The exuberant spring, the broken summer and now this. I can’t keep up an impressions of adult success when my writing here looks like a looping time-lapse record of ups and downs.

I’m embarrassed because I had a different idea of what it would be like to be a grown up. I didn’t expect to need to learn and re-learn and re-re-learn the same things over and over and over again.

Photo by darkday

Things like: I need to slow down. Or like: I’m worth taking care of, just like everyone else is. Or this one: I can sometimes split into two people inside of myself, one who is trying to fix a problem and the other one who is freaked out, anxious, depressed, etc. And I can actually talk directly to the fixer person, the one who is saying things like “you’re descending into mental illness from which you will never emerge.” I can actually talk to her inside my own mind or with my out loud voice if I want and say, “Hey, it’s okay. I’m just feeling kind of depressed. Maybe you’re trying to help, but it’s actually making me feel worse. So please just relax, cause I just need to feel sad and worried and afraid right now.”

See, all of those three things, I’ve been learning and learning and forgetting them for 15 years now. And every time one of them is in my face, I have this whole love affair with the idea and the practice of it. I master the art of slowing down or talking to that inner voice or whatever. And then I find myself years and years later seeing a new therapist who talks in a different way about the inner voice and it sounds all new and I try it, and it works—I actually feel those two parts of myself come together, like I’m whole again, and then I remember. I’ve done this before. I knew this before.

Hello humble work of being human. I guess this is it. Just this circling around and back again where you spiral over and over to the things you know you need, and each time it feels new but you also remember.

It’s happening to me now with boundaries. I remember knowing this once. This feeling of holding, staying planted, and knowing that it might make other people uncomfortable. The thing I remember the most from before was how shocking and energizing it was to not be horrified by other people’s discomfort. This truth has circled back: I am actually allowed to make other people uncomfortable. I’m here again, able to do magical things like saying “Yes, I do” when a person asks me, “Do you think I’m sexist?” I feel the awkwardness in the room and the surprise of my clear and quick answer, and it’s okay. Nothing explodes. No one falls down and dies. We’re still just standing here like we were before.

Maybe it’s not embarrassing at all. Maybe there’s a wisdom to the whole learning and forgetting. Like a life cycle. A wave cresting and  going under. A melon turned to compost. Maybe we all have to learn for a while and then forget so that when we remember, it goes deeper. And then when we forget again, it will still just be way down there. Waiting.

Energetic Boundaries 101

Some pretty mind blowing stuff went down for me in September that I’m only just beginning to articulate. I went to this rad women and kids communing with nature power weekend with Jo. We ate and sang and played and learned and gathered around the fire together. And once Jo got his bearings, and he and a friend were absorbed in scratching at the dirt with sticks, I took a class about energetic boundaries. Which is to say that for a couple of hours one morning, I sat in a circle of women on the ground near a big fallen tree I wish I knew the name of, and listened to this woman share her wisdom about the ways we habitually do and ideally can choose to create boundaries that protect or reveal ourselves.

I still don’t understand exactly what it was about that class that changed things for me, but it did.

Here’s the best I’ve got:

It helped me understand the fundamental way I align myself with other people. In short, I’ve got some pretty loosey goosey boundaries. And I always track the people around me. I take in what I think their needs and feelings are. I’m like an octopus with hyper extended tentacles, constantly scanning in all directions for what my people are feeling, thinking, wanting.

TentaclesOut

It. Is. Exhausting.

And obliterating. Cause where do my thoughts and needs and feelings come in, given the OCD tentacles? Well, dear reader, I’ll tell you. My needs and feelings are stifled at the bottom of the heap. They play second (or third or fourth) fiddle. Those suckers languish deep inside the proverbial haystack.

But somehow, in a circle of women sitting on the ground of a crisp fall morning, I gathered my tentacles in. I chose to create some boundaries. Now I look more like this.TentaclesIn

I deliberately chose to disengage with the endless stream of

Jo is happy and absorbed (sigh of relief) . Cal wants water and needs to put his pants on. Where are his pants? . That guy on the sidewalk seems really desperate . AJ is still mad at me after last night, but I don’t want to say I’m sorry . Jamie wishes I visited her more . Cybil called me three days ago and I haven’t gotten back to her . Ryan seems pissed, is it something I did? . This person wants . This person needs . This . Person . Feels . . .

Reeling in the tentacles made me lighter, buoyant even.

I started to float.

I could see and hear and feel things that hadn’t gotten in for a long time because there was so much noise and obstruction, and so little of my attention left over.

Here’s what I saw:

Everything is a game.

Every relationship, project, chore, obligation.

Some games have higher stakes than others, but at the core, there is a lightness, a playfulness in the atmosphere around all the heavy stuff.

The playfulness is this: in every game, you get to choose your move. Every time. And you don’t know what’s going to happen next. Then the other people get to choose their moves. Now it’s back to you. And the game plays on.

For years and years, I’ve gotten stuck trying to play other people’s moves for them, while my piece languishes in one damn square not very far from START.

That hyper focus outwards, on other people, has been crippling. It’s been deafening.

It has weighed me down, drowned me out, and left me listless on the couch because I’ve quite literally forgotten myself.

It was part of the reason for my post-partum depression with both kids–in that first year, rarely was I able to see and act on my own feelings and needs in the snow-storm of everyone else’s.

Well, I found my way out of that bullshit.

I have a new sense for where I end and everyone else begins.

And I wanna play.

For now, while I’m still learning these new moves, and how to keep my own needs and feelings at the core, I try to keep the tentacles for me. I use that super scanning empathetic power on myself first, because then I know the most key intelligence about the game: where I’m starting from. If I don’t know that, I can’t really play.

It’s game on, people.