I was on an 8 day individually guided retreat at the beginning of the month. One of the things which emerged from the time was a desire to beginning my evening in a moment of stillness.
I work quite far from home and I appreciate the mental separation from work which my commute affords, but it means I am often tired and a bit frazzled when I get home. It is all too easy to collapse into meaningless ways of filling my evening. But I have found that just pausing for 15-20 minutes when I get home is gently restorative.
It’s mid-summer here, so I open the door to my balcony and sit in the fresh air quite literally watching the world go by. I listen to the gentle hum of the traffic. I watch the birds and the clouds. I feel the gentle breeze on my body.
It isn’t a time of formal prayer, it is just a time of being present. Not in any forced kind of way, I’ll usually sip a glass of iced tea or wine. I don’t manage it every day, and I’m not particularly concerned about that. Each day I am able to do it I am grateful.
Somehow it is true balm for my soul.
I’ve been much more aware of my own boundaries over the last year or so. Slowly, slowly, I have become more comfortable with being clear about where my boundaries are. For me, boundary issues are not things which I just find mildly irritating, they are behaviours which impact my sense of integrity.
In the last little while several things have become clear.
Firstly, I can only hold a boundary with respect to behaviour. What I mean by this is that I can only say I cannot accept this specific action, I cannot say I don’t like that attitude.
Secondly, having been clear about the boundary I am holding, I have absolutely no control over the other person’s response. In almost every case the initial response is negative.
Thirdly, Brene Brown, when talking about holding your boundaries, writes ‘Choose discomfort over resentment’. That phrase has stayed with me for over a year. The thing is though, that the discomfort really is uncomfortable. I have to be clear in my own mind about why I am taking the stand that I am. It’s the only way I can hold the discomfort with equanimity.
Finally, my boundaries have only really come into sharp focus as I have become much more comfortable in my own skin. As I have grown in self-acceptance, it has been easier to see where I feel I need to hold the line.
Having said all of this, I have found that being clear about my boundaries has been tremendously liberating. I cannot control anyone else’s behaviour, but I can be clear about what I am not willing to tolerate. And I am willing hold whatever discomfort that may elicit. Because discomfort really is better than resentment.
It turns out that having good boundaries is only really incompatible with one thing – having everyone like you!
I realise that I hold within me two kinds of judgements which are qualitatively different. The first kind is the one which is the problematic kind – where I make a judgement call but where I have emotional baggage associated with the judgement. And I mean ‘baggage’ here – not simply that there emotion associated with the situation.
These are the kinds of judgements where I find myself revisiting them in my own mind and justifying and re-justifying my choice to myself. Or perhaps recounting the circumstances to others and to get reassurance that I was somehow ‘right’.
These are the kinds of judgements I need to be very careful about making. Or at least I need to be very careful on acting on these kinds of judgements.
Then there is a second kind. One where I do make a choice, I do make a judgement, and I carry out whatever appears to be necessary to me to follow through, but once the action is taken I don’t find it necessary to revisit my choice. The only thing which causes me to reconsider is the revelation of the consequences. And even then, more often than not the judgement and the action which followed still appear to be a necessary choice.
Usually the first kind of judgement comes with a blanket ‘the other person sucks’ kind of feel. The second is always more specific – this action was problematic.
When we are told we shouldn’t judge – it’s the first kind of judgement that is the real problem.
(Of course in both cases my judgement will be influenced by the distortions of my own life story!)