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As I mentioned previously, one of the intriguing aspects I have encountered while spending time ‘away’ from my base, has been re-implementation of guidelines and parameters of my personally-defined Boundaries.  I find it at times highly amusing to review the ‘old’ Boundaries I previously felt I must have (for ex: in my pre-recovery journey), vs those revised or revamped Boundaries that morphed as I ‘did my work’ on, around and within myself.

Most of the old Boundaries were attached to “shoulds” ~ usually about the behaviors of others ~ and were, upon close inspection and reflection, about me feeling ‘safe’ in an environment that ofttimes felt chaotic, uncertain, and sometimes downright scary.

As I grew (emotionally, mentally ~ and spiritually), as I addressed my own ‘stuff,’ I discovered a multitude of areas where I kept myself trapped and imprisoned by the boundaries of my Boundaries !  {T’ain’t a journey for sissies, folks!}

Starting some 25+ years ago I, early on, steadfastly incorporated twice-weekly 12-step Coda meetings, marital counseling in those early days, stepwork, Alanon, working with sponsors, reading books and articles, attending ‘open’ AA and other 12-step meetings, and signed up for workshops.  I later added or supplemented a broader perspective of Growth with audio tapes, seminars, dvd’s, and attended intensives.  I worked workbooks (written by those whose path and lifestyle I admired), got individual counseling, began journaling/writing, coaching, peer support groups and, through it all, embraced a spiritual exploration and re-defining of my concept of Higher Power / Source.  Whew !  Exhausting and exhilarating; humbling and honoring.  And oh-so worth every moment.

I had my new “gurus” who’s slightest utterance I picked up as a banner and owned as mine. {Ya gotta love how ~ in releasing the ‘old’ ~ there is an early need to replace the let-go-of with a new. Fill the hole vs allowing for the space. Thankfully, today, I can more easily allow the space.}  I used other folks’ affirmations as my own ~ for which I am grateful today ~ as they opened the Mind to the power of thinking ~ and m-a-y-b-e  even believing that something  ‘good’ could happen, without the other-shoe-falling expectation I was raised with. That things could change, positively. That I could loosen up ~ let go ~ breathe more freely ~ relax and actually enjoy {tiny} pockets of this thing called Life.

As I let go of more constricting, limiting, rigid thinkings (ie: Boundaries) I did indeed incorporate other thinkings (ie: Boundaries) that felt more hopeful, limitless, and open:

  • One day at a time
  • Live and let live
  • Just for today
  • Life is good
  • It’s their journey
  • KI.S.S. (keep it simple, sweetie)
  • I Am divinely protected at all times
  • Lighten up
  • I matter

(….. just to name a few….)

And so it is !

I began to trust others enough {sort of} to take their suggestions, to begin sharing real thoughts and feelings that mattered to me, to {somewhat hesitantly} speak more of my own truth {not just think it}, and allow for critique and feedback to be simply that, vs perceiving it as someone else’s criticism or ‘judgment’ of where I was ‘wrong,’ ‘bad,’ incompetent or ….. well, you get the picture.

Thanks to this willingness on my part, and on the part of healthier others, I began shedding previously-held, written-in-stone Boundaries. I more and more eagerly embraced wider, softer Boundaries. I had less need for others to be wrong {or… not my ‘right’},  less need to tell others what to do { often without their solicitation… blush }, and thus, less compunction to hold resentments. ALL resentments are attached to some internal version of a Boundary held tight.

I purposefully chose to shed old relationships that were negative and drama-filled.  {Of course, only those which did not support the current dramas I was insistently holding on to !} {Self-righteousness is such a difficult habit to break !!}  These relationships included long-time grousing-partners, next-door neighbors, a marriage that was debilitating and emotionally cruel, and, even a job.  Codependently, I carried inside a fear that others wouldn’t understand my reasoning, yet over time, as I began feeling and living more in line with my new beliefs and Boundaries, I learned to accept the fact that it wasn’t my “job” to continue to explain to someone-else’s-satisfaction. Either they ‘got it’ or they didn’t.

“Other people’s opinion of me is none of my business.” 

 I continued to shed old thought-patterns, the negativity of newspapers and network newscasts, addictive television watching {having, proudly, in the past proclaimed that I was a ‘walking tv guide;’ any day of the week I would tell you what shows were on and what you ‘should’ watch !!}, and most tellingly for where I was in my pre- and early-recovery journey, the mindless devouring of novels.  In fact, prior to choosing a new journey, one year I kept a tally {of course I did !} and had read over 380 books that year.What a phenomenal way to check out of being and living one’s own life while in the midst of living someone else’s  – even if those lives were fictitious !  {OK ~ we’ll touch on the fact that the lives ‘we’ are actually in the process of living are ‘fictitious’ too, yet that’s for a later posting.}

In this process of shedding ‘stuff’ I discovered that I had also shed weight. Upon reflection it is not any huge ah-ha {although it was at the time} … yet rigid Boundaries are heavy !!  Carrying the weight of other people, places, things and events is exhausting. I suggest, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, seeing how art shows the Thinker bowed over in contemplation. Atlas carried the weight of the World {and no wonder he Shrugged  – thanks to you to Ayn Rand.}

Ironically and wonderfully, adding ‘healthy’ {or at least healthier} to one’s mental and emotional diet carried little or no weight.  Incorporating daily readings/meditations {great gratitude to Hazelden and the plethora of tiny yet HUGE books}, paying attention to my words, having new “playmates” with whom I spent more time, talking the talk, and walking the walk, all brought a Lightness of Being.

Of course, none of this happened overnight. NONE of this was “skipping blithely through the daisies.” At times there is stark terror:  Moral Inventory?  Who – Me?  Making amends for past unloving, controlling, judgmental, dishonest actions?  {What – are you kidding me? What if “They” [spouse, ex-es, offspring, friends, sibs, parents, co-workers… ad nauseum…] end up resenting me – disowning me – ‘hating’ me – leave me?}  Well.  In truth, it is what it is. As long as I don’t hate me, disown me, resent me or leave me ~  then I let myself be free. Or free-er.

Those fears are the Boundaries that strangled. The sense of freedom and emotional breathing room from the past garbage became a newly defined set of Boundaries. Boundaries one can live with ~ really Live.

I share this information ~ a broad overview of “my story” ~ in the hopes that it will encourage and affirm others to take a chance on self.  To look at what Boundaries are held in some death-grip, and maybe {just maybe} be willing to let go of some of them. Or modify them, or – if one or two or three are Core Boundaries – then hold them in the palm of the hand firmly ~ and gently.

I stated last time:  Boundaries form one’s perception of their world. Here’s the challenge this time:  look at (and, if you dare, make a list of…) all the “shoulds,” “musts,” ‘how dare they…’ (or how dare I) … and the plethora of right/wrongs you carry in your mental file cabinet. {Neatly alphabetized no less !}

If this sounds exhausting ~ then lighten up and make it fun. Make it a ‘game show’ where you are both the contestant and the host. “Alex, I’ll take Boundaries for $300.”  See how many ‘prizes’ you can win by identifying those limiting beliefs, those rigid Boundaries.  Just identify ’em.  No one says you have to actually change them ~ today. {But … if you want to begin to release one or two … that’s okay too !  Oh ~ and psst ~ it’s also okay to award yourself those prizes !!}

Keep a pad of sticky-notes handy – in a multitude of places – and, for the playfulness, lots of colors – to jot a quick scribble when something pops into your mind. (Mini spiral notebooks can be carried in a pocket, purse, laptop case, or in the car.) When you’re casting aspersions at the “slow driver in the fast lane” {a personal favorite complaint of mine} or bemoaning how the meal didn’t turn out “just right,” or horrified at the most recent facial wrinkle you’ve spotted, KNOW that each of these is tethered to a judgment, supposition, resentment, and/or “truth” that you have held, probably for a long, long time.

The ultimate challenge here is to verify the veracity of these thoughts. Are they really real?  Will the world truly end?  Is the wearing a mix of plaids and prints a crime? Exactly where in my job description does it say I am the one responsible for putting more paper in the company copier?  Deeper yet … am I really responsible for other peoples’ feelings? And, just as importantly, are they really responsible for mine? Ask these and other questions inquisitively.  No judgments here either !  {As I have said countless times, when Coaching folks:  it is Just.Data.  Purely  informational. No emotional attachments ‘required.’}

As you examine Boundaries (and potentially engage in the possibility of changing or releasing some of them), please do so with great kindness towards yourself and Self. Take time to envision your world without so many mind-made restrictions. Also know that, as you do this ‘work,’ you create greater clarity about what really does matter to you.  And ~ Bravo!  Applause-applause.

Namaste’  Lin