Monday, October 15, 2012

The Enforcer

A while ago I gave a brief intro on the concept of boundaries. Alas, it's time to elaborate on that sticky, mucky, unfortunate topic again.


Got your fences up? Are they armed with poisonous dart-shooting frogs? Do you have your war cry ready? Yeah? LIAR!


Well, here's the thing. Just like twister, boundaries are a lot easier to set up than they are to hold in position when someone's tickling your foot in a downward dog. It's quite easy to decide what pisses you off and what you really just don't like invading your personal bubble than to figure out how to get people from poking that bubble with a skewer in the first place. Not to mention how to blow it back up when it's splattered all over your face.


But let's pretend that you've really done some soul-searching and you know what your boundaries are. You know that the time you use in the bathroom to investigate the contents of your nose is not to be interrupted. There's a gold mine waiting to be discovered. Personally, I DO LIKE being be disturbed when writing in a coffee shop. That's what headphones are for. But you know, there's always someone strolling around who's very interested in the type of mascara I use, or the incredibly awkward proportions of my hands and just cannot take a hint that I don't care about their theories on progressive hand-enlargement surgery. All I want is to be left alone to figure out how to navigate a keyboard with these tiny paws in peace.


Alright, so you've got it down. And maybe you've tested the waters, letting a few of your closest chums in on the fact that when you're mining for gold, you're really just contemplating what would happen if you really did get that job promotion, and you just need this time to swim in your own head. Good for you! But then, inevitably comes the day that your roommate/husband/dog doesn't CARE that you're solving the world's problems in the bathroom, they REALLY WANT TO TALK about that awesome scene on Dexter yesterday. Or maybe the slipper they're chewing on.


This testing of your personal boundaries is what I've been taught in my psychoanalytic life as change back messages. Every time someone does something that toes the line of your personal boundary, what they're really trying to get you to do is change back to the jellyfish you used to be. Get in a fight with your boyfriend because you decide you want to start going to bed earlier? Change back. Silent treatment when you tell your friends you're not interested in that third margarita though you've been drinking partners for years? Change back. Howling fits after you take your Chanel sweater away from the dog after it's become his favorite slobber receptacle? Change back. You get the picture.


Trust me friends, this part is not fun. It becomes more like the game of twister than you ever thought possible. All those pretty little lines you've drawn in your head suddenly become a scribbled mess fit for the door of a suburban fridge. This is why it's so great to write things down, so that when everything does become a scrambled mess in your own head, you can refer to the handy map you've drawn for yourself and follow it straight back to the truth.


The change back is the hardest part. But stick with it. Once everyone gets their undies untwisted, trust me when I say it will be the greatest reward of your life. Suddenly, you can go to bed in peace without having to fight for it. Suddenly, you're not hung over for every meeting because the girls got rambunctious last night. Suddenly, none of your clothes have suspiciously crusty drool stains in the morning.


And do not forget the power of consequences. Think of it like training that slobbery dog (but don't tell anyone that -- 'cuz nobody wants to feel like they're being treated like a bad canine). That's what those dagger-shooting frogs are for: they're your security. If you give the silent treatment right back it's likely your drunk friends will start getting the message pretty quick. You have become The Enforcer.


Boundaries are one of those things I've had the hardest time getting used to. I have always wanted to be liked and I've always wanted to make people happy. But you know what? The happiness that I get from a peaceful latte is better than any joy I could bestow someone else for listening to their 10-minute rant on jello. I'm sure there are other jello-lovers around.


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