What blog wouldn’t be complete without the end of the year here’s-what-I’ve-discovered post? Certainly not mine. So as I get ready to share the largest of life’s lessons that happened to be revealed to me this year, let me share a little of my past, as it relates to here and now. A few years ago a counselor told me that no one should ever yell at me. No person should ever be yelled at on a regular basis. Up until then I had yelled at my kids often. Still do when I’m under an enormous amount of pressure and exhaustion. But for the most part, that single statement changed my life as a parent. At the time I didn’t know it, but I was crossing a boundary that was set for my children by God, or by mother earth, or the laws of nature.
There’s a verse in the Old Testament about beating your kids with a rod. Most parents use the verse like a rod over the heads of parents who don’t use physical violence to straighten out their kids. Very rarely we spank the tush, with clothes on. It is never done hard enough to hurt them. Several years ago I didn’t know the rules and would spank them really hard and it would leave a mark. When we became homeschoolers I knew we had to be extremely careful. Above reproach actually, so no person on earth could ever take my kids or force me to stop homeschooling them. For the most part we have the kids do “time out” as an immediate punishment, but every so often they get the light spank. Never on the face or with anything but a hand as those two things are considered child abuse. Boundary #2… laying a hand on a child with the intent to hurt them. I’ve crossed it a handful of times, but not in the last 5 years or so. Not since we began homeschooling.
Those are obvious boundaries. When I’ve crossed these lines before it has been due to rage and loss of temper. When finding the peace and self-control to stop these behaviors, I see them very clearly when done to me. I have experienced every type of crossed boundary this year and I used every one of those experiences to create the precedent for my personal limits.
My husband knows my limits. There are times when he can see very clearly what is going on with me emotionally days before I can see for myself. Having expressed that, here comes the big lesson I learned this year…
I set my boundaries and I am responsible for not letting others cross them. How? A polite “No, thank you.” And my husband has learned that in order to continue to stay married to me he is to protect these boundaries as well. I am aware of his and have protected them fiercely since the day we were married. I don’t condone his wrong actions, but when his needs (not wants) are being trampled on, I stand with him in a united front. This year his big “revelation” is that he is to do the same.
Twice this year I had not let the people I love know what my needs were. I did not protect my emotional and physical health with distinguishable steps. Over the summer I cried for three days straight until my eyelids became so dry that they began to peel. I had let the “log in my eye” as the Word says, blind me to the problems. Instead of blaming others for what they do to me… I learned to see myself as the problem and find my boundary violations. Like I wrote earlier, throughout my life at different times I let others cross the boundaries of physical abuse. Honestly, it doesn’t hurt as bad as any other kind of abuse. When emotional manipulation, passive aggressive abuse, and “dry drunk rage” tear down the gates that surround my personal being, I am devastated. I become paralyzed. Can’t hang out with my kids. Can’t hang out with my husband. Can’t cook dinner, lesson plan, or clean my home. It weighs so heavy on my heart that I want to die. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but emotional abuse is what kills people. Most suicide notes confirm this.
I learned this year that I have the right to set boundaries. It is healthy and wise to do so. The things I “want” are not included in the design, but only what I need in order to be joyful, content and of any use to my family or the world. It is not enough to understand the need, but I must get it met. And that means learning to say no.
As I began to express my needs this year, I pissed a lot of people off. In return, I have flexed my mental and emotional muscles and am getting stronger. A book I once read stated that nothing clarifies boundaries more than forgiveness. To forgive someone means to let him/her off the hook. Refusing to forgive is like poison to the soul. Something really important that I learned from one of my doctors this year is that everyone is going to hurt me and you at some point. Physically, mentally, emotionally. What do I do? Avoid everyone forever? Forgive. Everyone… don’t just pick and choose because no one person is more deserving of forgiveness than another.
There are some people and places that are toxic to me. They may bring another person joy and comfort, but they cause me extreme emotional stress. In those situations I learn to set boundaries. I have grown from an impulsive and unsure woman into one who knows what I have set before me and seeks the best course of action. I am no longer guided by the winds of life or by other people’s actions. I learned this year… pretty recently actually, that I have rights and control over my body. Up until now I spent my whole life letting others hurt me. And never doing anything about it. This year has shown me my strength… it is not taken away when someone hurts me because that is their sin to deal with. My strength comes from my ability to make smart decisions with that pain and crossed fence. And to rebuild and protect that part of my soul. I am not a victim of circumstance. During the darkest, loneliest times in my life I surrounded myself with people who spoke for me and told me what to do and who to be. I felt like I was less than a person. I was like a moth to the flame of people who used and manipulated me because I had no boundaries… I let everyone else have a say in who I was to be.
These days I have control. I have choices. They may not be the same as another person’s choices, but I am smart. I weigh my options and just like during the elections, I pick the least repulsive of choices. As I take a few steps back, I see my future clearly. I plan accordingly. And I walk in the confidence of knowing I have the right to feel safe, to be safe, and to make decisions for my life.
I’ve been through the wringer with this issue of boundaries. So while all you normal people out there might have no idea what I’m talking about, this is HUGE for me. And I am proud to have learned this super incredibly valuable life skill.
Tomorrow I will be listing the top 10 gratitudes of the year… spoiler alert, I brag on my accomplishments a little:)
Have a good one friends.