Boundaries

I’m making a new commitment. I don’t have an expiry date for it yet, but it will start today. It has to do with last week’s forever-itis and this week’s realization that I let a number of people down last year (including myself). I don’t want to do that anymore.

One of my very best friends is named Lise. She lives in North Bay. We were magnets to each other at a conference four years ago and have since developed a friendship where we check-in with each other at least once a day. We are accountability partners and the value of our friendship lies in being able to call each other on the lies we tell ourselves. There are times when Lise’s bullshit meter gets a high reading from me and, although it can be upsetting momentarily, I find it refreshing to be forced to tell the truth…to everyone…as much as possible. Lise is a trained psychotherapist whose secret wish is to be a singer. I’m a singer whose secret wish is to be a psychotherapist. It’s a wonderful relationship!

A while back, I had story running about the influx of people wanting my time. I felt overwhelmed by emails, meetings, and phone calls and had been feeling resentment towards others because I wasn’t able to do the things I wanted to do. It was Lise who pointed out that my struggle was not with overbearing people, but with the boundaries I refuse to set. We then discussed why those boundaries are so hard to create and I discovered that it was my fear of being dis-liked that forced me to say “yes” to too many things. After realizing this fear, Lise offered a solution which was to set boundaries that are WAY beyond my comfort zone. For example: I could leave a conversation 10 minutes before it was finished, say “no” to people with no excuse at all, shorten phone calls with “important” people etc. It turned out to be a very comical exercise but I learned a lot about setting boundaries and it turned out that most of these over-the-top boundaries for me, where actually normal boundaries for those who respect themselves and their time.

Strangely though, this exercise didn’t stick, and I have recently found myself back to my old tricks with old conflicts of not being able to follow through on commitments.

Currently, I think there are two reasons why I fell back into the old pattern. The first has to do with my forever-it is (see blog Jan 14, 2017). I think that, in moments when I’m performing and enjoying myself, I start feeling like I could carry on in that way forever. I, shortsightedly convince myself that I have endless energy. I’m drunk on forever-itis. In these moments I’m capable of committing to anything. Someone could ask me to write an album on fly-fishing and I’d agree! No problem! With a little research, I could do that! And then the morning after arrives and I have a forever-itis hangover… “What did I do last night? What did I commit to? Arg! I have no time for that! How am I going to get out of this one?” This is usually followed by a cowardly “here’s hoping the other person was also drunk on forever-itis…or drunk in general.” And sometimes a mutual drunken agreement can be broken without any conversation or apology. Whew. But other times it cannot because one of the parties was dead serious about the commitment and has now developed expectations. It is these other times that I’m interested in. I don’t want to have to double-back and apologize for my lack of foresight. (Lise makes me apologize almost every time I fall out of integrity…which is a powerful exercise because I, seriously, dislike having to apologize.)

The second reason for over-committing seems to be that I want people to see me as a good person. If I don’t offer up my time and resources then they might see me as a bad person…and I can’t have that! Something interesting happened last year in which I had been making efforts with someone so that they might see me as a good person. Months had gone by and it was suddenly (and luckily) brought to my attention that the efforts I was making were actually being interpreted as disrespectful. It was a HUGE learning. People will see you through their own lens no matter what you do. And it pushed me to conclude that I’m just as likely to hurt people if I do the things I want to do versus doing things that I think will make others happy. You’d think that, after this awesome insight I’d, once again, start setting better boundaries. But I now realize that it’s my forever-itis in combo with a need to be liked, which is causing me to revert back into over-committing.

And so, for the next little while (or perhaps the year…or forever…we’ll see), I am committing saying “no.” I’m officially a “no” person. It has to be “no” because my forever-itis is so tricky that I can’t tell whether it’s active or not. If a few days go by and I actually meant to say “yes,” then I’ll crawl back and ask for the commitment. The experiment is to see which is worse? Saying “no” and then having to crawl back and say “yes” or saying “yes” and having to crawl back to “no.” The second one involves an apology and I’m interested in having a few months go by when I don’t have to apologize for my lack of foresight. Basically I’m trying to see if I can outwit my forever-itis while trusting that I’m a good person.

Stand by for the results.

Yours in No-ness

Angie

 

 

 

 

 

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