Well, how did that happen? It’s February already…
So maybe you’re already right back into the swing of things, drawn back to the thousand appointments and meetings and obligations calling your name – just like all these little Post-it notes stuck to the window in the photo, above, practically obscuring the person who put them there.
All that stuff that wants to be done. Now. (Or maybe even wanted to be done by January…)
How do you approach it all? Whether it’s your salaried work or your parenting or managing your health or keeping up with friends and family (and somewhere in there, also living the rest of your life). How do you do it?
Do you multitask? Throw a few things in together and return to a juggling routine you maybe know all too well?
Maybe it feels like you do. But do you really?
What if some of the research thinks that’s impossible?
You are not a machine.
You’re mortal. Organic. You don’t come in a shape that will always easily slot into all the timetables and schedules and systems that beckon.
That’s probably no surprise. (And yet how many demands do you put on yourself sometimes?)
So there might be times when you can’t “keep on keeping on,” or where maybe you don’t always have the energy to “push on through.” Where it’s not always so easy to “just do it.”
Times, instead, where you might need to rest.
Respect the boundaries of your humanness – perfectly imperfect just as it is – and simply restore the balance a little. To stop treating yourself like the machine that you’re not…
I had a set of spare keys cut yesterday, so I can store them at a friend’s place in case I lock myself out. And it got me thinking…
What about the keys to your internal spaces?
The keys to your thoughts, your dreams? Your ups your downs? Your emotional and psychological home. How many people in your life have access to the inner sanctum of you? Who’s got keys?
It’s worth having a look at this every now and then, to assess if your levels of security or accessibility have changed or need updating. To find out if more – or perhaps less – people have access to you than you might have thought (or that you might hope for).
All of this points to the idea of boundaries. About psychological safety and connection with others. Of striking a balance between being locked away in an isolated tower of ‘safety’ alone, or being completely enmeshed where you’re sort of ‘access all areas’ for everyone that happens along.
There’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer for this stuff. It’s just about finding out what’s right for you. For now.
So let’s take a moment just now to ponder…
In Part 1 of this post, we looked at the concept of safety in relationships, and drawing a boundary around the damaging behaviour in them (the axe in the forest).
So what about your relationship with your self? Are there parts of that relationship that are potentially damaging to you, too? Parts where you’re sharpening your own blade against yourself?
Are there thoughts you catch yourself thinking that seem to do more harm than good?
That leave you feeling depleted?
Maybe there’s a harsh sense of self-judgment?
Maybe there’s self-doubt?
Maybe there’s just an overwhelming sense of not being any good? Feeling defective somehow.
If so, then could it be possible to draw a boundary around that stuff as well? To protect your inner forest from the blades of those axes.
I took this photo many years ago, in Germany, where the woodpiles are stacked high in preparation for long, cold winters.
This particular scene was in a forest, with the cut, dead wood being framed by the living. It reminded me of a powerful saying:
When the axe came into the forest,
the trees said,
‘The handle is one of us’.
It’s pretty chilling…
And it seems to outline the dangers of putting loyalty before safety; putting the relationship before the self.
Have you ever done that?
Is it possible you might be doing it now?
Maybe even in small ways that just chip quietly away at you.
That slowly whittle you away…
This collage of ‘no’s was collected on a very short walk around the suburb this morning, so it seems like there’s no shortage of ways to say it.
So why is it so hard sometimes?
For such a little word, it can seem like quite a big one…
Sometimes, in an effort to ‘get along’ or be polite or to smooth things over, we can find ourselves saying yes to all sorts of things we’d rather not do. Like taking on extra work, when we’re already overrun with it. Or accepting invitations to events we’d rather not attend. Or doing the family’s emotional housework.
But the funny thing is that, even if you imagine yourself to be the kind of person who has a lot of trouble saying no, odds are, you’re already saying it. Plenty of times.
How can this be true?
If you’re into gardening at all, you’ll probably know that although plants like to grow alongside one another and create a supportive ‘microclimate’ together, they still need their own space.
Even at the time of seed planting, if you want to give them an optimum chance to flourish, you’ll need to include a certain distance between them.
Planted too close, and they can start to rob each other’s nourishment (like the trees in these photos; one almost enveloping the other).
So can the same be said of human relationships?
And if so, how close is too close?
Murray Bowen, the ‘father of family systems theory’, noted this tension between the desire to be close and the desire to stand apart in order to give our individuality – our sense of self – a chance to breathe.
He saw both these drives as vital “life forces.” And he envisioned the struggle between them as an evolutionary paradox that we all must wrestle with. To know that there’s a certain safety in togetherness, but that it often comes at a cost of self…
So how do you balance those opposing needs in your life?
A couple of years ago, the house I live in was broken into, and some personal things were stolen. The person (or people) who did this got in through the back door. And the thing that made it that much easier for them was that the back gate to the property didn’t quite shut properly.
I’d known about this for some time, but somehow the fencing never seemed a priority to fix – until it was too late.
There are parallels here for our personal lives, too. You’ve probably heard about the idea of ‘boundaries’ between yourself and other people – the place where you ‘draw the line’ with them. Where you might let certain people in so far, but no further.
Part of the function of boundaries is to keep us emotionally safe. To draw some protection around our innermost selves and secrets, and to reduce our vulnerability.
Another function is to help us protect our identity and individuality, so that we can be connected, yet still separate, from the other people in our life. Boundaries stop us getting ‘enmeshed’ with another person, so we don’t lose our sense of self in the relationship.
Sometimes it can be tricky to keep some space between yourself and another person, especially if they’re your family or friend or partner.
Sometimes their expectation is that you ‘should’ be closer, or that ‘that’s what love is all about.’ (Sometimes, you might have those expectations yourself).
Yet might there be such thing as too much togetherness? And if so, what might such a thing cost you?