For the last few months, I’ve started telling myself I can no longer cry because things are hard. Because life is hard. Because crying does nothing to change it. I’m not referring to the pain-releasing crying that is healing. I’m referring to the defeated crying that keeps me down. Stuck in an underworld. Unable to see my way out.
But what I’m realizing is that I can set boundaries with myself. Boundaries that will help me rise up when I’m feeling pulled down. Boundaries that will help me feel productive and not burned out. Boundaries that will help me remember who I am — that will help me find my way out of the darkness. The boundaries I set save my obsessive mind from falling down that dark hole — into the nothing — no matter how intriguing or inevitable that hole may seem. It’s all about boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. And then more boundaries.
I set boundaries with myself via my daily schedule. My routine. The one I make every day to get through what needs to get done. The one that makes me get out of bed and be productive. Setting that dividing line between at least attempting to get things done and not trying at all. Sinking deeper into the darkness.
I have boundaries for when I’ll answer my emails and when I’ll check text messages. For when I’ll turn on my ringer or notifications. Making time for myself and my own thoughts without constantly engaging with the thoughts of others. Allowing me to respond instead of react. And then when I do make time for others, I can fully give myself to them and to their needs. Without being distracted by myself.
Even recording the food I eat is an example of a personal boundary. I keep a food journal to help me understand my body’s needs. To make sure I get enough protein and vegetables. To keep myself regulated. When I don’t write down what I eat, I fall over or short of the boundary: I overeat or undereat. Or I don’t get enough nourishment because all I wanted to eat that week was chips and ice cream. Neglecting what I know I must do for my body. Setting a nutritional boundary with myself reminds me to snack on fruit and to sneak some kale into my smoothie.
I’m learning I can set boundaries for my thoughts too. Tell myself when I can think about topics that are difficult for me. Save myself from trailing off into the darkness. From losing time. I can set boundaries for when I will talk about hard topics too. And when I will not. Saving them for meditation or writing or therapy instead. I’m finding I’m getting so much time back. And it’s freeing up the rest of my day for living.
If there’s something I’m fearful of, unable to wrap my mind around (like COVID for example), I’m realizing it doesn’t have to overpower me. It doesn’t have to rob me of my thoughts and my time. That, while I need to abide by my civic responsibilities surrounding COVID, it is someone else’s job to figure it out. That it’s not within my control. All I can do is acknowledge my fear and let it go. Like a wayward passenger, I can keep my door locked and send it safely on its way.
Sending difficult thoughts, pain and fear away is at the root of healing. Because it does us no good to hold on to it. And it takes away our power. We know we cannot control life no matter how hard we try. And that the harder we try, the more let down we will become. I get it, control makes us feel safe. But I’m learning it can also limit us from opening up to life. To love. To fully knowing ourselves.
And I’m beginning to understand how my boundaries keep me safe more than my attempts to control. Keep me grounded. Keep me centered. Allowing me to ride the waves a bit more. So that whatever life throws my way, I will stay afloat. I’ll set a boundary. So that I don’t get in the way of myself. So that no matter what happens, I can trust I will be okay. So that I can be free.