boundaries


File That Under “S” for Someone Else’s Problem!

Not my pig. Not my farm.

It’s beyond my boundaries.

You can try, but, honestly, you really can’t save most people from themselves. It’s easy to get deeply sucked into other people’s drama. We all have at least one or two of those folks in our lives; the Drama Queens and Drama Kings. They’re the ones who live in a constant state of chaos.  And, like Pig Pen, the Peanuts character who lives under a dark cloud, are perpetually suffering, always victims and always with insurmountable problems… for YOU to solve.

Those folks, the ones who keep telling that same story (with, perhaps, different characters added or a change of venue to keep it ‘fresh and new’) might ask for your advice. They might even appear to listen with great interest. They may thank you profusely and sing your praises as a wise and loving sage. But, in the end, it’s unlikely that you made any significant difference over there at all. They did look like they were listening, but your brilliant words never made it beyond their outer ears.

Don’t be concerned about their inability to really have heard what you said. When the water clears, they won’t really appreciate your interference in their latest crisis, anyway. They may act like they want your advice, but they probably don’t. They may seem to beg for your “aw, poor baby” sympathy, but they probably don’t actually want to change, at all. And, although even they may think they’re looking for your help… they’re NOT!

It’s a wild and wacky Cosmic Joke! They don’t want their problems solved, their emotional addictions and distractions taken away, their stories resolved, or their messes cleaned up. Truth is, they don’t want their lives fixed, not by YOU – or anybody else for that matter.

Why not? Well, think about it. If you did all that for them, what would they have to do? To say? If you nullify their misery and take away their stories (by eliminating their myriad of ‘problems’)… what have they got left? They don’t know and they aren’t ready to know yet. And, hey, last time I checked, telling them was not on your job description!

Call me crazy, but I’m thinkin’ that we each have enough of our own issues to deal with… we don’t need anyone else’s, do we?  And beyond that, when we take on someone else’s problems we:

  1. Add to our own stress
  2. Disempower them
  3. Set ourselves up to be used, abused and disrespected!

Looks like the conversation is, once again, about to turn back to boundaries – yours and theirs. If boundaries are, in deed, the demarcation of where your responsibility starts and everyone else’s ends (or vice versa if you’re looking over from the ‘other side of the line’), enforce those boundaries with giant KEEP OUT signs and patrol diligently!

If the junkyard dog invited you inside the gate… to hang out, would you go? Didn’t think so. If Brer Rabbit asked you not to throw him into the briar patch would you agree? Come on, then, impose your boundaries and stop crossing your own lines. When someone who’s not you, hands you a folder marked “Issues for you to Solve”, file it under ‘S’ for ‘Someone Else’s Problem!


Oh, You Don’t Say! I Thought I Didn’t Hear Something.

Dr, Seuss

When he brought me that first box of chocolates – that very first time – I should have said, “Thanks, but I don’t eat candy and I don’t do chocolate.” But, it was so sweet of him and he looked so pleased with himself and I didn’t want to embarrass him, so I just said “thanks” and offered him a piece. On Valentines’ Day he sent me a dozen long stemmed CHOCOLATE roses… and I politely called to say “thanks” – grateful that he’d be out of town and not notice that they hadn’t been eaten. But when he showed up with two-dozen chocolate dipped strawberries on my birthday, I lost it. Somehow I made him the bad guy for not knowing that I didn’t eat candy. No, I never told him… but he should have known! I mean, really, if he truly cared about me… Needless to say, we aren’t ‘together’ any more.

My ex sister-in-law (who is, coincidentally, also my ex best friend) is in a coma and I honestly don’t know why she hasn’t spoken to me (except for a second at her dad’s funeral) since her brother and I split up ten years ago. Though I didn’t call her, I did make two somewhat awkward written attempts to reconcile over the years, but she didn’t acknowledge either. Then I sent a letter when I heard about her cancer and an email when she went into remission. She never responded. Word is I won’t get a chance to talk to her now…

If she had just told me that she was a vegan, instead of trying to be the perfect ‘trouble-free’ guest and cause no hassle, I would have made something that all of us could eat and enjoy. Instead, she said nothing; ate only bread and butter and a little salad (picking out all the ‘bad’ stuff). I felt like the world’s worst hostess and she wasn’t feelin’ so great, either!

He was one of my oldest, dearest friends so I guess I cut him more than a little slack. I didn’t tell him how much it upset me when he changed his plans to do something with me at the last minute or showed up hours late.  I guess I figured it was ‘just the way he was’ and there was nothing I could do about it. Besides, on some level, as miserable as it made me feel, I did think that his life was somehow more important than mine. So I just ‘sucked it up’ and said nothing. When I finally did snap (right after I wrote the blog about boundaries – coincidence???) I let him have it with ‘both barrels’! And, by the way, after a bit of a cry, we’re now closer than ever!

My mother (who will be 93 this year) has always ‘just sucked it up’. ‘Guess that’s where I learned to do it. This wonderful lady mastered the art of seeming to be unimportant. Rather than say what she wanted, needed or felt, for her it has always been about someone else. She made herself ‘less than’ so someone else (usually my father) could be ‘more than’. Throughout the last 50 or 60 years, no matter what was going on, she was ‘fine’ (which, I’m sure, is why I detest that word!) and no matter what she wanted or needed, she said ‘nothing’, asked for nothing and generally refused whatever she was offered. I think it’s fair to say that I have developed a tendency to ‘over-share’ and speak my mind as a backlash to watching my mother train others to undervalue and disrespect her. Now, in her ‘twilight’ years, still quietly (or silently) declaring to the world that she is unimportant, she cannot understand why no one seems to put her first.

I admit it, there are those times when, either fearing that I will make an enemy, or make a fool of myself, I withhold. Not wanting to be judged by others, I judge myself and sentence me to silence.

You’d think that we humans would be savvy enough to say what we mean, mean what we say and ask for what we want and need, wouldn’t you? So, what gets in the way? Dr. Seuss knew…  “Be who you are and say what you feel… because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind!”

 


Don’t Go There… It’s Out of Bounds! (When Your Personal Boundaries Require Yellow Tape)

memeboundariesYellow Tape

There are times when my boundaries definitely require yellow tape. I can be a one-woman, walkin’-talkin’, boundary bunglin’ crime scene! Seriously, I’ve got some work to do on designing, setting and enforcing my limits. My sand needs some lines drawn in it! My fences need mending. My territory needs marking and my barriers need an integrity check!

It’s not that having yellow tape around me would actually keep anyone away or be a warning of eminent danger (there probably isn’t any… well, not for ‘them’, anyway). I want the tape as a reminder for me that I actually have boundaries – even though they’re sometimes ill defined and difficult to see. That tape would serve to remind me to take care of ‘me’ business; define who I am, what I want and what I value. Then, and only then, can I decide what I require and what I can allow, in order for me to be, do and have it all!

For me, wrapping myself up in yellow tape would be like wearing a body condom. Mmmm. I like being safe. I like feeling protected. Look, I don’t require that life be ‘comfortable’ and totally benign. I do like to step out of that zone and be challenged. And yet, I’ve noticed that when I identify a limit for myself and decide what I want –what I need to support my highest ‘me-ness’, I speak that limit and set a boundary.

  • I don’t like when people keep me waiting more than 1 or 2 minutes. After 15 minutes I’m done and I’m gone.
  • I don’t tip as much when service is not good.
  • I’ll spend an extra 5 minutes on a coaching call, but after 12 I’m feeling ‘used’.

WHOA! Did you catch that? I see my boundary bungle, do you? Clearly, the way things are in my life right now… that stuff that isn’t working, not what I want, disappointing or even down right annoying, is truly a function of what I put up with! My life (great as it is) IS the lowest common denominator between what I say I want and what I have been putting up with; what I’m resigned to accept.

Here’s what I “say” I want:

  • People should be on time. I don’t want to wait more than a minute or two.
  • I want excellent service and I will tip well when I get it.
  • I want half hour calls to be over in 30 -32 minutes.

Here’s the reality of what I have:

  • People around me are frequently late.
  • I tip a lot for mediocre service.
  • My coaching calls are often waaaaay longer than planned.

And here’s WHY:

  • Although I say I don’t want to wait, I do. I wait 12 – 15 minutes (or more) – until I’m really pissed off!
  • I tip almost ‘no matter what’, even though I claim to demand excellent service.
  • I don’t ‘mind’ a coaching call that goes 5 minutes over time, and yet I routinely keep going for waaaaay longer – without charging.

Yes, the yellow tape is definitely for ME. It’s a warning to me. If I ever expect to actually get what I say I want, I will have to STOP accepting anything less. ‘Almost’ is not a win and neither is ‘close’.  Enough can’t be enough if it’s not truly enough for me!

Quick, I need more yellow tape!


Parenting Your Adult Children – Oh Baby, You’re No Baby Anymore

adult children

OH BABY, YOU’RE NO BABY ANYMORE

By Sandye Linnetz

I have found that the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want, and advise them to do it.  ~Harry Truman

I’m a mom. I’ve been a mother for over 40 years now, and based on history (mine – as a child and as a parent) I have developed some rules that, although they may require some in depth conversation, all work for me… most of the time. So, until such time as they work only a little bit of the time, I’ll keep following them. It’s interesting to me that so many of the ‘rules’ on my list are the same rules I live by in other relationships.

For your consideration, here they are – my rules for dealing with my adult children (or at least the ones that I am currently using):

  • Keep your advice to yourself unless it’s requested.
  • When you do give an opinion, identify it as an opinion, not a fact.
  • Always let them know how much you love them.
  • Be very interested – be marginally involved. Whose life is it, anyway?
  • Remind them (frequently, almost to the point of nagging) that you’re available.
  • The child in each of us wants to be acknowledged… be their #1 cheerleader.
  • Show up.
  • Keep your word.
  • Be free with your use of the ‘attaboy’, ‘you go girl’ and ‘YAY you.
  • If they don’t call and you want to talk, you call… honoring their privacy if they request it.
  • Get over yourself and don’t take things personally – it’s their life.
  • Did I mention don’t take it personally?
  • When there’s an issue, discuss it ASAP… no festering.
  • Share everything except your .
  • Learn from your children – and thank them sharing.
  • You taught them how to use the toilet (and I’ll bet that’s come in handy a time or two) so be willing to ask them to teach you what you need.
  • Be clear and straight when talking and generous when listening.
  • Their adult life and decisions may feel like a reflection of you… they are not.
  • When you absolutely MUST share your brilliance, do it gently and without judgment.
  • Set clear boundaries and discuss them.
  • When you give money to your children it is never a loan.
  • Recognize that your children may not have turned out exactly as you imagined – and that’s okay.
  • You may not ‘like’ everything about your children – and that’s okay.
  • Your children may not ‘like’ everything about you – and that’s okay.
  • Emotional support goes both ways… give it and accept it.
  • Love your children AND yourself. You can’t be there for them if you don’t take care of YOU!

Okay, that’s a good start. I constantly remind myself that sometimes (not all the time) we humans learn more from our ‘mistakes’ than we do from our successes. We made ours. This is their time. Let them make their own. Just be there if they want to talk about it. And remember… it’s their time, their life and, hey think of a tree…

Maybe you planted a sapling and watered it and nurtured it – maybe pruned it and even cured its diseases. You probably had ‘professionals’ groom and trim it. You sat under it, picnicked near it, danced around it. Now it’s all grown. There’s not much more to do except love it.

NOTE: Yes, this blog is a happy, skippy blog (hey, I’m a happy, skippy kinda gal) and you may be going through something HEAVY. Let’s talk about it and see if any of these ‘rules’ can guide you.