Friday, 26 December 2014

Boundaries

I feel conscious that just at the moment this blog seems to have morphed into journaling. Now that can be interesting to people who have their noses to the same trail – off we go like a pack of hounds all chasing the same scent. On the other hand it can be monumentally yawn-worthy navel-gazing to people whose lives don’t exhibit the same issues. If you are in the latter category, my apologies and no doubt we will stray into other territories in the course of time. Bear with me.

So, in my Quiet Time (as opposed to quiet time which is just the Ma spaces between things) this morning, I wanted to lift a particular phenomenon up into the light of the Divine Mystery’s gaze and seek his wisdom. It is about permissions, so in some ways links with what I looked at a few days ago.

Imagine a life (mine, in this case) as a country village. Each person in the scenario is represented by a house in the landscape. Some are in clusters close together – representing bundles of close relationships – while others either stand alone or in separate clusters.

That’s the picture I’m working with.

The phenomenon I’m looking at has emerged as a recurring theme in my life. I feel the time has come to address it, because I can’t help noticing it happening in three group settings where the only commonality is me, so I conclude it must be my issue and my responsibility to deal with it.

It’s a pattern, in the social nexus, of a clear understanding (expressed by others not imagined by me) that I am there on sufferance – tolerated in spite of who I am. This has been made unambiguously clear to me. Yet – I have a duty to be there, and if I do not attend, to be graciously tolerated as an indication of the magnanimity of others, then I am being hostile, provocative, difficult and antagonistic. I must present myself, to be graciously tolerated. And you know what? I don’t like it and I don’t want to play any more.

Going back to the village picture, it feels as though there are three clusters of houses that are all private property but my house is a municipal building (like a shop/store or a public toilet, for example) where the private-house-dwellers/owners may enter and leave at will, wandering about and commenting rudely – but I may only come to their private dwellings by invitation and must be on my best behaviour while I’m there.

And sometimes they have mistaken my home for an annexe to this or that other person’s house; all that is needed is to negotiate access to the nearby house, and access to mine will be not only automatic but mandatory (for me).

It has been like this for a lot of years now, and I feel the time has come for a change. I have decided to build a boundary round my (figurative) house, making it clear that it is actually a private dwelling where the usual invitations and permissions apply. To everybody.

So in my Quiet Time, discussing this with the Great I AM, two images came to mind. Obviously there is a History with a capital H running with each of these three groups of people! They have felt hurt by me and I by them. The first boundary I felt inclined to built was of flint and stout mortar with shards of glass set into the concrete top to prevent intruders climbing over. But the Divine Being offered me the option (I think) of demolishing that wall and building a different boundary.

What he suggested (I think. One should always be a little cautious of pronouncing “God said” about anything. But it did arise unexpectedly in my mind as I prayed. That’s what I mean.) was that, instead of the flint and concrete wall with the shards, I should grow a hedge round my boundary. I was invited to choose the hedging plants, and I chose privet, which is dense and close-growing and hard to penetrate, but not holly which is actively scratchy and repellent. And in my hedge would be set a gate. A stout gate of new tanalised wood, nothing shabby or up-cycled, in a sturdy wooden frame with a lintel: a clear entrance – but only waist-high, a wicket gate, with a latch but no lock.

So the entrance could be seen as an invitation – “This is the way in, and it is not locked” – to the other villagers. But they were no longer invited to ramble in and out of my private self at will, commenting on the d├ęcor and dropping litter – or even pronouncing it too repulsive to enter.

Clearly this will involve a re-negotiation of a whole selection of relationships. I am braced for criticism and disapproval. But it occurs to me that since each of the groups concerned already criticize and disapprove of me, in that respect not much will change in any case.

In my Quiet Time, each time, I bless their clusters of houses in my imaginary village with the love of the Lord – all who dwell in them, all the ongoing concerns and projects of their lives.  I bless them and I wrap them in the protective white light of the Holy Spirit of God. But that’s just me flying over their homes and looking down on them on my astral journeys. I don’t venture in, unless invited. And from now on, they are no longer welcome into my personal soul-space unless they knock and ask, and their visiting faces look respectful and interested.


Boundaries and permissions are one of the harder relational phenomena to negotiate. But I will not sow the surrounding land with anti-personnel mines. Visitors are welcome. Even so, my life is actually my home – and now I’m going to behave as if that were so.

28 comments:

Ganeida said...

Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land.Job 1:10

I'm all for hedges. I am bad at boundaries but I have prayed hedges of protection over those things/people I don't want invading my life & mostly it deals with stuff before I have to. It's not good if I have to do it. I can get ugly when I've had enough stupid. Blessings, Pen.

gail said...

Oh Pen, there is so much to these words of yours tonight and my goodness just as I'm about to head to my bed for the night. I'm sure this will be worth a good hours cogitation before I drift off.
Perhaps one more barrier might be useful in the coming months as your hedge slowly grows to its fulness. You may need to place a barrier between yourself and that criticism and any unkind words that would try to drift into your garden over the top of your new yet not fully grown hedge. Something soft, that these words or silent thoughts of theirs would bounce off gently into the air to be carried away on the breeze. You don't need them and they won't be of any benefit so don't permit them entry.
It seems to me that you maybe moving into a new season. Being quietly encouraged by the Holy Spirit to make just a little more room for deeper mystery. Again removing some of the excess that no longer contributes to further growth.
I actually find this very exciting and will really enjoy following you as you move along this next part of your journey.
Thank you for allowing us to become part of the Quiet Way through these comments.
Blessings Gail.

Buzzfloyd said...

This sounds good to me. I wonder if it would also be worth noting what, specifically, causes you to say the things about compulsory attendance but on sufferance, as it might allow new insight. For instance, sometimes the people who want you to come might be different from the people who are just putting up with you, so lumping them together under one heading might not be helpful. Or someone might be happy to have you but say things that make you feel unwelcome, so the problem then is actually their poor interpersonal skills rather than conflicting demands. Or it could be that you have a feeling in reaction to something that actually arises from your assumptions (which is extremely common in my experience, and hard to see in yourself by its very nature), which would benefit from further self-reflection. And so on.

It seems to me, having said that, that the quiet times you've been having are allowing you to make strides into developing new and helpful insight.

Anonymous said...

This is a post I can fully agree with Ember, I find it such an intrusion, people just turning up uninvited not expected,
It seems lunch times tea times are the worse times, even if we are mid eating, I feel a chair has to be drawn up, and food offered a hot drink, and the interruption of our family togetherness.
We talk much over our food at family mealtimes, we are together, and it sort of seals our family unit.
Worse to me are the evening visitations, we ready for our evening of sewing, knitting, reading, watching a movie, just relaxing, why do people just turn up unannounced ?
Some times I want to wrap our home in an invisibility cloak....just so WE can be .....sadly many do not understand this need xxx Love and Peace xxxx

Pen Wilcock said...

Thank you for your good comments, friends - as always, such helpful food for thought.

Buzz - I can go into details more when I see you x

Rapunzel said...


I think your hedge idea is brilliant. You might add a nice barky dog to give you a heads up when someone is approaching the gate.
We do indeed have our noses to the same trail. My boundary issues are particularly keen at Christmas because it is a highly social season and I'm not a social person. Also it is a family time, and our family has compatibililty problems.

Basically it boils down to this: The Manimal and his sister and brother-in-law are lovely, kind, generous people whom I love. His three grown sons, on the other hand, are loud, egotistical, vulgar, and often drunk which does not bring out their better qualities.
Despite my usual fondness for the Lord's teaching on not judging, I find I don't want these three louts or their various and temporary girlfriends of similar stripe to be anywhere around me, my children, or my two and four year old granddaughters.

Alas, this is the house the boys grew up in, and they still consider it to be "theirs".
They feel free to drop in any time (in any condition, bringing any companions), raid the fridge, borrow tools and equipment without asking, etc.
Their good papa loves them and so they are welcome here.

Yuck.

Over the years I've mostly slipped off to work in the loft when they're here. That way they can have their family visit and I can manage to only deal with them a minimal amount.

Our big dog apparently hates them
and won't stop barking when they're here. (I think she's psychic). Our cat hides.



On Christmas he has his kids to dinner here, and I go to dinner at my daughters home 18 miles away where we have a wonderful quiet celebration together with her little family and with my brother who drives up from his home a few hours away.

This works out well most years as I'm not here when his kids are.

This year, due to a scheduling change, the boys and their girlfriends got here for dinner late....after I'd got home from my daughter's. They were at their rowdiest, and I got the full experience of it.

I could use a good thick hedge myself.

If you or any of the Quiet Way clan have any insights on dealing with relatives you can hardly stand I'd be grateful for advice on this!!!

Alice Y. said...

Interesting stuff. I have recently been getting a lot out of reading Cloud and Townsend's book 'Boundaries' which is a christian approach to healthy social boundaries. It's very much based in USA-culture and there are bits I don't find resonant (like their child psychological development outline timetable), but a lot of it seems helpful for overcoming and recovering from some assumptions I picked up somewhere that christian discipleship and good psychological boundaries are not compatible.

Pen Wilcock said...

Rapunzel! Glory! What a nightmare! I prayed for you this morning. I'm glad I did, now. xx

Alice - ooh, thank you for that book recommendation! xx

Rebecca said...

My first impulse is to rush in ans help sort things out. Then I realize I'm baffled and completely unequipped to handle even my OWN complex "country village"...much less YOURS!

(I DO rather suspect my personal history of "all or nothing" and tendency to control and rearrange "villages" that existed prior to my residency have not been successful tactic.)

Pen Wilcock said...

:0D

xx

Rebecca said...

My NEXT impulse is to trash my prior comment and take a course in spelling - or keyboarding. Sigh.

And have I already asked, "What's up with the 'I'm not a robot' box that's showing up in blogger!?" I find I don't have to check the box for my comment to be moderated.....(I'm not sure WHY I'm asking you. It's just that I'm so curious.)

Pen Wilcock said...

Oh, tell me about it!

It keeps asking *me* if I'm a robot - on my own blog!!

Sometimes the numbers are so obscured as to be illegible. On one occasion in desperation I typed in ABCD - and it worked. What?

Judy Olson said...

Oh Rapunzel! We are in similar situations! His kids were here last night, and they are coming again tonight! Last night I stood it as long as I could, then went upstairs. Tonight I wanted desperately to run away but there is no place to go at such a late hour. I am planning the same strategy tonight then, of staying with them as long as I can. Then I will go upstairs, put the headphones on, play some classical music and knit. Tomorrow I shall go out shopping and get myself a treat. Kind of like shaking the dust off. When I get back, things should be back to normal, I cannot wait. If y'all would say a quick prayer that I don't go crazy that would be a tremendous help. Last night I shouted to a 4 year old, "Not in this house you won't!" (He threatened to shoot a pellet gun)

Pen Wilcock said...

:0(

God bless you and fill you with peace.

xx

Judy Olson said...

Thank you so much Pen. Next year I'm going to suggest they have these shindigs at one of the kid's houses. Wonder how that'll work out? :-)

Pen Wilcock said...

Good idea. Or go away fro Christmas. xx

Rapunzel said...

Pen--your prayers are greatly appreciated, believe me! I need two or three Very Quiet Days to recover from the onslaught, then I'm A-ok again. And it's a whole 364 days till another Christmas dinner happens here.

Judy--definitely prayers that you won't go crazy, I can't imagine two nights in a row. Headphones and needlework are one of my tactics too. It helps. It is strange to believe that these persons are related to our beloveds.
Manimal's middle son is building a house much larger and fancier than this....perhaps it'll turn out to be the New Party House and we can return to our hermit nature around here.

Deborah said...

The 'I am not a robot' thing is Google's way of stopping everyone having several attempts of typing illegible words in order to get a post though :-D

Sometimes, with relatives we don't get on with, we have to remember that no-one is perfect, that Jesus died for them too, that God loves them as much as he loves us and, if it's a once in a while visit, that it's better to be part of that visit and show them the love of God by being gracious and friendly than by going somewhere else. Just my opinion but it does work.

The boundaries book is awesome and eventually people do adjust to the boundaries you put in place and if they they don't, then that's their problem. Also, you don't have to answer the door when someone knocks if you don't want to be interrupted. :-D

San said...

My friend and acupuncturist recommends drawing a pyramid shape around oneself as a protective zone. Shame I did not remember her advise as the extra toing and froing this Christmas has crippled my gut and the colicky pain is just awful :-(

I do not do well out of my "box!"

Love your hedge and gate scenario. It reminds me of your book about simplicity and your need for planting uplifting foliage such as lavender. You might want to add some of that to your hedge as a calming scent!

Hugs to you

San xxx

Jenna said...

Pen, I'm always interested in what you have to blog about. Sometimes more, sometimes less--but always interested. I love the places where we intersect...and I love the places where we don't. There have been times when something you have said didn't resonate until months later when I heard the inner voice say: "Pen wrote about this. What was it she said again?" as off I go digging through the blog for some now-uber-relatable, salient point. PS. You sort of sound here like someone whose clothes no longer fit quite right. PS Ganeida--LOVE that: "I can get ugly when I've had enough stupid." :)

Pen Wilcock said...

Hello friends! Thank you for your good comments! xx

Judy Olson said...

Thank you Pen and Rapunzel for the prayers, several miracles did indeed occur! Hubby said he wouldn't mind if I stayed in my room the whole time, he made most of the food ahead, and had the dishes all washed BEFORE they left. I am telling you, this was all mighty unusual and I attribute it directly to your prayers. THANK YOU BOTH!
Deborah, drunk 30-somethings who are shouting f*** you every other minute, do not respond to the love of God during a holiday event. I do take other opportunities during the rest of the year to show lovingkindness. Heck, I even got them really nice gifts! :-)

Julie B. said...

I like the way Rapunzel calls everyone here the Quiet Way Clan. It's comforting to read yours and everyone else's comments. And everyone is going through something that could use some prayer.

xoxo

Pen Wilcock said...

:0)

May there be a space to breathe and be, and may we go into the New Year bearing peace in our hearts. Surely the world has need of it! xx

Tony Collins said...

When we marry, we leave our parents. But when we remarry, it is much harder to leave our children.

However you cannot leave it there. Surely those of us in this position can find a way of saying, Enough, or, Think how you are coming across. If you can say this to another adult, then why not to your adult child?

Pen Wilcock said...

:0)

xx

Rapunzel said...

Judy-you described the Christmas dinner perfectly: "Drunk 30-somethings who are shouting f*** you every other minute, do not respond to the love of God during a holiday event."
Add to it a baby and a two year old who is unfortunately learning how to talk. He's also terrified of dogs and shrieks an eardrum shattering scream whenever he sees a dog. We have two and M's middle son brought his pit bull along for the evening.(!)
I wound up dog sitting in another part of the house, patting the dogs to keep them from barking in fear of the screaming tot who fears the dogs.
No one but the Manimal even noticed the absence of me and three dogs, which gives you an idea of their condition.
The kids, that is. I've never seen the Manimal drunk in all the years I've known him.
These lads are not loutish all the time. One at a time I can enjoy them and even have a good conversation with them, but put the three of them together and some kind of ghastly gang mentality takes over. They seem to bring out the worst in each other and subconsciously try to compete to see who can be the most dreadful.
Happily, they live in three different cities and are not often together in one place.
And I can always hope they'll have grown up a bit more by next year.

Tony--they had it only up to a mild roar when the Manimal told the youngest son he was getting out of line with the language in front of the little ones. And THAT is when they all raised their voices and cursed all the more in some lame idea of sibling solidarity or something. Sigh.
I was impressed M told them they were out of line though. I miss the old days when people could say 'there's a lady present' and tongues would be curbed our of respect. Perhaps I have overly sensitive ears from being raised in a family that never raised their voices or used harsh language.
Pen and Quiet Way Clan--I do love the quietness and non-cussiness of this sweet space here. I mean-of course it's quiet because its a blog, but the way everyone writes you can tell they're speaking from warm loving hearts. That is a constant blessing.

Pen Wilcock said...

Yes. It blesses me, too. It continues to surprise me that this place remains free of the aggression and discourtesy I see elsewhere online (though not everywhere, of course). I monitor all comments, but the only ones I've ever deleted have been:
1) When people have sent me personal contact details to write to them.
2) When they have commented two or three times with the same thing, not realising the comment doesn't come through until I've read and published it.
3) Commercial ads posing as comments.
4)By mistake!