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 décor 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.