How much longer will this last?
Maybe another year, my counselor responded, but don’t quote me on that.
I’m one-hundred percent quoting her on that. Because when I started the work toward healthy relationships and safe boundaries with people, I felt like it shouldn’t take that long. A few months maybe? Just a couple uncomfortable conversations? But things are always easier said than done and deciding to change your life takes time.
2018 was a reckoning. I would be lying if I said I saw it coming, but hindsight tells me when you get healthy, you lose a lot of people. Some people don’t want health. Some people don’t want the work of safe relationships. I can’t force anyone to do anything and stepping back to understand where my lines are made lots of things clearer.
Henry Cloud says, “Those people in our lives who can respect our boundaries will love our wills, our opinions, our separateness. Those who can’t respect our boundaries are telling us that they don’t love our nos. They only love our yeses, our compliance. ‘I only like it when you do what I want.'”
I’m leaving a lot of things behind in 2018. It feels odd to say 2018 was one of the best years I’ve had in a long time because I could write a novel about all the hard things that happened. Last time I met with my counselor I asked her to help me process the guilt I have over not being sad about things people think I should be sad about.
You’ve developed healthy boundaries for things that aren’t your responsibility, she explained. It’s a good thing.
So much of this year felt chaotic, but I never got lost in it. I could see it from a safe distance, reach out a hand if someone asked for help, but not get swept up in the destruction. What a novel, peaceful way to live. It’s cozy and safe here, I think I’ll stay.
I still have people pushing back against boundaries.
I told a friend I knew she was living a lie and I couldn’t engage in the life she was pretending to have with me. Within a few weeks, she managed to tell me I was an unsafe person and she stopped being friends with me. I didn’t realize how much chaos she created until it was gone and things felt calm and quiet. She was always bringing her problems and victimhood to me and I fell for it. Now with some distance, I can see it was always her–not everyone else–she was the instigator, the liar, the fake. I wish her mental health and honesty in all parts of her life, but I don’t wish her back.
We had a family member try to manipulate Chris back into a situation he’d realized was unsafe for his sobriety and when we offered safe alternatives and options, she didn’t return his phone call. It was hard for Chris to realize so many people who pretend to love him still don’t understand what’s going on. I wish people who believe they know what’s best for his life would realize there is grace and mercy in not sharing all the details with those who feel entitled to them. Keeping some things to himself is allowing others to keep their shiny victimhood pins. He’s not interested in explaining himself to people who didn’t keep him safe when it was their job. It’s now his job, and this is how he’s doing it, with honor and respect whether others can see that or not.
At the beginning of my once-a-month therapy session, I barf all these and more on my therapist. She waits patiently while I say all the things I’ve been wrestling/carrying/praying/thinking then she helps me walk through them.
What should I have done differently?
What was underneath that initial reaction?
Was I trying to control something here?
Is this an appropriate boundary? Why does this feel so weird?
How could I do this differently next time?
The longer we do this, the more often she confirms my actions or thoughts–that I’m on the right track, that I’m making the right choices, that I should trust myself more.
But then I ask why we keep having to run these same circles, have these same conversations, fight these same fights.
She tells me it just takes time. People in our lives have to relearn boundaries when they’ve been off. We have to keep showing them, keep reminding others where we’re drawing them now, and they slowly find their new footing or they leave. Those are the options. It happens to every single person, every single relationship. The ones who love us, learn the new boundaries and work to respect them. The ones who need us to be the same person as before, the one they could use or take advantage of, tend to leave. And it takes a few years for all of this to shake out.
I’m coming up on the two year mark of the boundary shake out. I’m starting to see the fruit, starting to feel the peace and calm, and it’s almost scary because is this how healthy people feel all the time?
I had no idea.
I’m leaving 2018 lighter and freer. This year did not go how I planned. It did not go how I would have envisioned. But 2018 gave me glimpses of a life I’ve been longing for for a very long time. 2018 gave me hope and courage and gifts I don’t have the right words for. 2018 was humbling and beautiful and real.
I’m walking into 2019 hopeful and giddy. This life? This work? This world? There are so much God-glimpses in it, and I feel like my eyes are just finally starting to open. I’m baby-stepping into the new year with a kick in my step and a pocket full of expectancy. I know it will be hard. I know it will be wonderful. I know my God is already there, and I’m ready to see what He’s going to do.
Happy New Year, friends.
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