A few lessons about boundaries have enlightened one man’s path to redemption. Joe Rutland shares about having and not having boundaries in his life.
Admittedly, there have been too many occasions in my life where I’ve let other people walk all over me. Not literally, OK. Yet through their words or emotional outbursts, I never understood the power of choices, boundaries and that two-letter word.
Last week, I had another adult “growing-up” moment that—in hindsight—I can see taught me more about boundaries.
Also, it taught me how empowering it is to speak up for myself.
I never knew that I had a voice inside me. A voice that had power and respect, not the voice of a weak-willed man that was always saying “I’m sorry” for any mistake anybody made in the Universe. That was my M.O. for many years. “The Great Apologist.” Of course, if I did something wrong, then I hopefully admitted my mistake, apologized and tried not to do that again.
If you have ever experienced the feeling of having a person or people walk over you, then you may have not heard about boundaries. Say what? Yes, boundaries. Boundaries are considered healthy barriers between what is acceptable and unacceptable human behavior.
Many times, I’ve had inner conflicts between the two Joes. The one that people saw on the outside, and the one that no one saw on the inside. I just knew that if anyone (and especially women) got close enough to really know who I was inside, then any relationship possibilities are out the door. Heck, I wouldn’t even make it to the front door. Sometimes, I still feel that way.
Then again, becoming vulnerable to write about stuff like this can maybe empower someone—even one man or woman—to take a risk themselves.
Boundaries, baby. I wonder if, in healthy family systems, boundaries are really used. Surely, parents that care for their children want to love and support them always … and make sure their kids have a sense of acceptable and unacceptable behavior.
If you are expecting a parenting bit from me, then I’m going to disappoint you because I’ve never been a parent of a child. I’ve been a parent to a parent, and that’s a dynamic for a John Bradshaw book right there.
Maybe that’s worth a few words.
For many years, my mom looked to me for support. Yes, The Mother Wound is now open for discussion. Pull up a chair, good men and women. Grab a beverage of your choice and settle in.
The boundaries between what a parent should be and a child or young adult should be were blurred. No, they were not there at all. I don’t totally blame my mom. Just writing those words is a tough pill to swallow. Why? Because it means that there are some battles that are worth winning, losing or surrendering. As the three-year anniversary of her death approaches this week, I can just surrender the boundary issue around her, let it go and keep working on myself.
I know that my own personal sense of boundaries didn’t make a lick of sense until I started getting professional help when I was 30 years old. I didn’t learn about boundaries during those early childhood development years from either my mom or dad. It just didn’t happen.
Sure, some people at 30 years old already have a wife, two kids, a great career, beautiful home, and everything is just fine. That’s cool. Yes sir. Then again, there are those men and women who walk around still carrying emotional scars from a boundary-less life.
Do I draw a moat around myself so no one gets close? Do I dare let anyone see my shadow side where my awkwardness, inability to communicate clearly, lack of relationship success with women, and intimacy issues rumble like thunder in the night?
As a young kid and even into my teenage and high school years, I never really felt free to go out and hangout with those of my own age group. There were many nights where I would sit in my rocking chair in my bedroom, wear my headphones on my head, listen to rock music on my stereo, and watch TV with the sound off. I didn’t want to wake up my mom in the other bedroom or bother anyone.
No wonder I’ve spent so much time alone in this journey of life. Keeping my guard up and not letting you “see” me is safe and secure. It’s also not real healthy, either.
I do care about people. I care a lot. My heart is big … as big as my home state of Texas. I care about those struggling in life, the downtrodden, beaten, bedraggled, broken, addicted, afflicted ones that see daylight and pull the covers back over their heads. Maybe I shouldn’t give a damn. Yeah, that’s a boundary right there. Just don’t care about people at all.
Now, now … let me stop myself right here. Caring about others is a solid quality to have. People-pleasing to the nth degree is a soul-sucking disease. Right up there with caretaking and, yeah, I have a Ph.D. in that for sure. (Not literally as in a collegiate degree, but you get the drift.)
From many men and women that have crossed my life’s path in the past 10-plus years, I have been taught about what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior. They know who they are and I love them unconditionally for their support, concern and care. God only knows where I would be today without them. I might be dead or in a psych ward, and that’s no fucking joke.
Boundaries are good to have. When they are healthy, respectable and fair, life has a flow to it. Going all Incredible Hulk like (or The Thing from Fantastic Four … pick your own superhero analogy) and bashing through people’s walls does not work. It backfires.
I’m not saying don’t speak up for yourself. Hey, if someone is pushing your buttons and doesn’t hear “no” on the first try, then emphasize it again. Sometimes, the best option is to just walk away. Don’t give the belly of that beast any more ammunition.
For me, I know this much. Being vulnerable while having an awareness of my own healthy boundaries is worth taking a risk. If you read this and are looking for support in creating your own boundaries, then here’s my hand. Reach out, grab it and we’ll walk through the journey together … you, me and a whole bunch of my beautiful friends.