Tuesday, May 10, 2011

NO! (A mini-rant about boundaries)

If you can't say "No", your "Yes" means nothing. 

So I say


The two year old screams in my head, "NO!"  I don't want to.  You can't make me.  She stomps her pink jelly clad foot down and is unmovable.  A giant among 2 year olds, weighing less than a sack of potatos, she still is able to stand in my imagination like an iron willed child goddess of pure determination rooted powerfully in her stance and unmoved by words and actions of others.  But if something comes up - like a cookie - she suddenly gets distracted by the bonus and forgets what she was saying "No!" to.

Another interloper snuck into my mind under the cover of darkness during my marriage.  She whispers and coos from the shadows, flitting just in perspective, grabbing other's needs and wants and responsibilities right and left, "Here, let me take that from you.  Please, let me.  Can I help with that?  Of course I can do that for you, is there any other way I can assist?"  She's quite popular in that use-her-and-abuse her way.  She's flexible, easy to get along with, and makes every one's life easier....but her own.  She stays in the shadows because that's all that's left of herself.  Piece by piece she's nibbled upon until there's only the thought of a ghost left. She's worn down and wrung out, a wraith of a woman.

Diametrically opposed perspectives are beneficial sometimes, they help you see the larger picture, for the more angles you look at something, the easier it is to see the whole thing.   But these two - the defiant child and acquiescing woman exist simultaneously in my mind.  Both of their perspectives are flawed and they cause confusion when they chatter at me at the same time. It's not the most pleasant experience.  Luckily, there's a middle ground I've been working my way - slowly and difficultly - towards.  To be there, relaxed and present, and in a strong firm voice to say -

You see this line?
It's called my boundary.
I made it just for you
with my welfare
and your welfare in mind.
I'm smart and intelligent.
My judgement is sound.
I know what I need and what I want.
Respect me by
respecting my boundaries.
Listen when I say "No".

This comes to mind because recently I've had an interaction in which I've needed to say "No." to someone - and reiterate that against position frequently over a period of several days.  It's been incredibly challenging for me since the waif of a wife woman wants me to give in and the child is distracted by shiny things and then comes back to stomp her foot....and then goes away again.  It's been a painful process of finding that balance - that voice - in between the two.

It's also been exceedingly frustrating.  I'm angry at needing to go through this process, and angry that something as simple as saying "No" is badly triggering for me.  I'm trying to retrain that waif of a wife woman to stand up for herself - and she's fighting me.  I'm taking away her mode of operating, something she believes is essential to survival.  Because if she says "No.", no one will love her.  If she says "No", people will think she's mean.  If she says "No." she's putting herself before others - so selfish!  And even though the two year old can say "NO!" well, she needs to learn that just because a cookie shows up, doesn't mean she should say "Yes" instead.  Consistency AND Honesty are needed in order to operate healthily.

I believe I have an obligation and responsibility to myself and to the various alternative communities to be a good example of a healthy communicator and properly establishing healthy boundaries.  By saying "No" when I mean it.  And repeating it until necessary.  Creating boundaries is so important.  Boundaries keep things you don't want in on the outside.  They keep you safe.  Boundaries say - "Here.  Here is where I am.  You are over there - as in not in here.  Me - over here.  You - over there.  THIS IS A BOUNDARY"

I'm angry. I'm angry that people do not show respect through their actions, for words are meaningless without the actions to support them.  I'm angry that I've been operating in an over-acquiescing way that's unhealthy for me for so long.  I'm angry that people don't listen and angry some people don't show respect for each other. It makes me sad that something *SO* important to me - respecting boundaries, and actively considering how your actions affect another person, asking for consent and respecting the decision given - isn't valued as highly by others.

So yes.  To summarize my mini-rant -
  • If you can't say "No", your "Yes" means nothing.
  • Saying "No" is something I need to work on.
  • Boundaries are extremely important.
  • Consistency and Honesty are the key


  1. Reading this has reminded me that you are awesome! Also I haven't seen you in forever. I miss your conversation and your writing!

  2. I figure if a person can't take a kind, "No, thank you," or a "No, why do you want me to do that?" then they're not worth any more of my time. Knowing that and acting on that, though, are two different arenas. It's a constant struggle.

    And it's true, you're awesome.