Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Women without borders

Listen to this post:

I am a lump, undefined by strict boundaries. As such, you'd think I'd be loose, sloppy and carefree. Not wound tight as I am.

I've always had this propensity, but motherhood let the border patrol completely off duty. I wanted to give my kids everything. I have since learned that philosophy only works when they're infants. You, really, can not spoil a baby. A toddler or teen is a different matter.

As I opened the door for my daughters, however, I forgot to close it at all. And it catches up with me: first physically, then emotionally. I know I am not alone in this so-called condition. I believe it's particularly found among women, though not exclusively, and very much so in mothers, always called to nurture.

There was a time not so very long ago that I thought God was calling me to be open ... to everything. And I was. I found I had little time for myself and no structure or even discipline, save for my regular exercise. I understand that discernment is necessary in all matters, not just some. We're not created to be open 24/7, though some of us lack the necessary protection. I've had that conversation with a friend, who also happens to have fibromyalgia and be male. He says his therapist is always telling him to acquire those filters. We laugh because we have no idea how, nor did we realize we were missing them.

I'm even sensitive to the always-open agenda of technology and don't know where my cell phone is half of the time. I already feel on call, I don't need to actually be. A few years ago, my niece experienced a bout of poor sleep. Then she confessed to sleeping with her phone and checking it at night when it vibrated with a new text message. No wonder she was tired; she was always at attention. That taught me a valuable lesson. Even e-mail, facebook and texts have that effect on me. I am learning to impose my terms.

 I LOVE voice mail. Just because it is convenient for someone to call, it is not necessarily so for me. I am the only one in my house that answers or listens to messages from our land line and they all just wait for me to jump when it rings. "I'm busy and will get to it later," I say. "If you're so interested, why don't you answer?" They never do. A new friend recently wondered why I had not answered her cell call. "Did you leave a message?" I asked. "No," she replied, "I thought you'd know it was me." An older friend had to explain to her how and why I unattach myself.

I really need to learn how to unattach myself from actual people and requests when solicited. My fear is that if I don't respond, they will think less of me – even when I'm not up for helping. Something else tells me that they'd totally understand if I explained. Sometimes I'd just like to say no and not feel obligated to explain. Would that work?

• Where, exactly, are my boundaries?
• How have they shifted over the years?
• Is it time for a recheck and/or reshifting?
• How much of my identity is wrapped up in how I respond to others' needs?
• How can I detach myself from that persona and discern where God is calling, not necessarily other people?

I'm the once brightly wrapped gift,
paper ripped off and crumpled,
box flattened

and yet I lay there
at attention to give

knowing I am unwrapped and
crumpled and, really,
incapable of giving right now

how can I pick myself up
and out of view,
saving my gifts only
for when I can rightly give –
with love and energy

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