It’s a two-fer! Yes – it’s a longer post… but enlightening, and thorough – and all for your benefit!
I say “constrictors” – because doing something out of obligation or expectation makes you feel – well – constricted. You feel tight, tense, an aching in your gut…. This is never the right reason to do anything. No good comes out of it. You burden yourself, and burden the people you touch in those circumstances more than you may realize. Obligations and expectations should never be the motivation behind your choices.
I was on my walk the other day, and as I moved within earshot of one of the homes across the street from the river’s edge, I heard a man talking on his phone. “Yeah, hi. Say – I won’t be able to make it tonight. Yah. I can let Gayle know too – but I figured between the 2 of you – at least someone would know. Okay then. Yep, see you later.” That was IT. Can you say REFRESHING?!? I was so utterly blown away by……….
- A) the fact that this man gave No clear reasons. No forced excuses. No explanation for his upcoming absence from whatever he was invited to… and
- B) The person on the other line didn’t require a ‘reason’ of him.
I think we usually feel forced to offer a reason. Sometimes when the reason is simply that we just don’t feel up to it, we think that we have to create a valid excuse. But I was inspired by this man’s ability to simply share that he wouldn’t be able to to make it – and leave it at that!
Simple… and BRILLIANT!
Here is another inspiring story from my friend and guest writer, Deon Griffin. It’s a fantastic insight into more reasons why healthy boundaries are not only good – but a MUST! At the bottom, I’ll close with a little more of my perspective, plus tips for knowing when to say “No”. Enjoy~
(And thank you Deon!)
Ephesians 6 New International Version (NIV) 6: Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3 “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”[a] 4 Fathers,[b] do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
I cannot believe I’m beginning this story by saying “I ran into an old friend yesterday”, but it fits. She and I had grown up on the same block since we were both 5. We were at the Laundromat. I was slightly in her way at one point as I heard, “Excuse me”… I moved over, and we recognized one another. We hugged each other tightly and complimented each other on how great we thought one another looked.
I kind of lied. Let me explain… Shell has always been my friend and she will always be beautiful. But she didn’t seem to appear to illuminate the way I see most of my current circle of 40-and-fab friends light up. Something was amiss. She seemed burdened and preoccupied. It seemed her femininity had been tainted. I couldn’t be sure, because it was laundry day, right? Nevertheless she’s still my friend; my sister. It was good to even be around her in that moment.
We proceeded with some standard catch-up conversation, about our kids in college, and our dating lives… She asked me about my mom. I told her that because of her health issues, mom had currently moved in with me. I explained that it was a good move for her to sell her house and stay with me until December, when she goes to Dallas with my sister for 6 months. I told her that it’s been an interesting transition because above anything else, Mom had to understand that she was now living with me, and she couldn’t try and control my life or make me feel guilty about how I choose to live it. I shared the fact that we’re bumping heads a whole lot, but regardless, her health and safety are most important to me. However, I still find it challenging to have to keep myself from disappearing into “her little girl” again at times.
After listening patiently, she in turn and with understanding dropped a bigger bomb on me than I could have ever imagined. She told me that her mom was supposed to only be staying with her for 6 months – and that was two-and-a-half years ago! My heart sank for her. I listened as she went on, stating how her mom had come in and proceeded to rearrange her cabinets and other things around her home. She was initially staying in a daybed in the living room, while Shell remained cooped up in her bedroom. So, finally Shell moved down into the basement of her OWN home so she could give her mom her bedroom.
She told me that her mom spends all of her retirement money taking care of her 50-year-old brother, who stays in Vegas. She is depending on her daughter for shelter and companionship. Poor Shell can’t even come home and decompress from her corporate day without her mother making her feel guilty about not wanting to talk. She says, “I haven’t spoken to anyone all day.” So, my friend must reply with, “I haven’t stopped talking all day.”
I found myself in an emotional quandary because in all the issues I’ve had with my mom – her aging situations, a mild stroke and recovery, her neediness and dependency on me – I couldn’t fathom what my friend was going through with her mom. This woman, who is only in her mid-60’s and very present in mind and body, has decided to plant herself right in the middle of her daughter’s life and womanhood. I could see why my friend looked tired and beat down. She pretty much has to fight every day to feel like an adult in her own home.
She loves her mother and thinks she’s respecting her by allowing her to have the final say in her life. I wanted to tell her so badly – that by allowing her mom’s inability to control her own life fall onto her shoulders in the form of interfering with and controlling Shell’s life – she’s pretty much disrespecting herself.
I was thankful for the conversation with her because it helped me understand the necessity of living and acting in my own truth. One of the most important steps in doing so is by creating healthy boundaries. It’s essential to do this because it gives you an anchor; a moral compass to refer to when you feel like you’re getting pulled away from who you are, to fill spaces and voids for others. Sometimes when you appear to make your life seem so flawless (and even when we don’t), people will use it to their advantage – expecting you to now solve their problems too. You can show so much compassion at times that people may not comprehend the sincerity in it, or the need you have for it in return. Some people can’t even feel ‘normal’ until they dump their loads of unfinished business at your door step to sort out and clean-up for them. These people come in all shapes and sizes… even moms.
The most critical relationship between women ever created can go all-good or all-bad in very subtle ways, if we aren’t careful or unwilling to have difficult conversations – and sometimes, even to take radical action.
We can’t just assume that people in our lives are going to treat us the way we deserve to be treated, or how we treat others. We also can’t get angry when we didn’t take the necessary steps to demand proper treatment from those who misuse us. If we do get angry, we should make sure that we direct that energy correctly at ourselves. We train people how to treat us. If we aren’t proactive at correcting situations in the moment, we leave an impression that their behavior toward us is ok, or acceptable.
Sometimes being a good daughter/ companion/ friend/ is, in fact, picking your battles. But what if every situation you encounter FEELS like an all-out war?
My friend asked her mom, “Can you let me have my time for a while?” That’s when I expressed to her, “You know Shell, sometimes you just have to TAKE IT – whether they ALLOW you to or not.” Sometimes we have to train ourselves to think of our well-being first. After all, an empty cup can’t quench anyone’s thirst.
Simply put, don’t let your love for someone be translated into OBLIGATION or GUILT. I reminded Shell that something could happen for her before her mother needed to be taken care of. You always have to factor in the unexpected with the expected. For example, she still expects to get married. She has to show the universe she has room to receive her husband. If she’s still following her mom’s orders (and probably other entities as well) and has fallen under a generational curse from her mother’s influence, it will prove to be very difficult for a good man to punch thru all those issues or the ability to compete with a mother that has decided her needs must be met before her adult daughter’s. She is hoping and praying in vain, and hasn’t arranged herself appropriately to even notice that man if he shows up around her.
If her mom has always controlled most of her adult life, then she will never really know what it feels like to be ALONE. In that time is where you grow, stretch and develop into learning where your wants and needs reside. You will feel anxious all the time in trying to please certain people in your life. When you are too focused on making others happy, it can go against what your spirit is trying to do for your own joy and well-being.
That is where resentment and bitterness will find the smallest cracks in your heart, and they will move in and grow in slow spurts. Your inner peace has been compromised because you couldn’t bring yourself to have a grown up conversation with your mother/ companion/ friend – when their current behavior was interfering with the plans you had for your own life. (“Fathers do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”)
It’s ok if you need some space, healthy space to get yourself back on track; That you feel overwhelmed by their unhealthy influence over you. You need to reevaluate this situation before it gets out of hand. In Shell’s case, she could have said, “No mother. You can’t stay here after what we agreed on – 6 months. It’s best for both of us to work on our adult mother-and-daughter relationship under separate roofs. It doesn’t mean I love you any less, or that I don’t appreciate the sacrifices that were made for me as a child, but I want to learn to love you more as women – and not just as your daughter.”
I wonder how Shell will raise her children to be productive independent citizens of the world when right under their noses Grandma has just parked in the middle of their lives because of her own inability to let go and essentially grow up herself. It made my issues of an aging parent seem small compared to my friend’s journey. I appreciate the connection that God has allowed me to see – that He has given me everything I need to succeed. Success includes establishing healthy boundaries. Caring for others doesn’t mean being more concerned with everyone else’s happiness above my own. There’s a lesson in understanding that I can’t give what I don’t have. I know my limits, because I have established healthy boundaries, or appropriate information for my mind body and spirit that helps me maintain and retain the best parts of me for the purpose of ministering to myself first, in order to available for the support of others. Self-preservation at its best! 🙂
Thanks again Deon!
Wellness-Wonders – I hope you’ve gotten a lot out of today’s read…. Now here is how we’ll wrap things up~
My very simplistic perspective on obligations & expectations, as well as the judgement and chatter that can potentially result, is this itty bitty, 4-word sentence: “Live and let live.”
I don’t hold you to expectations, and I certainly don’t want you doing anything out of a sense of obligation if it involves me. (Outside of that – it’s your prerogative, but I personally want nothing to do with that!) And, I don’t judge you for your choices in life. I may not always agree with things – and neither will you – because we all live by different priorities (and we all make mistakes too, of course). But I recognize that it’s your choice. And, I choose not to take it personally.
Oh how I wish we could ALL just live by this creed. It’s SO simple…. And yet, there is a bit more to it than that. If we took a few steps toward mutual respect & understanding (with a dash of acceptance), and honored the value in the sentence “live and let live” – our human interactions with one another could reach angelic heights!That’s not to say that I think I’m ‘angelic’ about this, but I do live by this regard of respecting others’ priorities – even when they are different from my own.
We all (often sub-consciously, even) tend to develop theories about the lives of others, based on limited knowledge. I too have my ‘theories’ about people – though in truth – for me they typically stem from a need to understand their motives. I’m aiming – with all of my humanity – to recognize their humanity – and to give them the benefit of the doubt; They likely don’t mean for their judgement to be hurtful.
I’ve been practicing this for years. Even when I was a wee-one in elementary school – kids could be really mean. I can recall being teased and taunted for various (stupid) reasons, such as being short, or not ‘fitting in’ in one way or another. Quite frankly, that’s never been my goal. My goal is to be me. In as much, I could readily stop myself from reacting, and think about WHY those people were saying the things they were saying… I seldom became emotional, and often walked away rolling my eyes and smirking a ‘whatever’ glance. I think it honestly bothered them more that it DIDN’T bother me! I could let it roll right off my back, without any issue.
Here’s the nitty gritty of it… Most often, when people hurt one another, that isn’t the intention. It’s almost like a side-effect to something else they’re dealing with. Excess stress. Lacking sleep. Feelings of inequity. Loss of a loved-one. Loss of a job. Holding onto a job they despise. Fears. Grief. Insecurities that they haven’t yet faced and overcome…. Their own baggage. Even if we don’t make a habit of carrying around that excess baggage, we all have challenges that we face in life.
Although it’s part of the human experience to deal with those kinds of negative emotions and circumstances, it’s definitely not a free ticket to excuses for hurting others around us. Ultimately, how we deal with those situations and emotions is the basis of our happiness and our motivation.
Here are a few quick tips for side-stepping unnecessary obligations, expectations, and the potential resulting judgement from others surrounding that:
- Pray on it & let it go. Often when I do this, I find ‘the answers’ come to me in a moment of clarity, or – fate works things out for us. (i.e. Things change and you no longer need to even consider it.)
- Honoring yourself and your self-awareness does not equate to selfishness. If you are maxed-out, and the situation might be draining from a psychological perspective, you have a right to your “No”.
- Know WHEN to say “no” – Part A) Some stress is positive, and helps you step out of your comfort zone and accomplish something of value. Other times, stress can be overbearing, become too much, or build up in our systems for the negative. Recognize when you are experiencing the latter – and give yourself a break. How can you be of value to someone else if you are already drained, with little left to give?
- Know WHEN to say “no” – Part B) Tap into your intuition. When you think about whatever it is that’s being asked of you – the circumstances, the people involved, the reasons for it, the purpose behind it, the location, the environment. – ask yourself this: Does it feel expansive, opportunistic, loving, genuine? Do you feel a bit of excitement about the opportunity to be there/ involved? OR, does it instead feel constricting and give you a pit in your stomach? Do you feel yourself tensing up, your breaths becoming shorter? Using this method of determining when to say “yes” and when to say “no thank you” has been MIRACULOUS for me, to say the least. It isn’t always clear – but if you can sense what your inner wisdom is expressing through your body’s signals – it helps immensely.
- Some people are going to judge you – no matter what. So – you might as well do what is best for you at the time, and continue to give them that same respect when things are the other way around – (only without the judgement.)
- Remind yourself that when someone chooses not to attend or to be of service at any given time, it’s most often NOT ABOUT YOU. It’s usually about them. Give them that, and leave it at that. SAME goes for when they place judgment on you for your decisions. If your intentions are good (meaning you’re not out to hurt anyone), and your choices result in unfair judgement – remember that THIS is usually stemming from within THEM too…. Let it roll.
- Don’t allow someone to inflict their personal issues onto you. You’re respecting yourself and the other person when you disallow this kind of negative energy transfer. (They need to attend to their internal conflicts to resolve them. You can help by lending an ear – but you can’t fix it for them. That has to come from within.) If they have guilt or some insecurities to deal with – that is indeed for them to deal with. You can be supportive, without allowing it to drain YOUR energy. Healthy boundaries are a must! Whether that’s someone who just simply drains your reserves, imposes negative energy onto you, or even a family member who seems to always find something to implicate you for in your life – you have a right to create more space between you and those people. They’ll likely take it personally, and view it as ‘pushing them away’ – but they may eventually realize that the relationship is healthier for it, and you are striving to keep the peace. You shouldn’t have to defend yourself and your choices – including the decision to surround yourself with loved ones who provide nurturing and support.
- Figure out if there is another way you can help (if that’s what’s being asked of you). You don’t have to accept every opportunity that opens up to volunteer at your kiddo’s school, or put your health on the line over-doing it. If you can decide what you can help with/ participate in – you’ll feel better about knowing you have intentions of helping when it’s right.
- Determine the WHY behind your potential decision. Are you doing this ‘thing’ (participating in something that you’ve been invited to do, or replying to a request for help) out of the desire to truly help/ be involved? Do you want to bring someone joy and share in that with them? Or are you feeling obligated? Like you’ll be judged if you choose not to participate? Like you’re expected to be there or you’ll be looked down upon? If your “why” is positive, and facilitates growth, authentic connections, and contributes to something you are passionate about – then it’s a good thing – even if it takes you slightly out of your comfort zone. If it’s the obligation-sensation – just say NO, give yourself that ‘out’ – and don’t judge yourself either! You will give of yourself/ participate when you are in the right place to do so – from the heart. Otherwise, it won’t matter anyway.
When others judge you – it’s most often a reflection of their own insecurities, issues, or desire to free themselves the way you have. Let it roll. Remember – you know the truths behind your motives. If things are done with truly good intentions, you have nothing to worry about or defend. You don’t need to prove anything to anyone. You have a right to live according to different priorities. And without question – one of those priorities should be your self-worth, self-respect, and self-care!
*K – so after all that – time to get up and DANCE-IT-OUT!* Little bonus material here for ya – in the form of my current favorite song. (Okay, I have MANY ‘favorite songs’ – but this is definitely a list-topper – in tune with this very post topic.) The song is titled “Let ’em Say” – by Lizzo and Caroline Smith. Lyrics can be viewed HERE.
And here is the video via Youtube:
*(AND if you download the track, it supports a good cause!)
Keep on Rockin’!