Committing to Self-Focus
Ugh. This is probably my biggest challenge.
To put it simply and bluntly, I am crap at making and enforcing boundaries. Boundaries require confrontation in the environment in which I find myself, surrounded by family who think that, unless you are at work, you should be available for whatever, whenever. Everything outside of your paying job is simply a hobby, and, therefore, unimportant. (I live in the same house as them, which makes them hard to avoid.) I loathe confrontation, and do my best to avoid it when possible.
Without well-tended boundaries, quiet alone time for me is reduced to the few and far between times that everyone else is gone. Either that or I have to leave and hunt for a place to be or else wait for everyone to go to sleep. Leaving involves packing up whatever I’m working on and going either to the Great Outdoors–which the weather doesn’t always permit–or trying to find a quiet corner in the public library on the weekends when local parents are often attempting to use it as a free babysitting service.
I’ve been doing a bit better recently when I bought a planner and started blocking out chunks of time in it in the evenings and on weekends to do the things that matter most to me. I’ve found it gives me that extra push against my people-pleaser side, the side that’s afraid of being “selfish”, to respectfully ask that I be left alone unless whatever my interrupter is in need of is something urgent.
I can definitely relate to Anne Morrow Lindbergh when she is quoted on page 77 as saying:
Eternally, woman spills herself away in driblets to the thirsty, seldom being allowed the time, the quiet, the peace, to let the pitcher fill up to the brim.”
I also love when McMeekin quotes Ayn Rand , one of my favorite authors, on pages 78 and 79 concerning selfishness:
In popular usage, the word ‘selfishness’ is a synonym of evil; the image it conjures up is of a murderous brute who tramples over piles of corpses to achieve his own ends, who cares for no living being and pursues nothing but the gratification of the mindless whims of any immediate moment. Yet the exact meaning and dictionary definition of the word ‘selfishness’ is: concern with one’s own interests. This concept does not include a moral evaluation.”
That dovetails nicely with this:
As girls, too many of us learned that ‘being selfish’ was a sin. If we didn’t want to share our doll or our treehouse with someone else, we were surely a wicked little girl.” — Gail McMeekin, p. 78
For me, in a lot of ways, it’s still like that. If I want to go off by myself and not be interrupted at all, I often feel like my parents or other family members are looking at me like some sort of infant terrible. It’s not so much material possessions that I don’t want to share so much as it is my time and space at this point in my life.
I don’t want to be interrupted just because someone else is bored, as is most often the case. At the same time, I have to battle this deep-seated urge to at least try to please everyone… An impossible task, and an urge which I am doing my best to combat.
When I do move out on my own later this year, I anticipate this will become much easier as I won’t be living in the same space with anyone else with no door to lock and no room of my own as I am now.
This chapter stirred up so many thoughts and emotions for me, and made me so keenly aware of how often I let others’ wants supersede everything else. I don’t know quite how to fit it all into words, particularly not organized words in the forms of sentences and paragraphs.
Ultimately, this best sums up what I’ve taken away from this chapter:
We each need to live by our own truths and values. The challenge for many of us is transcendence of other people’s expectations and making peace with our own choices and priorities.” — Gail McMeekin, p. 92
I couldn’t have said it better.