I’ve known the answer to one of yesterday’s questions for some time now. I suppose I keep hoping that one day I’ll wake up and the answer will be different, so I keep asking.
Which question? This one:
Could I form healthy boundaries and extricate myself from the unhealthy situations without stepping on anyone’s toes, burning bridges, or leaving them with hurt feelings?
To answer in a nutshell, no, I can’t.
The people around me have gotten entirely too habituated to my permeable boundaries that change–most of the time–to meet their needs/expectations/demands/requests/desires. People don’t like change, in general, especially when that change puts them at a disadvantage, in any respect, from their point-of-view. Setting up healthy boundaries for myself would seem disadvantageous for them, and so they would think their toes have been stepped on, their feelings probably would be hurt, and they may very well burn the bridge between us.
About a week and a half ago, in an effort to bring myself a little more sanity, I made lists of what I could control, what I couldn’t control, and what to do during stressful situations instead of my default, which is: “Do whatever you can possibly do to fix it! Put others first! Don’t be selfish!”. Those lists went like this:
THINGS I CANNOT CONTROL
- My boss’s retirement date/closing of business
- Anything having to do with the outcomes/consequences of others’ life choices
- Others’ attitudes
- Others’ health or lack thereof
- Others’ behavior
- Others’ beliefs
- Others’ feelings toward me, or about anything
- The state of the national economy
THINGS I CAN CONTROL
- My departure date from my current (crazy-making) job
- The way in which I deal with the outcomes/consequences of my life choices
- My life choices
- My attitude
- My health or lack thereof (save for allergies or sudden illness, obviously, but day-to-day general health, yes)
- My behavior
- My beliefs
- How I deal with my feelings about people, things, situations
- The state of my bank accounts
THINGS I CAN DO IN MOST COMMON STRESSFUL SITUATIONS
- Give solicited advice, but realize the person may not take it, and let go of the outcome regardless
- Do what I know I need to do/know how to do
- If I don’t know how to do something that needs doing, either learn or call in the professionals
- Be supportive of loved ones, but avoid becoming overly involved to the point it feels like whatever it is is happening to me/is my problem (a fine line and balance, to be sure)
- Breathe deeply
I was doing fairly well with that until this weekend when some petty family drama derailed me. And, yes, I mean petty. No one was ill, injured, endangered, or dying. It was not a serious situation, though my parents acted as such and tried to draw me into seeing things their way. It fell under the second bullet in that list of things I cannot control: others’ life choices and the consequences thereof. It didn’t stop me from being angry and irritated, nor did it stop them from being put out with me for my lack of reaction. Sighs.
That is what brought about asking myself the other questions.
In setting up boundaries, and enforcing them, it would help if I knew where self-care ended and destructive selfishness began. It would help if I knew where compassion ended and becoming an unnecessary and unwitting martyr to others’ wants and needs began. It would help if I knew how much of my own happiness it is appropriate to sacrifice for the happiness of someone else. Obviously not all of it, but I shouldn’t always ignore how my actions affect other people, either, should I?
Basically, I’ll looking for the fabled Middle Way in answering these questions, but it feels more like I’m looking for a tightrope to walk in a sandstorm in which I can’t see the hand in front of my face.
Addendum: I found something good to read and share relative to the subject matter of recent posts: 25 Resolutions for Happiness.