weak boundaries

Building boundaries only works if they’re maintained. I learned some great things before I stopped seeing my therapist in the middle of 2018. That’s when I wanted to start guiding my own course. Not purposefully, of course.

But I vividly remember feeling the awkward tension in my chest as I painted a rosier picture of my new relationship during our last session though I did have some concerns and felt the weight of red flags. I didn’t want to admit or face any mistake I was making to avoid dealing with immediate pain.

We all know what they say about hindsight.

I can see more clearly every day how I got to where I am right now. I take full responsibility for my poor choices. No one forced a day’s actions upon me. As a sensitive person and an only child, I become grossly codependent at low points. I have weak boundaries. I take medicine everyday to help me feel better. I need to talk to my therapist. I’m going tomorrow, as I have been avoiding for a year a half. It’s going to be good for me.

All in all, my worst fear is being alone. Yet I’ve alienated most every friend and family member I have besides my parents over the past two years and isolated myself, turned down invitations, quit responsibilities, almost sabotaged some of the best opportunities I’ve got. I have tremendous anxiety about my parents dying. I don’t have siblings, and with few who truly know my whole life – I am paralyzed by the idea of a world without them. This isn’t continuous, simply latent.

When I distract myself, it’s usually a relationship. Because I made horrible choices in my marriage, I thought I could use someone “highly attentive” in this new love interest. So I jumped right into that seven months later. It was nice until I felt suffocated. It was on and off continuously. The snooping and demands for information when I actually was being trustworthy became exhausting and demeaning. I didn’t leave because of my codependency, for one. Two, I think I believed deep down I deserved someone controlling because of my previous actions in life. And three, just generally not wanting to do the whole breakup thing. The worst angry version of myself was the norm as it got worse and worse and we broke it off over and over. I hate who I became. I wish I hadn’t allowed myself to continue forward, but forgiveness is important.

Finally last summer it was really over. And I started building boundaries again.

Started to.

purge

packing up my house has been easier than i thought it’d be. i have donated and thrown away countless dozens of piles and bags. i’m amazed i cleared nine large garbage bags of clothes and still have three closets and a garment rack full of clothes. (they’re really small closets, OK?!) i’ve thrown away old, bent art. even things i might like but just don’t find joy in anymore. the massive purge of 2018. i feel so light.

i had a mini existential crisis a couple of weeks ago. all this introspection showed me how far i’ve come over the last six months. i have not quit moving forward. blogging lately is really the first time i’ve looked back and analyzed how much i have accomplished. i made up my mind and i got to today. a couple of weeks ago i regressed a little and thought about retreating. my mind is going through the process i discussed in my last blog. changing, learning new processes, adjusting to new. i believe there is a natural loneliness. a mourning process. a tiredness. maybe even a longing and a reaching for my old mentality. but i’ve ultimately found, it’s gone.

not lost, but altered. i cannot backtrack to that place. this is a beautiful thing. it took me talking to some of my mentors and meditating on my thoughts for a few days to gain a more well-rounded perspective. who wants to keep the same endless mentality? i’d be so bored without the challenge of learning and growing in each moment. in my case, i am so blessed. i look back, and there is a great deal of passion in my interests. following the signs, i look ahead and there is potential for beauty, meaning, and purpose overflowing. 

thinking back to what i wrote about changing from art to business major in college earlier this month, i gave it negative placement in my life. ultimately, it has shaped my ability to make wise art, business, and personal “adult” decisions (financial, etc.). i think it’s human nature to look back on the part of the choice one didn’t make, like not continuing the art courses, and wonder. i spend a lot of time wondering. i want to make the best choices. and i guess now that i have the peace to heal over more recent life events, i am looking even further back and forgiving regrets i didn’t even know i owned.

i owe so much to my college career. i think it was painful for me because the person closest to me was immersed in all the studio classes while i was sitting in business communications lectures, which made me very jealous. plus, university was one big competition for me against my high school mentor’s voice in my head, “anyone who stays in Albany will never graduate college in four years, or maybe ever.” i wanted to disprove that theory. and i did (no one noticing, but me). 

why is this so heavy on my mind now? i graduated from college eight years ago. it’s weird how the mind works……. maybe it’s because after all these years, i haven’t had a job i felt that my bachelor’s degree mattered until the career i have today. i sacrificed my passion, art, to complete a degree program. i got a great marketing internship, which let to all my career choices. i have had profitable and passionate careers, but this is the first time i feel like my education means something.

while i was packing and purging, i found my college diploma on the bookshelf at home just like any other book, and i brought it up to my office. i’m not looking back to regret what could have come from other roads, but looking forward to what opportunities i can cultivate through my hard work. there are so many days within years between college and today that are blurs of waste. i hope i can reach forward with purpose and focus. when i look back.

 

fortress ’round my heart

“[Your eyes so full of wonder]
I have crossed the horizon to find you
[Your heart, an innocent warrior]
I know your name
[There’s a task for you]
They have stolen the heart from inside you
[My dearest one]
But this does not define you
[And your deep thoughts]
This is not who you are.
You know who you are.”

it’s clear my heart is completely vulnerable when i cry tears of solidarity with the monster/hero *spoiler* at the pivotal moment in Moana (lyrics to song quoted above).  i spent a couple of weeks on my parents’ couch in November. i’d been on my own for eight years, and it was the most depressed i’d felt in a while. i had the option to sleep in my old bedroom, but i couldn’t bring myself to accept the accommodations. my mom got V to sleep even though it was my joy to rock her every night of her life. my world was upside down, and i had turned it that way. i made the decision. there were no surprises. i planned it all to go this way. but i felt like i could barely carry on except to watch tv on the couch. it took me a moment to accept the reality i was creating, because i was creating new for someone else who i want to protect more than even me.

but i made a decision in those weeks that i’ve opted to keep living by. keep moving. sometimes life’s favorable. sometimes life’s miserable. but even if i’m treading water, i’m not drowning. i’ve been barely above water some days. but most always, i have moved forward with optimal outcomes. processing things as they come and allowing myself to move through them in a wise and timely manner has mattered the most.

“are you OK, erin?” i haven’t known what to say, so i give really awkward answers. when people ask me that, i really appreciate it. they really inflect certain parts of the question to let me know they’re inquiring about my personal life. how do i say in three to four sentences that i have been processing this situation with professional help for over a year now so i feel kind of peaceful and clear now? people think i’m in denial or callous. but, if you saw an inevitable future a long while ago, would you face it and protect yourself, or would you lie down and die in it?

when i wrote my last blog post, i decided to be open about my journey through counseling. it was kind of like i was opening the door to everyone, “hey, something is coming. i am grasping for connection. i am living in the now until now is no longer.” i knew when i started the therapy journey over a year ago i had some big personal choices to make and i couldn’t make them based on my own wisdom and understanding. i had to develop tools and strengths. i had to sort through a lot of emotional and relational chaos. i read endlessly, listened to wise counsel of the experienced, discussed with professionals, talked to Biblical counselors. after the final decision was made in fall, i finally opened up to my best friends, who were totally clueless about my personal life. you know, it’s odd that way. i’m one of those people who claims to be open, light and free, but i have hidden so much darkness and pain over these last five years. depression showed me so much truth and humor about the world, but it isolated me into becoming a pitiful sliver of myself.

through my therapists, i have been able to look at my life over and over through many lenses.

looking things in the face and not making excuses for my actions was troubling, but i have experience with people who blame others for their problems. i refuse to become a bitter person who can’t identify my responsibility in a situation and move past things, making the best of a bad decision.

i learned to accept choices made from the perversion of duty in my mind. i embrace my anger and my darkness. i’m fueled and impassioned by feelings, but i have to abide by reason and balance. pushing those energies toward good makes all the difference for me. i can look inside myself and accept me, even if i don’t like aspects. i aspire to be better. i forced myself to find beauty and healing in the choices i made, even though i acquired a tremendous amount of pain. over time, the emotional pain got to be so much that i became numb without noticing, and that was the worst. i would fearfully wonder if i would feel again, being such a sensitive soul yet so disconnected from the realm of emotions. there were months where the only things that brought sparks of emotional energy to me were my child and hip-hop music (weirdly true).

then, i came through it. over time, the numbness dissolved. i feel it all now. i’m grateful for pain. pain means i’m living. and sometimes my feelings are so raw, i’m like a child expressing them. i don’t inhibit myself much. it’s a double-edged sword. not in a tantrum kind of way, but in the way that i almost wrecked my car last friday as my eyes filled with joyful tears as i stared at the blooming whites of the trees against a perfect pink sunset. sometimes i am so scared i will move back into the old mindset that i throw walls up really hard at people to protect myself. so basically, i’m a very free-feeling hermit. i hid behind a facade and a concept of what i was shamed into being for so many years, i lost myself for a while. that was my choice. i forgive myself for giving into those ideas, and now my life is back in the correct direction. i’m rebuilding.

i am not afraid of love. i believe in love more than ever. my ultimate goal has always been peace and authenticity. before this season. throughout my entire life. getting out of unrest was the goal, and moving toward peace is the vision. positive thinking and clear boundaries are helping me achieve this. i have found forgiveness in myself and everyone and every hurt. i am so thankful to look back and take a calm breath at the end of a difficult season. spring is here with the beginning of a lot of “new.”

i have no regrets, and my mind rests.

we’ll carry on.

sometimes, i’ll forego the couch and just lay in the middle of the floor while staring at the ceiling. my job gets more incredible with time. the herald has invested a lot of training in me by letting me learn the ropes of multiple departments before throwing me into the mix. i’ve been trying to express gratitude for this as best i can, but ultimately it’s created a determination in me to invest back into the company. i’ve always had a great deal of loyalty to the constants in my world, but this is a little different. i was left to sink in my last job, and i barely treaded water long enough to grasp what i was doing. having been given the opportunity to absorb so much at the front end has been an experience i won’t forget.

having my weekends and afternoons back has also been a treat. a friend asked me last night if i could go to this awesome festival with him and his friends. immediately, i searched my mind. “what event is this weekend?” “do i have to go in to the office to catch up?” and no. no, i don’t have to do either of those things. because though the newspaper still works after i’m done, my part is essentially over once i pack up at the end of the day. this simple pleasure exhilarates me daily when the clock hits five.

i’ve come to terms with what happened at my last job. things will happen in life that don’t seem right, but ultimately someone feels justified in the decisions that may cause others heartache. i can’t live in fear of loss. i can’t worry to death that something might happen to one of my parents while i’m not around. i can’t pass up the opportunity to enjoy a date with you because i’ve liked people before whom i have misjudged. i can’t tape down the receiver of the phone at work because i don’t want to do telemarketing.

my mind would convince me it’s easier to sit still in sheer terror of all of these situations rather that just swallowing those natural inclinations to enjoy the ideas and people and things that come before fear. the ideas and people and things that i love. sometimes my dad gives me hard advice and it annoys me. i often want to walk out and pout about it until i’ve forgotten about it at my next visit, and sometimes i do. but often, i will just roll my eyes and sigh and make sure that i kiss him good night. because ultimately, i’m never promised another minute. and the time i spend feeding my ego being offended or being scared of hurting over losing things that were never mine–well, that time is ultimately wasted time.

i think so much about time, i write so much about time, i love so much about time. it’s such a paradox and a gift and an endless, unmeasurable tool by which we operate. i gave a lot of time to my previous job that i can never exchange. i missed a lot of bible studies and moments with my family. i lost love. i strained friendships. i pushed on and worked harder than i thought capable of me. it wasn’t an unbearable situation, but it was difficult and complex–and now i can appreciate things in a job that i once would have taken forgranted. i spent all of that remarkable amount of time in a constant state of learning, to learn many lessons early on in my career. so, i can’t say that i regret it.

i’m always overeager to find some meaning in how i’ve spent my time. sometimes, it’s a stretch. however, in this chapter i am satisfied with the conclusions i can draw thus far. i know i will draw on the experiences from the past sixteen months for the rest of my life. looking forward to using the knowledge i gained from any investment of time makes me feel much more accomplished than regretting in that time investment. so, we’ll forgive and we’ll carry on. because that truly is the easiest (and best) way i know how.