Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Boundaries and the Sacredness of "No"

Throughout my life, I have had a problem with boundaries. For a long time, in my formative years, I was not allowed to have boundaries. I was not allowed to set parameters of what I would and would not accept as situations in my life. Even a boundary of, "When I'm in the shower, that is a time for privacy. Do not come in and talk to me while I"m naked," I was not allowed to have.

Secret thoughts written down in a journal? No. My journals were taken, read aloud, and I was made to pay a psychological and emotional toll for "thought crimes." Any possession that I had was subject to being taken from me on a whim. A pocket knife given to me by my father? Taken. Books of poetry that expressed any thought other than happiness and rainbows? Confiscated.

"Did you grow up in some sort of strange cult?" you might ask me. The answer is yes and no. This is one of the tolls on a person's mind and emotions when they're living with an abusive parent.

After I got out into the world and my life became my own, it took quite awhile for me to learn how to respond appropriately when my boundaries were crossed. It took therapy, medications, meditation and a lot of deep breathes to center myself when presented with conflict.

In the depths of being in this emotionally vulnerable state, I recall one such boundary breech situation where I did not respond well. Though I constantly strive for higher understanding and sharing of the force and experiences that unite us as people, I am human. And sometimes I miss the mark, make a mistake and don't respond as well as I could have.

In my hometown, there are no 24 hour coffee shops or diners. When I need to write, these are the places I prefer to go. From the age of 18 on, instead, I began to frequent a local bar. I would sit in a booth by myself with my books and my journals and I would drink coffee. Always coffee. And, since I got known for being very quiet and not causing trouble, I was allowed to stay in the bar past "all ages" time. I became so familiar there that they allowed me to get coffee refills, myself, whenever I wanted. The hours that I've spent in this bar have been great.

For years, I would venture out into the world, trying to find my place in it. But I would always come back to my bar. Employees came and went, but the new ones quickly learned who I was. Sometimes, I had no money and they let me drink coffee for free. If I had a dollar or two, I'd give it as a tip to the lovely bartenders who were always so kind to me. Over time, I got to know them and became their friend. Many a time, I counseled them through good times and bad, and I became known as the "bar therapist." If that bar is the hometown bar from the TV show Cheers, then I am the "Frasier" of The Inn.

Once, while at my bar, I left my journals and books on the table and I went to the bathroom. This was not uncommon. Every common patron of the establishment knows (at least) of me and, with it being such a small town, no one had ever bothered my things. 10 years I went to that bar doing the same thing and never once did I experience a problem. Until one day. (There's always an 'until' that comes after a 'never,' isn't there?)

On this particular day, I went to the bathroom, then stood at the bar chatting with the girls. When I returned to my table. I was horrified. The bar was mostly empty, yet there were two men sitting in my booth. It was obvious that they'd done so on purpose and, horror of horrors, one of them was flipping though and reading my journals.

When I saw this, I felt so violated. It's not that this man that I barely knew was reading my journals, he was peering into my mind. He was seeing into my heart and soul, deep thoughts I'd never uttered. And he was doing so without my permission. I instantly became panicked and afraid. I stormed up to the booth where the men sat and they looked up and me. I exploded at the man holding my journal.

"What are you doing!?!"

"Oh. We didn't know that this stuff was yours," he lied.

"Yes, you did! Everyone knows that I'm the only one that comes he with books and writes! Get out of my booth!!!"

"We can sit anywhere we want." The man's friend taunted me.

"Fine!" I yelled. "At least stand up and let me get my purse."

"No." The men refused to get up, so I did the only thing I could think of to do. I dropped down on the floor, crawled under the table and retrieved my purse. Then I stood up and took all the books and the journal off the table and out of their hands. Immediately, I bolted for the door and deposited the things in my car, which I locked.

I went back into the bar and told the bartenders what happened. I don't really know what I wanted them to do. I wanted the men kicked out, yelled at, arrested. Something! In my mind, you couldn't just violate a person's space like that and get away with it. Talking to the bartenders, it became clear that they, basically, couldn't do anything about what happened. Nor should they. It was not their wrong-doing or their fight and I knew it. I calmed down and went back to the table.

Going back to the one that had read my journal, I asked if I could speak to him outside. In the parking lot, I apologized for flying off the handle. Then I asked him why he got into my things. "I don't know," he said and I never got an explanation. But what happened next shocked me to my core.

"I read that thing about being a mountain. Did you write that?" Hesitantly, I replied that I had, knowing that he had stumbled upon a guided meditation I'd written for a friend. "I really liked that. The part about the goats? I didn't know anyone else thought like that. Sometimes, I go and sit and just watch the sun set, lying on the hood of my car. I didn't know anyone else thought stuff like that, at all."

Here he was, this man that had just pried into my inner world without my permission and he was standing there telling me that he didn't know that others in the world thought like he did. 'What a lonely life,' I thought.

"You liked it?" I asked, still hesitant. "Yeah," he said. I felt my shoulders relax and my anger subside. "Well," I said to him, "I'm glad. But you still shouldn't have gone through my stuff. That wasn't right." "I know," he replied, looking at the ground.

This man violated a boundary of mine. He invaded my personal things. He shouldn't have done that, but I did calm down, we did talk it out. I ended up giving him a connection in this world and he knew, finally, that he was not alone in his experiences.

Still, I continue to set boundaries and I continue to enforce them. These days, though, I try to be more understanding and more level-headed when they are breached. I, occasionally, even overstep someone else's boundaries; most of the time on accident. When it is brought to my knowledge that I've done so, I apologize.

I have always thought that saying "yes" to life was a sacred thing. It opens you to new experiences, new lessons and new levels of understanding. But, in this new Visionary Bri project, I have come to learn that saying "no" can be sacred, as well. When I say "no," I am not denying another person. Instead, I am standing up for and honoring my own integrity and self.

No, I cannot be your unpaid web developer.

I'm sorry, but I can't run your business for you.

No, you must make your own art, your own path, your own life. I will give you advice and help, but I can't do it for you.

Saying "no" allows each "yes" I say to be a full extension of my being. It means that I have committed to bring myself fully to the experience I am agreeing to without reservations. If faced with a choice, if it's not a 100% yes for me, then it's a no. And, once this is understood, people often take my "no's" a little easier because they understand that I can not be with them, fully, in the way they are asking.

But I am working on ways where I can say "yes" more often. I am receiving so many requests for help that I am coming up with a way to offer creative counseling sessions by the hour. This way I can say "yes, I can help you" and my needs can be met in that exchange of energy, as well.

Look for more new and exciting this coming up, here, in 2013. I will announce them when the time comes on this blog, on my Facebook and on Twitter. So be ready! When I open up the spots for Creative Counseling, I will only have a few spots available and they will be first come, first serve.

As always, my lovelies, I hope that you can take something from this post for use in your own life. Please feel free to leave me a comment and I'll reply back to you ASAP.

Remember that we are all visionaries. We just have to figure out where we excel.

Love to All,