healthy boundaries

Get more to give more.

 

 

If there was a song to describe my ever-present blind spot for unavailable people as lovers and friends, it would be "I Can't Make You Love Me" by Bonnie Raitt. Anyone else with me?

Despite making a lot of progress, more and more each day, I sometimes sill gravitate toward folks who want a 70/30 split or less. People who have little to give in the way of time, energy, resources, money and love but are happy to soak up the Dillan-essence. 

And it's my problem, not theirs. They are doing their best making their way through their lives with what they have available to them. And the more I see that, the better off we both are. I leave them to their life choices and find what I need in folks who are ready, willing and able to provide it. This is my work. It originates in my family of origin and it's not wrong or bad. It's my stuff and I'm happy to practice making progress.

Many people aren't as lucky. They live from lack--and rarely pursue making changes or doing the things that help them get to a place of abundance. They stay in a problem-saturated narrative of always being tired, busy, overwhelmed, underappreciated, unheard or some other form of "not enough".

I'm saying this from my own perspective gained from overcoming a bajillion bad habits and hard knocks. And nipping my own "scarcity" life narrative in the bud. I know how it feels. I know what it's like. I know the experience of getting knocked down repeatedly, not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, feeling like everyone has it easier or better in some way. Overcoming my own grief from the loss of my family, the person I once called a partner and friend, as well as countless other people, helped me have a huge breakthrough in terms of the capacity of a person.

And I've come to understand that we can't give people what we don't first give ourselves. And others can't give us what they don't have.

I once thought the lack of reciprocity came from some issue with me--something I was doing or being. I was too demanding. Too much. I talked too much, too often. I thought about weird things and wanted to process too deeply. I craved connection beyond what most people possess. I struggled too often with depression and anxiety before and during my gender transition while also running my own business as a health coach between 2009-2013 (not exactly easy during an economic recession).  

Despite feeling superhuman in many ways, I was left with the impression that there was something wrong with me.

And then I learned not to personalize anything about the opinions, decisions or capacities of other people. Everything others do or say is all about them and their drama and limitations, not us. It's possible I indeed WAS too much--too much for the capacity of certain people. But not ALL people.

When I spoke to someone recently about exploring a relationship, the person flatly shared there was nothing to give, she didn't feel love for much of anything--not even for herself. My God, I thought. How refreshingly honest and vulnerable. And I knew very well the feeling she described.

I was there for a long time, myself. I was in a place of having nothing to give because I lacked a basic love for myself. It wasn't until I began practicing impeccable self-care that nurtured an even deeper self-love. It meant doing things even more than I already had been for many years.

It took making difficult decisions to leave jobs, or fire clients and end relationships and experiences where I felt undervalued, under-appreciated and taken for granted. And it took a LONG, DEEP exploration into why I had put myself in those places to begin with. It took cooking for myself more often. It took more sleep. It took more exercise, more spirituality. I needed to give myself even MORE to have more to give.

I still need to do constant work on this, every day.

Many people repeat the same patterns in their personal and professional lives. Whatever goes unexplored and unhealed shows up at the office or workplace and manifests in the way that person lives each day. Sometimes it means overworking that leads to constant burnout. Sometimes it leads to insomnia, chronic fatigue, infertility, GI issues, acne and addiction. The list is really long.

Until we do what it takes (whatever that might be for each person) to get more, to get what we really need and want, we won't have as much to give. We won't have it to give in any aspect of our lives.

What would you need to get more in order to give what you want to your whole life?

 

What I Learned from Sara

Two years ago today, I woke up on a friend's couch in NJ and received the text that no one wants to receive. It was my friend Sara's daughter, Cami. She was telling me that Sara had passed away.

Two years later, I feel angry. I know enough from therapy to know that anger isn't a feeling, it's a response to a feeling. So what am I really feeling? I'm feeling frustrated. I'm frustrated that I didn't listen to Sara sooner. She told me that I was amazing and special and deserved a ton of love, support and acceptance and for some frustrating reason, I didn't listen to her. It might have been because it was a lesson she was teaching me, as she was learning it herself.

See, when I met Sara, she and I were in relationships with people who didn't really love us. We didn't see it at the time but we were both settling for people who were sort of along for the ride, but not really invested in the long-term--especially when our lives took a challenging turn. Her journey battling cancer was just beginning and I would soon start my gender transition process. We would spend a lot of time talking about our relationships at work, and she kept telling me that the beginning of a relationship should be fun and exciting--that I should feel chosen and wanted and cherished and loved. Those were the feelings I had at that job and around her and with other people, but not with the person I had chosen as a partner.

It frustrates me now that I that I didn't see what was so obvious. Life is like that, right?

Sara's relationship was similar. She fell for someone who was attractive to her for a few reasons, but didn't really provide what she needed. At the end of her life she woke up to this, and drew boundaries that deeply inspired me. It's like she suddenly got it, and I'm so proud of her for going out strong.

For Christmas one year, she gave me this plaque to hang on my wall. And now it's hanging right by my front door, so I'm constantly reminded not only of her love for me, but the truth of what it says.

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More than any work we do, the relationships in our lives are incredibly important. How we treat people is a mark of our character. Our ability to love, respect and support other people, especially during difficult times in their lives, is a testament to how much we love, respect and support ourselves. We may not always get it right, but the most important thing we can do is be responsible for our shortcomings and ask how to make it better. We can apologize from our heart, not from our bruised egos.

Whether it's a primary partner, a family member or a friend, this is what we can strive for in our relationships.

We CAN do this, if we CHOOSE to do it. It may require some additional outside resources and some deep digging into our own issues and blocks, but we always have the choice. And if someone isn't willing or able to give us what we want to give in return, it is better that they leave our lives.

For a long time, I felt guilty that I hid from Sara's love and didn't show up the way I could have in the last year of her life. She speaks to me through her beautiful daughter Cami, who is patient and gentle with me, just like her mother was. She absolves me of my guilt and reminds me that Sara knew how much I loved her. I feel so grateful that I get to love Sara even more now, through my relationships with her incredible family.

And while I should have listened to her sooner, I know Sara is fist-pumping for me somewhere when I summon the courage to draw a boundary like she did. I feel her on my shoulder and listen to her voice in my ear anytime I experience any less than the love she gave me and told me I deserved.