When is a boundary not a boundary? When you have more to gain by crossing it than by protecting it.
It can look like ‘being a martyr’, but there can be more to it than that. It is sometimes in taking the hits, in pushing through the pain, that we can grow. Of course, you have to resist the urge to lay the passive-aggressive lens over it!
We have boundaries and expectations in order to protect ourselves, but perhaps it is only in being open to letting down those defences that we can find new ground.
A hit to the ego hurts. Being forced into places (physically or metaphorically) where you feel unhappy is something it seems pretty natural to resist. For me, I am learning to feel angry in these circumstances. I’ve had to learn it, in ways that other people perhaps have not, because I somehow grew up in a bubble where I looked at the world from the other side: I had no sense of personal boundaries at all. And important though this lesson must presumably be to my self-development, I wish I could let go of it. I wish I could be my old self, who felt no need to protect myself, because I had an innate sense of…I’m not sure what. Of invincibility, perhaps. But I’d be more inclined to term it ‘a sense of connection’ – connection with God, connection with community, connection with earth, connection to bigger things than I. It may even, interestingly, be that it is born in a sense of smallness – when ego is irrelevant, when we know (with joyful submission) the deep heart-truth of our own tiny place in the Big Picture, what is there to protect? In floating free, we are safe. When I have nothing to hold on to, I need have no fear.
Of course, I’m human, so perhaps the fear then is fear of not fitting in, of being different and alone and excluded on a human, face-to-face level. When you don’t look at things the same way as most people, your journey must surely be a lonely one. I’m learning, though, that with maturity and deepening of self and awareness, comes further isolation – that to be alone in oneself is an essential part of the path to self, and to place, and to community. My faith can only be my faith, my ideas can only be my ideas, and the more alone I become in those things, the more I have to offer those around me, both in terms of content (the things I am thinking or doing) and of form (the me I am being).
“Confidence” is a strange concept – to be confident of something is not always to be bold, or to be fearless, or to be strong; to be confident of something can leave one a gibbering wreck, as it’s no longer possible to escape that which is truth-to-self in order to make space for that which is truth-to-others. Moreover, one can display confidence precisely out of an absence of security – it isn’t necessary to fear when one has no particular expectations to meet (or fail to meet).
So – I’m having to face being in a situation that hurts me, that kicks me in the ego, that makes me feel small and alone and exiled. And I have choices (of course I do): I can choose to object, to be my small self, to do the ‘normal’ thing of complaining and trying to change things; or I can do the other thing, the thing that feels terrifying until it’s begun – I can let go of my self, and feel the hurt, and expose myself to abuse and to a possible future of loneliness and hopelessness and emptiness…and see where it takes me. I will, I think, learn. I hope I will learn to fear this situation less. I hope I will learn a little more about how to be that me I used to be, the confident me. I also hope that my being Big like this may expose those who are small, those who might abuse power over me or others, those to whom I am making myself vulnerable. In my submission, perhaps they will learn no longer to project themselves on to others. Perhaps they will learn a little about difference, and about themselves. Probably they won’t (that’s another lesson I’m learning as I grow), but if I don’t take the risk, if I don’t humble myself and allow them to hit me if that’s what they need, then sooner or later (and probably sooner – probably already) I am become them. I am projecting my fears onto the world. It is only in letting go of hope, of defence, of self, that I can hope to find and defend myself.
Argh! I don’t want that to be true! It’s really, really hard. But the more I object to it, the more I see it everywhere. It seems to me it was certainly what Jesus was trying to say. And others. In washing the disciples’ feet; in submitting to the corruptions of the law that led to crucifixion; in living as God-made-flesh; and in pretty much all the words Gospels report, it seems to me that the message of the Messiah is this: that the first shall be last, and the last shall be first, and it is in dying we are liberated to live. Blessed are the meek. Not because they will come to some great prize in the end, but because in being meek they are blessed – blessed with freedom from ego, from pride, from status, and from holding on.
As we head into the last day, how do I feel?
Partly, that words are not able to express where I am. A sense of needing to express it nevertheless. A huge sense of loss at the separating of the group. A warm sense from all the closeness. A strong sense of unexpected duty and call; and a real sense of anger and abandonment. I am very angry with some people.
I need to find some kind of therapeutic way in which to deal with that. I have no idea how to do that.
A sense of which things I use to protect myself from me, and of which things I must be mindful. A sense of incompleteness in the moving of my hands, of being a work in progress and probably, frustratingly, a sense of needing to wait. The time is not now for that work. But this time, this moment, this is my time, my kairos, and there is no going back from having set aside this opportunity – or from having taken it.
Who will I be? It seems very strange to be asking that.
I know I will be someone much more comfortable with uncertainty, but someone blessed and cursed with more certainty. I know I am someone who has a mission, a purpose, and this is a new concreteness. I don’t yet know how I will live that out, though I know I cannot afford to let go of it.
I believe I will be someone who is stronger and who is less alone; who is more aware of the blessings and gifts she is receiving, and who is more able to make use of them. Someone less isolated in my heart, though I may be increasingly isolated in my life. Someone who is very sad. Someone who feels shame, and needs to let go of the need to feel it.
I hope I will be someone who is free. I learned that freedom is a good thing; I need restriction and containment less than I thought I did. While I still value a framework, that is largely as protection, a wariness against the implosion of appropriate boundaries and values that can come with excess.
I am someone who is scarred, and not just scarred but also actively, currently wounded. I think I understand me a little better. I fear I also understand the task at hand a little better.
Someone who can pray better. Someone who is not afraid to be in that space of emptiness and two-way solitude with the God I find when I let myself be still inside.
Someone who wants and needs to be less afraid of myself; someone who recognises the responsibility I have to be myself; but also someone who is newly aware of why I’ve been hiding, of the damage I can cause and of the loneliness my hiding has made me feel.
I have found new peace within. That is what I feel. I fear losing it when I go back into the world, and I accept that it may be that my peace becomes something I see outside of me too.
I would like to share the peace, I would like to help, to make a difference. And I need to heal.
I didn’t know until this moment why it is I’ve been so craving someone with whom to talk about these things.
It’s not because I crave their input – though I value it as a precious gift when it comes – but because I need to see what the thoughts look like when they’re outside of me. It really is a sounding-board that I have been looking for, so that I can send out my stuff and hear it coming back to me. Interesting.
I am also becoming increasingly mindful of just how alone I have been, and just how horribly absent that aloneness has made me feel – like a ghost or a shadow, not valued enough to even look at and make substantial. Not shared-with, but shared-at. I feel as though I ought to have been protected, or at least offered the chance of protection, from the rising tide of emptiness that follows the tsunami, scattering debris everywhere, heavy with death, but looking more ‘normal’ than the last, and thereby establishing a false norm.
Let go of the anger, the pain, the binding – yes, I can do that, I suppose. But how to prevent it from happening again – other than running away?
I am learning to be gentle and quiet and still, and it is good. I am conscious that suddenly I am further on the path than I’d thought, that I have silenced the self-critical voices in ways that others can’t even see they haven’t. This is a strange position to be in: it lets me experience an enactment of that which I found in the silence yesterday, as I can help and connect and understand the hurt because I have been hurt by it, and our shared sorrow, held by my having escaped that path, allows us to be friends.
It is good to be close. It is good to be quiet. It is good to be gentle. It is good to let go of answers or of solutions and to sit in the space between knowing and unknowing, not seeking so much as observing and hearing and learning. It is a good place to be. I feel held.
Something here – here, in this location, in the life I have lived here – is not right, is wrong. I know what it is. What I do not know is how big or deep it is; on what power it sits; how it comes to be here.
I need it out of my life. But how to do that? If I’d been stronger, I might have changed it. But I was weak. Is it too late to put that right, or to begin?
Is it my job to change it, is that why I’m here…my calling?
As I walked this afternoon, I found my heart was crushed by the words of a song, and I stopped to sob, leaning on a holly tree. As I did so, I noticed a pin stuck into the holly tree. And all of a sudden, all I could do was to find a way of removing the pin, of withdrawing the source of the tree’s pain, and then of trying to heal it. Of course, I couldn’t – perhaps my tears did a little – but the tree remains, and I drew out that needle. Am I here to draw out needles, the tiny lances of pain that no-one even notices most of the time? That does feel like what I do, often. That my steps are small and that they make differences, in very small ways. But that can’t heal the tree if the roots are rotten, and it can’t sew back on a sawn-off arm.
Words for today:
“know that you are a person that generates love”.
That matters. Are there people who don’t, though?
I don’t want to be here; I don’t want the pain. I want to be released. I want to pull out all of the parts of me that have come to belong here, and to gather them unto myself and to thus begin to heal from all the wounds that have cut so deeply into me. This is a bad place for me. And still I feel I must be here. Maybe that’s just a mistake. Maybe it’s cowardice. Maybe it’s right. I don’t know. I do want it to stop hurting me now, though. I don’t like it and I don’t feel clean or good here. I feel contaminated and used and beaten and bruised, and I want it to stop.
Some of these are hard! This thing about not having to ‘fight for a spot’ in someone’s life – that’s so important, and so resonant and scary and sad for me right now. Maybe one day I’ll find some people I like who value me enough to find space for me in their lives. Seems a shame for it to have been such a difficult thing over the years, though, and I’m not sure why, again. Maybe I only ‘like’ people if they don’t value me enough – that’s the only obvious conclusion I can make. I guess the other one is that I just got very unlucky.
Perhaps I’m supposed to examine whether or not my perception is ‘true’; it hurts so much just to look at it at the moment that I can’t do that in this instant. Maybe I will at some point.
The grief is getting in the way. The silence in particular is a very hard thing for me.
I don’t know whether I can let go, sometimes.
That makes me feel very foolish.
I am very angry, and ashamed. I wish I could go back and press ‘Reset’. That’s what I’ve been wanting, trying to do, but of course it doesn’t work, we can’t unlearn what we know, can we? We can’t unshare what we have given; we can’t take back love. We can’t become newly unexposed – and it’s the knowing, the intimacy that feels like a rip right through me.
I am sad, and that is getting in the way of my being in this space properly. I am angry about that, too. Give me back my mind!
And today? I guess I’ll need to keep fighting to stay here, battling within and without, and I guess I might try to think less – or fewer…I think much, but I also think many, and I’m not sure which of those is worse!
To share the space, that it the hard part, as I head into the second day, first morning.
I’ve been sitting for over an hour, wrapped up in two blankets, shivering. I know that the building and the room are warm. Parts of me are warm. But my extremities, particularly my right hand and my right foot, felt like ice for the longest time. They are warmed up enough now that I can type. I still feel the chill down my back, through my shoulders all the way to my feet. It is as though I am wrapped, constrained, in cold.
This happens. This is my body’s response to stress – fight or flight – and, given that I’m forcing myself to do neither, by strength of will, my body’s trying to shut down to protect me from whatever it is.
So what is the big problem? I’m not sure.
I felt rejected. I felt ashamed of myself. I felt as though there may not be cause for hope. And above all, as though I must apparently be so different from everyone else, that I can never fit or be at peace. I don’t suppose that’s really true, but that is how it feels, and looked.
My responses were not ‘normal’; I just responded. I didn’t think it through or try to be clever. I answered the question with my body.
And that distressed and disturbed people. My moving into their space, my craving closeness, felt to them aggressive and weird.
Is this because I am aggressive and weird? Is it because somehow I massively miscommunicate? Is it because I behaved inappropriately? Did I do something ‘wrong’?
So distressed were they by my hiding in the crowd, I had to go back to my seat, alone, isolated, exposed…equal. Adult.
I didn’t want to be alone. I wanted to be held.
And suddenly as I said that, the walls came crowding round me: I am so very much alone, almost all of the time. In work, at home, in my family, in my spirituality, in my ‘love’ relationships.
The question is: why? Am I alone because I am rejected? Just because of circumstances? Because I isolate myself?
Probably a mixture, right?
I am aware this evening that my craving nearness, my moves towards, are often threatening and intrusive for others. That they don’t want me near.
I wonder if it might be because they’re hiding from me, rather than the other way round?
So this self-proclaimed “people person”, the “shy extrovert” suddenly feels like a cold, cruel, corporate hard-man, a Frank Cross, a Scrooge. A bitter, lonely person who pushes everyone away because she is lonely. Can that be what is happening, what has been happening all this time?
If I stopped wanting people, if I stopped moving towards, maybe they’d move into the space I left. So then maybe I’d be less…alone. But, I wouldn’t be me, and I wouldn’t be happy. I need to be in that space, that is my space. Why?