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more on boundaries

July 17, 2011

This past week has been a painful and unpleasant reminder that I continue to have boundary issues. Sometimes I wish learning opportunities were not so messy, awkward, and even embarrassing.

Growing up, I learned not just by example, but through my mother explicitly telling me, that the way to develop relationships with people was to keep pestering them … until they gave in. And then voilà! A relationship is born.

That could be true in a technical sense, somehow, sort of. But it is much more accurate to say that what I learned was how to stalk people. And harass them. And you know what? Neither thing leads to a  relationship that anyone wants to have, including me.

Thankfully this particular problem only seems to crop up these days with people I knew when I was a child. As an adult, I’ve learned, painstakingly slowly, that relationships are like conversations: when everyone involved is interested and contributing a fair share, “magic” really does (can) happen. But for a relationship to be healthy and to endure, it needs to be consistently affirmed, renegotiated when necessary, able to evolve with changing circumstances, and it needs to be something agreed to by all parties. Something everyone wants enough to do the work involved, which can be considerable.

Two days ago, I learned the hard way that the two remaining ties I had to people I grew up knowing were not relationships at all, but me pestering people who weren’t interested.

And when I looked back through my past, almost every connection to a family member or childhood friend seems to be tainted by me misinterpreting social cues, and continuing to make an ass of myself by chasing after people who had been nice to me, once or twice, or inconsistently, and who probably spent years thereafter regretting those lapses.

So I guess the good news is, I don’t think any of my relationships with family members now alive can be salvaged, since they never really existed outside of my head. So I’m finally free to walk away.

Beyond that, I’ve decided to let go of all memories of “favorite” cousins, aunts, uncles, and friends, from long ago. Because who cares who I thought my favorite person was 30 years ago? Or 40 years ago? My life was utterly, completely different then. Not only am I not that person, I don’t even remember how many incarnations ago that was. I don’t remember how to embody that persona. I don’t owe that persona allegiance with everything they thought and felt, nor am I obliged to fulfill any or all of the dreams, hopes and wishes that they had.

If I owe anything to anybody, I think it is now to rediscover my selves, and to honor my/our dreams, hopes, and wishes, here in the present.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. changingmoods permalink
    July 19, 2011 00:20

    I completely understand. There are friends from my past who don’t have the slightest clue as to who I am in the present, and communication with them is hard. They can only speak to me about things I’ve done a decade prior (things I’ve put in the back of my mind and moved on from), and have the hardest time relating to me now. I agree that for friendships, relationships with families and so forth to thrive, there must be growth and continued open communication on both ends. Without that, those relationships are tenuous.

    • July 19, 2011 00:54

      Yes, I see you do understand. I went to a family wedding a few years ago where the way everyone remembered me seemed to be who I was 25 years before. It made all conversations very surreal, and was not an experience I really want to revisit.

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