Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Boundaries? What Boundaries?

Why do I find it so appealing to wade in to the swamp that is someone else's issue? Instead of keeping my distance, sympathizing from a safe place and going about my own life (which is busy enough in its own right), I'm pulling on my hip waders.

"Man, I'm glad I'm not going through that," I say to Bubba. All the while I'm thinking, 'I can remember being there. In that exact same place. With that same wild look in my eyes, the same high-pitched falsetto that is meant to convey confidence and a sense of humor about the situation. The same rising blood pressure and tears building behind my eyeballs. She's heading for a crash."

I swear to everyone around that I'm not going in after her. I'll just stand at the edge of this fragrant muck and holler friendly advice. I'll assure her that I've been waist-deep, armpit deep in the same pit and made my way out. She just needs to take off that sandwich board that proclaims, "I'M FINE! I CAN MANAGE ANYTHING! EVERYTHING!" and realize she's standing hip-deep in the sludge.

All the while I'm planning: life ring on a long rope? armchair with helium balloons tied on so I can float over her and haul her up? Hmmm, nope.

I have watched her slowly disintegrate over the past months. She's been struggling with "stomach flu" for over eight weeks - nausea that just happens to coincide with the days of the week she has to work. She's lost ten pounds she didn't need to and wasn't trying to lose. Her reactions to unexpected events are blown way out of the stratosphere and she leaves her co-workers with their heads shaking as she leaves a wake of stress behind her. Been there, done that.

Her children are turning away from her, each regressing in their own ways. She can't manage to sit still for even a minute and breathe. An invitation to my house on a Friday evening for pizza and wine and games is met with "I just can't do that right now. I think I'm going to be a little too stressed." Still, even though we aren't particularly close friends, I feel as though I should persist. Her family is worried but used to it - "this is how she is. She's always been this way." Why do I feel so compelled to offer my story and encourage her to stop and look at why she's choosing to live this way? Intimacy on this level is not welcomed by her, that much I know. Why do I feel the need to save her?

Deja vu. Been here, done this. Okay, point taken. I'll be terribly sad if she does, indeed, choose to remain standing in the middle of the swamp refusing all offers of help. Maybe this is one more way I distract myself in order to not be present in my own life. No more. Starting tonight, I'm putting the girls to bed and sitting with myself. In my own space, my own swamp. Feeling the mud and muck surround me, slowly emerging step by step. Reminding myself of the power within me and taking note of the way it feels to walk out on my own. As I stand in my own skin I'll send love and light the way of all the other swamps and then I'm going to bed.


Carrie Wilson Link said...

My swamp loves your swamp.

Go, boundaries, GO!

ammogirl said...

I have to say, sometimes I wish I lived close enough to share MY swamp with you. I wouldn't do it very often, and you'd definitely have to force me to do it. But you know I'd do the same for you.

You know and I know she wouldn't let you help anyway. That's how us declarative sandwich board holders are.

Suzy said...

Yeh, been there, done that and it NEVER works.

Once again it's about sitting in that place, our own place.

My swamp will call your swamp...

Love you.


Deb said...

The swamp is lovely with all of us sitting in our own little patches together!

I've found that I'm most drawn to helping others when something of my own is calling and I'd rather not hear.

Love your insights. Love you.

Michelle O'Neil said...

Such a great post Kari. Keep yourself healthy and clear so that if she finally does need someone to talk to, you will be there.

Bottom line we can only look in the mirror and save ourselves.

Great job.

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