Category Archives: relationships

The Drama Triangle (replace your role with your purpose)

Standard

“We all have family dysfunction. It’s why we’re successful, to fill that hole.” Eli Attie

family-469580_960_720

My husband John and I kept a distance from our families of origin for years, even while one or both parents were alive. It wasn’t an ideal choice, but I didn’t think our marriage would survive otherwise, so I pushed for detachment. We’d leave family get-togethers and I’d exhaust him by scrutinizing how everyone acted. A family member filled me in later about bets they placed on how long our marriage would last. I didn’t have energy to fight John and confront that kind of judgment I suspected was happening.

By the time I heard the story, it was because of the irony of it – we were the only couple in the family still married to our original partner. Maybe I was right about having a better chance of staying together if we detached from family even though I didn’t understand why.

It wasn’t until I attended a daylong workshop for counselors to earn CEUs and do personal work that I heard about the Drama Triangle. I preferred a miracle, but instead I got a lesson. There are plenty of theories about family dynamics, but this one had our families’ names written all over it.

Understanding my role (and theirs) in both families, the one I grew up in and the one I married into, helped me grasp why I detached from them, and it’s helped me get my own life while loving the people in it even if from afar. I hope this explanation of the Drama Triangle helps you also – to identify what’s happening in your family, to identify your role, and to gain momentum toward changing it if necessary so you can get your own life.

triangle-31903_960_720

The Drama Triangle
(persecutor, rescuer designated to the top two angles, victim at the bottom)

Dysfunction usually happens when we react instead of intentionally act. Unless we work at relating to each other as adult to adult, we typically react based on whatever role we’re stuck in from our families of origin. Acting as adults is our true role and the goal for when we leave behind the drama of the triangle.

In Psychology Today’s article “The Relationship Triangle,” the author tells how marriage partners run amuck around the triangle and how they trade off their parts although each one has a primary destructive role. The triangle can just as easily exist in a big family, a friendship, a school (I saw it happen at the elementary school where I taught), a small business, or a large corporation.

The Drama Triangle includes a persecutor, a rescuer, and a victim. I’m using the pronoun “he” to keep the portrayals easy to read.

The Persecutor says, “What’s your problem?” He accuses, attacks, and acts out because of his anger and frustration. Sometimes he’s simply pointing out to the family that there is a problem, one they don’t want to talk about, and then becomes the problem himself. The persecutor needs a victim to take out his emotions on and a rescuer to absorb more of his negativity.

The Rescuer says, “I’ll save you.” He controls by doing good works for the victim, which turns out okay as long as the victim follows the rescuer’s instructions and the rescuer doesn’t tire of enabling – doing for the victim what he can and should do for himself. The rescuer needs a victim to save, as well as a persecutor from whom to save the victim.

The Victim says, “Poor me.” He is anxious, hurt, and helpless. He needs a persecutor to keep piling on the pain. That way, a rescuer can continue protecting and taking care of him.

I say, “Get off.” 

I recently read the article “The Three Faces of Victim – An Overview of the Drama Triangle” that stated no matter where you start on the triangle, you end up a victim. A friend pointed out how damaging it is to end up there when she said, “Victims never heal.”

No one gets better on the triangle. This explains why, at the counseling workshop, our lead counselor said, “Get off the triangle even though you’ll likely have to leave as a persecutor. People will condemn you for leaving – for being selfish, for not caring, and for not staying to help the victim. Leave anyway.”

I got off my family of origin’s triangle several times before I stayed off for good. The final time happened the evening a family member confronted me about dropping by my mom’s house to leave her a gift – a dragonfly necklace she had admired. He said, “Why’d you give her the necklace? What are you up to?”

He had a history of accusations, but that one was ridiculous enough that it gave me gumption to get off the triangle and stay off.

shapes-27522_960_720

This image reminds me of how hard I tried to fit a square peg (me) into a round hole (my family). It reminds me how often I made my family my god and the Drama Triangle my life. I wanted off the triangle, to get my own life, and for God to shape it.

family-1839662_960_720

Getting off the triangle doesn’t have to mean estrangement from those who are still on it. Getting off could mean getting your own life while loving the people in it.

What shape are you in as far as your family role? Are you reacting to your role on the triangle or acting out your purpose?

In This Together,
Kim

On the side: I did a video the other day on this same topic. I showed the triangle upside down from how it should appear and I didn’t offer clarity about each role. I hope this blog post straightens out some of that.

I Don’t Like You

Standard

feline-650456_960_720

“Habits change into character.” Ovid

I hate not liking people, but like my friend Betty said, “Some people are impossible to like because they don’t like themselves. The best you can do is love them, pray for them, and stay away from them.”

Nevertheless, I’ve felt guilty for detaching from unlikable friends, guilty for saying no to their invitations. I remembered my days of being unlikable. I hated being shunned and turned down. Instead of staying away from friends, I wanted to scream at them, “Change,” but I’m pretty sure they’d simply yell back, “Are you free Tuesday evening?”

“To change your life, change your habits.” Unknown

My unlikable friends seem oblivious, and even though Betty assured me the opposite is true, I’ve questioned if I’m the problem. Why do I struggle to find things I like about them? Why am I not eager to get together when they are? Why do I avoid them? Betty said, “They are unlikable and they’re unwilling to change. If anyone changes, they want it to be you, but they’re the ones who need to.”

The guilt resurfaced when a friend opposed a quote I posted online. Written by author and counselor Lucille Zimmerman, it’s a self-care tip that says, “Surround yourself with morally beautiful people. We become like those we hang around.”

My friend who disagreed implied I should hang out with all people, not just the morally beautiful. I defended myself, but then deleted it. I swapped trying to convince her I was okay in exchange for figuring it out for myself. I wanted a resolution to why I felt ashamed posting a quote that says it’s okay to hang out with people I like.

In fact, it’s not just okay. It’s a wise choice that is life-changing and character-building, so what’s up with the guilt?

pillory-996263_960_720

Shame Said …

Who are you to pick and choose among friends?

How will this make your unlikable friends feel?

What sets you apart from them anyway?

I wondered what did set me apart. I’ve known there was a difference, at least I hoped so, but I’ve never identified it. It seemed that until I figured it out, I’d be stuck with unlikable friends or guilt or both.

tunnel-73018_960_720

God Spoke Too

I got my answer in an email I’ve been saving since 2014. In it, I’d sent myself a link to an article. I found it last night while cleaning out my inbox.

In the story “Toxic People Don’t Make Exceptions,” Brianna Wiest distinguishes between friends who are flawed and messy and friends who are difficult to be around.

Brianna says being unlikable (she calls them toxic) is a habit. Most of us admit to sometimes being offensive, but not daily and we’re remorseful afterwards. Unlikable people, however, are regularly offensive and without regret. It’s a habit they hardly notice. And like Ovid’s quote, the habit turns into their character.

friend-1820040_960_720

If you’ve grappled like me with setting boundaries and letting go of unlikable friends, I hope Brianna’s article helps you also. None of us are 100 percent likable, but we can practice making it a habit and stay away from those who do the opposite. Our character depends on it, and so does having healthy relationships.

#selfcaringin2017 #whilelovingthepeopleinit

In This Together,
Kim

A Frustrated Post Standing in for Acceptance

Standard

angry-1296476_960_720

“All conflict we experience in the world is a conflict within our own selves.” Brenda Shoshanna

Don’t you hate it when you’re on a roll, and then life throws a curveball or a donut just five minutes into committing to a goal, 10 minutes after you’ve undertaken a healthy habit, and 20 minutes since getting your own life?

At the end of last week’s blog post, I mentioned I’d be highlighting acceptance and tolerance next. I’ve learned my lesson about announcing upcoming posts after typing, backspacing, and deleting for hours only to end up with an abridged (and unhinged) version of non-acceptance that rambled on something like this.

“Acceptance is off the table. We’ve faked tolerance for years, some of us until we got our way and some of us until we didn’t.”

“We’ve read history books and the Bible, so time’s up for us to accept that we have never embraced diversity, stood united, or practiced political correctness. “We the People” have been at odds forever.”

“Acceptance is a fine idea until we disagree. Then, forget it.”

Just so you know, this isn’t the positive post I envisioned or the one to which I invited you. Authors of novels blame their characters for taking over scenes, however, I’m not sure who to blame for this. If I had known about this post, I would have sent a warning, not an invitation.

defiance-1948023_960_720

I’m naïve, though, and figured most would be weary of … what’s the antonym of acceptance?  

Oh, yeah, dissension, antagonism, discord, rebellion, judgment, and nasty posts. I figured most would be weary of these. I was wrong. I googled “antonyms of acceptance” for the list above – all except nasty posts. I made that one up.

I planned to gush on about accepting others as a byproduct of accepting ourselves, an overflow of acceptance, of sorts – are you getting even a glimmer of that? – kind of like a volcano of acceptance. Ahhh, that describes more accurately how this post was spilling over.

Take heart, though, all who wander (into frustration) are not lost.

Okay, so at the moment, maybe we are lost. And unhinged. Yeah, definitely unhinged. I couldn’t figure out the problem, or a solution, until my husband texted from the bedroom at 4 a.m. and said, “Come to bed.” I looked at the clock. I felt like I’d been slapped awake.

Until he texted, there was no way I was waking up to and accepting the fact that, since last week, the gracious post I’d started about acceptance had turned frustrated, and so had I. My post about acceptance was off the table the same as acceptance was off the table.

But I had to wonder, since being “slapped,” why such an emotional reaction when I’d hardly been involved in any backlash during the week, or during the year for that matter? I’ve felt overwhelmed and scared and misunderstood in the shadows of it all, but not personally attacked, yet I was taking this week on like I had been. It’s like the quote says, “… it is conflict within our own selves.”

apple-570965_960_720

So, there you have it, the problem and the solution.

The Problem: I take things personally that have nothing to do with me, which lands me in a frustrated place instead of an accepting one. I want to resign my inner conflict that tells me things outside myself are my responsibility, my fault, and mine to fix. I want to accept that friends who rage and name call and belittle aren’t talking to me unless they tag me, text me, call me, or knock on my door.

The Solution: Following through with acceptance means work, prayer, and writing to rid myself of fear, especially fear of others’ confrontations and disapproval. Following through means accepting their reactions are theirs to deal with, and also accepting I deserve contentment and I’ve earned the right to my own life, even unpopular opinions.

#gettingyourownlife #workseverytime #whilelovingthepeopleinit #acceptingmyself 

A friend’s funny comment to a disparaging one put the problem into perspective. He wrote, “Wash, rinse, repeat.” #lovetolaugh

And my daughter’s solution is the same instruction she gives to our nearly two-year-old grandson who overreacts, “Shake it off, buddy.” And he does. He shakes, wiggles, and stomps until he’s done with it. I won’t be cute like him, but if it helps with acceptance …

How is “getting your own life” coming along if you’re like me and easily distracted by negative noise? Sharing solutions help us all. And if you need to share frustration, that’s fine too because we’re in this together.

We sure are,
Kim

Thanks for the images, Pixabay.com.

Loving People Through the Election (we can do it)

Standard

catholic-1295787_960_720

“We all have inside of us a Mother Teresa and a Hitler.” Unknown

Almost daily I wonder if our country, my family and friendships, and I are going to make it until Election Day. These final four weeks are bringing out the worst in a lot of us. It’s telling when I’m relieved to read about Hurricane Matthew instead of politics. Even though I unfollowed most of my big political posters (people who post on Facebook), my newsfeed is filling up again with politics as the election nears.

general-709675_960_720

There are diehards who know they’re right, and those of us struggling not to be wrong when we don’t agree with them. And when I do hang out with friends who agree, I want to be respectful instead of rebellious towards those who don’t, but that’s not easy sometimes if they’re rebellious first. #WhileLovingthePeopleinIt

I typically stay far from political discussions even though I have near-to-my-heart opinions about politics, and that’s what I’ve figured out is the “problem.” Since working on my manuscript about getting in touch with my feelings, I no longer can stay solely in my head like I used to. However, sojourning to my heart is scary, especially now. It feels safer, in a sick sort of way, to practice judgment and anger rather than understanding and compassion.

It came to a head the other night when I unfriended a friend because I couldn’t stay away from her page, even though I never commented when I was there. I unfollowed her a while back, but I’d still check in every few days even though I promised myself I wouldn’t … just like she promised to stop posting about politics. It seemed she couldn’t help herself anymore than I could.

She and I only know each other through mutual friends, so this isn’t a lifelong and special bond I’m breaking. She never comments on my page either. We’re distant, so I wondered if my unfriending was even worth blogging about until it dawned on me the struggle isn’t about our relationship with each other. It’s about our relationship with ourselves.

This is about getting my own life while loving the people in it.

I visited her page hoping she’d stop posting about politics because she said she would, and I wanted her to. I wanted us both to stop letting ourselves down, and I wanted her to go first.

I wanted her to stop reacting to friends with arrogance and show some LOVE like her cover photo says. That way, I could show some love also.

I wanted to like her again like I did before this election season got ugly and she did too. She’s not my only friend who’s gone off the deep end about politics, but she’s the most verbal and vicious. That is, unless you come behind my closed doors. I’ve said some pretty ugly things about her to my husband.

He reminded me that she’s afraid just like I am. He also clarified that I’ll never understand how she’s handling her fear because it’s not how I handle mine. She is confrontational. I run. She knows she’s right. I doubt myself. She is unapologetic. I say “I’m sorry” before I figure out if I actually am.

Going to her page triggered all sorts of uncomfortable emotions and unpleasant thoughts. I’d read her comments and make up ones in my head to put her in her place. I wanted to straighten out her thinking with the same kind of sarcasm she was writing to others. I unfriended her the night I felt unambiguously (which means really, really, really) justified in meeting her unkind comments with some of my own. I didn’t write them, but I wanted to.

man-1044151_960_720

That’s when I thought, I am her.

I believe we all have some of her in us. And just like the quote at the beginning said about Mother Teresa and Hitler, we all have inside of us some Trump and some Hillary. I can hear it already, “There’s no way I’m like him/her.” Grumble, deny, grumble, grumble, deny. Yeah, we are. In fact, I’ve watched friends act just like the candidate they’re criticizing.

Unpleasant news, I know, because if we’re hating one of the candidates, we’re likely hating ourselves. We “sort of” know how much we’re alike whether we accept it or not … whether we accept our immorality, our crudeness, our dishonesty, our scorn, our bratty fits, and on and on. We say, “I would never … ,” but we do.

Author Carla Laureano posted similar ideas on Facebook. She said, “The reason why we are so horrified by the candidates and the way they’ve been running their campaigns is because they represent us perfectly as a nation, down to every last hidden sin and evil thought: greed, lust, hatred, fear, pride … There is no longer a veneer of civility behind which we as a country can hide and pretend any sort of respectability or character. In order to deserve better, we need to BE better.”

We’re all capable of mudslinging madness, and we’re also capable of Love that overcomes it. My unfriended friend’s page is a jumble of conflicting emotions that aren’t usually so visual, but it’s right there on her page and in writing, which is why she and her page are so bothersome. On there, the clash of love and hate is palpable and problematic and politically incorrect … and it’s you and me. It’s all of us.

It’s like the story I doubt is true since I can’t find a reputable source, but I appreciate it anyway. Mother Teresa was asked when she began her ministry and she answered, “On the day I discovered I had a Hitler inside me.” Fact or not, I’m buying it because it makes her human and relatable, and it makes me feel better that she’s flawed too.

I was still a little crazy about my friend’s page until I read what another friend suggested about our days leading up to the election. He said something like this, “Shut up and vote, and find something creative to do besides obsess about November 8th.”

Thanks, Jason. I think I’ll do just that. #GettingYourOwnLife

14045902_10207307007170623_1301949440477784470_n

And to think, I almost canceled three days of art classes beginning next Thursday, and I suspect it was because I only have time to be crazy, not creative. Maybe that’s why last night I ran into a fellow painter. Seeing her reminded me to stay out of my head and lean heartward.

What about you? Obsess about politics or pursue a real passion during the next four weeks? Let’s encourage each other in ways that are creative, not crazy.

In This Together,
Kim

Thanks for the first three pix, Pixabay.com.

Family is Not My Calling

Standard

 

telephone-1055044_960_720

“Sometimes we have to figure out what our calling is not in order to find out what it is.” s. kim henson

No doubt there are moms and dads called to full-time parenting, grandparents called to full-time grandparenting, and wives, daughters, and sisters called to helping their families around the clock, but I’m not one them. Not now, anyway. It was a weird day when I thought, Maybe family’s not my calling.

Even though I’ve been restless for a while about getting my own life, I wasn’t comfortable with the message. After all, family’s been my life even as a child. I remember being compliant when mom walked me to school even though the other kids on the Air Force base walked alone. As a teen, I accommodated my parents instead of friends. When I was a young adult and with a family of my own, I continued to cater to what I thought my parents wanted. I carried on this same sense of care and responsibility into marriage and parenting, and maybe a little too far as my children grew up.

While journaling one day, I wrote several pages about my calling not being family, “God, could this be your way of prompting me to focus more on my purpose and less on what I think they expect?”

“They” included my husband, my two grown children, and their growing families. I answered my own question. God wants more attention, of course, even though I can’t imagine he’s displeased with the attention I’ve given my family. For more than four decades, my parents, my husband, and my two children have been the reasons I’ve gotten out of bed every morning. My daughter and I got excited about the idea I came up with not long ago, “What if, instead of writing, being a grandmother is my calling?”

We laughed because we both knew this wasn’t the case, even if I’d prefer it. After all, I’m good at being Mammy.

I’ve had to come to terms with why letting go of my family’s been hard, and I’m not the only one who’s figuring it out. While researching parenting as a calling, I stumbled on a book I added to my reading list. It’s by Christian author and mom of six grown children, Lesley Leyland Fields. The title is “Parenting Is Your Highest Calling” and 8 Other Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt.

phone-box-1566276_960_720

My guess is, there are a lot of women like me who feel a pull to do something in life besides family, but family is a strong force to contend with. There are also women who don’t want to move on past family, but it’s good for us and for them when we get our own lives. They need us to let go and move on so they can too.

Mostly it’s hard to let go of family because my husband and children are where my devotion lies. There’s nothing I’ve wanted more than to be a wife and mother. To this day, I can’t think of anything more fulfilling, although I have dreams gaining momentum.

On a lazier and less loving note, family is an easier choice than my dreams. I’ve kept my life intermingled with theirs because my role as mom is a familiar one. I know how to do it and I pretty much know the results it will reap.

And, like Lesley mentions in her book title, there’s the worry and guilt that make it hard to let go. I get afraid sometimes when I see them go through tough times and I think I can do more than I can to help. I haven’t shaken the “shoulds.”

characters-1414226_960_720

Getting my own life, which to me means answering God’s calling, also means I’m venturing into unknown territory and, to tell you the truth, I’m not all that adventuresome. I say this, but something stirs inside of me when I hear the word “adventure,” and when I step into that adventure by making videos, contemplating public speaking, and dabbling in watercolor.

Writing all of this is strange for me because I’m sure I’ll be misunderstood. It sounds like I’m jumping ship on my family or saying they don’t matter or even that they’re not as important as all the things I want to do, but that’s not it. Writing this is more about trying to convince myself and other women that it’s time to reprioritize our motivation (why we get out of bed), our mission, and our minutes, and I think God’s all for it. After all, I would have never thought this up on my own, Maybe family’s not my calling.

I believe by living our lives, we help our families to better live theirs.

Next week, I’ll write more about our callings. For now, I’m getting comfortable with what my calling is not. I’d love to hear from you about family and your calling or anything you’d like to share.

In This Together,
Kim

Change Only Me

Standard

 

rope-1469244_960_720

“If we had God’s power, we would change everything. If we had God’s wisdom, we’d change nothing.” Scott Richardson

If you’re a parent, especially a mother, you likely know the feeling when family gathers all together after not seeing each other for a while. Sometimes our hearts are full because of conversation and laughter, meals at favorite restaurants, and activities that keep everyone entertained and happy. These visits end with either my husband John or I saying, “I’m grateful and so proud of each one of them.”

Other times, togetherness worries a mom. When we’re up close, we notice if things don’t seem quite right like tense moments and edgy remarks, frustration, and comments about problems at work and home. I’m no less grateful and proud, I’m just no longer focused on those things. I’m fixated on what needs fixing and changing. It’s a mom thing even if not a God thing.

When our family recently gathered, John and I looked for things to do since we’re better when we’re busy, but hotel checkout and flight times, a get-together with friends, mealtimes, and naps conflicted with almost every idea. The grandkids were waterlogged and worn out after a week’s vacation in pools and beachside before arriving at our house. All six adults sat on looming deadlines whether it was my writing, our daughter getting her daughter ready to start school, or her husband beginning a business startup.

Nothing seemed particularly wrong, but neither did our time together feel right. I tried to justify it with all these reasons.

I preoccupied myself the evening they left with vacuuming, cleaning bathrooms, and washing sheets, so I held off the emotional hangover until the next morning when I skipped my shower, the gym, and writing. That afternoon, I skipped lunch because John and I argued instead of eating, and not because of anything that happened between the two of us during the weekend.

dualism-1197153_960_720

 

“Get your own life” (the topic I blog about most often) came to mind two or three times, but it was easier to give into louder voices in my head that said things like, “What if something’s wrong and you don’t help fix or change it?” “What if you discuss your concerns and make things worse?” “What if you don’t converse and drift apart?”

This kind of thinking convinced me I needed to write and talk to others, so I started blogging again in January. I figured I wasn’t the only wife, mom, daughter, sister, and friend who needed to be talked off the ledge for caretaking, enabling, and people pleasing and surely I wasn’t a loner when it came to being overly responsible for others. All this doing for others feeds our attitude of “fix and change everything” when the real difference (the real fix and change) happens when we get our own lives.

This doesn’t mean we have no obligations to our families because we do. I doubt it means we’ll ever completely stop worrying about them either. It does, however, explain why the quote at the beginning of this blog post is significant. Life changing, really.

forest-1245692_960_720

Hearing I didn’t have to change anything because God wouldn’t change anything freed me to stop replaying the weekend. I could get back to my own life and my routine.

Hearing I didn’t have to change anything because God wouldn’t change it either staved off feelings of having to do something. It reminded me to accept what is and to acknowledge things happen as they should.

Hearing I didn’t have to change anything because I didn’t know what to change anyway freed me to have family conversations last week – conversations with real people instead of conversations in my head. By the end of each one, I figured out I had nothing to change except myself. Imagine that.

“Whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.” Max Ehrmann (writer of Desiderata)

I used to sign off my blog posts “write where I’m supposed to be,” so we may as well make where we’re supposed to be gratifying by getting our own lives. What do you think?

#GettingYourOwnLife #ChangeOnlyMe

In This Together,
Kim

Photo credit to Pixabay.com.
Thanks for passing along the quote, Iain Boyd.

Boundaries or Bound by Others? (it’s your choice)

Standard

directory-973992_960_720

“You teach people how to treat you by what you allow, what you stop, and what you reinforce.” Tony Gaskins

I had never heard the word boundaries used in reference to relationships until a counselor told me I didn’t have any. She said, “You have no idea where you end and where others begin.”

According to Merriam-Webster, here are the definitions of boundaries as they relate to people:

  • A point or limit that indicates where two things become different. (Okay, so this isn’t about people, but it’s a logical reminder about the point where I end and you begin.)
  • Unofficial rules about what should not be done.
  • Limits that define acceptable behavior.

Most of us think setting boundaries is about saying “no.” And it is. And setting boundaries is also about saying “yes” … to us and to what we need and want.

Boundaries are about saying “yes” to #GettingYourOwnLife.

And saying “yes” to #LovingthePeopleinIt.

Because boundaries, even though they may not seem loving at first glance, are just as much about caring for others as they are about caring for ourselves.

Here’s what Betty (a friend I learned a lot from) told me about boundaries. She said, “If you do what’s best for you, it’s best for everyone.”

Her advice sounded selfish, but it’s not, because what’s best for us is to live our lives according to what God has in mind for us, not what our family and friends have in mind.

rock-line-quartz-1199135_960_720

 

Drawing a line is wise.

Drawing a line is a form of self-care and a way to be kind to others.

Drawing a line is the litmus test for dozens of demands made on our time, energy, and finances.

Here’s an example of a boundary Betty helped me set early on, and also an example of how it turned out best for everyone.

Betty and I talked about my family’s tumultuous Sunday afternoon lunches at Mom’s house. She said, “Have you ever thought about not going?”

“We’ve been getting together for years. Mom would be so upset if we stopped,” I said.

“Really? Are you sure about that?”

I was convinced breaking tradition would cause more turmoil, but Betty convinced me to take a break. She said, “Why don’t you give it a try and see what happens?”

I made up some excuse for missing the next couple of Sunday lunches. Mom didn’t seem upset like I dreaded. In fact, she looked relieved. By the third Sunday, she had her own excuse for missing lunch. The rest of the family who Mom cooked for decided to take a break as well. It was best for everyone when our decade-long tradition ended.

Some boundaries aren’t as easily implemented. Actually, that one didn’t seem easy except in retrospect. However, following through helped me see the value in doing what’s best for me (not out of selfishness, but from a place of self-care and other-care). I saw Betty’s perspective on “doing what’s best for you” as it turned out to be best for everyone.

There are easier boundaries to set like declining a request to head up a program at church or saying “no” when asked to donate time or money to a cause we’re not devoted to. I say “easier,” but sometimes these are hard no’s for us people pleasers. There are harder no’s, though, like a friend who left her daughter in jail after several arrests and another friend who dropped off her son at a homeless shelter after he stole from her to sustain his addiction. These boundaries don’t sound best for anyone, but consider the alternative of reinforcing (like the quote says) destructive behavior.

access-933136_960_720

Setting boundaries (doing what’s best for you that ends up being best for everyone) includes all sorts of things like …

  • Asking for and expecting respect from family and friends. Setting boundaries may mean ending a conversation with  a spouse who is verbally abusive or taking time off from an adult child who continually manipulates to get his/her way. It may mean limiting time with a friend who complains non-stop or who gives non-stop advice.
  • Refusing to fund adult children (or anyone else) if giving them money jeopardizes your finances or jeopardizes them taking responsibility. Setting boundaries may mean cutting off an allowance or not paying their rent so you’re able to afford your own bills. I have two widowed friends who struggle financially month-to-month because their sons borrowed large sums of money they can’t repay.
  • Checking into childcare for grandchildren and senior care for sick or aging family members if you notice a decline in your own physical or emotional well-being. Setting boundaries may mean seeking assistance for them so you don’t end up having to be taken care of yourself.
  • Saying “no” to church, to school and community activities, and to other people’s agendas when their plans don’t coincide with the ones you and God agreed on. Setting boundaries may mean dropping off committees, declining to help with important ministries, and deciding not to show up for every worthy cause.

energy-139366_960_720

Do yourself a favor. Free your energy by setting a boundary today.

Setting boundaries restricts destructive behavior (#whileLovingthePeopleinIt) that could divert our time, energy, and money from what we believe we’ve been called to do (#GettingYourOwnLife). It’s a favor to everyone to set them. 

Do you have boundaries that need setting?

In This Together,
Kim

I appreciate the images, Pixabay.com. Gotta buy you that coffee one of these days.

Isolated or Insulated (living safe with people)

Standard

IMG_5759

“I feel safer keeping a space, a gentle breeze between me and people, a buffer I like to think of as God.” S. Kim Henson

When John accused me of isolating, he mixed up his words and instead said, “It concerns me how much you’re insulating yourself from others.”

“I know you don’t mean that as a good thing, but insulating to me sounds like a safe haven,” I said.

Ever since that evening, when I catch myself staying at home more often and staying away from people a little more, I say, “Here I go insulating again.”

And it’s okay. I’ve accepted and figured out ways to deal with being afraid of people, especially ones who know how I should live.

We all judge, but there are variations of judgment. Some are good judgments and some are bad. Some are accurate and some inaccurate. Some seem fairer and more reasonable than others.

Some friends judge in negative ways and know they shouldn’t. I’ve done it myself and way too many times. We know we don’t really know how others should live.

Some judge and know they’re right. These friends scare me.

When I detached from my family of origin, a friend confronted me in a restaurant about my decision. One of my mom’s friends confronted me from behind the register at a gift shop. I put my purchase back on the glass shelf and walked out. A local reader of my blog sent an email warning me I should visit my mom or I’d regret it. None of these townspeople knew much, if anything, about my family’s dysfunction, disorders, and secrets, yet they judged.

When I couldn’t be there for a friend who lost her son, I wrote a blog post about doing the best I could, which meant showing up at a distance. The post, Compassion, aroused a judgmental response that said I should have been there for her. I chose not to share it in the comment section.

I could write on and on about how afraid I’ve been of people this election year. Their fierceness behind knowing they are right scares me and stirs up feelings of being judged, feelings that my choice of a candidate couldn’t possibly be right if it’s not the same as their choice.

While writing this and thinking about how I’ve vacillated between isolating and insulating, I looked up the two words. They showed up as synonyms in a couple of online resources, but I have no idea why. They feel very different when I’m living them.

Here are definitions that resonated and made the most sense for this post.

Isolate – having minimal contact or little in common with others.
Synonyms: solitary, lonely, companionless, friendless; secluded, cloistered, segregated, unsociable, reclusive, hermitic, lonesome, cutoff

Insulate – protect by interposing material that prevents the loss of heat or the intrusion of sound.
Synonyms: wrap, sheathe, cover, coat, encase, enclose, envelop; heatproof, soundproof; pad, cushion

I’ve isolated so people wouldn’t find out how afraid I was of them and how afraid I’ve been of just about everything. I figured I didn’t have anything to lose by putting up walls and a façade.

I was wrong because I lost myself.

By never letting anyone know me, I shut myself off from everyone including John and our two adult children. I remember our son’s bewildered face the evening at our mountain house when he questioned some of my choices, like no longer exercising and staying on Facebook for hours at a time. I admitted I was depressed. He had no idea and neither did our daughter.

John helped me distinguish between isolation and insulation, even if by accident.

blog empty roomI no longer want to isolate and keep people at a far off distance. It’s depressing to be solitary and secretive.

Insulation, on the other hand, has turned out to be the gift of learning to live among people and letting them know who I am. It’s the gift of blogging again.

 At the same time that I’m showing up, I also keep a space between us – a gentle breeze, a buffer I like to think of as God – so I can make my own judgments, as well as accepting others’ conclusions whether I agree with them or not.

It’d be helpful to hear ways you’ve taken care of yourself while living among and loving family, friends, and the not so friendly.

In this Together,
Kim

On the side: I’m learning from Summer Turner’s pilot program, Move Forward from INSIDE Your Comfort Zone, about how introversion has influenced my life, which in turn influenced this blog post. I’ll share more information and links when she launches her online course.

You Complete Me (or maybe not …)

Standard

IMG_5639 copy

“Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking together in the same direction.” Antoine De Saint-Exupery

For a man to complete me, he’d have to weigh a ton, which reminds me of Sawyer Brown’s song, 800 Pound Jesus. Prince Charming couldn’t come close. Neither could a knight on his white horse. My husband, John, hasn’t stood a chance either.

My stomach knots up when I hear, “He completes me.” I’ve joked about it, but the reality is I hated that John didn’t complete me and I hated that I wanted him to. I hated groveling for my parents’ approval and the admiration of my kids. I didn’t want it to matter how many friends I had, but it did. And while friends were a number to rack up, I didn’t have many. I felt incomplete when I’d scan a room to see if men besides my husband noticed me.

I thought, I wouldn’t be like this if John would …

I didn’t give up, either. I worked more than 30 years to straighten out him and our marriage – to help him be who I thought I needed. All of this trying came with some screaming and lots of tears.

I suggested self-help books, counselors, and marriage retreats.

I emailed him quotes about attitude and growing up and taking responsibility. I forwarded articles with helpful husband tips.

I pointed out examples of couples (with a focus on the man) who I thought we should emulate. Most of these couples are no longer together.

Instead of helping, I hurt us by insisting John do something impossible … complete me.

I haven’t been easy to handle since feeling incomplete manifested as anxiety, dissatisfaction, and depression. I made marriage messier the more I insisted holy matrimony had something to do with filling the hole in my spirit. I mixed up my husband’s purpose with that of the Holy Spirit. I’d throw fits because God felt far away and John was standing right in front of me, so why didn’t he hold me and make me feel saner and loved.

I acknowledge now how impossible that is for someone to do when they’re just as broken and trying to nurture the same kind of hole in their spirit.

Sawyer Brown’s video 800 Pound Jesus is a beautiful visual of how God shows up in those places that people can’t fill. I’ve always skipped the song on my CD because it wasn’t a favorite, but now I listen because it reminds me of the ever-present presence of Jesus.

I didn’t mention grandchildren filling me (which seems an obvious choice as much as I love mine) because of what happened about eight months before our granddaughter’s birth. Claire is two and a half so you don’t have to wonder how long ago it’s been … not long. My husband and I fought our final battle over whether he was up for the job of completing me.

The story is too long for this post and maybe too personal for my blog, but I’ll tell you it was a six-month stalemate and the most painful time for me of our marriage. Pain is sometimes the only way God gets through to me.

As a result, when I held Claire for the first time, the love I felt for her overwhelmed me, but it never crossed my mind she’d complete me. In fact, I knew she wouldn’t. It was bittersweet because she’s so loved and lovable, it almost seemed like she should. However, for the realization that she wouldn’t, I would have fought with John for six months plus sixty years. No one needs the burden of completing someone else. I’m sorry to those I tried to make carry it for too long.

So, where’s that leave our marriage besides incomplete?

I heard my answer in the movie Shall We Dance with Susan Sarandon and Richard Gere. After Beverly Clark (played by Sarandon) finds out her husband’s not having an affair, but taking dance lessons without her, she meets the private investigator at a bar to let him know she no longer needs his services. She said about marriage, “We need a witness to our lives. There are a billion people on the planet … I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things … all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness’.”

IMG_5645

If there’s anything you’d like to share, I hope you’ll consider leaving a comment. It helps all of us to hear from each other.

In This Together,
Kim

Artwork by me.

Taking “Taking Care of Yourself” Too Far (when does self-care turn selfish?)

Standard

1455934_551305508292231_928200373_n copy

“Take care of yourself as much as you want to be taken care of.”
   S. Kim Henson

“You have taken ‘taking care of yourself’ too far,” he said.

If you’re like me, this kind of accusation can wreck a week.

It can happen even when we have a plan – one so important we think nothing can make us stumble. Before the wreckage, we’re stirred and determined. From now on, we’ll take 20,000 steps daily, eat chia seeds on everything, pay off all debt. We’ll go to the gym four times a week, write 500 words a day, and learn to knit and paint.

For a moment, we have boundless energy. Our lives seem all about us and what we want to accomplish. Until we let “thinking we’re selfish” derail us …

Chaos calls and we should help.

A loved one disagrees, so we shouldn’t do it.

His or her ideas supersede ours and we let them.

We deflate and so do our plans.

1526144_10207124088052083_2127828021576577318_n copy

 

Even during my teen years (when we’re expected to be selfish), I didn’t do what I wanted. I turned down a motorcycle ride with the cute guy because Dad witnessed a fatal motorcycle accident. I stayed home from spend-the-night parties if I thought boys might drop by because of Mom’s fears. I didn’t cut school to go to lunch with friends for fear of getting caught and disappointing my parents.

People pleasing seemed an unshakable flaw. Whatever I did at home and work, I did because I thought someone else wanted me to do it. On the other hand, if you didn’t like it, I didn’t do it.

I’ve been stirred and determined for a while now to prioritize self-care. About the time I asserted myself, I was told I was taking it “too far.” My thoughts went to failure, I’ll never take care of myself without feeling wrong and selfish. It’s too hard.

I remembered what a friend said, “Just because they don’t like it doesn’t mean you’re wrong. You can do it anyway.”

The first time I heard “do it anyway,” it sounded like treason.

This time around, it sounded like freedom.

“You’re going to have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable,” she said.

Since there will be push back from people at home, people at work, people in the church, and voices in our heads, how do we figure out if it’s discomfort or if we’ve crossed the line to selfishness?

I wonder if it’s even possible for someone like us (people who worry about being selfish) to take “taking care of ourselves” too far. It’s like a conversation I heard between a newcomer in recovery and a seasoned member. The newcomer said, “It scares me to let go of others and take care of myself. I’m afraid I’ll be selfish and let go too much.”

The fellow she was talking with looked amused, I think because he knew there was little chance she’d be selfish. He said, “Why don’t you give ‘taking care of yourself’ a try. You’ll know if you’re taking it too far.”

In other words, if you’re worried about taking “taking care of yourself” too far, you probably won’t.

In This Together,
Kim

Thanks so much for permission to use your photography, Rhonda Hensley. This probably wasn’t one you expected to see on my blog, but it fits the post perfectly. To see more of Rhonda’s photography, go to her Facebook page by clicking Inspiration Images and Media.

Thank you for the pencil sketch, Abigail Sawyer. Abby is a 16-year-old homeschooler and a self-taught artist whose family realized her talent when she took a painting class. She hopes to attend art school and draw for Disney. To see more of Abby’s artwork, check her out on Instagram @abigails_art13.