When I was 11, my mom gave birth to the cutest baby boy in the entire world. He became "my" baby, and I dressed him, played with him... I took him to my friend's house so we could both play with him. His blond curls and bright eyes were irresistible. The older he got, the more fun he was. He was the ultimate third wheel on movie dates -he kept my boyfriend and I from getting too close by being the coolest distraction EVER. It was during this time that he got really into Zorro. He wore a cape and mask always. He had a sword. He could quote "The Mask of Zorro" with PRECISION. Come to think of it, our entire family could. We became closed captioning pros because no matter what movie we watched, Zorro was being acted out in the background by a blond toddler.
Have you ever heard a toddler with a fake Spanish accent? It's probably one the greatest things in the entire world to listen to.
"The Mask of Zorro" has become a weird kind of comfort movie for me. I watched it so many times with that cool kid... sometimes I put it on just to hear the lines and remember what life was like when I walked into church with a kid wearing a black mask.
I still have the movie memorized, and when I think of boundaries, all I can think about is Antonio Banderas in a training circle.
He wears a necklace representing the training circle for years without realizing exactly what it was.
(I think that last line, "Perfect. Do it again" pretty much sums up how boundaries feel.)
As I worked in that first outside ring, I learned that boundaries weren't about OTHER PEOPLE. Boundaries were about ME.
Setting boundaries has been -and sometimes continues to be -one of the scariest things I've ever done.
used to think it was because other people were scary. I can't manage
Danny's reactions or behaviors and that made telling him what I'm not
okay with really intimidating.
What if he yells?
What if he hates me?
What if he's right?
Something I learned while setting boundaries early on was that they
aren't about HIM at all. They aren't about any other person but
Alicia. It didn't FEEL that way when I spoke them because I was so
terrified that whoever I was setting them with would think I was
__________________ (mean, impatient, controlling, younameit).
The first time I heard
anything about boundaries, I was terrified. I didn't think I was
allowed to set them, speak them. I knew Danny would be upset, and I'd
spent YEARS trying to keep him from being upset with me... with anyone
and anything at all, really. I knew when he was upset, I would be
scared and possibly hurt. Setting boundaries felt like setting myself
up for pain, and that felt like a really, really BAD idea.
But as I thought about it...
It would feel really good to actually SAY THE WORDS, "I have a right to feel safe in my marriage."
And to add, "If I don't feel safe, I will do something about it."
first boundaries were prayed over, typed out, read to my counselor and
then read to Danny. My hands shook. I couldn't look Danny in the
eyes. I kept my eyes on my paper. My cheeks flamed. My heart pumped.
I was so grateful that my boundaries were printed out for me to read
because as I read them, I wasn't reading them. My mind was spinning.
I was terrified.
found myself wanting to make him OKAY with my boundaries... to MAKE HIM
FEEL LIKE I was still nice and I still loved him and I wasn't mean.
those words out loud was scary, yes, but it also did something
surprising: it gave me permission. They were a sort of challenge,
actually. It was as if I could hear myself saying, "Okay, Alicia, you
READ them... you SPOKE them... now will you LIVE them?"
And I didn't want to let myself down.
had been let down by so many people, including myself, and I knew that
while I couldn't help the fact that others would continue to let me
down, I could at least STOP LETTING MYSELF DOWN.
I moved into the second ring, and there I learned that boundaries
weren't an addiction thing... they were an Emotionally Healthy Person
Thing. I began setting boundaries with everyone -not just Danny. The
longer I went to meetings and the more counseling sessions I went to, I
started to see that boundaries were a
real life thing that emotionally healthy people did.
This was revealing to me.
that are revealing and ground-breaking to me are generally simple,
obvious things to other people. I feel almost silly sharing them, but I
can't deny that I've been in a very DARK place where obvious and simple
things evaded me completely. Seeing light shine on them has been
miraculous and I want to SHARE THE MIRACLE with everyone, even if
everyone already GOT IT.
I found that keeping my boundaries gave me permission to live the life I chose, and this gave me encouragement. So I kept doing the boundary thing.
In the third ring, I learned the importance of practice, practice, practice. "Do it again." The more I set and keep boundaries, the easier it
is. Practice makes everything easier, right? But is it really
practice? I believe practice plays a part -a big part -but the practice
itself isn't the THING. Living a life with boundaries in place
cultivates something more rich than I ever could have imagined.
The fourth thing I've learned from boundaries is that I'M ENOUGH.
Through all of this being married to someone with a porn addiction stuff, that's what I've heard the MOST.
"Alicia, you are enough."
It sounded true and false all at the same time.
it made me cry to hear it. I cried because I felt like maybe it was
true and I would never believe it for myself. Sometimes people said it I
dismissed it completely -because if it were true, my life would be
wildly different, right?
It turns out that the more I set and keep boundaries, I HEAR MYSELF. I hear myself saying, "I'm not okay with being lied to. Why am I not okay with it? Because I DESERVE MORE THAN THAT because I AM ENOUGH."
The thing is: I hear myself say that even if I don't ACTUALLY say it. When I set and keep a boundary, I let myself know I am enough. Anytime I don't set and keep a boundary even though I feel that I need to, I send the exact opposite message, "I'm not enough."
At this point, I jump back to the prior circle and practice, practice, practice.
The more I practice, the more I realize my worth. I begin to care for myself better, stand up for what matters. Courage comes, perspective shifts, and priorities are put right. My gut exhales. I exhale. Self-care steps in.
I am enough.
I don't cry about that anymore.
I don't dismiss it.
I hear it and acknowledge it because it's true. I'm not better than or less than. I'm not smarter or messier or skinnier or wittier or not as spiritual.
I just AM.
And I'm enough.
Knowing and feeling this makes boundaries less scary and more natural.
It turns out that the scariest part of boundaries isn't other people... It's me. The scariest part of boundaries is opening myself up to the possibility that I am incredibly worth it and that I have the potential to take control of my own choices. THAT is scary, folks. In fact, the only thing that scares me more than that is living a life without being true to myself, standing up for myself, and living a "painted into a corner" life.
With my choices in my own hands, I have no one to blame. That is also scary.
With my choices in my own hands, I have full ownership of my potential. Terrifying.
Here's my final -up to this point -boundary lesson: The farther out I am, the scarier it is. As I dance in and out of the third and fourth rings, I find that owning my choices, my potential, and my enoughness is the best damn thing I've ever done.
And it's my privilege to do it again.