Putting in Fences – How to Set and Communicate Boundaries

Setting healthy boundaries is one of the hardest life skills I’ve tackled. In the past feared losing the person or offending them. I grew up with my grandmother who herself lost a mother at a young age, was abandoned by an alcoholic father, and then was passed through the family until her very hard grandmother took her in. She was an amazing woman in many ways. However she had poor boundaries and abandonment fears. Even though I was shown healthy patterns by my mother and grandfather, I still picked a few poor skills and internalized poor coping mechanisms. Couple that with being an empath and the stage was set for an adult struggle. After a relationship with a narcissistic person it was a skill I had to learn for my own emotional wellbeing.

Here’s the biggest thing I learned: emotionally healthy people have boundaries and respect them. If someone consistently and maliciously violates your boundaries (or YOU) – Remove from you life cold turkey. RUN. GET THEM OUT OF YOUR LIFE. They are a poison to you. However, most people simply need honest communication and are good hearted.

How to Set Boundaries

Before you set a boundary you first need to know where your emotional property begins and what you need. Your emotional property is pretty simple. It is YOUR emotions, your inner being, your growth, your physical and spiritual wellbeing. It’s not your kid’s, your partner’s, boss’, minister’s, or any person’s emotions, spirit or body.

However, knowing what you need can be harder. For example. I need a good uninterrupted two hours everyday to meditate and pray. I try to keep it to a schedule that works not only for me, but my responsibilities. Since I often have visitors I have a simple sign on my door – “I’m currently in my prayer closet. I appreciate you stopping by. Please come by later. I look forward to seeing you SOON. Thank you. Love, Moriah”. How did I figure out what I need? Mostly through trial and error. I know. Not what you are looking for, but that’s the honest answer. I knew I needed to feed my inner person. I knew I needed alone time to do it. I knew that when I fed my inner soul I had to the energy and drive to care for others. I knew I have a passion for kindness and compassion. That passion was my starting point. How to feed that passion and how it looks in my daily life was the trial and error. However, once I knew what I needed, setting the boundary became easy.

Examples of common boundaries include not hugging strangers, refusing to listen to gossip, not touching Momma Bellies, not stealing, asking for a kiss on the first date instead of assuming, refusing to purchase items on credit, and many other common everyday things we take for granted. It’s something we already do. It’s just in our emotional life we sometimes depend on our neighbors to set our and maintain our property lines and not ourselves.

Communicating Boundaries

Let’s go back to my little sign. It’s to the point. I don’t say it directly, but it communicates that I’ll not be opening the door. There are no accusations. There are no demands. The other person knows I still want to see them and my not opening the door is not personal – it’s something I need and applies to everyone.

If I had written something like “I’m trying to feed my soul right now and don’t need a bunch of constant interruptions so stop dropping by so freakishly early!” it would cause relationship issues. When I first started setting boundaries that’s about where my communication level sat. It caused issues, too. I was making my boundaries about the other person. I was making judgements, mostly because I was still judging myself. I was making my friends and family responsible for my emotional needs and property instead of taking ownership and responsibility. Your boundaries are YOUR boundaries. Own it and communicate it with love and power in a way that doesn’t offend.

Stick with Them

The most important part of setting boundaries is sticking with them. Puppy dog faces, pleas, and demands can unconsciously manipulate us into taking emotional responsibilities for other people’s baggage and allowing our needs and inner person to become frazzled and disengaged. Being consistent is often the hardest part.

Write your boundaries down. As life pops up new experiences write down your feelings and emotions. Write down your failures and your victories. Keep a journal about those things. It helps you to discover where you need to sure up your fence lines. Don’t judge yourself either. You don’t judge a fence for a tree falling it. Don’t judge your boundaries or your skills. Simply make note, and get to work fixing that fence line. Eventually you and the other people in your life will learn to use the gate.

Continuing the Series

The next two installments of this series will be

Dealing with Fence Cutters – How to Deal with Trespassers

Setting Boundaries in Your Internal Pastures

Until next time,

Craft No Harm,

Moriah, Profit, and the Flock

Boundaries Part One – What are They?

Profit recently learned to jump fences. Considering that Serenity is directly across the street from a small school this is not a good thing. Profit is a one thousand pound working steer in training to become an ox. At this point in his life he a half ton puppy who LOVES children.

He is actually quite beautiful when he jumps. If he was a horse he would be my hunter jumper prospect instead of my logging prospect. However, horse or ox, he needs boundaries to keep him and others safe.

Boundaries. That word gets used so many folks in trouble. Boundaries are a staple in healthy relationships. Boundaries ate not emotional walls with buttresses and ramparts to keep others out. They are not tools for manipulation or oppression. Boundaries are not an impediment to intimacy.

Boundaries are fence lines, property borders that allow each person the freedom and privacy needed to live and thrive. Profit in in his two acre pasture with his brother Asset. Next to him is my garden, the crop field, and the school. Each field and property has a designated use. I don’t plant my crop in Profit’s field and expect him to leave it alone. The children wouldn’t dream of walking through his pasture as a short cut to school any more than I would do laundry in my garden or set up house in the school. We each respect the free functioning of space. The children enjoy seeing the oxen. The oxen enjoy seeing the children. No one would enjoy Profit romping through a game of tag in the school yard.

How often do we do that in our relationships, though? How often do we think we have the “right” to jump into other people’s emotional or physical space and issues?

Boundaries are the fences that create safe, healthy relationships. Just like fenced fields, they have gates. When we decide to only walk into our neighbor’s field through an open gate does true relationship begin. When we enter their space as invited while respecting the edges of their emotional property real intimacy becomes possible.

Until next time,

Craft no harm,

Moriah and the flock

Monday’s Musings : I Can’t Do EVERYTHING

I was raised in a time of shifting ideology in this country. Traditional gender roles and second wave Feminism clashed in the media and stereotypes clashed around me as the child of a single mother in a male dominated industry. A male teacher told my mother he was shocked at how “well adjusted” I am considering I was from a “broken home”. Mom’s reply “children are only broken if you tell them they are broken”. Feel free to use that line.

I was fortunate enough to have my Papa. As a ninth generation Florida Cracker Native he believed a woman can do anything, but that doesn’t mean women should do everything. My grandmother and mom worked the fields alongside him. My grandmother was a better shot overall. We came from an older society where men and women had to be equals to survive. Women had to know how to shoe a horse and brand calves, and men had to know how to make dinner and clean house. There was never a doubt in my mind I could do or be in any occupation. My gender has nothing to do with my ability for accomplishments.

So, I went to South America. I rode horses, earned degrees, called out a few Vice Presidents at major companies, and was even a professional ballroom dancer for a while. I hike, train oxen, tramp through the woods on my own, work on my vehicles, shear, shoot, and I’ve even been known to wrangle a few orphaned calves. I can do anything.

And this, ladies, is the part some of you will dislike. Just because I can do it, doesn’t mean I should. In addition to my accomplishments I have broken my ribs numerous times, broken four vertebrae and fractured a hip. I have bone spurs, arthritis, tendon damage. I have a permanent brain injury from one too many concussions. My left shoulder has dislocated three times and my right ankle twice. I’m missing bones in that foot, too. Everyday is pain. Sitting is painful. Walking is painful. Breathing is painful. Laying down is painful. Attitudes have consequences, especially for adventurous girls.

Am I equal in value to a man? OF COURSE! But as I’ve aged I’ve realized just because I can do anything doesn’t mean I should do everything. I simply lack the physicality to do things that men can do, and I’m a pretty robust gal. As Paul pointed out in the Christian Bible “all things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial”.

At some point, overdoing physically becomes self harm. The “I can do anything” idea is dangerous without the tempering “but that doesn’t mean I should”. That holds true for everyone regardless of gender, because even in caring for ourselves physically we are all equal.

Until next time,

Craft no harm,

Moriah and the flock

Monday’s Musings: Intention and Failure

The key is leave our hesitation and self doubt behind.

There’s an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where a character, Data, does everything “right”, with the best intentions, and still fails. While he’s moping in his quarters, questioning himself, his job performance, and goals, his captain, Picard, comes to speak to him. Picard tells Data that even when we do our best with the most noble intention, take every precaution, we sometimes fail. The key is leave our hesitation and self doubt behind. I love that scene.

So often we become emotionally entangled in what we perceive as our failures. We become focused on results. We cease to first exam our intention. We become wrapped up in self doubt and we hesitate to live our highest ideals. We become stagnant, putrid in our own self rejection.

By examing intention before planning or acting we expand our definition of success, and the human experience. If our intention is kindness, mercy, justice, the betterment of society, and wellbeing towards ourselves and others then we are less apt to judge ourselves as failures. We become more mindful of our plans and actions. We measure success not in a promotion or high paying job, but in lives transformed, a kind word, a smile. We measure our success in leaving self doubt and hesitation behind. In short, when we live by pure intention first, our plans may not happen how we desire, but we succeed in living a full and meaningful life.

Until next time,

Craft no harm,

Moriah