This post is from my archives.
Today would have been a good day for me to wear the t-shirt that says, “I can only please one person a day. Today is not your day. Tomorrow doesn’t look good either.”
As I progress in my recovery, I am a choosier shopper when it comes to friendships–I can now recognize when I’m being treated unfairly, or without respect, and I don’t feel as much need to stick around just to prevent causing waves. Nor can I afford to share myself with everyone who comes along. That’s too dangerous and wearing–with pieces of your soul left out to dry on too many doormats–not to mention impossible. I need to surround myself with people who are working just as hard as I am at staying well and positive, resisting the plethora of opportunities to turn to the Dark Side and talk trash and gloom.
I feel much like Anne Morrow Lindbergh, who wrote in “Gift From the Sea,” “I shall ask into my shell only those friends with whom I can be completely honest. What a rest that will be! The most exhausting thing in life, I have discovered, is being insincere.”
However, even as I’m beginning to know what I need and want, saying no and erecting the proper boundaries to get there still feel as uncomfortable and awkward as wearing a too-big wetsuit backwards.
I say that because I recently tried out a used wetsuit I bought online. I asked a group of seasoned swimmers if it fit okay as they were standing around the pool deck.
“Well, I can’t really tell when you wear it backwards,” one the guys said. “Turn it around and then try it out in the water. You’ll know immediately if it’s too big because it will draw in water, and basically sink you. If it fits right, or even if it’s a bit snug, you will love the thing as it will help you sail along.”
After I put the thing on the right way and dove in, I knew after two strokes that I had just wasted $50. Two lengths of the pool consumed the energy of about 30 laps. This eBay treasure felt all wrong…cumbersome, bulky, restricting…the way it feels for this stage-four people-pleaser to erect necessary boundaries in some of her relationships. True, I don’t want people to walk all over me. However, there are fun memories that make me want to erase the yucky feelings.
When I ran into a former friend the other day for the first time since we “broke up,” my mouth opened to apologize and say, “Let’s just forget about it, and go on.” I searched for words. Finally, “How are you?” came out. The two-second conversation was as stiff and difficult and unpleasant as swimming in that oversized wetsuit. My head was buried somewhere in the chest seams with all the chlorinated water trapped in the suit, bringing me down.
But if I keep on practicing my boundary-building skills, one day I will find that, like a wetsuit that fits perfectly, I am staying buoyant with little effort of my own. The boundaries will assist me in conserving energy for the things I love–moving swiftly and freely in fresh water–all the while protecting me from the nasty jelly fish and the chilling temperatures of the bay (or a bad relationship).
One day I will intuitively know how to say no, and not feel guilty. Maybe that’s a stretch. One day my guilt in erecting a boundary will last a day, maybe maybe even a few hours, not the months it does now.
I’m taking baby steps toward becoming a more sincere person. Even in its awkwardness, that feels good.