“I am a rock,
I am an island.
And a rock feels no pain;
And an island never cries.”
~ Paul Simon (Simon and Garfunkel)
One theme that crops up again and again in the blog and Facebook posts of trans* folks, is Loss. Loss of friends, loss of family, loss of partners.
When I started losing my hearing, one of my childhood friends kept phoning me, no matter how many times I told her via email and text that I cannot use a phone any more. She agreed to rather keep in touch by writing, but my phone still rang and I rejected the call every time. The emails and text messages never came. The ones I sent remained unanswered, so she is no longer part of my life. The loss of her friendship leaves a gap, as she was the only friend I had in one of the loneliest periods of my life. We designed weird cake creations when her boys had their birthdays over quite a few glasses of wine. No need to say the creations became “curiouser and curiouser” when the fruit of the vine replaced our creative juices. But it was a boundary I had to set, and I feel guilty about it. Probably because my mom brought me up with the principle, “Always turn the other cheek”. Go figure.
At work I have a colleague who just cannot start a sentence with any other word but I or My. At the end of the conversation – no, monologue, as I seldom get a word in edge-ways, she will sometimes ask how I am and then listen without expression or reaction to my response. I have started limiting my answers to, “Fine, thank you,” as she does not care what I answer. I have started avoiding her, as after these sessions I am emotionally drained from the physical exertion to try and hear her and from showing empathy with my body language. I know I need to tell her why am am setting this boundary, but it not easy for a shy introvert to speak up for themselves. You always question yourself first – was this my doing? Is it because of me that they treat me the way they do? (Dr Phil’s pop psychology Life law #8: We teach people how to treat us: “…you are partly responsible for the mistreatment that you get at the hands of someone else”. Ha!). And then I feel guilty all over again.
Last week my cousin brought us a framed jig-saw puzzle of a baby and a Pug dog sitting in a bath – to hang in the guest bathroom. She knows we are gaga over Pugs and she loves babies, so she loves this photo. B and I are not baby people at all (except when they are baby animals), but the photo will be hung in the bathroom in the spirit of Nuestra casa es su casa. Well, maybe when she is visiting. I did not have the guts to um, throw the baby out with the bathwater. I could not erect that boundary.
My usual reaction to difficult relationships, is to withdraw. Astrologers say this is a typical trait of Aquarius – to disappear from people’s lives without even telling them why – but being at the receiving end of such treatment, has made me aware of how baffled and injured the deserted person feels, so I am trying to change this trait – without much success. It is so part of me to just “turn tortoise” and retreat into my shell.
The fear of loss and rejection is so innate in human beings – probably even animals: Pooch gets huge separation anxiety and proclaims her happiness at our return home so loudly, the whole suburb knows we are home!
I admire those trans* people who manage to overcome this fear and forge ahead with their transition and I empathize with those like me who are crippled by our insecurities and fears. I try to focus on those aspects of my life I can control to some extend: relationships, so I have been researching how to set boundaries.
I came across these Tips for Setting Healthy Boundaries:
(Modified from the book, Boundaries: Where You End and I Begin, by Anne Katherine. I have not read the book, though.)
- When you identify the need to set a boundary, do it clearly, calmly, firmly, respectfully, and in as few words as possible. Do not justify, get angry, or apologize for the boundary you are setting.
- You are not responsible for the other person’s reaction to the boundary you are setting. You are only responsible for communicating your boundary in a respectful manner. If it upset them, know it is their problem. Some people, especially those accustomed to controlling, abusing, or manipulating you, might test you. Plan on it, expect it, but remain firm. Remember, your behavior must match the boundaries you are setting. You cannot successfully establish a clear boundary if you send mixed messages by apologizing.
- At first, you will probably feel selfish, guilty, or embarrassed when you set a boundary. Do it anyway and tell yourself you have a right to self-care. Setting boundaries takes practice and determination. Don’t let anxiety or low self-esteem prevent you from taking care of yourself.
- When you feel anger or resentment or find yourself whining or complaining, you probably need to set a boundary. Listen to yourself, determine what you need to do or say, then communicate assertively.
- Learning to set healthy boundaries takes time. It is a process. Set them in your own time frame, not when someone else tells you.
- Develop a support system of people who respect your right to set boundaries. Eliminate toxic persons from your life—those who want to manipulate, abuse, and control you.
Now I need to go and practice, practice, practice and speak up, because, dammit, I am not a rock. I am not an island. I feel pain and I do cry.
Do you struggle to set healthy boundaries? Any tips? What works for you or not?