One of my guiding principles in attempting to adjust my boundaries basically comes down to something a friend told me when I was turning myself inside-out with angst over a particular situation a few years ago. The basic scene is that I was trying to figure out how much I should be doing about someone else’s specific issues and how much I should leave up to the other person involved.
That’s a hard balance, right? On one hand, there’s an urge to plow ahead and do whatever’s needed – because you can, because it’s easy, because you have skills, etc. You can see the other person’s ideal path pretty clearly because you’re not the one struggling. You want the best for them.
But my friend said, “You can’t want more for someone than they want for themselves.”
Whoooah, goddammit. Whoah.
Aw, fuck, it’s true.
This has been in the front of my mind over the past week or so.
The other person might not have the skills, might need support, might need guidance, might need you to print them out a manual or order them an instruction book – and that’s okay. The key is that they have to be willing to put in their own effort to make it happen.
Are they asking for appropriate help? Are they engaged in the process? Are they doing the best they can do with their own specific skills and knowledge?
You can offer. You can suggest. You can politely inquire. Those are reasonable steps! You can also walk backwards a little bit to see if they step up.
But if you find yourself being a constant cheerleader to someone lying on the carpet, pep-talking someone who seems reluctant to answer your phone call, researching solutions online only to watch the other person fold your printer papers into a wad and stuff it into their pocket.. well, maybe you want it more than they do. Dial it back in, ranger. If you’re doing all the work, and hassling someone else to take some steps, and then wondering why they’re not fully engaged, well.. you’re not keeping good boundaries. You’re gonna’ lose your mind.
You can lead the horse to water, but as soon as you shove the horse’s head under water and scream, “DRINK, GODDAMMIT, YOU LOOK THIRSTY” you know you’ve gone too far.
Okay. I can type all of that and.. still there are moments where I’m yelling inside my head and squirming with the urge to just DO THE THING for someone even as I know I’ll resent the living heck out of them.
Anyway – today was a day of appropriate effort on my part. The other person put in their own appropriate effort, too. I admit that it took effort to not pull back in the face of someone asking for help – there was a big moment where I imagined my entire weekend being yanked away from me with a heap of guilt… but they were clear in what they needed, really wanted to do the work themselves, and just needed me literally to stand there for support.
I can do that. I can totally stand around looking supportive while my brain runs laps around the inside of my head. It was good.
I tested the waters. The waters were clean and warm.
I won’t lie – if I see a wave on the horizon I may just run for the shore. But for now, I’m good.