So, when you’re in the shower, and your husband tells you (for the first time) that you need to be ready to leave the house in 30 minutes because you apparently have to meet the carpenter who’s dropping off the new table, and you haven’t even starting packing everything to take to the boat for the day, naturally and calmly you tell him: I’m not sure that’s enough time for me. I’ll do my best. And I need to eat breakfast before I go.
Naturally. Because you’re so focussed on taking such good care of yourself. And the way you express your boundaries is simply superb.
Unless you forget. Because that happens. And this is how it really went down:
Once I jumped out of the shower, I was so busy packing bags with the ingredients for the prawn and mango salad I was planning to serve for lunch aboard Pegria II – our boat – for our relaxing day on the River Murray. I was putting ice packs around the prawns, selecting other food for my girl who wouldn’t touch a prawn or lettuce leaf with a ten foot pole, washing the lettuce, and making sure I had the salt and pepper shakers and salad servers because we don’t have any for the boat yet. Drinks too. And a sharp knife. Oh, and did I mention I was also getting warmer clothes for my young madam, finding her shoes, and selecting books, crayons and colouring books for her amusement because unless she’s doing something 120% of the time she’ll whinge and whine and drive us bonkers? I’m told she’ll grow out of this. Fingers crossed.
Being the capable woman I am, I met the deadline. Bags in the car, off we drove. And it wasn’t until we were a few minutes down the road that I realised I hadn’t even made, let alone eaten, my breakfast. And girl, was I mad.
Anger is my fiery signal that a boundary has been overstepped. I don’t deny my anger these days. It’s my friend, with benefits.
So I had a rant to my man while we were driving up the freeway. I’m really cross. I need to eat breakfast, otherwise I’ll feel sick. I also didn’t take my multivitamin and now I’ll feel extra tired, especially because I drank two glasses of champagne last night at that party and had a late night. If I’d known we needed to leave earlier then I would have been more organised. The thing I’m really cross about is I wish I’d said to you that I need to eat breakfast before we go and if we’re ten minutes late to meet the carpenter, then that’s just how it is.
My man went into problem-solving mode, as men do. And, of course, nothing he suggested was going to fix it. But that’s beside the point.
Self-care is a member of the healthy boundaries family. When she’s doing her job well and in tune with what you need, she calls on your beautiful boundaries to claim it, speak it, and do it.
The small stuff – like saying you need to eat breakfast before you go instead of dropping your needs to accommodate everyone else’s, or choosing what you want for take-out instead of telling your partner I don’t mind. I’ll just have whatever you want when there is something you actually do want – matters.
It’s just as important as standing by your terms in a divorce settlement, or confronting your boss over inappropriate behaviour.
To express yourself powerfully in every aspect of your life, start small.
Pay attention to when you’re likely to agree to terms that aren’t your own. Practice saying no and setting clear boundaries in low-risk situations – the sort that involve people with whom you don’t have a personal or close connection. It can be as simple as not giving a donation to a cause you don’t want to support (like the guy who’s keen on saving the world by getting us all to eat more bugs. Seriously).
Make a pact with yourself to watch for your triggers, choose a new response, and starting noticing how much more in-control you feel. That’s powerful self-expression.
PS I don’t always get it right.
PPS We pulled over on the way to the river, and I grabbed seven strawberries from one of the bags in the boot to keep me going until lunchtime. I couldn’t wash them though. Did you know that strawberries are more likely to be contaminated with pesticides than any other fresh fruit? Another thing to be cross about…
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