How often do I read the news? How much time do I let the kids spend in front of the computer outside study time? When, where, and how am I going to work from now on? How much do I eat, exercise, rest in this next period that we will have to spend at home? These questions and other, similar ones that I’ve been asking myself in the last days come up now in relation to the pandemic, but at the same time, they’re all imprints of my inner workings. What my dilemmas have brought to the surface for me right now is that I have an issue with my boundaries.
What I’m interested in is what’s behind my practical questions: the mental and emotional plane time and again, the experience I’ve had is that it’s here, on this plane that I can find truly useful answers and solutions. It’s not always immediately obvious what something is a sign of. For instance if I put a hand-drawn stop sign on my door, so that they don’t come in when I’m working, that can mean that I’m good at setting boundaries, but it can mean just as well that I’m not good at preserving boundaries, perhaps because I feel that asking verbally is not enough.
I try and pay attention to myself in a way that doesn’t include judgement, or even opinion (“I’ve been getting better at this, I still suck at that..”). It can be helpful if I imagine inner work like sitting on a hill, studying a landscape with mountains, valleys and rivers. It would be odd if I started criticising what I see: “This hill could be larger, and it would be good if that river there could become a little wider. Also, why don’t we try a different shade of sparkling green on that meadow there?” I’m better off if I’m simply happy and grateful for the miracle of being able to look at the landscape!
The first tool I use today is finding a quiet half-hour some time during the day, and asking myself questions about my boundaries.
What’s happening inside right now? (Asking this question helps already in practicing the ability to set and to keep boundaries, because with its help, I’m directing my attention inwards and locking the outside world out.)
I can’t do as much work as I’d like to, and the average of children per calm minute is much higher than I’d like it to be. As for quiet moments (which are essential to me), there’s about as much of them at our place these days as there are peanuts in yoghurt. To help 4 kids transition to digital learning with their 3 different schools, you would need the full attention of two or three people, as we realised yesterday.
I see, so it’s a lot, it’s too much at this point. What could help me?
It would help to just let go a little.
What do you mean exactly?
Sometimes I just feel bound up in a knot by my values. For example, helping the ones I love. In this situation, my children need a lot of physical and mental help. They’re like little sponges: they take up unlimited amounts of food, entertainment and care. If I don’t set boundaries – for myself and/or for them –, I’m ground up by this dynamic.
When does it help if I don’t help?
And so on..
After the questions, I go on to explore my deeper, hidden layers. To do this gut-level work, I start using gut-level methods: I do some exercise for 20 minutes, then I spend 10 minutes meditating in the bathtub (This is the meditation app I use).
I have music in my ears, my body is being loosened up by the hot water, now let’s see what I can find deep inside about my boundaries.
A picture comes up. I took it a couple of weeks ago when I went for a walk, with my five year-old strapped to mychest. He likes this, and so do I, most of the time. Some people say this is too much, I shackle him to myself this way, but I know for sure that both him and I are taking steps in moving away from each other in our own rhythm. I pay a lot of conscious attention to him and to myself in this process. When it comes to this subject, I feel I’m good at keeping my boundaries.
I realise I’ve got stuck in my head, so I make a decision: I would like to go deeper. I try not to think about everyday things. This is a form of building boudaries as well: I’m setting them for myself.
And here it comes, something from a deeper layer. It’s a thought, but I know it’s deeper, because it’s not at all logical, and it just appears from somewhere, unexpectedly. “Give him the embrace that helps him move away!” – I hear my mother’s sentence in my ears. And I can feel immediately that this is the solution to this situation now! My mind hasn’t caught up yet, so at this point, I have no idea how this will turn into a concrete solution, but somehow it will, I can feel it.
This comes as a surprise. I was convinced that what I had to do now, especially with my teenagers, was to strengthen the distancing: to reinforce my limits, to say “no” louder and clearer. And now I can feel that the solution is not this, but that somehow it will be coming closer… Of course you can come closer in a thousand different ways, and I don’t think the next couple of weeks will be about me doing anything and everything for anyone and everyone immediately, feeding them every half hour, subordinating my own needs and desires to theirs completely. In other words, I can’t see myself do what I was happy to do when they were little. Other than causing them harm, I wouldn’t give my own soul 5 days of it before dropping dead. No, the solution will have to be coming closer in some new sort of way. I don’t know what yet, but I’m sure it will come to me.
It’s only 6.30 in the morning, and I’m done with some deep inner work. The family’s started waking up slowly, I’ve one last thing left to do that’s important: closing back up.
This is also an important boundary-question: I don’t have to be open to everyone, at all times. My work is no business of my family to begin with (other than my husband having first reader’s rights), and actually, they don’t really care, they’re happy enjoying the results: a version of me who’s taken a small step closer to her deepest core. They simply enjoy being with someone who’s somehow found the strength to warm up cocoa, flatten meat, practice letters and install computer programs.
for the translation thanks for my brother, Mate Herner