This is a thought at the moment. It’s no news to anyone that our modern, western lives can be hectic. I have spent the past nine years seeking to create balance and space in life. Some days it feels like an uphill scramble. I’ve used all kinds of strategies. Blocking out time in my diary, taking retreat days, going out for walks. Most recently I’ve been taking some time each morning for meditation and reflection. All good.
Only I don’t stick to it. I can go so far and then something happens, one of the cats gets sick and I need to dash to the vets, one of the boys needs a lift, a client calls for a last minute appointment, stressed and at the end of their tether, a school call for an urgent assessment, someone really in need and the end of term deadlines approaching.
The first thing that goes is my space. The time I have carved out. Because it’s selfish not to. This is what I learned growing up. We all do. Your own needs come last. Be polite, go last, give up your seat. And so on. And so forth. Of course its not ever that simple. Of course we don’t want to be selfish, or rude, or unkind. But where is the line?
Like most things, for me, it’s a work in progress. And the key word of the year is…boundaries. In my mind it’s a line in the sand, a picket fence, a castle wall, thus far and no further, barbed wire and guard dogs, harsh and forbidding. I feel it like an aberration. Shutting other people out goes against my conditioning, keep the door open, be hospitable, go the extra mile, turn the other cheek.
What I have found, and you may have too, is that this takes me to burn out. I run out of whatever I have to give and then I just keep on giving. It becomes a kind of compulsion. A pattern of behaving that I can’t shake. An addiction. I know now when I’m in the danger zone, my head starts to spin, my body begins to feel achey and tight. I am starting to see the signs. Some days I even pay attention!
Speaking with a wise woman the other evening I was introduced to the idea of containers. The essence of the thought is that we need them. All shapes and sizes. It’s good to flow and give and flood our way through life, it’s good to pour out our souls in service to the world. We can bring blessings to others this way, we can bring nourishment and refreshment. But we need edges. Finding our edges, recognising them, holding the line, is a life’s work. Without edges I’m going to be nothing but a puddle, spreading ineffectually around, energy seeping into the cracks, getting lost. With edges I take shape, can be something useful, a drink maybe, or even better a river, contained but flowing free and powerful. Boundaries, edges, in this sense become protective but not defensive, they give form to the energy of our selves.
The realisation is always a shock. When I see the pattern begin to repeat. But I’m learning that catching myself before I’ve fallen in is a win. I am going to reach for my edges, feel them, breathe to them and allow them to hold me. I make this resolution today. I will probably be making it again next week. I will keep on. Practice, patience and compassion.