My watch word in this fledgling new year has revealed itself to be Boundaries. I’ve always struggled with creating healthy boundaries- both in keeping out the things that invade and make me feel unhappy, unhealthy and unsafe, and in letting in love, self-care, help, and friendship.
Women are generally socialized to be aquiescent, and this was made worse by 1. passive aggressive Oregon, where we will shame-stare at you, but not let you catch us at it 2. growing up in an affluent suburb in Oregon where nicey-nice socialite manners hung out at the country club with pretending that real problems never happen and 3. (with a bullet) navigating a chaotic homelife where most of the turbulence happened silently and below the surface. As far as the women in our family go, silent treatment is OUR JAM. Add to this whole mix of crap one strong dose of serious depression for a few years which is a slow torturous death for self-worth, and yeah, a girl’s got some boundary issues. But.
But through lots of work on myself, and a huge focus on communication (mainly in my work at summer camp, mainly fighting with my co-director aka Camp Husband aka platonic life partner 5ever)…I’ve been making baby steps. I realized more and more that while I will always have people to back me up and encourage me, in my professional life and personal relationships I have to be responsible on my own for taking up space. I have to recognize that I am worth it, and that setting boundaries (even though it’s often scary, and potentially hurtful to others) makes me a healthier, happier person. This in turn, of course, makes me a million times better friend, roommate, daughter, partner, person.
So what’s with the Nine of Wands? The Nine of Wands came up in a tarot reading something like six months ago. The Nine of Wands is a protection card; the figure in it is leaning on his staff, exhausted from battle but preparing himself for one final fight. Though the task seems insurmountable, he has the inner strength and skills to prevail. While I couldn’t find a proper description of it online that spoke to boundaries, the person reading my tarot was very clear that this was an element of this card. The imagery in the background shows the natural boundaries of mountains as well as the other staffs/wands at his back, forming a barrier. The imagery of these protective boundaries (as well as the other meanings of the card) rang a million bells with me, and it became a talisman to be invoked when needed.
And it is working. I am asking for what I need without shame or apology, or feeling as though I don’t deserve it…well, I’m trying. I am speaking up against street harassers when I get hollered at. I’ve agonized over, then cut loose, a few friends that were sapping my energy without giving anything in return. I’m seeking a workplace that is respectful of my intelligence and effort. I am saying no to requests for my time because running, breakfast in bed, and breathing all have legitimate claims to my schedule.
I am by no means done. But I’ve been taking small steps and I tell you somethin- they feel good. The sense of relief and safety when I’ve made a move to set a healthy boundary is something that I can feel physically.
Something much more scary to me is deconstructing the boundaries that keep people out, and keep me feeling small and alone and miserable in the dark. This is something leftover from the depression years, and I know immediately when I am doing The Things That I Do that only succeed in making me feel shitty. This one is proving much harder, but luckily I have some close friends who see right through that bullshit, and will lovingly call me on it every time. I’ve put my trust in them, and they prove themselves worthy, always.
I really just wanted to post this sweet early-80’s-fantasy-paperback-book-cover version of a tarot card. Look at that badass tank. Look at that lion hiding in a grove of penises.