Boundaries in Love: Omer 2

Boundaries in Love: Omer 2
A sparkling disco ball illustrating a post about boundaries in the face of multiple expectations.

Boundaries. Strength. Good Judgment. You need these to love well. Or, as we say in Omer speak, gevurah she’b’chesed, boundaries in love.

So, I’m always working on boundaries.

Sometimes, when someone I love asks me to do something, I feel panic. Then, I pause before saying “yes.” And I reflect. What’s the panic about? Do I not know how to do what’s asked? If so, can I learn quickly enough to be helpful? Or, do I know how to do it, but don’t have the time? If so, can I suggest a different time frame? Or, a third possibility: Do I think what they’re asking me to do is wrong? Unsafe to me or unkind to others? If so, can I simply say “no”?

But to say “no” or even “yes, but later,” I need good communication skills. Sure, there are some general strategies. Nonviolent communication, for example, where I say what I’m feeling without blaming the other. Compassionate listening, where I try to empathize with the ask. Spectrum policies, where I acknowledge what is good before I criticize. Body language awareness, where I stay relaxed. But really there are no good “one size fits all” strategies. It’s always a judgment call.

So, yes, good boundaries depend on self-awareness. And also on other-awareness. But how much other-awareness is too much?

One year, I put a mini disco ball on our Seder plate. I told my guests it represents multiple perspectives, the kind we welcome in Seder discussion. And it did spark some good discussion. But this year, the disco ball came back to me in a dream. More of a nightmare, really.

Yesterday, I wrote about chesed, kindness. It requires empathy, an ability to see from a loved one’s point of view. And to sometimes see yourself and your own behaviour from their point of view. So, last night I dreamed of the disco ball. It spun inside my head, each mirror showing a view of me through someone else’s eyes. And I woke in a panic.

Each person, I thought, acts as though their view of me is true. And, if I’m not really what they see, they get upset. With me. And sometimes that makes me anxious. But do I have to please them? How much pleasing is too much? Or too little? How sensitive should I be?

Do I even know enough about my inner boundaries to set my outer boundaries?

Today is Day Two of the Omer.

**New to the Omer count? Here’s a primer.

  1. Laura,

    I love the writing you do. I loved your book. Thanks for putting your teaching and musings into the world where we can benefit. Just a wonder, I believe today is the third day of the Omer, Tiferet sh’b Chesed. I am not a great counter, though I also write kavannot for each day of counting.

    Forgive me, if I’m incorrect.

    thanks again,

    1. Thank you, Julie, for this lovely note. Yes, you are correct about the count! These represent my musings from the second day. I just get a few hours behind in posting them.

  2. Dear Laura,
    Thank you for yet another thoughtful and thought-provoking reflection.
    For me, pleasing others has never been at the top of my priorities, definitely well below a felt need to be heard and understood. That said, I have long wanted to understand others, and “society” as a whole, better, if only to be able to navigate without “sticking out like a sore thumb” so much.

    What have been life-changing tools for me in this quest and which, at the same time, have helped me to grow in empathy and understanding and to become less judgemental, include Reevaluation Cocounselling (which I only encountered in my late 30s), and the Myers – Briggs Personality Inventory and the Enneagram (in my 50s). With the latter two, especially, I felt like I’d finally been given the “rule book” for social interaction that I felt I’d missed out on “receiving” at birth.

    Meanwhile, I’m aware that I still have a lot of work to do in the chesed department (g’vurah, not so much ), and your searching reflections are much-appreciated guides along the way.
    Thanks again

    1. Maxine, thank you so much for this note. I’m glad the reflections are helpful. And, yes, you mention three of many great tools for understanding self and others, and also seeing what are the stress points in how we relate to others.

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