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.