We all know it’ll never happen, so why do we waste our breath?

The things I seem to struggle with the most are knowing my limits and setting boundaries. By “setting boundaries” I mean asserting them and enforcing and defending them no matter what efforts the people I love make to tear them down. This keeps happening, over and over and over again. And at the end of the day, who’s hurt by it? Me. I might say or do some things that hurt other people, too, but guess what? That also hurts me!

The past couple weeks have been crazy. The end of the semester is always insane. Then on Wednesday 12/19 I had to pick my best friend up at the airport and pack for a 2-day road trip. Thursday and Friday we drove around like crazy people so she could find a new apartment. We’re thrilled because she’ll only be 4 hours away instead of 14! But it was also a lot of driving with her dad (who is awesome! – but: 1. adding a third person changes the dynamic so we interact less, and 2. I seem to fall asleep the instant I’m in the back seat of a moving car). So, I feel like I lost 2 days. Saturday my roommate had a party at the apartment, which was fun but also a bit draining (for an introvert).

My mom is having the area of her house where I’ll be living fixed up, which is incredibly nice of her. I’m really excited about it. On Sunday we went to the hardware store to look at paint colors and some other items, with limited success. Spending time with her and my fiance simultaneously was nice … but can also be quite stressful because somehow I end up being the one who has to deal with the things they both do to get on each others’ nerves.

Monday has its own post and there isn’t much more to say about Tuesday. Wednesday and Thursday were crazy. I was at Mom’s while the contractors were working. I blinked and suddenly two rooms were painted, with ALL THE THINGS in a third room and a fourth room – my new bedroom – completely empty. The contractor wanted to paint the bedroom, which is the only room I hadn’t picked a color for yet, so I had only a handful of hours to make my decision. We went to 2 hardware stores and picked out several color swatches, then came home and helped move everything out of the bedroom, then Mom asked if I’d picked a color. Of course not! I had to consider colors with Mom and the contractors watching me, making me feel like I was being indecisive and taking forever.

Finally I made a decision, then rushed over to my best friend’s parents’ house to celebrate the holidays with her and five of our mutual friends. We had the gathering yesterday because my fiance and I had plans with his family for today and two of our friends wouldn’t have been able to come if we’d had it tomorrow. I enjoyed spending time with people, but found it difficult to remain engaged. I was too tired to put in the effort to fully participate. I feel like I missed out on a lot.

I wish I’d known my limits well enough to anticipate that I would need a day or two between events to recuperate. And I wish I’d set boundaries by scheduling in those days, regardless of protests by others who would be inconvenienced by them.

Today I was supposed to go celebrate the holidays with my fiance’s immediate family, who already consider and treat me as one of their own. Driving to their house can take up to 2 hours and tends to be very stressful. I would have had to make the drive alone.

I thought I’d be up to it, but this morning I woke up feeling dead. I explained my decision not to come, but they tried to talk me into coming anyway with promises of tasty food and information about why today is really best for them. I abandoned my attempt at a boundary by agreeing to come, but in the evening instead of afternoon.

Then they asked (via text message) if they should wait for me to have dinner, and I snapped. Dinner is the family coming together to share a meal and connect with one another; it is nourishment for the spirit as well as the body. They shouldn’t have needed to ask if I wanted to be a part of that. They should have wanted to share it with me and decided on their own to make that happen. That they would even consider not doing so felt like the gravest offense – especially after the sacrifice I had agreed to make out of consideration for them!

I sent an angry text telling them to have their dinner and holiday celebration without me, ignored my fiance’s calls and even turned off my phone. I did my long-neglected laundry. I took a shower for the first time in almost a week. I scribbled in my sketchbook and wrote this post and relaxed in bed. While it was still light out I looked out the window and admired the beautiful blue sky.

Maybe I’m starting to feel human again. And as a human I know I can’t go on like this. I plan too much because I want to make everybody happy, but I ignore my limits and my needs. Then instead of asserting myself and maybe making someone a little unhappy, I let myself get pushed and pushed and pushed until I have no choice but to push back. We all feel horrible. Rinse and repeat.

This is the time of year when everyone’s probably posting their New Year’s Resolutions, so I guess I’ll jump on the bandwagon and share mine:

  1. I will figure out what my limits are. For some things I might be able to write out “rules” to follow later, such as “I can only plan 2 social events for one week” or “I must get 8 hours of sleep.” For others I’ll just need to listen to what my body is telling me in the moment.
  2. I will set my boundaries. That means letting others know my limits and using my limits as a guide to set boundaries with others. It means maintaining my boundaries no matter what. I will not compromise until I learn to do so without sacrificing my own needs. I will risk hurting someone’s feelings a little bit now to avoid hurting them (and myself) a lot later.

Web Mandala

I have a wonderful book by Heike Owusu titled Classic Mandalas: 74 Designs from the World’s Traditions to Color & Meditate. Each odd page has a coloring-book-style mandala with a brief description, and at the back of the book there is a guide with information about what different colors can mean. In the past I’ve found coloring the mandalas to be very enjoyable and relaxing, so I decided to try one this evening.

The Web Mandala (p. 81) is made with lines radiating out from the center and intersected with other diagonal lines to create a variety of geometric patterns. As soon a I looked at the mandala, I saw a star radiating from the center outward with a square pillar descending from each corner of the image, almost like an outside force pushing in. It looks kind of like an alien invasion, actually, from the perspective of one of the ships.

I decided to color it to reflect what I saw, but as I was coloring I thought about how all the different individual shapes that I was assimilating into one could have been different colors, and if so what patterns might have emerged? Well, good thing I decided to make a copy of the image instead of coloring straight in the book! I can always try re-coloring this mandala in a different way.

For now, though, this is how I see it:

Web Mandala 2012-12-13

From the inside, out: the green represents life, hope, willpower, growth, well-being, and determination. The yellow represents joy, inspiration, intellect, imagination, and possibly fear of enclosure. It was the first color I chose; I tend to like to have yellow near the center of my mandala. The black represents revival, renewal, dignity, and being unconquerable. The very small amount of purple in the mandala – which is ironic because purple is the first color I was drawn to when I pulled out my crayons – is meditative and refers to individualism, spirituality, and magic. It can also mean sorrow and melancholy.

The blue that dominates the mandala refers to security, balance, calm, peace, freedom, limitlessness, idealism, and unselfishness. It can also refer to emptiness, boredom, and paralysis. The red and orange closer to the center of the image represent energy, ambition, joy, activity, courage, strength, and warmth; they are what drive growth (green). But the red and orange invading from the corners of the image represent hatred, impulsiveness, and rage.

Finally, it is notable that I used grey in this mandala because I hate grey. It makes me feel depressed. Coloring with the grey felt awful and I hate how much of the image it takes up. I’m going with the negative (or undesirable) interpretation of grey. It represents: destruction, lack of movement, fear, loss, threatening, loneliness, compulsiveness, and aversion. I colored beginning with the upper right corner and moved clockwise to the upper left corner, where I could not bear to make the entire area grey. The last thing I colored was the green triangle in the upper left corner, representing determination and recovery.

Maybe the grey pillars aren’t invading. Maybe the star burst is driving them away!

Right now it’s hard to tell. They’re both very prominent in the image. It’s like the battle could go either way.

While searching for informative links, I stumbled upon a PDF with mandalas to color in. That could be a good way to get started, for anyone who wants to give this a try!