Boundaries: You Are (Not) Responsible

I’ve got good news and bad news.

The good news is that you aren’t responsible for the happiness of your partner, spouse, family or friends. They are responsible for their own happiness. So phew, you can stop juggling that ball!

The bad news is the exact opposite of that; your happiness is your responsibility, no one else’s. In case I walked in on you blaming your parents, friends or the world for your problems. I know I know, life’s tough and so unfair! Tell me about it!

To break that down, you’re the one that has to create the boundaries in your life to not take on other peoples issues and problems. But that also means you also can’t blame anyone else and remember that your happiness falls on your shoulders. It’s one of those damn two way streets…

These two things sound simple in theory, but I’ve been surprised by how hard it is to put it into practise. This year has been a lot of learning how to for me.

You and I are different people and I don’t know your story. Maybe you have healthy relationships with every one in your life and you’re the King or Queen of boundaries. Though with all the angry, broken and selfish hearts roaming the streets, you and I included, I doubt that very much.

My story is that I spent years carrying people because I’m a rescuer. Growing up I wanted to make everyone happy and couldn’t stand to see the ones I love upset or hurt.  I’d run circles mentally and emotionally trying to fix everyone and everything. Angry at myself when I couldn’t, as if somehow I was lacking. The truth is that I was just a kid taking on responsibility that wasn’t mine to bear, and that no one has asked me to.

There’s compassion and empathy which is in our human nature. However, without clear boundaries  it can quickly turn into unhealthy rescuing. Pair that up with being a people pleaser (which is more or less most people, in varying degrees) and you have a very burdened person who is always fretting for someone else. Fretting for someone that has a mind, heart and the free will to make decisions for their lives. It’s interesting how often I forget this.

We all have within us the capacity to choose. Some people make good choices, others not so good. Whether you are making the bad decisions or watching someone else do it, look after you and do your life well. That’s the best thing you can do. You’re a better asset to the world and your future that way, not to mention your present life.

I’ve made some good decisions and some bad ones too, and they bought me here, to this very place in my life where I am totally humbled and deeply happy. I’m looking after me and making decisions that I hope will inspire others, but I can’t make them for anyone else. You are always being watched, remember that. Be an example to those who look up to you even if you never see who those people are.

When I was in a relationship, making my boyfriend happy stressed me out. I saw it as my job, my role to be his constant provider of joy. It was hard work for one reason: I was taking his whole life into my hands and buckling under the pressure, when I didn’t need to. He never asked me to. I just thought that’s how it went; that from day one it was my job to make him happy.

Obviously it came from a place of love and because I wanted to make this person happy, but that’s not what relationships are for! Romantic, friendship or family based; it doesn’t matter. Human relationships are to share, come alongside, support, uplift, love, bounce off and have fun with each other. To enjoy life together! They are a source of happiness, of course, but I believe that’s ones own responsibility. Not the people that they do life with.

I want to fix, please and encourage. I can absolutely encourage, but I will only die trying to do the other two. I will never fix anyone or please everyone.

Do your life well and empower others to do their lives well, but don’t do try to do it for them. Your happiness is on your shoulders and you have everything it takes to tackle the daily curve balls of life.

They are responsible for them and you are responsible for you.

Does any of this strike a chord with you? Have you experienced the burden of making someone else happy, or have you blamed other people? 

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Dear 15-year-old Me

These letters are doing the rounds this week to celebrate the launch of Emily Freeman’s book Graceful, for teen girls. Check out her fantastic letter and some others here. Since it fit right in with my letter-writing-Friday, I wrote one too.

Hey young lady,

It’s me, your future self. Truth is that I’m not that much older than you but I’m a lot smarter. I want to reassure you of a few things to lighten the load that you burden yourself with. Your worrying keeps you up at night and it holds you back from enjoying these awesome and pain-in-the-arse teenage years, so I hope to allay some of your fears.

First things first, you will be relieved to know I’ve given up my endeavour to be perfect and I’m happier than ever. I’m kinder to myself and I laugh more. It’s so refreshing and I can’t wait for you to experience this. However you’ve got a few tough years ahead of you yet, which is how you will arrive to where I am now.

You have no idea what you are capable of. That frustration you feel with your seemingly talentless self? It will take years (sorry), but it will pass. You will grow, create and learn. You will discover your passions, flourish, and fall into your identity. The years to come of not knowing who you are, they are so important to your development. You will find your place eventually so don’t sweat it too much okay?

You are brave, smart and fun. Try to focus on these things instead of your faults. Like the attention seeking, which you will mostly grow out of. Though you will always be loud and that’s actually a good thing, so ignore the lies that whisper ‘you are too much to handle’. To some people you are too much, but they aren’t the right people for you. You are loved by your friends and people enjoy your energy. So quit wishing you were quiet and demure because that isn’t who you were born to be. And believe it or not, there are plenty of quiet girls that envy your social skills.

You think you’re fat but girrrrl, you ain’t. Enjoy those legs and that cute bum. Soon all that junk food you eat will take residence on your hot bod and you will miss what it is now. I have more confidence than you in my fuller and curvier figure, but you are way hotter.

You can be very melodramatic and self-involved, and it isn’t endearing in the slightest. Stop crying in the mirror for one second to gain some perspective. Your life isn’t that bad, and other people are facing hard times too. Look up and look out. While I’m taking you down a peg, I may as well also inform you that you don’t know everything. You could do with some humility. Wisdom and maturity come from experience, of which you have none. Yet.

The only thing that I deeply regret and wish you would do differently, is how you treat your sweet little sister. That kid adores you and asks you to play a board game with her most days. She is lonely and needs you, but you always say no. The age gap feels more of a chasm, but when she is still young you will go on the adventure of your life and be apart from her for too long. These days she and I are great friends from afar, and though she doesn’t hold it against me, I do. Your time with her is precious so play the damn games. Indulge her. If not for yourself, do it for me. I miss her.

On a final note, don’t take yourself so seriously for heavens sake! You think far too much and we both know how exhausting that is. You’ve had to grow up fast so cherish the naivety you still possess. Stop worrying. You will get your driving license, you will have enough money and you will do great things. You will see the world and find out where you fit into it. You will be happy and create a life that you love. I would know, I’m here waiting for you.

The Lord’s face is shining down on you, so look up and bask in His sunlight. Everything will be okay.

Love
The future you

Dedicated to my Mama

At the centre of my blended and beautiful family is our hero of a mother who holds everything together. She holds us together and does an incredible job. I think I can safely speak for my siblings when I say that collectively and individually, she is our rock.

However, in my past pain, frustration and anger I’ve thrown rocks of judgement and words of poison. Poison that has stung her. I regret that and have apologised, but this is where I give her the credit she’s due.

Here’s what my mum did right and why I’m thankful to be hers.

She was spontaneous and fun. I will always remember the hot Summer nights when I was 6/7 years old, and she would get my brother and I out of bed at 10pm to go swimming at our favourite beach. Which happened to on the other side of town, a thirty minute drive away. Why? In her words; “because we are hot and why not!” We had school the next day, it could have been deemed as irresponsible, etc etc. But heck, we loved her for it. Those late night swims were amazing.

She stayed awake with me while I cried. I was an emotional child and I am an emotional adult. I was probably a pain in the ass to raise, because I cried at the drop of a hat. It’s a family joke! (I’m gentle, okay?) But she let me release the pain of rejection that my childhood was marred by. She encouraged me to talk everything out and she listened while I did. Those heart-to-heart’s set me free to be me.

She had the important things covered. We were never rich. I didn’t have all the latest and greatest gadgets or clothes, but my dear mother made positively sure that I would go to my highschool balls in stunning (expensive!) dresses, that I would go to the school camps, and that I would do a season of rowing. She took me to Australia for my 17th birthday because she knew it was an important trip for me. We could never afford it but she made sure I did the big stuff, no matter the cost.

She introduced me to God and laid my early foundation of faith. My mum taught me to always pray first and when I deeply struggled with fear and couldn’t sleep, we prayed through Psalm 23 every night until the fear was gone. Her faith is so everlasting, it astounds me to this very day. Despite all of the trials and suffering she has faced in her life, she still says with absolute confidence “God is so good!”. And I believe her, because in my own adult experience and conviction, I also know this to be true.

We were her priority. Work and a career came second to looking after all of her babies herself. This is how I know I was loved, because she was there. Through the thick and thin, she was there.

She uplifted me and supported me. She always made sure I knew I was important and beautiful. When I wanted to come to London straight out of high school, she encouraged me all the way. She didn’t want to lose me but she knew I needed to do it. She put my need for discovery and growth before her maternal need to protect me and hold me close.

I say all of this in past tense because I’ve lived abroad since I was eighteen. I have an independent life as an adult and I’m not around for her to mother me, but I know she would if she could. She will always be my mum.

You did damn good mum, and I love you. x

What did your parents do right that you would like to pass on to your kids? Leave a comment. 

Home is Where I Am


I’m stuck in this emotional rut, you see. This rut of being happy somewhere, but struggling to accept it as ‘home’. This rut of wondering where I will end up, whatever that means. This rut of planting my roots where I am and being here now.

This rut, it scares me. Because I don’t know the answer and I won’t know until the very last moment, when I really need to know. God often works on a ‘need to know’ basis with us because that’s what requires faith and perseverance, and that’s what produces more faith and good character. I don’t know about you, but I desire faith and good character more than anything else. I’m not saying that to sound great, I really truly mean it. Because my whole life will benefit out of the overflow.

It seems unfair and like God is cruel by holding back but if we knew everything all the time, it would be insane on the membrane yo! Did you ever see the short-lived series ‘Flash Forward’, where through a global disaster everyone saw their future? It messed everything up because we’re not meant to know. We’re meant to be here now, do it well and let tomorrow take care of itself.

I think too much about how everything will work out, about how this contributes to that, etc. Yet I always end up at the same conclusion; I can’t do this alone and no man or friend can do it for me. It’s a God thing, it’s always a God thing.

All I know now is that the UK is where I have been since being a real adult. Actually, it’s where I became an adult. I don’t know what it is to be an adult in New Zealand. I do know what it’s like to be a school girl, a daughter, a sister, a friend, but not an adult.

I left so naive but so ready, craving adventure, growth and life experience. It was meant to last a year but life got away with me, and that year is coming up to four. Four crazy/beautiful years that have broken me, rebuilt me, and broken me again.

Only now do I realise that this is home. It’s always been about location for me, this struggle of having my heart in two places and never really allowing myself to settle. There was always a reason or person that was my excuse for being here. Now it’s just me and I still want to be here. Damn it, I still want to be here and it frustrates me. You may not understand but hopefully you do.

I went ‘home’, and immediately become the daughter, sister, friend again as if I had never left. But I wasn’t the school girl, I was the working girl that plays grown-up everyday in London. And it’s not pretend, it’s real. I’ve changed and I’m not mummy’s little girl anymore. That’s a pretty hard adjustment for any mummy and little girl.

So yeah, I did leave and there were moments when I was home that it felt so alarmingly obvious to me and everyone else. There were moments where New Zealand felt so foreign and that makes me sad, because it means accepting the end of an era that probably ended a long time ago.  My childhood home was just that – the home of my childhood; my mother’s abode. My adulthood home? That is what I’ve created and that isn’t in New Zealand. That’s here, I am here.

I don’t know what I want for lunch let alone where I want to settle. But it’s time to settle this year, here. Because it’s right. I am not displaced, I am purposefully placed, even if I don’t know why.

Say it with me: My home is where I am, my home is where I am.

Do you know how I feel? Have you ever had to leave somewhere or something behind, and say goodbye to an era?