I dialed a number the other day, and got the following recording:
"I am not available right now, but thank you for caring enough to call. I am making some changes in my life. Please leave a message after the beep. If I do not return your call, you are one of the changes."
Not really. I mean, I didn't get that on a voicemail. My twin sister e-mailed it to me because she knows that I am constantly struggling with boundary issues.
Even in the psych ward, where you'd think you could take a brief vacation from relationship complications, I had to deal with Frank, the mentally-disabled teenager who insisted that we hook up at the mall after we both were discharged.
One afternoon in OT (occupational therapy, or "recess" in a psych unit), he told me I looked like Jennifer Lopez, which is as accurate as saying O.J. Simpson is Mel Gibson's identical twin (there is nothing Hispanic about this Irish-English-Swedish-German chick). A few minutes later, as I was painting my ceramic butterfly, he handed me an ad for Gerber baby food in "Parenting" magazine.
"That's what our baby would look like," he said.
I took a deep breath. "Frank," I responded, "I'm very flattered by your interest in me. Truly I am, because I enjoy your company very much. But while I'm here, I really need to concentrate on not killing myself. Do you understand?"
After the nurses gave him a time-out, that boundary issue was settled.
Currently I'm trying to retract some well-intentioned but irresponsible words I spoke a few months ago, when I gave my bleeding heart a voice (never a good idea).
A lady who lives behind me has severe arthritis and is in a lot of pain. She also suffers from depression. One day I took her out to lunch, gave her a big hug and said, "If you ever need to talk, come on over."
So she did. Almost every day. I began driving her to prayer group and on errands, responsibilities I didn't need on top of packing 20 working hours into ten hours of child care, taking my mother-in-law out once a week, volunteering at the kids' school, driving the kids to all their play dates and activities, and attempting to say hello to Eric every once and awhile.
As usual, my body scolded me--I got sick--and advised that I erect some boundaries ASAP before I catch something more serious than a cold.
Did I march over to the woman's house and tell her, "I'm sorry, but what I really meant was that you are more than welcome to come knock on my door once or twice a month and stay for about a half hour"?
"Kids, we have a new policy when someone comes to the door," I said as I pulled down the blinds to the window in the foyer. "We wait until mommy peeks out of the kitchen window to see if it's safe to answer it. Understood?"
"So that we don't open the door for any bad people?" David asked.
"Well, kind of like that," I answered.
This is the pansy's way of erecting boundaries. But, like the phone message my sister sent me, it does the trick.
P.S. There really is a rejection hotline. If you meet someone and don't want to see that person again, give him or her this number: (703) 912-1725.
Originally pubished on “Beyond Blue” at beliefnet.com/beyondblue. Reprinted with permission of Beliefnet.com. For more, visit beliefnet.com/beyondblue.com.