At our holiday gratitude meeting, my support group went around the table and we all said what we were grateful for. Someone who moved out of town in the spring came back for the meeting, and during fellowship before the meeting, and then in her share, she talked about boundaries. I was grateful to be reminded of this important and necessary practice to facilitate mental and physical health.
When I first entered recovery, I didn’t know what “boundaries” meant. I remember feeling frustrated, because I was much more prideful back then. I had my degree in English, and yet I felt completely confounded by this word. It took over five years for me to even begin to grasp the concept of boundaries, and I am happy to report that I finetuned this skill in my coaching program during the pandemic. I worked with my peer in our coaching practice sessions, and together we uncovered why I struggled with boundaries, and we came up with action plans to help me implement and then follow through with establishing my boundaries. In fact, sharing my experiences with boundaries was the first blog piece I posted when I first launched my website near the end of 2020, back when it was called blackwell.health. I migrated it to this site, and you can read that piece here.
After all of the work I did around a seemingly simple phenomenon, I recognize today why I didn’t understand what boundaries were, or why I needed so much support in developing them. It is antithetical in this world to practice the self-care and self-love that boundaries require, so when I ended up on a crash course for not spending money after essentially losing my job half a year ago, and then working so hard in the job I landed after that where I didn’t have much time or energy for my passions, I really fell away from my wellness ideals.
I’ve been lacking inspiration for a long time. Before the pandemic, I was a totally different person. I was operating from my trauma, burying myself in debt, unable and even unwilling to have connections with people, and I couldn’t hold down a job for too long. Then right before the pandemic hit, I took a mentor’s advice, and sought counselling. I began to heal, and then a couple of months later, we were in lockdown. That lockdown was a springboard for healing for me, because for the first time in my life I felt equal to other people. No one was travelling, no one was shopping or going out or posting fun selfies. If anything, for the first time in my life I felt I had something to offer, because I had a regular prayer and meditation practice. I could help people navigate isolation, because I had been isolated for years.
I went back to school during the pandemic, and I then had academic credentials behind what I had been learning in my recovery programs. This was revolutionary for me. I honed my online brand, and for the first time in my life, I felt I was on an upward trajectory. But then life happened. As I was wrapping up my program in the spring of 2021, my father passed away. The grief completely overwhelmed me and I had to take a step back from my wellness brand. Reflecting on it now, I want to describe it as going dark. I went from creating intuitive art to just trying to survive. It took over a year to begin truly creating content again. Then shortly after I started getting my groove back, I ended up working in a busy clinic where I was simply exhausted. I had no resources to be innovative during my off time; I had to focus only on rejuvenating and getting ready to work again the next day.
This brings us to today and how God’s timing is perfect. Right as I start a new job that will offer me more space, I was at a meeting that I almost missed where I got to hear about self-care and boundaries. I am reminded of how important this wellness journey is to me, and how I have a circle of friends today where we share common goals, values, and interests. I now have the lived experience to know it’s okay to have seasons of pruning: that time is in preparation for the bloom.
All throughout my struggles I was given graces to manage, whether it be through love of nature, through my boyfriend who came in and scooped me up when I was chin deep in grief and poverty, through people who stuck by me even when I was detached, or through the reliability of my recovery programs; I always had some form of relief to keep me sane. This is my higher power working in my life. This power is the creative force of the universe, and therefore, it’s available to anyone who wishes to harness and use it. That is the unconditional love that we are all privy to.
The boundaries that I setup today help me be more authentic, and therefore, more happy. They communicate to the world that I am not perfect, but that my intentions are honest. This helps me present myself as humbly and non-threatening as possible, while still asserting my right to dignity and respect. In a culture that wants to exploit and deplete us, boundaries are our protective shield. Today I cultivate my boundaries to remind myself that I am beautiful and lovable just as I am, and that I don’t need to harm myself in order to fit in and be liked. Self-harm for me shows up as over-spending, over-working, or negative self-talk when making a mistake; my boundaries remind me that I can look after myself, and still find my place in this world.