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Twilight in the Wilderness, (1860), Cleveland ...

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It has taken me a very long time to understand the word “boundaries” in relationship…to relationships.

Although I have managed to stumble through life as a unique individual (aren’t we all?) I have had to learn my lessons the old-fashioned way: by making mistakes. It doesn’t bother me one bit. If it were not for certain mistakes, I would never have learned some powerful lessons. Apparently it doesn’t matter how much F. Scott Fitzgerald, Charles Dickens, Shakespeare or Deepak Chopra you’ve read, unless the message really sinks in, you are going to make the same mistakes as their heros.

I understand where boundaries are in sports because there are nice white lines on the playing field but with human beings one never knows the boundary line unless one is told. Part of that boundary line in me is purely instinctual. If my gut tells me something stinks then it’s time to take out the trash. Some human beings like to move their boundary lines all over your map. Either because they have no foundation to rely on in themselves or they are psychotic…or they just don’t trust themselves. I understood this problem when I was young but continued to keep people in my life that were quite dangerous emotionally.

As an adult I understand that not everyone has sportsmanship, that some adults are still walking around like spoiled children. Are they blissfully unaware of their childlike behavior? Some are aware and wear their denial on their sleeves as if something to be proud of…but I just learned about that certain kind of denial. Wow is that a tricky one. But I’m muddling my point.

Recently I’ve made some people mad at me. Quite a few actually. The reason? I put down boundaries and held my ground. Nothing will piss off a human being more than to say “no”, unless of course they have matured in a healthy manner. Some get mad, walk away and then come back asking if there is room for improvement, or they come back with the complete understanding that their behavior is totally unacceptable in my life. Those people are rare but I have hope.

My father was a cruel disciplinarian. In some ways he is like a character from Dickens – his kind of cruelty has no boundaries. As a young person I learned that you can scare people into your will; but I didn’t much care for that in friendships and I knew a lot of bullies.

Standing up for yourself and for what you believe takes guts and can be terrifying. If you do not stand up for who you are, you will never attract the right kind of people in your life. Yes, yes it’s an age-old lesson, one I have to repeat at times to remember who I am. The test of your mettle is when you are lonely.

So one more time I will say “no” to betrayal, no to narcissism, no to ignorance, no to addicts, no to the just plain selfish! No, it isn’t okay to ignore illness in your body and mind. No it isn’t okay to make fun of my transgressions. Respect and love me or kindly move aside. No, we can not be friends so that you can secretly resent me and take shots at my ego when I am down. No, you can not ask for free artwork and then tell me how to paint, no you can not take, and take, and take from my family then walk away when you’ve been naughty.

And a big fat NO it is not okay that you do not understand the words compassion and empathy. Get a fecking dictionary, go talk to a priest, a rabbi, a monk, a war veteran – ANYBODY that will get it through your thick, bulbous skull!

Grow the feck up.

Life is hard, love is harder, more awkward and leaves us feeling nauseous – but those sickly times are the times when we learn. Then, after those lessons, when we wake up the next morning we’ve grown an inch, and can mark it on the door jamb.

That’s the beauty of life, you can keep growing until you are in the grave…but word has it that even then your hair and nails continue to grow.

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