Fences aren’t only intended to keep people out. They are meant to give the person on the inside a marker for the space that is entirely theirs to roam and oversee. The people on both sides of the fence should then be in positions to understand their own freedom and their own responsibility.
I’m building a fence.
I was not taught as a child that I could have boundaries. My boundaries were violated by the people closest to me. They were violated physically…but almost more importantly my boundaries were violated emotionally and spiritually.
I lived in a world where nothing was mine. Privacy or time to think wasn’t a right. And my thoughts and ideas needed to match what others were thinking or I could be shamed or punished for being on the wrong side not only of my family but of God. I also didn’t have any rights to say “No” to things that made me uncomfortable or that I felt should be someone else’s responsibility.
I became an adult who struggled to say No in the face of pressure. The cycle of being pleasing, being
resentful, being sorry, and being pleasing is an easy one for me to go through. It’s a merry-go-round that I haven’t been able to get off at periods of my life. And I think the patches of depression I’ve had have been fueled by this cycle.
Building a fence looks like knowing where my responsibility ends and someone else’s begins. It looks like saying “No. That doesn’t serve me” or “You will need to find a different option besides me this time.” It is me saying “That doesn’t feel like my responsibility so I’m not going to take that on.” My fences are real even when the other person is disappointed, gets angry, or tries to make me feel guilty.
Fence building is not a single event. Every good rancher knows you have to check the fences regularly to ensure there is not a breech and to make sure they are sturdy enough to withstand the test of troubled weather.
My fences have been in disrepair. I am rebuilding. Putting in new posts and connecting them with the loveliest materials…offers of introduction, smidges of advice, willingness to listen, and a firm but kind “no”.