Always a bit moody and reflective in August.
For us, this month usually kicks off a time of celebrating that really doesn’t end until New Years. Family birthdays, our anniversary, my birthday, fall weddings that go right up until Thanksgiving and then it’s practically Christmas.
The harder I push to slow down, the faster life seems to come at us. It’s all good stuff of course - the question is always how to carry it all at once.
And that I think is what I’ve learned (am still learning) this year - what is mine to carry? I’m not always good at being able to tell. I pick up a lot of what is others’ to carry. I pick up old things I already laid down. I let go of the wrong things, hoping they will solve problems when I know what I really need to release and just don’t want to.
Earlier this year I read Boundaries by Cloud & Townsend (an excellent read for an enneagram 2 like myself). They talk about boundaries not as walls to put up, but as barriers with gates that allow things both in and out. We don’t need to eliminate the entrance to our lives or close ourselves off in order to establish good boundaries…but we do need to carefully decide what gets to pass through the gate.
They also talk about responsibility. What is mine to carry, and what is yours to carry? Everyone is responsible for their own daily "knapsacks” — the trouble is, people often try to hand them to each other. And for myself, I love to accept others’ things and try to carry them on top of my own. I let too much into my gate.
I tend to measure the years starting in August now, rather than January. It feels like a fresh start when we celebrate another year of marriage and look forward to all the holidays. Looking back on words I wrote last year this time, I was promising myself I would stop trying to carry everyone’s knapsacks for them. I was learning about the enneagram and my type at the time, and realizing that although I love to help people and that can seem like a good quality, the helpfulness comes with a huge cost depending on my motives. Often a type 2 will “help” as a way to receive love and affirmation from others. If the expected results are not achieved from the help they give, it can create a lot of bitterness and resentment. Especially last year, I had carried too much and neglected my own needs. I was giving from a place of emptiness and was expecting unmet things in return.
The best thing to realize was that this was entirely in my hands - it was up to me to control and to change what I carried, not other people (even though I often felt like other people were “making” me do things or would use the excuse that I didn’t have a choice). You cannot fix others’ boundaries, you can only manage your own. So I did. I didn’t expect things to happen overnight, but I set out to start.
Where am I now? I still have a long way to go — I still stretch myself thin. But, I’ve seen a lot more joy this year.
I’ve done better at choosing to give actual gifts, meaning I give without expecting anything in return. I try not to give time with the goal of getting praise for my efforts.
I’ve said no to a lot more than I ever have in my life. That one is still hard, but I keep trying.
I didn’t stop helping. That’s an important one. I didn’t want to 180 into only taking care of myself. I just needed to shift how I help, in what capacity, and my attitude towards it.
I’m careful about what I try to hand people of mine, especially my husband and family. Leaning on people is needed at times, but I can’t deplete my resources and then look to those closest to me to then deplete themselves for me.
This next year I’m going to do even better. Embracing the process is so hard for me (can’t we just arrive at perfection already) — but I’m trusting that trying, failing, learning, and getting back up to go again are necessary and even good.
Your turn — what are you carrying? Or not carrying that you should be? Thoughts on good/healthy boundaries?
It’s important for me to document these things so I can see how far I’ve come, how I’ve changed & grown. I had R snap a few pictures of me in the studio so I can remember this as the year that everything was beige and cream and I started learning how to better care for myself and others.