Irene and I have been best buddies for over 40 years. We both have loved and lived for decades with husbands who are serial-entrepreneurs. Irene and I have been the stabling force in our homes, making it possible for our dear husbands to swing from one adventure to another like monkeys. A few years ago, Irene told me of a lesson she had learned that has resurfaced in my mind, and I have passed on to others, many times. She said she often has to remind herself not to play in Jerry’s backyard. Jerry is her husband, the serial-entrepreneur.
We each have our own backyard. A nice picket fence with a gate. What we allow inside that gate is up to us. I have always been involved in the lives of my children. Until they were 18 years old, they were safely ensconced in my backyard. But at 18, they passed through that gate and set up their own backyards. As a mother, it is sometimes very hard not to traipse over to the backyards of my children when something goes wrong, fix whatever needs to be fixed, rescue whatever needs rescuing, giving my opinions and advice liberally. Interesting dynamics happen when I do this:
- I handicap my children when I don’t allow them to figure out their own problems. They become dependent on me to fix everything and don’t learn how to help themselves.
- I get depleted of my own resources trying desperately to help everyone else.
- I find I worry more about their issues than they do!
- I begin to resent not having any time to myself or time for things I want to do because my gate is always open.
- I don’t have time to grow. I get cranky. I feel the need to get away to escape the demands on my time and energy.
The question here is, what did I do to create this monster? It’s much easier to be a victim than it is to take control of one’s life. So it is necessary to create boundaries. To make sure I am not intruding in someone else’s backyard and that I remember to close the gate to my own when needed.
Most of the shadows of this life are caused
by standing in one’s own sunshine.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
If I don’t tend my own yard, it will wither and die. What a great analogy of what happens to a mother when she doesn’t take care of herself first. Drawing boundaries is sometimes the hardest part of letting go; passing the baton to the next generation to continue the race. Personal boundaries are what define you as an individual. But I have found, from personal experience, that those lines are hardest to draw when I am unsure about my own worth and am lacking direction. Easier to take care of everyone else than to confront my own issues. Ouch!
Many years ago I sat down and poured out my heart to a well-respected therapist. She told me very firmly that I needed to learn to find joy in my life, apart from making everyone else happy. I was shocked! I thought that was the only way to be joyful, to find happiness. After all, isn’t that what I had always heard from the pulpit? Put others first? Do unto others as you would have them do unto you? Didn’t that mean to serve continuously and be happy about it? I admit I struggled greatly with the concept of putting importance on my own health and well-being in order to be strong enough to pass along pieces of me to others. It has been a journey.
Do you shade your own sunshine? Is it difficult for you to play in your own backyard? Do you find it hard to shut your gate and create boundaries? Does doing so keep you from accomplishing your dreams?
Part 3 of Passing The Baton will follow: Whose Life Are You Living?