Bad with Boundaries
I’m bad with boundaries. I don’t like to say no. Honestly, I just hate it when people say no, so I try never to say it myself. It’s true that this gets me into trouble all the time, although less so now that I am almost 50 (it was a bad tendency to have in college). My husband tells me all the time that ‘I can’t do everything’ and of all the annoying things he says that’s probably the most annoying. It’s also true that very often I regret my decision to say yes to 3 meetings that overlap and take place at opposite sides of town — I don’t know what in the hell I actually imagine that is going to happen, even as I’m writing things into my schedule…yet I do, and hope for the best, and sometimes someone cancels a meeting, or sometimes I am late (ok always I’m late) and sometimes I have to reschedule something…it’s like a sickness, actually. It’s like a sickness borne of my age, my personality, my desire to, yes, ‘do everything’. Because here’s the deal: I’m about to die! No, I’m not sick. At least that I know of. But I’m getting older every day, and every day I love and feel more, and every day I’m more acutely aware of the fact that my days are numbered. There’s just too much to do, too much to create, too many experiences I still haven’t had but want to have…it paralyzes me sometimes.
The thought of meditating drives me insane. My husband used to meditate twice a day for an hour each time. The thought of doing that is incomprehensible to me. I would lose my goddamn mind sitting there doing nothing. (And YES I know it’s not ‘doing nothing’. I know that. But I can’t help secretly feeling like it’s doing nothing.) I can barely sit still to watch a movie and I haven’t read a book in ages. And dude, I LOVE to read. I used to sit quietly for HOURS reading. I have no idea how this happened to me, how this change occurred, if it’s a symptom of late onset ADHD or something else, but if I’m not moving every waking moment, I fear that I’m not getting something done, that I’m missing something, that I’m going to let someone down, that I’m saying ‘no’ somehow.
So if you want someone to help with your nonprofit, I’m your gal. If you want a date for cocktails, I’m REALLY your gal. If you want to plan a trip, I’m in. If you have a project, I really am in.
I run a nonprofit and work for another. I work my ass OFF. And here’s another thing that makes me insane: when I ask for help and people say, “I’d really love to, but I’m trying to cut back on commitments/obligations/whatever…” Oh my god I HATE that. It flies all over me.
That’s sick, right? That’s probably not healthy. I can see that someone from the outside could think that, and yet I know myself and I know that I’m a reasonably healthy person. This manic desire to do and experience and commit is OK, right? Does it come from my fear of death? Does it come from my drive to create? My desire to connect with other people and create with them? Well, I think all of the above. And yet….
I also believe that, like me, most women ‘of a certain age’, especially if they’ve become mothers, especially if they’ve had a reasonably normal life (by which I mean, full of heartbreak, and bad choices and grief and dysfunctional family issues…combined with equal measures of awesome), they also suffer from some measure of self-doubt, or guilt, or questioning of said ‘normal’ life choices…I had always imagined I would get to this point of almost-50 and feel settled, or that I knew who I was and what I stood for, that I would not still be in this place of exploration and desire and questioning and just…wanting.
I am a musician and a mother. And wife. I have a mission. I have several missions. I love being connected to my community, but I also hate groups. I love being wanted and needed…like most people, I feel important when people reach out to me. And yet I also often feel put upon by other people’s need. Probably like everyone else in the universe. And, you know, I don’t like saying no. Saying no sucks. I want the universe to say YES to pretty much everything. Which it doesn’t, which is maybe why I say yes to everything.
You know what else bugs the shit out of me? When I open myself up to people who I think need to be my friend and they don’t open themselves back up to me. What’s up with that? I really don’t understand why most people aren’t as awesome as I am. Why wouldn’t people want to say yes all the time like I do? Fuck those stupid boundaries. Fuck that! Why aren’t we all just spinning out of control all over the place experiencing things willy-nilly as fast as we can?
When I was a young teenager, I used to lie on the ground under the trees and stare up at the sky through the leaves until I felt like I could very easily fall up into the sky. I think that’s a thing — I think other people who are better communicators than I am have described this sensation. When I was an older teen and started doing drugs, that sensation was obviously amplified — but I would have the same sort of experience lying on the ground and staring into the sky.
I guess I used to do a lot of lying and sitting around, and I don’t remember feeling antsy or anything, which I would feel now if I did. But I do remember a really strong image that formed in my mind when I was having one of my lying on the ground moments. I would picture myself flying up into the sky and sort of flattening out as I floated above the earth, until I was just a film that could completely surround the earth. In my imagination, I would then be able to be everywhere at once and somehow soak up everything happening on earth at the same time, and then, Stretch Armstrong-like, rebound back into my regular human form, but somehow super-infused with the everything-ness of the world I’d just soaked up.
I was not raised with any religion AT ALL. Or any kind of spiritual guidance…well, that’s not true. My father would, and does, talk to me at length any time I need to about the meaning of life, mythology, religions of the world…anything, really. He’s super good at that.
Nevertheless, it really bugged me for a long time that I would never, ever be privy to the meaning of life. That all the mysteries of life and death and what is what would never be unfolded to me. I knew, even as a child, that I could never reasonably expect that. And I still kind of believe that’s true. But I also secretly hope that at the moment of my death some kind of window or door will, in fact, open and my mind will be infused with the answers to everything that is mysterious to me now.
And having said all that, it would seem a reasonable assumption that these types of questions would cause me to actually want to meditate, or go to church, or contemplate my navel, right? Or at the very least read more. What the fuck is wrong with me?
But here’s the thing: I am going to die! I know it’s in my cards — it’s totally, 100% going to happen. And when it does, I’ll be dead. I won’t be magically privy to the meaning of life and the mysteries of the universe. I’ll die and be dead and not be able to experience anything any more ever period the end.
SHIT I BETTER GET A MOVE ON! I’d better get cranking on my acting career that I’ve always dreamed of, I’d better write that novel that’s been burning a hole in my heart, I need to keep taking every gig that comes my way, I’d better start that nonprofit that’s going to change the world, I’d better take that person up on her offer of (insert anything here), I’d better have kids and say yes to everything they ask, and I’d better go everywhere I have a chance to.
I mean, fucking a someone’s got to. Cause it ain’t everyone I meet walking down the street who says ‘yes’.
I agreed to pass around a petition recently because I thought it was a no brainer: there was no WAY anyone I would come into contact with on a daily basis would not sign it, so altruistic and obviously good was it. I took it to a performance that I put on, filled with people I convinced to come, and I thought, ‘this’ll be a piece of cake, passing this around…this no-commitment signature that only benefits our society and supports the arts, which everyone here obviously love’. You know what?? I had people, friends even, say ‘no’! Not only did it piss me off, but it shook me to my very core. WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE SAYING NO! WHY are they saying no? What’s with that?
I know, I know. This is going to come back around and bite me in the butt. It does, actually, on a daily basis. I piss people off because of my bad time management. I’m late to things, or I reschedule things, or I disappoint my husband because he wants me to stay home and listen to music with him when I have made plans to go out and see a show, or have a meeting, or rehearse, or (insert anything other than sitting still in a dark room listening to a stereo). I keep waiting for the shoe to drop, and I know that if/when it does, I won’t be surprised and I’ll chastise myself, and bow my head when someone says ‘I told you so’, or my friend gives me shit. I think I’m ready for that. I hope I am.
I just hope that when I get too old to drive, and move around easily, when I can’t get out and party, when my old bones won’t support my will to create and collaborate and say yes, that I’ll then be able to sit and contemplate my navel and marvel at the mysteries of the universe and my place in it. I hope I’ll be able to talk to my children and their children and watch movies with them and discuss books we read together. I hope I’ll be able to look back on my life and see that the choices I made the boundaries I didn’t put up and the art that I created was worthwhile. And I don’t think I’ll care if anyone else in the world gave a shit what I did or didn’t do — that’s one clichéd old person thing I don’t worry about: I don’t care if I have a legacy or created something that would be remembered after I’m gone. Because I’ll be dead and won’t care at all what I did or didn’t do. That’s what I imagine will happen, at least.