I’ve never been good at it. Letting go of people, of friendships or relationships. That kind of thing. Because of it, my boundaries aren’t always what they should be.
I grew up in a glass house, in a small town. I came from a long line of lawyers, of politicians, of educators. I was raised to not make waves, most especially in public and never outside the family. Confrontations were not acceptable, no matter what the situation. “Always present a pleasant face” was a phrase I heard often. And there were always expectations about my behavior, my friends, my relationships, my future.
with a rebel yell
Even as a kid, I was a rebel at heart. Never in a juvenile-deliquent kind of way, though. I just eschewed the image I was “encouraged” to project. I was just not built to be the cookie-cutter girl who had the right friends, who wore the right clothes, who dated the right boys, married the right man, had the right career. None of that was what I wanted for myself. I rebelled in a big way when I pushed aside the heels for combat boots, quitting college and going active duty in the Army. To say that caused upset would be an understatement. It was never fully accepted by most of my family, just tolerated.
For a long time, I thought I shed all that, that I’d moved past giving a damn. I mean, after all, I am a fifty-year-old woman with a hawk, tattoos, and piercings. But there are some things that I’ve come to realize have become ingrained within me. And that became clear over the last few years.
being a good girl
Boundaries and letting go… two things I suck at. Those lessons of always presenting a pleasant face, of not making waves, of avoiding uncomfortable confrontations, stuck with me more than I realized.
Manners are a wonderful thing. The last thing I’d ever want to do is hurt another person. But there is a fine line sometimes between maintaining civility with others and becoming a doormat. And that line hasn’t always been crystal clear for me. There have been an embarrassing number of times that I’ve allowed people to treat me badly, rather than confront them and stand up for myself. Why? Because I was taught to avoid exactly that. When you teach a kid, especially a girl, that they shouldn’t make waves, that they should never confront someone, it does nothing but teach them that their own feelings don’t matter. That everyone else’s feelings are more important, more valid, than their own.
I still struggle with that, and the struggle became really real the last few years.
trimming the tree
There is no question that this country has been in turmoil in recent years. I think it began to be truly obvious the moment Barack Obama was elected, but when Trump came on the scene, it got exponentially worse. I watched and listened as people said things that shook me to the core, many of them people I thought I knew.
It became more than a difference of opinion. It became a difference of values, of morals. My cousin Amy called it “trimming the tree.” It isn’t about getting rid of people who aren’t like-minded. It’s about not surrounding yourself with people whose values are so fundamentally different.
A difference of opinion is disagreeing over taxes, over budgets, things like that. A difference of values and morals is taking away the rights of human beings for any reason. Refusing same-sex couples the same rights as opposite-sex couples. Embracing misogyny. Classifying neo-Nazis as “misunderstood” people. Accepting racism by discounting the very real struggles for BIPOC.
To name a few.
Did I trim the tree? Absolutely. But it hurt my soul, especially when it was someone I knew. And the truth is… there are still some in my life with whom I have irreconcilable differences. And yet I still haven’t found the strength to trim away that branch.
But I need to.
by Faery Ink