Setting Boundaries

Setting Boundaries
Photo by Lars Kuczynski / Unsplash

My sister broke her foot and I offered to take her to the doctor’s office.

But first, we had to stop at her daughters’ school.

We walked into the school together and were greeted by a small woman seated behind an enormous old desk.

“This is —. She’s amazing,” my sister said to me, turning to smile at the woman behind the desk. “She’s the gatekeeper and knower of all things here. And this,” she pointed to me, “is my sister, Anne. She’s here to help me.”

“You sister is so special to all of us," the woman gushed to me, “I’d drop anything I was doing and help her too.”  

I smiled as the two discussed what my sister needed to get done at the school.

“Why don’t you sign in and then you can help your sister”, — told me as she pointed to the far side of her desk.

I glanced over and saw a jumble of electronics.

Immediately intimidated, I turned back to the woman for guidance, my mouth open ready to ask questions.

Barely glancing in my direction, she said calmly, “I completely trust in your ability to figure it out.” Her voice was kind but firm.

I had 4 thoughts in rapid succession.

  • But I don’t want to figure it out myself.
  • Oh right. No one wants to figure it out themselves and she’s got to deal with that question all the time. From kids and probably worse from parents.
  • But I want you to hold my hand and make me feel special.
  • Ohhhh! Okay, this lady is brilliant.

I turned back towards the iPad and checked myself in (with a little help from my sister 🫣).

The woman behind the desk has been on my mind ever since.

In 2 minutes, she gave me a master class on how to set boundaries while empowering others to do for themselves. She also, without judgment, checked my privilege which helped me see it for myself.

I’ve started practicing the words, “I completely trust in your ability to figure it out” over and over.

I’m practicing so I can say those words Kindly. Clearly. Firmly.

To others.

To myself.

PS. I’ve recently committed to putting more of my work into the world. I’ve got a card deck taking shape, my first in-person workshop coming in October, and a book simmering on the back burner. It’s a lot and I’m beyond excited.

But as soon as I scheduled it out and committed money to collaborators who can help me birth these projects, a multitude of opportunities for other work came flooding in. Opportunities I’ve said yes to in the past. Opportunities which are exciting and lucrative and growth oriented.

I’ve said no to all of them. Yes, I spent time thinking it through but the answer is always the same.  

Sometimes you have to say no to good things in order to say yes to what you really want. I am taking a leap of faith in myself and, as hard as it is to say no, drawing that boundary for myself honors my commitment to myself and the work I know needs to be in the world.