I keep getting asked a lot of questions as to why I started a blog. There are a lot of reasons and all of them are selfish but that is another blog post for another time. But one reason I am realizing I have that does have to do with other people is accountability. Anything I post and allow people to read about, I have to hold myself to. I would also think others, especially my family, would hold me accountable as well.
With that said let’s talk about toxins and boundaries. Glennon Doyle has this metaphor about canaries in the coal mine. Back in the day the coal miners would have no way of sensing the poisons in the mine. They would bring canaries with them because the birds were sensitive to the toxins in the air. If there was something poisonous in the air, the canary would stop singing and the miners would know they had to get out of the mine. We are the miners and we are doing the work of our lives and the canaries are our souls. Our job is to keep the canary singing by not allowing it to be poisoned by the toxins in the air.
To keep our canaries singing, to keep our souls alive, we have to relentlessly eliminate the toxins from our lives. We have to be able to identify what the toxins are for us in our lives and then get rid of them. Toxins can be things like alcohol, drugs, overeating etc. Toxins are anything that kill our souls by allowing us to numb the pain in our lives.
People can be toxic too. I know, personally, that this is the hardest kind of toxin to get rid of because people talk back. We keep people close to us who hurts and we wonder why we are so miserable. We wonder why this person keeps hurting us but the better question is why do we keep giving them the ability to hurt us? Because we keep people who are poisonous close to us. But the cool thing about being an adult is we can choose who we surround ourselves with. Instead of holding people close to us who hurt us, we can kindly, and with grace, let them go.
We do not have control over how other people act. But we do have control over the access we give people to hurt us. It is generous to believe that a person who continuously hurts you will not hurt you for the twenty-first time, but they will. If someone is toxic they generally continue to be. Toxic people will make your canary stop singing, they will suck the life out of your soul. But it less about the person hurting you and more about you allowing them to. It is about what we allow into our lives because we do have control over that. This is where boundaries come in.
Cheryl Strayed sums up boundaries well, “Boundaries have nothing to do with whether you love someone or not. They are not judgements, punishments, or betrayals. They are a purely peaceable thing: the basic principles you identify for yourself that define the behaviors you will tolerate from others, as well as the responses you will have to those behaviors. Boundaries teach people how to treat you, and they teach you how to respect yourself.”
I barely can spell the word boundaries without messing it up. I have struggled to understand boundaries for a long time because I didn’t respect myself. What I am learning is that establishing boundaries come down to this one question: how much do you love yourself? Because if it isn’t that much, you will let people walk all over you. Boundaries have nothing to do with the other person and everything to do with you. What are you willing to accept into your life and what aren’t you? What is it going to take to keep your canary singing?
I always wait to the hundredth time of an unacceptable behavior to set boundaries. I would like to believe that if you establish boundaries the first time someone does something you do not accept, it is easier to keep those boundaries. However, I have no idea, so let me know if its true.
All I do know is sometimes we go so long without setting boundaries that the only option we have is to let go. Letting go is the ultimate boundary. Letting someone go is saying none of your behaviors are acceptable and I do not have to live with them because I choose who I keep close to me in order to keep my canary singing. I know those I keep close to me will always hold me accountable for the boundaries I set.