even Mother Teresa had boundaries

I want to tell you something that someone very wise told me this morning.

mother teresa

Even Mother Teresa had boundaries.

The renowned, completely selfless and wise, loving, hardworking, humble, mind-blowing little lady who shook up the world.

Even she built up strong walls against harmful things and people.

Even she armed herself well to defend her mind, heart, and body from what and who were ready and waiting to destroy her.

Even she protected herself from wasting time and wasting energy on the people who would keep her from loving others in the ways she knew best. So did Jesus.

No guilt or shame in that.

Even Mother Teresa had boundaries. Even Jesus had boundaries.

I say this to myself over and over today, on this sunny day that I wish was cloudy to mirror my mood. Sunny days should not be spent feeling sick and mulling over who has control over my emotions. I wish this sunny day held only joyful things, not the slow process of beginning to build my boundaries.

But, even Mother Teresa had them.

I want to shake the world like she did. I must need them too.

I want to believe that Mother Teresa had emotional, restless nights that held hands with long, exhausting mornings. I want to believe she had nights where she stayed up fighting with herself and praying with every fiber of her being for the discernment needed to build up the right boundaries and break down the wrong ones. I like to picture her as a young woman, sitting at a table surrounded by older, wiser people, receiving and soaking up what they all say to her as she fights battles inside herself and with others. Maybe she’s like me during these moments, staring at the ground as she takes in every word of wisdom – wishing they would stop talking because it hurts and at the same time never wanting the wisdom to end because it feels good to hear others say “Hey, me too. I’ve been there, and here’s how I made it through.” Wise words have this tendency to cut and heal at the same time. Like loosening chains after so long. The metal has festered and embedded itself into bloody wrists and ankles. It hurts so much for the chains to kiss skin goodbye – the pain too much to handle – feeling lightheaded. Ouch. No. Stop.

And then all at once, freedom. You’re free.

Just like Mother Teresa probably did, let the wisdom from trustworthy people overtake you, cut your chains, and give you discernment to carry your bricks to the right places and build those boundaries.

And boundaries mean so many things.

Guard your heart against the people who make it ache. And I’m sure you know what I mean by that. If you’re a human being, you know how capable we are of heartache.

Build boundaries against the people who try to break your heart – in the careless kind of way. I’ve said it before: your heart breaking open is not a bad thing always – but letting the wrong people break it apart will always leave you with the “what-just-happened-help-me-I’m-bleeding” feeling.

Don’t give people that power. Guard your heart, build a boundary.

Build your boundaries against time thieves.

I need this reminder today: Facebook will never comfort me. Instagram can never save me. Social media will never fill me up, it will only drain me until there’s nothing left. Reading or creating or discovering or learning or traveling or staring into someone else’s eyes can and should never be replaced by screens and little boxed messages and hopes for a certain amount of “likes.”

Limit the time you spend with these thieves. And also limit the time you spend trying to achieve what you hope will save you. Because it won’t, I promise. Your grades won’t save you. Awards won’t save you. Ribbons won’t save you. Titles won’t save you. Don’t let that steal your life away. Guard yourself.

Build your boundaries especially strong against those who only want you for favors and granting wishes and then secretly naming you their whipping boy. They’ll draw you in with promises of good times, jokes, and laughter and their hook will be caught in your mouth the moment you realize what fun you can have together. But the glamour will fade, the polish will chip, the glitter will fall off, and you’ll be left anxiously filling your hands with pieces and handfuls but not a whole. Glimpses but not the portrait. You’ll be left muttering “sorry” more times than you can count for nothing that you did wrong, and yet you’ll still feel like everything is your fault.

And once this has happened, it will take a painfully long time to trust people again, as dramatic and cliché as it is to admit. I don’t mean for this to sound like you are a victim if you find yourself in a situation like this. It doesn’t mean you have to play victim – please don’t. But if you do find yourself in this role, throw down your script, yell “I quit!” and head out of that little production.

And go build your boundaries high and strong against these people that want to tear you down.

Because if you’re searching for friendship that is all the right kinds of messy, that’s not it. Don’t fool yourself into thinking it is, either. Don’t try to reassure yourself or force yourself to believe it. Just go.

And I’m telling you right now, you may feel sixty-seven shades and textures of lonely. I said it before, I’ll say it again: the ache is the worst. And you may cry and scream and yell at the sky, “Hey! You! Are you there? Please change this, it hurts too much and it’s not fair.”

And you’ll have days where sitting in your favorite coffee shop feels like a chore, and doing schoolwork feels like torture, because you can’t stop thinking about the lack of alerts on your phone and the empty weekends in your planner, the days that used to be full of color with all the reminders of parties and get-togethers. No longer.

And that’s okay. Or it will be someday. Because eventually your heart will agree with the rest of you that being lonely is better than being chained to someone who kills your spirit, weakens you, pulls you down, empties you of everything you have to give — whether they’re aware they do this to you or not. And eventually you will find people to fill the holes better than any friends have in the past – you’ll find the people who build you up, give you trust and loyalty, make you feel fully loved and needed, remind you of the truth, give you grace.

Let me tell you what I don’t think boundaries are. They’re not sticking a mask onto your face. Don’t stuff your emotions under a cover and call it good. Because like an untreated wound, it will spread and show through sooner or later. And then what? How do you deal with it then?

And boundaries don’t mean color coding and labeling people in your head — ‘the blue ones I love, the red ones I hate.’ Don’t let boundaries equate to creating enemies. It doesn’t have to be that way.

And boundaries don’t mean running away. Don’t run if that’s not what you’re meant to do. Stand your ground; stand firm in who you are and what you know to be true. Boundaries are not an excuse to run in fear.

Boundaries confidently declare, “I love my God enough to show you grace and kindness like He has shown me, but I also love myself enough to know that this is unhealthy for me. For my own sanity, distance is necessary.”

Boundaries shout, “”I love myself enough to know that I’m worth more than these current circumstances, but I love my God enough to choose to love his people instead of deciding to hate them for the rest of my life.”

Boundaries state, “I’ve forgiven you. And it’s time for me to be on my way.”

And if you’re called self-righteous for saying these things, that’s okay.

If you’re called a bad friend, that’s okay.

If you cause pain in the midst of this process, that’s okay.

If you get sad, that’s okay.

If you grow lonely, that’s okay.

If your heart aches from all the lost possibilities and unchecked boxes on lists, that’s okay.

Forgiveness. Distance. They can be true and right at the exact same time.

If you’ve built strong, healthy boundaries that allow you to love yourself, love others, and love God, then you’ve done well.

Because even Mother Teresa had boundaries.

little reminders

tree

Hi. Hello. It’s been quite a while.

I didn’t forget about you, or this page, I promise. Someone asked me a few weeks ago why I stopped blogging.
I haven’t stopped – at least, not in my head or in my secret file on my computer.
It’s just that this crazy thing called life sometimes steals us away from simply sitting down at our desks or favorite coffee shops to bleed out onto pages all of the things we wish were easy to say while looking into someone’s eyes.

Anyways.

Here I am, and here you are, and today I really wanted to paint a list of little reminders for you. Articles and blog posts of lists seem to be a popular thing nowadays; they allow for easier skimming of a page, yeah? My list doesn’t exactly have a little bow that ties all of the points together — 15 ways to get the boy; 23 reasons why college is the best; 8 things you need for your first apartment. No, my list is random and in no way complete; it’s just a rundown of thoughts on my mind today, reminders that I need and maybe that you need as well.

  1. You don’t have to be sorry for breathing in a bit of oxygen, taking up some space on the sidewalk or the bus, being the one that someone else runs into, asking questions. You just don’t. None of those are reasons to utter that toxic two-syllable word. It is toxic, you understand. It’ll plant itself in your mouth to attack whenever it wants if you let it. Don’t let it. Don’t be sorry for things you don’t have to be sorry for.
  2. Confidence — oh yeah, that thing. That thing that so many people seem to have lost. It’s like a little piece of a dandelion that starts to fly away and you have to try your hardest to focus on it and catch it. It may take you more than a few tries to finally grasp it between your fingers, and once you do, you don’t ever want to let it go. Promise me you’ll try hard not to let it go and then let me know how you finally grabbed hold of it for good.
  3. When your body feels out of whack, just go work out. I promise you’ll feel better after that than after spending four hours on the couch eating goldfish and watching The Office (I mean, what? Who does that? Ha…haha…)
  4. Life is not a weighing device, a balance that catches everything on one of two sides and convicts you to fill the other to keep it balanced — asking the same amount of questions in a conversation, splitting bills, taking turns doing whatever. Those are sometimes important pieces, but that is not life. Let him spoil you and pay for everything and don’t feel guilty about it. Let your friend spill her heart out to you and don’t be mad or hold a grudge that she didn’t let you do the same this time; she needed that today. Life is not always a balance.
  5. Some days you will just need to eat six bagels and not destroy yourself over it. It’s okay – move on.
  6. Some days you will feel like not doing your schoolwork. And to that I say, only if nothing is due today, skip it and go do something to make yourself feel worth. Because not much worth is found in doing the day-to-day tasks of schoolwork. And it’s lame that that has to take up so much time of all of the young people’s lives. And that’s why I’ve vowed to try and not let grades and my GPA and my success inside of this institution define me, because this college-Claire could very well be the dullest facet of who I am, and to let yourself be defined by the thing/time/place that makes you feel least alive could be the worst betrayal against yourself that you’ll ever know.
  7. Grace is real and grace is good. Do you know the definition of grace? ‘Getting what you don’t deserve, and not getting what you do deserve.’ It’s a crazy, counter-cultural phenomenon, and it is still the best thing that could have ever happened to me. Ask me about grace if you wish; I could go on for days.
  8. Love looks a lot different than anything we initially picture. Love is not just sitting across from someone, dressed to the nines and eating exotic things and having intellectual conversation. Love is not just the flicker of eye contact and the rushed heartbeats and the stolen kisses and the curling of fingers around each other. It can be that, but that’s not all it is. Love could also look like holding your friend at 3am as she sobs over past mistakes. Or looking into someone else’s glistened eyes as tears start to fall from your own and telling them what a wreck you are, and having them reply, “Me too. But I care about you too much to let this friendship die. We can do this together.” Or wishing someone would stop asking you questions because it hurts to have someone care that much, but they keep asking anyways, and eventually you get to a point where it doesn’t hurt and instead you realize that love is dancing around the whole conversation. And Love above all can look like a half-assed, exhausted prayer, mouthed silently while you’re lying on the floor, and having that EXACT prayer answered 3 hours later, when the song you prayed to hear that day was played at church. Having your heart pierced and broken open – not broken apart; that is love. A sometimes uncomfortable, radical, “what the heck?” sort of thing, but love nonetheless.
  9. Coffee – make that your friend. It opens doors to a lot of other friendships too – not even kidding, I have like twelve barista friends now thanks to all of my time spent in coffee shops. I guess tea works too, but not even tea can trump the awesomeness that is coffee.
  10. And then sometimes coffee can become an enemy – and I don’t mean that in a dramatic sort of way. I just mean that sometimes when people ask you to coffee, it’s the spark that will ignite something more. And sometimes when people ask you if you’re available to get coffee, you just know that it is different. It’s not to continue something, it’s to end something. To wrap it up with a tattered ribbon, to move on with bright, flashing memories still inside your head. Maybe I only speak from watching too many movies or maybe I speak from past experiences, but either way, I think you understand the truth in this.
  11. Ladies, if that guy is not giving you all of his attention, just move the heck along. Easier said than done, I know, but you deserve to be “pined over,” as a good friend once told me. If that boy is not pining for you all day every day, time to say “adios,” and keep on rolling with your good life. ‘Cause you will be just fine without that one dragging you down, causing you to check that silly little phone of yours eighty-seven times a day.
  12. And speaking of checking your phone, STOP. Put that thing down for a bit. Take in everything around you. Those texts will be there in an hour. People twenty years ago went on with their days just fine without sending and replying to a hundred instant messages. And I need this reminder more than anyone I know: a lack of response over text usually, usually, usually MOST LIKELY means nothing bad. Hop over that hurdle and keep moving with your lovely day.
  13. Learn to say no when you need to. That’s a tough one, but essential in order to keep your sanity.
  14. Don’t feel like you have to compete with others around you; we have all been created to handle different amounts and different types of loads. Just because your best friend has four majors and two minors doesn’t mean you need to too; just because your boyfriend works two jobs and plays six sports doesn’t mean you have to feel guilty for your ‘lesser’ load. It’s not less; it’s yours and that’s just fine.
  15. Girls, remember that thrill you got when you had your nails painted when you were little? That thrill is still there; go paint your nails. It’s so fun.
  16. Take that advice from Ratatouille – “Anyone can cook” – and go cook yourself something fancy. That’s also very fun.
  17. Trust your intuition and your initial reactions more; if you feel like something is wrong initially, don’t ignore that.
  18. Friends, don’t feel inadequate if your life doesn’t look like all the articles you read online – forty places you have to go, sixty things you have to do, why you can’t stay in the same place for too long, ten dates you need to go on…Those are not you. You have your story and you already have the one who penned it; you don’t need Internet articles telling you how to orchestrate the rest of your twenties, or where you’ll live for the next ten years. Don’t let all of that make you feel less of a person.
  19. Speaking of personhood, YES you are a living, breathing, real human being. The other night I was sitting on a rooftop with a friend and told him that often I don’t feel like a human being – he said that’s rather normal. My mom once said that at the age I am now, she still had barely noticed she was breathing and alive. I feel ya, mom. But yes, we are all human beings. And we are all breathing and living. The question now stands: what are you going to do with that?
  20. Movies to watch when you’re feeling all sappy and emotional: Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, My Best Friend’s Wedding, Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and classic Disney movies like Robin Hood, The Sword in the Stone, Sleeping  Beauty, The Aristocats.
  21. If you’re an INFP like I am, you’ll understand that writing is so much easier than vocalizing thoughts. And sometimes I feel like my writing voice is completely and utterly different than the way I speak, and then that makes me feel like a fraud with my writing. But this isn’t true. I’m still me. Writing is just a more natural way for me to throw out some pretty words. If you feel like that, don’t fret. You’re all good. Keep writing and keep speaking; they’ll bring out different shades of who you are, not different people entirely.
  22. Here’s my last reminder of today: You’re here. Yes, you’re alive and breathing, but that’s not all you are. You are full of sparks and overflowing with colors and hues that make you up and that is so breathtaking. You are all the poetry that could ever come from my little fingers typing across this big keyboard. Life is so overwhelming and giant and scary and thrilling, but don’t let it keep you from reaching your highest potential. Don’t let anything get in the way of who you have been created to be and what you have been created to do. You are lovely; you are worthy; you are desirable; you are loved; you are needed and wanted; you are cared for. And don’t shy away from this sappiness – take it all in.

That’s all from me today.

In the words of Mr. Magorium, “Your life is an occasion. Rise to it.”

—claire