“You have to be able to set boundaries, otherwise the rest of the world is telling you who you are and what you should be doing.” ~Oprah Winfrey
A couple of years ago I made a decision to pursue peace—my own.
I wrote about this in my most recent book, Four Fridays with Christina.
“… [That night] I look into the sparkling night sky and declare my desire: I want peace for me, too, I decide, inside and out. I want it enough to make future choices for it, having made too many against it in the past, like hanging on to hurts, regrets, and resentments. I vow to myself to make active choices for it moving forward… particularly as it relates to self-protection (I still lean, like any good adult child of an alcoholic, towards being over-responsible and caring for others instead of myself) and I will seek peace in my life like a thirsty man seeks water. I make a promise that night to protect myself—my body, mind, and spirit—as rigorously as Christina safeguards her energy.
… People say they just want to be happy, but I suspect that’s a misnomer, and one usually based on external circumstances. I think, perhaps, peace is what people seek. And I think maybe peace is the opposite of pain, the flip side of the acceptance coin, to feel content without complacency, purposeful devoid of pushiness.”
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It’s been three years since I wrote those words and for the most part I’ve kept my promise.
And though I still lose my patience—with, for example, incompetence or willful ignorance—I have learned when to walk away, or keep my mouth shut, or ask myself the right questions before I speak. (In case you’re wondering, those questions are: 1) Does it need to be said? 2) Does it need to be said by me? And 3) Does it need to be said by me, now?)
Sometimes, my choice for peace has required setting some new boundaries with people. I can’t say they’ve all enjoyed that—even friendly fences can be off-putting.
But it has proved to be a fruitful learning ground because it also includes boundary setting with myself: with whom will I spend my time and why; what will I purchase and why; what kinds of conversations will I participate in or walk away from; what thoughts will I allow entry simply because they pound on my door?
Those are a few of the thought paths I’ve wandered for three years, with this question as my walking stick: Does this bring me closer to or farther from a sense of internal peace?
I’ve learned that pursuing peace is hardly a peaceful process; it is fraught with pitfalls, usually the result of some hard truth telling.
And it’s cost me to be proactively involved in my own peace creation. It demands some difficult conversations sometimes; lots of folks have questioned my subsequent decisions or been upset by them.
It can be quite a challenge to put yourself and your own needs first after a lifetime of living the lie that you owe those who care about you the life they think you should live.
(Read that line again.)
In hindsight I now realize that perhaps the most critical aspect of cultivating a peaceful heart has more to do with bravery: It takes courage to release the need to justify or explain one’s choices—to anyone.
Peace is a choice—it’s the follow through that’s the challenge, it’s the boundary-setting that’s the bitch.
But it’s when you stop trying to prove yourself to others that you can finally prove something to yourself, and whip that bitch into submission.
“The moment you feel like you have to prove your worth to someone is the moment to walk away.” ~Alysia Harris