Gratitude and boundaries

While reading another person’s blog, Sweetox: Saying Sayonara to Sugar..for now, I came across the following statement:

Mainly, my experience in recovery has taught me that with a spiritual program and willingness all things are possible. So the sweetness in my life, both figurative and the kind that comes from the kind people at Reese’s,  are gifts to enjoy and it’s up to me to do so with both gratitude and boundaries.

Gratitude and boundaries are both things I haven’t developed a whole lot of in my life. By being the victim and martyr of my life’s story, I haven’t cultivated the “attitude of gratitude,” mainly because I’ve been so busy living from one crisis to the next or living with the resulting aftermath of those crises that I haven’t really practiced the art of gratitude.  By being the manipulative, know-it-all, control freak I haven’t allowed the boundaries of others to deter my momentum, until I bulldozed my way into a pit of isolation, depression, and neediness where it became clear that while crashing through the boundaries of those around me, I had never learned to develop “healthy” boundaries for myself.

Another blogger in recovery wrote on the topic of Gratitude, stating:

It is important to remember to always be grateful for everything in life, good or bad. God uses tough times to teach us. These tests bring us closer to being able to serve his purpose for us, and there is nothing more satisfying than that!

Throughout the bible, it is advised to give thanks in all things and circumstances:

Ephesians 5:20 King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.) – Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;

1 Thessalonians 5:18 King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.) – In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

Philippans 4:6 King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.) – Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

I have to admit that being thankful or grateful for all the screw ups and mistakes I’ve made in my life, especially those in my relationships with my children, various other family members, and many lost friends throughout the years, is something I’m not quite able to do, yet.  I don’t know how to be grateful for the pain from the sorrow and loss and the realization that, whether it was conscious and intentional or not, I’ve created the wreckage and isolation I live in.  The realization of my own culpability and acceptance of my role in the destruction and abandonment of the most critical things available to us in life – the community of people and relationships that make life worth living – is still too fresh and too new.

On an almost daily basis I see my son posting facebook status updates about his positive interactions with his mom – and it isn’t me. The family who took him into their home and their lives, unconditionally, 10 years ago, when things came to a head in our home, are wonderful people.  I admire them greatly.  I’m also very envious of the relationship they have with my son.  I AM grateful that he has people in his life whom he feels that kind of connection to and can turn to, since he believes he can’t turn to me – and maybe he can’t, at least not with the expectation that I will ever be able to mend and change the things he hopes and expects me to.  But it hurts so very badly to know that, at least for now, that we can’t have a loving and positive relationship with each other because we both are still carrying so much pain and damage from our pasts.  I don’t know how to be grateful for that.  As far as my oldest daughter goes, she tells me she loves me, occasionally, but we go days without any form of communication, I know who she says she’s living with, but don’t have an address for her, and I know that she’s making her own self-destructive choices and has convinced herself that my dysfunctional relationship with the father of my youngest daughter, make her self-destructive choices acceptable and reasonable.  Basically, I frequently feel as though both of my oldest children have written me off.  Sadly, I don’t blame them and frequently know that I have done the same with family members in my past, for many of the same motivations and reasons, and would probably do the same with me if I were them.

I should be grateful that by coming to this point in my relationship with them and gaining the insight and understanding of my role and responsibility in us reaching this point, I have an opportunity to do differently with my youngest child…and to a point I am grateful for that.  Unfortunately, I am so consumed with the sense of hopelessness and failure for not having made the changes I’ve tried over and over to make throughout their lifetimes, that I have almost no confidence or expectation that I can make the necessary changes for my relationship with the youngest.  That’s not to say I’m not trying, because I am.  I just have to be honest about the fears and doubts that are choking me.  There’s just so much grief and sorrow that I don’t know how to cope with, move through, and accept, there just doesn’t seem to be room for gratitude, but I’m working on that.

As far as boundaries go, sometimes it seems as though in trying to “honor” the boundaries of others – especially my children – I’m actually abdicating responsibility for my own choices.  I love my son dearly, but since, right now, his belief is that I’m lying to him every time I say it and that he doesn’t want to be in regular communication with me, I’m choosing to stay silent.  I feel like a facebook stalker of both of my adult children, checking their walls several times a day, and the walls of mutual friends, to see if I can find out anything about their lives.  Since they aren’t offering, and have made it pretty clear that as long as I’m choosing the relationship with the father of my youngest over my relationships with them they really don’t want to have much to do with me, I’m trying to limit the amount of unsolicited contact I initiate with them.

As far as boundaries with other people, well, I don’t really interact with other people, all that often, outside of work.  I’ve always been an oversharer, which meant that just about everyone I ever met knew WAY TOO MUCH about me, my life, and the people in it, in too short a time.  I’ve treated strangers, acquaintances, and friends like they were my own personal therapists, dumping all my angst and strife, as well as my expert knowledge and opinions about how their lives should be conducted.  Since losing the last couple of friends over the past six years because of my inability to establish and hold my boundaries and to recognize and honor their boundaries, I’ve kind of withdrawn from the world, for the most part.  Further isolating myself into my dysfunctional relationship with the father of my youngest, catering to him and her, and wallowing in depression, anxiety, guilt, and shame, has pretty much been my life for the past several years.  I was the one who tried too hard until she gave up.

So . . . gratitude and boundaries . . . don’t really know how, but I’m willing to learn.

Abba, help me to let go of the grief, sorrow, guilt, shame, blame, and hurt and to learn to be grateful in all these things, trusting that You are working it out and carrying me through.

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Addendum:

About an hour after completing this post, I received a call from my son which seems to be the start of a new phase and opportunity for reconciliation, healing, and growth, within constructive and healthy boundaries.  Filled with gratitude!

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5 comments

  1. There’s a wonderful book called “Boundaries” written by Dr. Cloud and another doctor whose name I can’t recall. Dr. Cloud is a great author and he’s a Christian. These men took Scripture and the issue of boundaries and tied them together in ways I never knew was possible!! I was raised without having any boundaries — didn’t know what that even meant. I still have trouble with boundaries, but I’m learning. I’d highly recommend this book. You can easily Google the book and Dr. Cloud or find them on Amazon. I bought mine from Lifeway Christian Bookstores years ago. I liked it so much I bought two more copies for some relatives.

    Just FYI!!
    –Kathy

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    1. Kathy,
      Thank you for your suggestion and offering. Sorry for the delayed reply, somehow I missed this when you first posted it and then I’ve been overwhelmed and in a funk for the past month and a half or so and haven’t really done much blogging.

      Be well,
      Kina

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  2. Hi there … I followed a link from Angel of Secrets … I was hesitant to leave a comment, especially considering that I struggle with many of the same issues you’ve mentioned in this post, but just wanted to say that agree about having to take responsibility for our actions, and acknowledging not only the pain that we’ve endured, but the pain that we’ve caused to others. I’ll be checking back from time to time to say hello. I tend to get lost easily, and don’t see a “follow” button on your blog, so I’ll bookmark it and hope I can remember to swing back around this way soon. BTW, good luck in reconnecting with your son in a way that honors your boundaries. Gratitude is a good thing, and one I could remember to practice more often. Bye for now.

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