Border Patrol

Jammed Together on Muni
Jammed Together

We all have our personal borders: physical, temporal and emotional. Unless we protect them, we run the risk of becoming someone we never intended to be.

We all know about our personal space, our comfort zones, our time management. We are not as aware of the effect of losing control of those borders or how encroachment steals our sense of self and its effect on our potential.

Our physical borders go beyond our personal space. When we are on a crowded streetcar, we worry less about space than when we are at a social gathering. On public transport, we are most often surrounded by strangers and in temporary discomfort about real concerns for our personal possessions and our toes.

At a social gathering, we, though still a temporary situation, may know many of those gathered together. We may have shared experiences with some, pleasant or unpleasant, and the discomfort this engenders can be triggered by emotions associated with that experience.

In addition, social gatherings garner some unwarranted camaraderie—glad-handing, shoulder-slapping, bear-hugging—from others we may not even know. Worse than that, for some of us, it’s isolation. Though we welcome anonymity on the bus, being ignored in a social get-together is painful on many levels.

To compensate, we may use the physical crutch of substances to lower our inhibitions and join the glad-handers and bear-huggers when we’d be better off helping out in the kitchen.

Ravages of Time
Ravages of Time

Time is finite for all of us but we still hear people say they have “time on their hands.” The biggest time-thief at our borders is probably ourselves, followed closely by family and friends. It’s too easy to say ‘yes’ to avoid the discomfort of saying ‘no’ to our nearest and dearest, despite the absolute necessity for our personal well-being. Protecting this border can make the difference in our career plans and professional success, yet we don’t value Time as an asset that we need to use effectively.

Writers are particularly prone to falling victim to the “time-suck” of others’ needs. If we don’t take our work seriously, it is even more difficult to say ‘no’ to the requests for help—from babysitting to helping with a move across town. Of course, keeping our relationships with real people is essential but putting our work aside for the wrong reasons: “I’m only writing after all” or “I’m not doing anything important right now” or “I’m not on deadline” don’t get our books written.

We all extol the virtual necessity of social media. But, who among us hasn’t succumbed to the salacious seduction of just one more post, one more tweet, one more connection for our network that lead to losing more time than we ever meant to give up? Who hasn’t pondered whether to join that best-selling author while she plays the latest game—after all if she has time …

Bottomless Emotional Descent
Bottomless Emotional Descent

Physical and temporal borders aside, let’s face the biggest destroyer: Emotion. The emotional blackmailers, the emotional vampires, the psychic demons, the manipulators. The people in our lives who will not leave us alone even though they are nowhere near us. They live in our heads, pushing all our creativity and good intentions to the side while they sit like vultures in the bare branches overlooking our work.

They’re the work colleagues we allow to mess with our heads about our productivity. They are the friends whose lives are miserable. And misery loves company. They are the jealous sibling who wraps us up in need and punishes us for caring.

Sometimes, we can’t get rid of them and feel guilty that we even want to. Too often, in an effort to handle the situation, we spend more time talking about them, thinking about them, analyzing ourselves and our relationship to them than we do enjoying all the fruits of our labors and the wonders of our own lives.

Eventually, letting our borders gape open, sends us in a downward spiral. At some point, we have to regroup and make the ascent all over again. Why not set our boundaries and keep to them in the first place? There are ways of doing this without damage to anyone, including ourselves. Just think, the person on the other end might be wanting the same, but doesn’t know how to say ‘no’. We could be doing them a favor.

© 2014 Content and photographs, Leigh Verrill-Rhys


Also on this subject...