B is For Boundaries

“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.”[1]

No matter how you feel about *this* wall . . .

Of course no one loves a limitation. No one loves being told “no.” I’ve even known a Magus (or two) who avoided meeting up with his Saturnine side because he didn’t want to concede to limitations. But as Frost’s narrator’s neighbor reminds us, “Good fences make good neighbors.”

From time to time someone encroaches on our acreage in an unacceptable way.

Though I have a solid, seven-foot cedar privacy fence around a good deal of my property, there is a portion that remains un-girded. A few years back, my next-door neighbor came onto my driveway (while I was out of town) and cut down a large privacy hedge. After getting over my initial rage followed by my “The bastage trimmed my shrubbage without asking,” titters, I pulled my neighbor aside, told him he had “a huge set of balls” and instructed him not to touch my foliage again.

What surprised me most was that we had to have a definitional conversation: “How about the holly, can I trim the holly?” “And the grass, how far can I mow?” “What about the herbs?” “And the lilies?” He said to me, “When Frank lived here, I always just took care of everything on this side of his driveway.”

He and I had never set good one-on-one boundaries. A previous owner had let him run amuck on the hedges and it didn’t occur to The Bad Neighbor that I didn’t want him trimming up my bush.

It’s alright. You can giggle. I’ll wait.

It hadn’t occurred to me that I had to set such boundaries with my neighbor.[2] It seemed second-nature to me — the lines one should not cross; but the same did not occur to him.

Part of the fallout of this conversation with my neighbor is that he stopped clearing his clippings on his side and he stopped pulling the weeds within five feet of our property line. He took my delineation of our boundaries as an all-or-nothing eviction.

Psychologists will tell us that those who have never made acquaintance with boundaries interpret all boundaries, even reasonable ones, as all-out rejection. However, we have to recognize boundaries as *not* rejection. When someone provides us with a boundary, we should recognize that as meaning: “I want to interact with you, but there needs to be a few rules,” rather than, “I don’t want anything to do with you ever, under any circumstances.” Sadly, we have to accept that some people are absolutely incapable of hearing that message. Some people, like Frost’s mischievous narrator, want to blame encroachments on “Elves.”

When we are lucky enough to find someone who is willing to “work” on a relationship, like Frost’s narrator and his neighbor, we may even, “have to use a spell to make [the boundaries] balance.”

The Bad Witch found herself in another relationship with a “neighbor” that was killing her holly and lilies. I asked the neighbor to quit encroaching. Rather than accepting the boundary, the neighbor saw complete rejection; not only that, she declared war. Rather than staying on her side of the driveway, she has started spraying Sevin on my winter crops. (No worries, TBW has excellent defenses).

I know all of the “change an enemy into a friend” spells. I know all of the banishings and bindings. I know all of the tricks and tweaks and bells and whistles and dogs and ponies. I am The Bad Witch, after all. I’ve been advised to, “Throw her in the cauldron,” and, “Let me rip her roots out,” and, “Remember you’re The Bad Witch; get her and her little dog too,” and, “Eee . . . defixiones!”[3]

While I did consent to the last being performed on my behalf (thanks for the new toy, my friend), I’ve decided that I really need to take this incident as a learning moment. Now that I am growing into a community organizer, I need to learn more about building healthy boundaries from the get-go. It’s easier to set boundaries up-front than to go back and revise a relationship. And let’s face it, some of those in our communities can be, as a friend likes to say, “black holes of neediness.” There are those who genuinely do not understand “standard” boundaries (if there even is such a thing). And, let’s also face this, for those of us who are generous by nature, it is difficult to comprehend selfishness and covetousness. We don’t always see it coming.

For these reasons, among others, it’s a good idea to make sure we have our boundaries clearly marked out before we begin a new relationship or invite others into our communities.

It’s scary to allow new people into our homes and hearts. But because we don’t want to build a wall that keeps everyone out altogether, that’s an unhealthy all-or-nothing mentality, compromise is key. Mark out your boundaries but be willing to give a little. Remember, you have to work with others’ boundaries as well.

Good fences make good neighbors.

Blessings, Quarks, and 93

The Bad Witch

This post is part of a year-long project. Rowan Pendragon’s The Pagan Blog Project, “is a way to spend a full year dedicating time each week very specifically to studying, reflecting, and sharing . . . .    The project consists of a single blog post each week posted on prompt that will focus on a letter of the alphabet” (http://onewitchsway.com/pbp2012/).

[1] Robert Frost, “Mending Wall” 1914. (North of Boston.)

[2] Now that he has stopped diminishing my now-overgrown holly and my lilies, I realize how much he had been futzing with my vegetation.

[3] The Bad Husband asked me an interesting question last week. I had mentioned all of my fab-o cyber-support and he asked me, “And do they suck the life out of you too?”

I had to answer him very honestly, “No,” I said, “Actually I get better help from people I’ve never met in person than I ever did from . . . .” Well, you get the picture.