Show Up, Be Present

varied complexion of hands reaching out to each other

PB and I had been friends since high school. In my minds-eye, we’d been friends for much longer. Except I can’t remember our history before that moment. My earliest memories of us together were the cheering squad in junior year and senior year.

We went to the same college and were inseparable during freshman and sophomore years there too.

Fast forward to our 30th high school reunion. By then, we were both moms of twin girls, she with 3 older sons and me with my oldest daughter, who she had visited in the hospital soon after I gave birth. Life had changed for both of us, but once again, we were joined at the hip.

Two years later, after celebrating another 30th reunion for another milestone, PB wanted me to show up to share her joy, our joy really at a birthday celebration for her beau. Unfortunately, after several “reunions” in a two-year span – while also experiencing one of the most confusing times in my life – I couldn’t. It’s been ten years, and we haven’t spoken since.

It wouldn’t have crossed my mind because I like to think I respect the boundaries of others. I would’ve continued believing it, too, If I hadn’t gone to sleep angry.

Earlier that evening, I’d commanded Dug, my grand-puppy-son, to respect my brother’s boundaries. Dug obeyed and left my brother alone. But I made the mistake of not respecting Dug’s boundaries and proceeded to move him along by picking him up. Dug helped me understand I, too, had overstepped by snarling and then nipping my hand. He didn’t hurt me. I told him all was forgiven, but I refused to speak to him for the rest of the evening and well into the morning. So, my subconscious went to work.

PB worked her way into my dream. I woke up with her on my mind. I immediately remembered how it felt when PB stopped speaking to me after I pushed her back from crossing my boundary. A boundary I didn’t know I erected years before.

I always thought wimps set boundaries. Seemed to me that one should evaluate every situation to determine its limits and go the distance if they decide.

In fact, I still do.

So imagine, to my surprise, learning I have set several boundaries that I didn’t acknowledge until today. What’s worse, I realized I will rarely go beyond those boundaries to show up for anyone. Yet, I have loving friends who show up for me in ways I will always treasure.

Recently, my not-so-humble oldest twin daughter reminded me they “turned out so well” because, as I once told my daughters, my friends cared for me when I was pregnant. They were also there for me throughout the girls’ formidable, I mean formative years. My friends were my girls’ “village.”

I reviewed my past behavior to see if I was theirs. From listening to my friends’ intimate accounts and stories, I noticed I show up when there’s a spiritual, emotional, sometimes a physical crisis, much like the village Shaman. And it has a lot to do with the boundaries I’ve set, possibly because of the trauma I’ve experienced.

Boundaries are like priorities that we’ve set for ourselves, whether socially-engineered or due to cultural programming. Further, these boundaries don’t necessarily protect us unless we know how we’ve acquired them. I’m not sure how or when I acquired my boundaries, but they’ve allowed me to show up in my career as well as in my personal life.

I heard a line from some show I was streaming; maybe Resident Alien or some Hallmark movie – and the character said, what she did for a living wasn’t who she was.

I disagree.

What we do professionally, we do personally, and vice versa. The same behavioral characteristics and skill set we possess appear in our professional lives.

If we take time to know ourselves, we’ll see who we are, and what we do is one and the same. No matter how hard we try to separate the two, it will inevitably come back to the same point.

Had I realized this ten years ago, possibly, I could have salvaged my relationship with PB?

But then again, boundaries also serve as a wall to prioritize and focus on what is important. Allowing us to show up and be fully present when we do.