I’m not going to make this Post about politics. The people here in the U.S. have some soul-searching and reality-checking to do. Choices, and decisions to make. It’s clear to a lot of us that it’s time to address our “issues” as a nation. Still, as I was thinking about the stark contrast between the two main political parties here, it’s hard to avoid growing consensus. One group is aggressive, focused and tenacious. Some might use the word ‘ruthless’. The other group is more unifying, compassionate and humanistic. Some might use the word ‘spineless’. Which, as I think about my own Personal Path in the last couple of years or so, mirrors my nature, and many of the people I’ve met along the way. When does Choosing Peace (the prevailing mantra of my youth) cross-over into being viewed as a wimp, a patsy, a pushover, a doormat? When does being ‘agreeable’, and the act of seeking harmony, become a behavior that threatens my well-being? There’s a fine line between ‘helping’ and ‘enabling’, in both our outer and inner worlds.
Early on in my life, there was way too much conflict among my family members. I hated it. It scared me. I didn’t become angry and forceful. Instead I became a peace-maker. To the extent that, when I became an adult, angry and forceful people crowded into my life. I was an eager, receptive problem-solver. So, more people with problems came my way (The Law of Attraction, for sure).
Eventually it dawned on me that attracting people that needed ‘fixing’ (wounded birds, a relative of mine called them) was not only exhausting but unhealthy. My Personal Work, years in the process, involved tracing the roots of my over-developed need to support (enable) others. I eventually realized what I was doing and why, and learned to find balance between tolerance and assertiveness. But then I found my resolve being tested. Over and over again. In the workplace. In my family and other close relationships. It was almost like my Inner Being was saying, “Have you really overcome your habit of conflating love and approval with a crazy need for self-sacrifice?
How many of us do this, or know someone who does? Using personal or positional power, love, money, affection, sex, fear, guilt, humiliation, threats or other forms of manipulation to get our needs met? How many of us allow this manipulation – on the job or in our personal relationships – to force us into situations where we over-compromise? In the name of Peace; or Helping; or Being Kind. Out of fear of losing a job, a spouse, a friend? Do we even know where our boundaries are, and how often do we defend them?
Today when I was out doing my five miles, I had another opportunity to feel and express my own boundaries. It was early morning but already getting warm, so I amped-up my pace. Looking forward to getting my shoes off and a tall, cold tumbler of my new fitness hookup: BCAA. Suddenly I saw, on the busy street where I was, a glossy black shape bobbing in and out of traffic. A dog. A good-sized hound. A cyclist came up behind me fast, and, for some reason, this crazy dog came galloping over to him. The cyclist grabbed the pooch by the collar, flipped it over (how did he know to do this?) and found a phone number etched in the leather. Suddenly we were a team. The man held the dog, I dialed the number.
A very soft, sad voice answered after two rings. “Yes, that’s my ex-husband’s dog…his name is Max”. And her story started to unfold. When she left their home (the pain sounded bad, and very fresh), she wanted to take Max but her new landlord wouldn’t allow it. Her husband was always gone, she said, and didn’t really give the dog what he needed, etc. “Ok. You can stop now. You need to come get this dog before he gets killed.” I didn’t say those things, but I sent this vibe over the phone. Un-deterred, sad-voice explained that she lived “across town” and that it would “be awhile” before she could pick Max up.
One of those moments of being a Good Samaritan, that turns into, “What have I gotten myself into?” The dog was big and incredibly strong; still a puppy but probably 100 pounds of squirming energy. I was about to resist hanging-out with this animal when my Rescue came. The woman (the bad ex-husband’s sister) who was supposed to be dog sitting Max while her brother was out of town tooted her horn and waved at me. Long story short, she flipped a dangerous U-Turn and pulled up to take control of the situation. I told the woman still on the phone that “Dominique” had showed up. The sad voice sounded relieved, but so very weary. She began to talk again, to engage me in a fuller story – I could sense it coming — of what had gone wrong and why. Nope. Not today.
It was tough to gently disconnect, I felt sorry for the woman “across town”, but I’d protected a dog she clearly loved. That was enough. I continued to think about her as I finished my walk, and silently wished her well. Feeling, once again, that fine line between ‘helping’ and ‘enabling’ being drawn, very clearly, in my mind and heart. I’m making progress.
A really great video from Hay House, featuring Doreen Virtue, on the topic of being lovingly-assertive. https://youtu.be/p20wimKjpck