If you are in close relationship with me, you know that I have a bazillion rules. I’m still learning how to hold boundaries for myself and because of that I am very upfront about what I do and what I don’t. (For example, “I don’t talk on the phone so never call me unless you’re on fire and I’m the closest person to you with water.” I hate talking on the phone. It’s such a time waster. I can text all day and still get work done, but I can’t multitask while on the phone. So I hate it when people call me, unless it’s important. But I digress….)
The people who make it into my very tiny inner circle are those who accept my rules without making me feel bad for having them. They respect my boundaries and appreciate me for who I am.
The awesome thing about being human is that not everyone will respect our boundaries. Yes, that’s sarcasm. I absolutely hate that fact. Especially family. They want what they want when they want it.
I learned early in life that it’s my job to do what people want me to if I want to avoid their negative energy and unpleasant emotional responses. I learned to be keen to their shifts in tone, facial expressions, and to feel obligated to change my behavior to restore them to a place of peace and joy. Regardless of how I was impacted, it was my job to make those around me happy, and keep them that way. If they were upset, it was my fault and I needed to fix it.
To this day, I am triggered (I know it’s an overused term but just flow with me) by the potential to upset somebody. I hold in my memory each time that I reacted, responded, and behaved other than they desired and how it affected their behavior. Not only do I hold in memory all of their moments, but of just about everyone I’ve interacted with as far back as I can remember. (I think this is the risk that we take by teaching our children that it’s their job to keep us happy, by using fear of punishment as our main parenting tool. But, again, I digress….)
I realized this morning that as a parent and in just about every other relationship I do all I can to keep everyone (except myself) happy. I wake up and hope my door is locked so that I can spend time in peace meditating before I allow the demands and requests into my space. I know that once I start entertaining the needs of others that I will push my own needs to the background. I am trying to stop doing that.
This morning I was awakened by an immediate request. I didn’t lock my door last night. And I was pissed, because: 1) I wake up naturally when my body feels rested. No one is supposed to wake me up unless it’s an emergency. 2) No one is supposed to speak to me before I talk to “God.” I meditate before I interact with anyone. It’s how I get to ensure my day starts with the right energy.
Within me I felt I was getting increasingly upset about how my rules hadn’t been followed, and I was certain this was going to tank my day. But somewhere within me I also felt a part of me telling me I had a choice. I didn’t have to let this tank my day. I could choose to maintain control of my emotions. I could choose to not let this external experience control my internal response.
It was then that the words “hold my peace” came to me. And for the first time, I heard those words differently. Being raised in church, I have heard “If I hold my peace and let the Lord fight my battles, victory shall be mine.” Maybe it’s a Scripture or a song, I just know I’ve heard it all my life.
I always viewed holding my peace as shutting my mouth—not saying something out of order when I got the opportunity. Like at a wedding when they say, “Speak now or forever hold your peace.” I assumed it meant to shut up, when you really felt like saying something.
However, as those words came to me this morning, I heard it differently. I pictured my peace as a physical thing I can hold. Something fragile that if I didn’t hold it properly it could be knocked from my hands. I saw it as something important that I did not want to let hit the ground, something I needed to grip tightly.
I decided this morning to look at my peace this way from now on. To stop letting it be potentially “knocked out of my hands” by every human interaction. I have to grip my peace tightly and realize that it’s in my hands… and no one else’s. It’s my job to hold on to it. It’s my job to protect it. I get to maintain control of it, regardless of what happens around me. I get to choose how I respond, how I react, and how I let events impact me.
So does that mean I won’t still be triggered by things? No. But now I don’t have to follow the default setting and get upset. I can choose in the moment how I want to respond. I can ask myself, “How do I want to feel right now?,” and choose to feel that way. I can hold my peace regardless.
This is a new step of maturity for me. Needing everyone to follow all my rules in order to maintain my peace is exhausting. It puts my emotions outside of my control which daily seats me on an emotional rollercoaster.
Today, I decided to create a new habit. One moment, one decision at a time, I get to choose to hold on to my peace. Despite my previous habits of response, and the temptation to react, I choose to hold my peace like a newborn baby and not let anything get to it.
This is new for me and I know I won’t do it perfectly, but I am committed to creating a new habit. And I’m just going to use this simple question, “How do I want to feel right now?”
In the past, I used that question to get out of my head and out of emotions that weren’t serving me. I believe that all our emotions are important. However, I see them more like traffic signs than destinations. I’m not really big on sitting in them, although there is value in doing that intentionally, especially with the proper supports in place. I prefer to take a step back and notice the emotion I am experiencing. For example, “I am feeling angry so that means in some way one of my boundaries has been violated.” From there I can journal or meditate on how I want to respond to that awareness. And I get to go right back to, “How do I want to feel right now?” Then, I get to choose something I can do, or think about, that makes me feel that way. Maybe I can reminisce on a pleasant memory, go for a walk, or watch my favorite scene in my favorite movie. I can play my favorite song, do a five minute Google search of baby goats, whatever will make me feel the way I CHOOSE to feel. It’s really up to me. And it’s up to you.
We don’t have to let unpleasant external circumstances dictate how we feel. We can choose to hold our peace….
I hope that this helps you in some way. Our emotions have purpose but they don’t have to control our lives. I am learning how to be more at ease in my life, because I’ve been “high strung” for a really long time. I am prone to anxiety and frustration. And it’s exhausting! I’m over being on an emotional rollercoaster. I want to maintain more balance, and feel good most of the time. I realize that I have to be intentional about that. I believe the key to this is learning to hold my peace.
Setting boundaries is important, and maintaining those boundaries is also important. And we get to choose how we respond to life when our boundaries are crossed, and when life circumstances are not ideal. We get to ask ourselves at any given moment, “How do I want to feel right now?” And then we get to choose to behave or think in ways that help us feel that way.
We don’t have to be on an emotional roller coaster throughout our day. We can choose to hold our peace.
Marlene Dillon Empowerment Specialist
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