Boundaries

Room in Brooklyn by Edward Hopper, 1932

There’s a book called Boundaries that is changing my life. My counselor assigned this book, and I’ve been implementing its ideas. It’s about setting personal limits and knowing when to say no. Like this lady in her room in Brooklyn, I have personal limits, walls and windows, that set me apart from those around me. For example, I have a limit concerning my writing and my children. I’m not okay with them watching me write something personal, like an email. I tell them to not be nosy and go in the other room.

Not having enough boundaries allows other people to hurt you or take advantage of you. If you don’t fix that situation, you allow people to do it over and over again. I’ve been challenged with the concept of enabling people to continue in their sin. Enabling is bad, I know it is. And the flip side of the coin – setting up a boundary so that person knows the sin is going to have consequences – is equally hard. Everything about boundaries is difficult. Most things are unpleasant. I don’t like boundaries.

But, I need them. They help me have that “spirit of power and love and self-control” that is mentioned in II Timothy 1:7. Without boundaries, I have a spirit of fear and craziness and self-doubt. It is true that I still doubt if boundaries are a good thing because I don’t like making people upset. And the consequences can be big and life-changing. However, I believe God works peace and truth through boundaries. Ultimately, God cares about me and wants what is best for me. God does not want someone breaking down my good boundaries and coming in and hurting me. And if they do, God is a healer.

Boundaries is a popular book and applicable to any life situation. I do recommend it. The authors are Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend. They write from a Christian’s perspective.

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Sunde in Jolster

Sunde in Jolster by Nikolai Astrup, ca. 1920

I’m letting my mind take a vacation to Norway tonight. At least for a few moments. I read somewhere that picturing a beautiful image in your head during moments of stress can calm you down. I’m going to try to make that a habit. The trouble will be choosing one beautiful image. Our world of art has so many!

An Interior with a Woman

An Interior with a Woman by Vilhelm Hammershoi, c. 1900-1909

This lovely, mysterious painting suits me right now. The layers of rooms, the strangeness of having the woman facing away, the mysteriousness of what she is looking at, the open door and closed door, the middle ground, the signs on the walls, the purity of the light, and the way it reminds me of Vermeer: it all strikes a chord. I don’t even want to know what her face is like. I am glad she seems to be a private person, and I am glad she has a place in these clean rooms.

It makes me think that everyone has secrets, and problems, and reasons to keep one door closed and one door open.

I seem to have gotten my internal clock mixed up, and so I can’t fall asleep until around 3 in the morning, and then I don’t have much energy in the mornings when I get up. But maybe that’s this woman’s problem, too. You never know. Sometimes it’s good that you can’t tell everything about a person just by looking.

Oriental Poppies (again)

Oriental Poppies by Georgia O’Keefe, 1927

I’m showing this strikingly beautiful painting again because I think Ms. O’Keefe did the opposite of what I tried to do in my last post. She didn’t try to escape anything or remove herself from her problem. She examined her subject until what she saw was its essentials. Not the prettiness, not the traditional view, but the heart.

And the heart of my problem is that I’m confused and just skirting around my confusion instead of facing it. Just when I think I’m looking at my marriage in a healthier way, noting the toxicity of it, finding problem areas, I realize that I am still reacting badly. I’m not strong, and I’m not living from my CORE. The problems are slow problems, very slow, years slow, and I don’t like admitting that getting over these problems is going to take just as long. After dinner my husband read loudly and with passion from Revelation, and then he prayed that people be patient with each other. I just don’t know. How patient can I be? What I do know is that my silent patience has often ended up in vain because he forgets the thing I wanted him to do. What I do know is that the farm eats him up, more and more, and it’s like quicksand: if he tries to work harder to free himself some time, the farm doubles back with extra work. Am I called to feel sorry for him, or to be patient with him? I don’t want him to think that it’s all okay with me. He would start singing my praises again, and telling people what a great wife he has. Whatever. I’m not great, and I don’t want flattery. I want reform.

So, Oriental Poppies. There’s good in my life somewhere, but right now that good is sitting out in the elements somewhere, covered up, like my van, which I got stuck in the snowy driveway. Maybe I’ll find the beauty years later, looking back, realizing the places God took me, and the blessings those places eventually brought me. I doubt it though. The only beautiful thing about right now is the fact that I’ll maybe forget it someday. But right now… I don’t know. I’m confused.

After rereading this, I start to wonder if the point is that I’m powerless. What’s going on might be between my husband and God. I have my own strengthening to do with God, but the problems… I don’t know. That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, either.

Oriental Poppies

Oriental Poppies by Georgia O’Keefe, 1927

I’m making an effort to think clearly tonight, being honest with myself. Certain things that bother me are bothering me again, and normally this causes a type of confused panic to begin. Lots of points and counterpoints going on in my thought processes, and I get lost and start wondering which point is “the most true.”

Well, here’s my attempt at removing myself emotionally from my own situation.

God loves His children. God can be trusted. God is in control. God’s plan is beautiful.

What do I like about this poppy painting? The heart of small things are monumentally important. Something traditionally beautiful (like flowers, or say, a marriage) can show unusual beauty and interest when examined closely. But see, I can’t even talk about a painting without trying to talk about my own problems. How about this: the painting is startlingly beautiful, kind of like seeing a flower in real truth after only seeing fake flowers.

I just realized how great school was for getting your mind off your own problems. You can bury yourself in the world of academia. Homeschooling doesn’t work so well because it’s studying in the environment of home. Home is vital and must not be buried.

And God’s plan is always the best plan, no matter what I think.

[Afterthought: I suppose choosing a Georgia O’Keefe painting to help me remove myself emotionally from something wasn’t very smart. I probably should’ve gone with something still clinging to the Middle Ages, like Giotto.]

Forget-Me-Nots in the Window

Forget-Me-Nots in the Window, Henri Matisse, 1916

Writing is such a helpful thing for me. I don’t personally know anyone except myself who needs to write in order to think properly. When I take a break from writing, my thoughts build up and cloud my mind. If I’m not writing, I’m not communicating well.

So thank you for coming and reading and sharing my conversations. Some days I’m crying out my words, and other days I’m sitting in a cool blue-green world with a bowl of simple little flowers blooming in the sunlight. And that’s a nice place to be. I wish this lovely little spot of existence transformed itself into a real place here in my real life, but after all, isn’t this whole life just a shadow of the higher reality? Who am I to say that the home I live in is less shadowy than the words I write or the artwork I look at? Maybe God gave me these other worlds as real comforts to me. Reprieves. Because He knows I don’t get out much!