Relationships and the Role of Boundaries
One of my favorite children’s stories is FREDERICK THE MOUSE by Leo Lionni. I probably have read it a thousand times and enjoy sharing it with children.
I think I found myself in the character of Frederick, even though I did the work and was not allowed to sit on a rock and watch. As winter approaches the mice are gathering all their stores to provide their needs. They are moving very fast and truly are determined. They are cross with Frederick who just seems to be sitting on a rock enjoying the sun. Even with all their efforts during the winter as it grows closer to spring they run out of their stores. Then they discover that Frederick was gathering STORIES, which now keeps them fortified until the winter passes and they can forage again.
Watching people, reading stories, and understanding emotions were the stores that I gathered all of my life. People and their actions and motivations fascinated me. By reading the stories of characters in novels and short stories, untold authors created even more scenarios for me to collect and enhance my warehouse. I often wished I had a “best” friend, but usually I was just on the outskirts of the group – listening. I shared with my friends about the characters in the books and how they had handled situations that were similar to their problems they were working on and most enjoyed my listening skills.
My chosen profession has huge ethical standards for relationships and boundaries. It is very isolating, because one cannot “need” the relationships that are expected to develop and the boundary lines are very finely woven. I have not found it possible to be friends with folks I am being a leader to and I have gone out of my way to find services (such as accounting and haircuts) from outside of my community.
Most of us have to learn the hard way by wandering outside of the boundaries and hopefully we have had our own personal boundaries in order to help us cope and bring us back in line.
My first year of being Campus Minister found me confronted by two students who thought they were my “best” friend and wished me to please let them know who the winner was. I was flattered that they enjoyed my class and subject matter so much, and that their enthusiasm extended to finding more students to participate in activities, and then truly had to exam which of my behaviors and actions was encouraging this standoff and competition. Fortunately early on I was able to find a mentor and a comrade to help me with the boundaries in crisis situations.
I had to be very careful of gifts along the way also. Students had very little in way of resources to share so I found myself on the receiving end of cookies or discount tickets to movies or lectures they had gotten. I had to carefully weigh the intention and the possible reciprocity expected in the gift. My usual suggestion was to ask them to put their best effort into writing the best project or paper they could and insisting that was the best gift of all.
Buddhist teachers get paid by gifts of money from their students. They need to report in to their teachers each gift and to make sure they do not give preference to students offering larger gifts. This practice provides a backup system for good boundaries. “Good fences make good neighbors”.
Clergy are want to say that if they have a handful of true friends in a life time that is a remarkable gift.
Most friends are not part of their community where they work. Most friends offer a time to relax and unwind – support- and they offer up listening and challenge – keeping us real and within the limits. There is mutuality and deep respect.
I will attend soon a picnic with a group of retired and active clergy who need to get together and check in – see how goes it, because we are all isolated in our individual communities. We will laugh out loud and get advice and hear some very good and “Old” stories. I am happy to say, this group has become accustomed to me and I am no longer the only woman in this neck of the wood.
“Behold, I am doing a new thing”, and I am thinking that maybe I would like to put together a board of directors for my blog. And yet I feel I still want control….it is my blog….or maybe I just need to find a way to get to a blogging conference? And a writer’s conference?
What do you think? Benefits? Problems? Suggestions? Why would you like this or not like this in your own activities? Are you a lone ranger?