It stuck with me though and after my initial eye-roll, I realised that it actually encapsulates the things I’ve been trying to work on lately. I need to accept the truth of what’s being pointed out – that although it feels shite, the feeling of disquiet that comes with setting boundaries for myself is the sign that I’m growing.
A couple of weeks ago, someone told me about a new flotation tank place in Dublin. Delira, I made an appointment for seven on a Sunday evening thinking I’d go, bliss out, float home and have a lovely sleep to finish my weekend and to start off my week well. (Work had been stressful and I felt in need of rest.)
Later that day I realised that a friend of mine would love it too and texted her to see if she’d like to join me. She was all over it and made an appointment for the same time. A day or two later, she asked would I mind changing the booking to earlier in the day.
We checked availability and there were free slots at one and at five o’clock. I explained why I’d like to do the evening but said I’d be happy to do the five if that worked for her. She thought about it and said that the one would suit her better as even five is too late in the day for her (she owns a new business and is a power-house – she’s up at dawn during the week and likes to be in the scratcher super early.) She said not to worry if one o’clock didn’t work for me, to go ahead of myself and we’d do it together another time.
My initial response was to say, “Listen, don’t worry about it – one is fine.” She is an amazing friend, I knew she’d enjoy it and even though doing it at lunchtime on what was forecast to be a lovely day felt weird to me, fuck it – I could do my Sunday evening relaxation plan another time.
As I picked up the phone to say one o’clock was grand, I had a moment of clarity. The crux of the matter is this; I didn’t want to disappoint her by saying no; and herein lies my issue.
A thought pattern that I have that is definitely not serving me is that I need to be accommodating and available to my friends at all times. When I looked at this a bit more closely, I realised that it is a fear-based belief;
“My friends will be angry/disappointed with me if I am unavailable or put my own needs first”
I could do with a therapist’s help in working through this but I think it stems from two related things; I was a shit friend in many ways when I was drinking and I spent my life trying to make up for this by being overly obliging when I was sober. This is ingrained in me still and is basically a reflex at this stage. It is my go-to response and is why I was just about to send the text automatically before I caught myself.
Secondly, I lost friends as a result of my drinking and I think I am still holding on to the pain of rejection that came with that. In new friendships, I have made and in old ones I still have, this fear of abandonment lurks in the background and influences how I behave and the beliefs I hold. When I attempted to unpack this seemingly trite floatation tank example a bit more, I realised there’s actually a lot to it;
- I want to be a better friend now (a healthy desire)
- Being a good friend means ignoring my own needs / wants so as not to appear selfish. (Unhealthy belief; it t is ok to say something, that is relatively inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, doesn’t work for me.)
- She will be pissed off if I don’t go at one (Completely false belief; she was able to say the evening didn’t work for her and genuinely meant it when she said to go ahead and we’d do it another time)
So, I texted her and said that we’d do it again and to have a lovely Sunday. I knew rationally that the decision I had made was a fair one; I wasn’t letting her down when she needed me. As we’re all well aware, however, the rational side of your brain and your emotions don’t always see eye to eye. Once the text was sent, the discomfort came a-knocking.
I’ve been listening to “Set Boundaries, Find Peace” by Nedra Glover Tawwab and I focused on the primary message she teaches, “Communicating what you want and need is tough at first, and dealing with what comes after can be downright uncomfortable but the more you do it, the easier it gets, especially when you experience the peace that follows.”
I know it seems like a tiny thing but this feeling of disquiet that I managed to deal with is, as has been said, the groundwork for change. Personal growth should feel uncomfortable and I can verify that it does.
I wasn’t lying when I said she is a great friend because she not only said no hassle, we’d do it another time, but she texts me the next day congratulating me on not going with the one o’clock, on sticking to what I needed. She allows me to be vulnerable with her, is gentle with me and she knew how I would feel having sent that text. This is the work. Friendships like the one I have with her and personal growth are the fruits of the labor. Discomfort is the temporary medium. Don’t know if I’m quite there yet, but @graphicdesigner had a point, “Love being uncomfortable.”