Boundary Management

My favorite quip has been sticking with me through my latest busybody crisis:


As I’m sitting here, in the Silicon Valley / San Francisco area, and worrying about my Aunt’s lack of self-care and her own failing cognitive abilities, I’m thinking of the pizza quote and trying to manage boundaries.  (Backstory on Auntie accessed here).

I’ve had no kids.

I’m not particularly maternal (though I’ve fought like hell over the years to give my Baby Sis fair and reasonable opportunities when she was being babied by our Mother or ignored / hurt by the negligence and hateful words and actions of our Father).

I love my five nephews with a passion that continues to surprise, given how seldom I’m able to spend time with them in the now 30 years since I moved away from the homeplace.

I love my remaining family (so many have passed away over the years), and I want them to achieve their dreams and goals.

I don’t think I’m particularly possessive.  I don’t think I’m particularly unrealistic about whether or not I’m loved and cared for in return.  There is some fondness there, despite the years and the distance, amongst all of us. When we are together for family events, I don’t feel unloved or unwanted.  Maybe like I am a source of amused tolerance due to my independent ways and opinions, but not disliked.  Some of the emotions I receive are clearly duty and obligation, but there is a bond.

I also don’t think I have “hero” tendencies.

If I can help I will.  If it won’t hurt you (enablement), I’ll help.  But, if I have no resources or it’s a boundary issue, I’ll take a stand.

I’ve gotten into a few challenging situations helping other people, but it’s been more about setting boundaries and limits so that I’m not trampled or taken advantage of, or my helping making their situation worse, vs. anything seriously going wrong.

I haven’t lost relationships over my interference or opinions or boundary setting, and the 4 relationships in my life where we are no longer speaking happened over a span of 43 years.  (Something I console myself with, as the failure of those relationships lives on in me as a personal shortcoming, regardless of any perceived thought of fault or cause and effect).

I still count those relationships though, as important to my life, even though the day to day contact is no longer there.  I occasionally (when something comes up) replay those relationships in my mind, wondering how they are doing, wishing them well, mourning their absence. All because someone who is a part of my heart never leaves it.  Not through distance.  Not through anger.  Nor through disenchantment.  I carry the original love and friendship and admiration I felt for them always, as a part of me, regardless of what happenened in the intervening years to cause frustration and silence to stop communication.

So far, the score is:

  • Daddy Dearest.  (Self-explanatory) 1977
  • Drog (gone but not resolved over lifestyle choices) 1983
  • Cago (boundary issues; disrespect of others) 1985
  • The Birdlady of Oregon (mental health / abuse) 2012

Boyfriends / lovers normally don’t fall into this category due to the easy complications of sex and pheromonal emotions to complicate everything, plus the added wrinkle of my stated plan to never be married / live with someone.  But, when it withstands the test of time for the friendship to survive whether or not sex is involved?  Well, then, it pushes that relationship into its own special category.

I almost added my long time friend / lover, to the failed friendship / relationship list, however, we managed to mend a fence broken in 2012 and somehow repaired our relationship (very carefully) and without a lot of discussion in 2014 – despite the fact that I’m very militant on some issues, and he’s very male priviledge on similar issues.  We care for each other more than we want to be “right”, so we reinforce in our minds what’s good between us, and avoid triggering hot spots whenever our two boundaries collide.  Plus, we’re older and lazier, and I think the devil you know for sex vs. going without plays a part in our current levels of detente.

The last situation proves what I know to be true, though – if there’s a falling out, I won’t forget you if you’re gone.

If there’s a way to heal the break, I will, because it’s so much easier, kinder, rational (whatever!), to speak and grow with someone than it is to wonder how they are doing and worry one’s brain over old conversations (good and bad) that can’t be expanded upon for new memories or healing of old hurts.

All that being said, though, I’m trying to figure out a way to interfere in Auntie’s life without getting her locked up, but simply to ensure she gets the physical health she needs despite her cognitive / mental health challenges.

I’m sitting here trying to figure out a way to interfere in her life, vs. letting it be all about survival of the fittest, because I know she wants to die (a very tricky call in a non-urgent, non-terminal situation) and I don’t think her broken bones are going to get her to that point (thankfully and unfortunately, as I do respect her right to live in peace and won’t object to her death when it comes as she has long desired an end).  I am worried, though, that her self-neglect will create other, majorly aggravating problems with her health and well-being that will cause additional substance abuse and mental health failings if not treated.  A very slow and painful way to end one’s life, in my humble opinion.

Like the sign says – I can’t make everyone happy.  I’m not pizza!  Yet my ego or hubris or hero mentality (whatever) keeps prodding me to get on the plane and see what’s going on for myself.

As well as demanding that I call Adult Protective Services for a judgement call on the broken shoulder and the broken wrist (and anything else broken from her second fall, on Tuesday evening, which may have done additional damage).

Ego.  Meddling.  Love.  Drama queen tendencies.  Rescuer tendencies.

Where are the boundaries for managing healthy and unhealthy relationships when a question of mental capacity is involved?

No answers here.


Update:  She’s got a 1:30pm appointment with an orthopedic surgeon for later today.  She’s now convinced that nothing’s broken (despite the proof of the x-rays), and she’s looking at Yelp to see if his practice is “any good”.

(face palm).  I know, I know.  I do it to myself (the worrying).


Bed time update:  The ortho says the wrist and shoulder AREN’T broken, but the hand is smashed in 3 places.  Not sure what to believe, but heading out on Sunday to see for myself.

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