Monday, June 25, 2012

Just Hang It Up

PSA photo of WUSA9 billboard

If you thought this post was going to be about texting or cell phone use while driving, let me assure you isn't. Neither of those is the best of ideas, but that isn't the issue. Hanging up the phone and setting appropriate boundaries is the topic.

First off, you have to understand my mother. Well, I don't think anyone can; see that's the first problem... Just joking...Anyway, my parent's divorced when I was  just a kid. That was over 40 years ago. My mom has never gotten over the divorce. My dad left her for "the other woman". She continues to think that as long as you have a husband in your life, your life is prefect and any problem you have can be conquered. 

Sometimes, when I am very upset I've made the mistake of sharing an issue with my mom.
When I do this the following things frequently occur. The first is that somehow, someway the conversation will turn from being about your pressing issue to mom's divorce.The other thing that happens is that she must have the last word on any topic. 

This one time I talked to her about something that happened with my dad (I know, not my most brilliant move). A week later she called and tried to bring the subject up again. I told her that I worked through the issue and I didn't want to hear anything more on the subject. She told me she only wanted to tell me one more thing. I reiterated, "It has taken me all week to get to a good place with this issue. I can't afford to go there again. I'm not going to listen to any more discussion on it". Again I heard the, "But I only want to tell you one more..."I interrupted and said, "No, mother I'm not going to discuss it". The conversation went back and forth and voices got raised; then, finally I hung up. I knew she would call back. Therefore, I turned off the phone and walked outside to sit in my peaceful garden with a glass of non-alcoholic wine in my hand (darn those pesky meds that don't mix with wine). 

Line in the sand
Now I've hung up the phone on rude telephone sales people before so I'm not a complete doormat; but I have never hung up the phone on my mother. In one way, it felt so empowering to take back control of the conversation. She had overstepped my boundaries and I had drawn a line in the sand. On the other hand, I felt like a little kid who deserved to be punished for hanging up the phone. I hadn't wanted to think at all about what my dad had done; now it was in the forefront of my mind.  Now it was all I could think about plus I was now having issues with both parents.  

Later I turned back on my phone and started to get messages off via the speaker phone and then I sat down. After hearing the first few messages, I heard my mom's voice. Mom had tried to get the last word in; this time via a message. She left a message on my phone letting me know I hurt her feelings and she only want to tell me...To this day I have no idea what she wanted to tell me because at the sound of her voice on my messages I walked back to the phone and erased the message. I meant what I said. I didn't want to hear anything more about the issue with my father. 

Shortly after my phone encounter I talked with my best friend. She told me she used to hang up on her mother all the time. Gee, was I the only one not doing this? Had I missed this valuable lesson in school. Is it really ok to do this. What about honoring your mother and your father? This value was drilled into my skull as a child. I was still upset with the issue when I saw my therapist at my regular appointment time. We discussed setting boundaries. Did you know it is really ok to hang up on people? It is ok to tell people "No" and walk away. It is ok to say "No" if you don't want to do something and you don't need to give a reason. "NO", is a complete sentence!

Boundaries are difficult for those who have had their boundaries violated so many times whether by incest, rape, domestic violence, or bullying. It makes setting these boundaries feel wrong and at times we can feel small and helpless like we did when we were young and did have a choice. Then we didn't have the resources we have as an adults to set appropriate boundaries. However, now that we are an adults we can set these boundaries and expect them to be kept. If those boundaries aren't respected, those that violate them can expect things to happen like having phones hung up on them or being shown the door and asked to leave. We can also call the police if needed. Today we have choices. We finally have choices. We need to set appropriate boundaries with ourselves so we can be free to truly live our life, not the life someone has tried to prescribed for us.

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