The Fault in My Stars: Boundaries

31 May

I have a problem with boundaries.  More specifically, making ones for myself.

And no, I don’t mean personal space boundaries.  I’m a pro at having my space and making sure people respect that. And I’m quite adept at stepping backwards or sideways when people crowd me in.

Boundaries at work are beginning to have to be addressed.  I used to do more, a lot more, than my job description in helping people out. I’d answer questions that I knew the answer to even if it wasn’t specifically my job.  I’d allow some hand-holding (not literally) when it came to entering forms and such (because most employers of our size now offer self-service which is more intuitive). And I’d always pitch in with anything that our team needed help with.

I can’t do that anymore. I’ve got a very specific job and project for the next 11 months and I can’t stop every time someone walks down the hall to ask a “quick question” (they normally are not quick). I can’t afford to risk delaying the project, which is for the greater good of all the employees.

But saying No is hard. Directing people elsewhere is okay. But knowing that I could help them but I shouldn’t help them is frustrating.

Even worse, I have no boundaries when it comes to exercise and exertion. It’s not an issue of wanting to exercise all the time. It’s not an issue of thinking I need to exercise all the time. It’s an issue of – I spend a lot of time indoors for work and school – so I will jump at the chance to do anything with anyone outside for any length of time.  In the past, this has meant 20 mile runs with friends only to shower, eat, stretch, and then join a friend on a 40 mile bike ride.  The next day this might be a very long walk with a friend, a soccer game, a boxing match, etc.

I love pushing myself and challenging my limits.  But I crave being active with people I like outdoors.  Being an introvert, some settings (large crowd of people I must mingle with) are exhausting.  But one-on-one or one-in-a-small-group is less so.  For some reason, one-on-one or one-in-a-small-group combined with activity is pretty energizing to me.

The issue is that our bodies can only handle so much.  In addition, my stomach can only handle so much food (and not as much as I want it to) which means overuse injuries or not eating enough to maintain the exercise being done are both issues I struggle with.  I’ve had to relinquish control of my boundaries to someone else. I’ve had to begin planning out my week (my lifting schedule, my running, my cross-training – elliptical/swimming/biking/yoga) and letting someone else approve it and determine the miles I can run.

For a highly independent stubborn individual (who? me?) it’s an exercise in frustration. I don’t like other people deciding things that concern only me. (Even if they indirectly affect other people – being out of commission with an IT band injury may have led to a lot of venting sessions.) And I don’t like having upper limits and maximums and controls around how much of something that I love I can do.

But as I learn to slow down, to stop, to listen to my body’s needs, to say “I’m sorry, I’d love to but I can’t do anymore physical stuff today” it is getting easier. I’m not superhuman. I’m just a regular person who needs rest and sleep and recovery and can only handle so much exertion in any given day. This doesn’t mean that I’m not racing still.  That I’m not anticipating some marathons and ultramarathons and 70.3 Ironmans in my future.  Just that I’ll be training with a lot more balance and a lot more recovery than I did before.

When we can’t make our own boundaries, it’s okay to ask others to help us make them. And when we can’t do everything, it’s okay to ask others to do it for themselves. And as it says on my weekly plan for this week “The world as we know it will not end if you take a rest day.” I’m planning one for Saturday. Let’s hope the world survives.



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