This is Where I Draw the Line

With boundaries, this is where I draw the line. In general, I am patient and willing to work with people to find a reasonable solution. While I can be accommodating, I am not a pushover. There is a point at which I draw the line.

That’s the definition of a boundary–the point at which you draw the line. Living a calm, peaceful life requires good boundaries. Making decisions becomes easier once boundaries are well-defined. Children behave better when authority figures maintain and reinforce consistent boundaries. I’ll go so far as to say strong boundaries are critical to thriving.

Knowing or believing this doesn’t mean it’s always easy to draw a line and stick with it. There are enormous social pressures that can erode our resolve. There’s the fear that our parents or children will no longer accept us when we require them to respect a new perimeter. There are concerns that we will be ostracized by co-workers or disparaged on social media. And those things can happen. But when you are true to yourself and set well-thought, well-reasoned boundaries designed to create a positive, healthy environment in order to take care of yourself, it will improve your life. Period.

That will remain true even if a particular family member abandons you. If that happens, it is likely that you do not have a healthy relationship with that person now. Having to face that reality brings an opportunity to redefine your interactions or move on without guilt.

If a group chooses to ostracize you when you intentionally take care of yourself, that group does not have your best interest at heart. It may be time to reflect on the quality of your work in such an environment. Are you able to do your best? If not, it may be time for a change.

Your life will be enhanced by limiting contact with negative forces on social media in favor of positive experiences in person.

On Gluten-Free Labeled Foods
If I have experienced more than one dermatitis herpetiformis rash from a specific food that is labeled gluten-free, I do not eat it again whether or not it is recalled.

The great thing is, you don’t have to begin with terrifying boundaries to improve your life. You can build courage and strength by being true to yourself in everyday situations. I practice such boundaries daily. In fact, this is where I draw the line…

I do not eat anything a company labels gluten-free if that company has frequent recalls or more than one gluten-free product that triggers an autoimmune response.

For Restaurants
I will try any restaurant. If I encounter repeated errors in my orders, an eye roll if I ask for a new salad instead of one off which the croutons were removed, resistance in accommodating my shrimp allergy, a language barrier so great I do not believe I can communicate my dietary limits, an adverse response from a seemingly accommodating kitchen, or a refusal to make any necessary substitutions, I no longer patronize that restaurant regularly and may choose to stay away altogether.

I also stay away if the food is not enjoyable or is both mediocre and expensive.

With Physicians
If a physician will not willingly release my records to me, I will end our relationship.

If the office staff is consistently difficult, rude, and/or incompetent, I will move to another clinic.

If the doctor consistently does not listen and/or is not willing to discuss possible treatment plans, I will move on to another physician who includes me as part of the team. While Patient and Family Centered Care is the goal of many healthcare providers, it is not uncommon for a doctor to fail to include the patient’s input when forming a treatment plan.

If I discover a physician has lied to me regarding test results, we are done.

If a doctor diagnoses the cause of recurring pneumonia as something all-in-my-head, I will find a doctor who is willing to test that theory with an actual regimen of diagnostic tests.

Unfortunately, I have had each experience listed here. I no longer trust that the doctor is always right so drawing a line to improve my health and safety is not difficult.

For Vendors
I will not use a vendor’s service more than once if he raises the price on a quoted job after the job is done even though no changes were made on my end (including deadline). If he honors the quote, but informs me that he erred and cannot do that or a similar job for the same price again, then I will happily send him additional business.

If a vendor misses a critical deadline without giving me a heads up, we are most likely done. I understand that problems arise, but rarely is it impossible to communicate that problem.

When a company deliberately or repeatedly misrepresents product quality, specifications, or safety, I will think and research carefully before choosing any item from its product line.

With Family and Friends
I hope for straightforward, genuine interactions. I am willing to give wide berth when I recognize someone is under duress. I will let temporary lapses or inadvertent mistakes and bad decisions slide unless and until a pattern emerges that is violent, destructive, toxic, or otherwise harmful to me or to children who cannot defend themselves. That is where I draw the line.

A Deal is a Deal
There are times when I cannot consciously explain in the moment why the line is where it is because it is not an intellectual decision. It is visceral.

I once sold a gas kitchen range because I was about to move to another state. The range worked the morning that the buyer unhooked it and hauled it away. The next day, the guy showed up at my door and told me I had sold him a broken stove.

I was in my early 20s and home with only my grandmother and infant son. I did not open my screen door, but I remember talking to him through it as though it were made of steel.

I calmly, but strongly assured him it had worked prior to him moving it. There was a prolonged conversation in which he argued the opposite and I did not budge. Finally, he left.

After he drove away, my grandmother looked at me and said, “I didn’t know you had that in you. I would never cross you after hearing that!”

I don’t remember feeling angry. I just stood there thinking I knew I had done nothing wrong and there was no way some stranger was going to convince me I had. I suppose you could call it the courage of conviction. I’m not sure. I just know there’s a point beyond which you cannot push me. Period.

And that is where I draw the line.

Forget the Resolutions and Pick a New Year’s Theme

Most of us make New Year’s Resolutions that we won’t keep for more than a few weeks, so maybe it’s time to forget the Resolutions and pick a New Year’s Theme. If we’re to believe media reports, most resolutions involve improved personal appearance or health like losing weight, working out more, eating healthy, or stopping some bad habit. Other common resolutions seek to improve our lifestyle by saving money for the future or ridding ourselves of clutter.

I’m not sure anyone really takes New Year’s Resolutions seriously. Maybe that’s the reason we fail so often. It does seem like a good idea to approach each new year as a new beginning in which we can improve our lives. In fact, I’m a big fan of setting intentions for pretty much anything. Unlike goals, intentions simply require that I be mindful, aware, and follow a process rather than achieve a certain outcome. It’s much harder to fail that way! But when it comes to creating a big picture path for the year, creating a theme can be much more fun! And adding more fun to our lives is always an improvement!

What are some possible themes and how could I implement them?

curiosityCuriosity would be a good theme for the year. It’s a choice that could lead me to watch documentary movies, spend time learning programming on Codecademy, attend lectures, try an escape room game, join a meetup group, try online dating, or read science fiction. It would also be a chance to step back and get curious rather than angry in any confrontational interaction.

peacePeace is a good theme for any year. For me, it usually begins with being mindful of spending my time with people who exude calm and kindness. It also means making a choice to curb my impatience when communicating with tech support and customer service reps.

comfortComfort sounds like a possibility. If I choose it, I’ll be mindful each day when I get dressed to choose fabrics that feel good on my skin, shoes that do not hurt my feet (no matter how cute they are), and waistbands that allow me to breathe. I’ll sleep on sheets that feel good. I’ll eat food that doesn’t hurt my tummy. I’ll choose furniture that fits me well.

yogaStillness is one of my favorites. Being able to sit still did not come easy to me, but has given me some of the biggest improvements in quality of life. Stillness can include a practice of meditation or yoga or can just be simply turning off the TV, computer, or phone, and spending time with yourself.

boundariesAfter some thought, I think my theme for 2016 will be boundaries. It’s an oldie, but a goody. Good boundaries are essential for healthy relationships and give me a guilt-free space in which to say, “no”. Lots of things remind me to be conscious of my boundaries: fences, curbs, ropes, hula hoops, parking spaces, walls, cubicles, carrels, plates, placemats, elevators, swimming pools, basketball courts, tennis courts, porch rails, squares, circles, and doors. Lucky for me, the reminders are everywhere.

Are you ready to forget the resolutions and find a theme that will help you focus on improvement all year long? If so, join me and share your theme!

Beer Goggles vs Fear Goggles

Beer goggles vs fear goggles – which are worse? Fear fascinates me. I see its effects in my choices. I feel it intensely at the most unexpected moments. I feel its power over my interactions with those who are afraid. I’ve seen fear prevent compassionate parenting, business success, relationship longevity, personal satisfaction, creative achievement, and informed healthcare choices, not to mention joy, peace, and happiness.

Fear Goggles

I don’t think much about beer, but I have spent many an afternoon at happy hour trying to alleviate the deep feeling of restlessness I carried with me for the much of my life. My friends and I spent a lot of money on expensive wine. We formed bonds with our favorite bartenders. We talked too loud, cussed too much, and went home too late. A lot of it was fun and sometimes it momentarily colored how I saw things.
Beer Goggles

So, which leaves you worse for the wear – beer or fear?
-Both can affect how you perceive the situation around you.
-Both can keep you from exercising good judgement.
-Both can hold you back at work.
-Both can create strife within your family.
-Both can cause you embarrassment.
-Both make some people aggressive and obnoxious.
-Both make some people withdrawn and sullen.
-Both can make you physically ill.
-Both can leave you feeling exhausted.
-Both can cause you to drive erratically.
-Both can wreak havoc on your finances.
-Both can result in ill-advised liaisons.
-Both can cause you to feel shame.
-Both can create a monster boss, husband, wife, or teen.
-Both can lead to a betrayal of trust.
-Both can cause you to neglect your responsibilities.
-Both can be toxic.
-Both come with interesting labels.
-A little of either can have a positive effect.
-Enough of either can paralyze you.
-Either can bring you to destroy your life.

The biggest difference I can see is that beer is an option and fear is unavoidable.

In fact, it is precisely this difference that makes it critical for us to be aware of, and have a strategy for handling, our fear. If we do not, it can easily spiral out of control or leave us feeling numb. Left unattended, fear can sap our strength, our power, our resolve, and our joy as fast as any addiction leading us to make unhealthy choices or preventing us from making healthy ones.

Embraced, fear offers us a mechanism for both protection and improvement. It signals to let us know where our boundaries are. We then have a choice to honor that boundary or risk changing it. Of course this happens very quickly and often at a subconscious level. Allowing ourselves to fully experience fear with the confidence that it will dissipate rather than overwhelm can turn our lives in a whole new direction.

If you have ever been forced to live with, or in, fear, please know that you deserve to feel safe, secure, loved, valued, important, and supported. You are not damaged beyond repair. You have simply suffered wounds that will take time and care to heal. You are worth the effort!

Here are some of my favorite resources to assist you along the way:

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Ten Steps to Becoming a Gracious Gluten-Free Guest on Thanksgiving

The Thanksgiving holiday can present unique dilemmas for the gluten-free because its primary activities center around food. Many of you will soon be a guest at the table of a friend, relative, co-worker, or in-law who you may not know well and who is not aware of your gluten-free lifestyle. Some of you will be asked to attend a gathering in the home of a close relative who believes you are simply following a fad.

If you are feeling uneasy about the possibilities, you may be wondering: Should I politely decline and stay home? Should I not worry about eating gluten just for this one day? Should I suggest everyone change their plans and come to my house? Should I just eat in advance and pretend to eat along with everyone else? Is there a way to be a gracious guest and avoid eating gluten?

While each situation is unique, following these five guidelines will allow you to remain gluten-free and help make the day go smoothly:

1)Before agreeing to any invitations, take time to sit still and make a list of things for which you are grateful. The list doesn’t have to be lengthy – 5-10 things would be ideal. This will set the stage for you to let your best self step forward. Having trouble getting started? Perhaps an example from my list will help…Today, I am grateful for: Really good coffee; the unseasonably warm weather we’re having that means my utility bills will be lower; spicy foods that make my nose run; the generosity of a friend who is providing me a free airplane ticket for a visit next week; my son for removing my security door to rescue the keys I couldn’t get to so that I can use my front door again (yes, I managed to lock the keys in between the inner and outer door and then jam the lock so that I couldn’t get to them from the inside or the outside without removing the door); I am safe and my neighbors are safe even though we heard a gun battle outside Monday night; the one remaining teeny tiny tomato on my vine that I can’t wait to eat. Your list can include anything and you can add to it all day long if you feel so inspired.

2)Once you have set the stage, think about your boundaries and intentions for this holiday. One of your boundaries can be to avoid all gluten. One can be to remove yourself from the room if you feel you are being treated with disrespect. One of your intentions can be to receive with joy. One intention may be to give your children an opportunity to spend time with extended family. One can be to attend your grandmother’s dinner because you appreciate the affection she shows you. One of your intentions can be to be respectful of the host and other guests. Another intention might be to stay present in the moment and feel how you feel without attaching meaning from the past or from how you felt at another occasion with the same participants.

Setting clear boundaries first will allow you a safe space in which to stand as you follow your intentions. Good boundaries allow us to begin to release ourselves from the confines of our defense mechanisms and old patterns of behavior. Good boundaries are especially important when we relate to family since many of our defenses originate during time spent with family. As we begin to trust and feel safe in the space good boundaries create, we will increasingly be able to feel our emotions in a clear manner. Starting from this point allows us the best opportunity to remain true to our intentions.

If you come from a difficult family that does not respect boundaries, it is perfectly okay to politely, without blame and without a false excuse, decline an invitation. Before you choose to do so, please make sure you are prepared to accept responsibility for any unintended consequences. This does not mean you have to join in any resulting drama or feel responsible for other’s hurt feelings or bad behavior. I am simply reminding you that it will not be a gracious act to decline an invitation and then throw blame back in the host’s face if they happen to take offense even if the words you’re saying may feel true. It is okay to calmly, quietly, and confidently honor yourself, your boundaries, and your health.

Keeping your boundaries intact and your intentions in mind will help you feel more confident and centered which in turn will allow you to be your most kind and loving self. You do not have to pretend. You do not have to be perfect. You do not have to fit someone else’s picture of how you should be or what you should do.

3)Communicate directly with the host as soon as you accept an invitation. Let them know you appreciate being included and cannot wait to spend time with them, then mention that you must follow a gluten-free lifestyle which means consuming even a tiny amount of gluten is harmful to your health. If you can have this conversation in person or on the phone, it will be easiest to express this firmly, but softly. Once you have communicated this information, listen carefully to the response because this will be your best guide as to what to do next. Keep your boundaries intact, your intentions in mind, and your guard down as much as possible. The rest of the conversation can be a friendly negotiation of the details. Listening carefully to your host will give you clues on what to offer and how best to accommodate both of your needs.

4)As you negotiate the details, let go of any unspoken expectations you may have regarding the holiday. For instance, you may secretly expect your host to offer to fix you gluten-free alternatives. If they do not offer to do so, you may be tempted to believe that they do not love you. Whether this person does or does not love you cannot be determined by whether they feel able to provide such an alternative for you when they have already taken on the work involved in hosting the event. For this moment, see if you can allow for the possibility that they are doing all they can do.

If the host shares with you that they have no idea what gluten-free means, and that they don’t really feel like they can add anything to their to-do list, do not immediately assume that they mean this as a personal affront. If you feel tempted to boycott the event because of such a statement, please take a moment to consider that there are other options. As you consider these options, ask yourself if it is possible that your host is simply sharing their truth. Is it possible that they may even feel badly that they cannot provide what you need while still taking care of themselves? Review your boundaries and intentions to see if you are responding in a manner consistent with your intentions while maintaining your boundaries. If not, explore the ways to shift your position in the negotiation to better align your choices with your intentions.

5)When you are shifting your thinking or behavior, do not expect yourself to be perfect. This process can feel very messy. Think of it like a child experimenting with finger paints – messy is a creative expression and that is good! Allow yourself to experience new insight, awareness, and emotion without judging or automatically accepting other’s judgment of what you should do or how you should do it. Understand that you are valuable, lovable, worthy, wanted and deserve to hold your space in the world. From this position, be kind to yourself. Resist the temptation to compare yourself to others, and allow compassion to guide you.

Now that you have set the stage, it is time to explore some specific options you may want to address during your negotiation.

6)Graciously furnish your host with all the information they request regarding the preparation of gluten-free food. This may require quite a bit of time and investment, but it is time and investment that will pay off for you in the long run. If in the process you notice they are overwhelmed, it may be time to let them off the hook by letting them know how much you appreciate the consideration and how you will not feel left-out in the least if they do not prepare anything special for you. Ask if they would mind you bringing a few things to supplement your meal.

7)Instead of just offering to bring food for you, ask if your host would prefer for you to bring a gluten-free side dish or dessert to share with everyone. You can make this yourself, purchase it from the frozen section of a local health food store, or purchase it from a local gluten-free bakery.

8)If the conversation leads you to believe that much of the menu will be safe for you, ask your host if they would mind keeping the packages from any food they’re going to serve in a separate trash bag so that you can read the labels before dinner? Tell them you’d also like to take a peak at any recipes they’re using so you can choose items that are safe. You can do the review on Thanksgiving Day. Just make sure you have some sort of back-up food handy if there are no gluten-free options. If this is a problem for your host, then let them know that’s okay and revise your plan.

9)If your host is a confident cook and wants to make the whole meal gluten-free just for fun, you can offer your gluten-free recipes for family favorites. You may want to offer to provide come over a day or two in advance help bake. You can bring along any hard-to-find ingredients that you have in pantry and offer tips on adapting favorite family recipes. Time in the kitchen before a crowd arrives can be a great time to connect and share about anything that’s going on in your lives.

10)When dealing with a difficult host, use your best judgment. If you feel the best option is to eat in advance and only eat salad, then do that with the least fanfare possible.

Throughout these transactions, please keep in mind that the thing of overriding importance for the holiday is not the food itself but the opportunity to honor each other’s needs and leave the door open for connection. It is, after all, the connection that we crave most from our families.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!