I get to the appointment 5 minutes early, after specially working out on Google Maps how long it’ll take to get alllll the way across Cape Town in morning traffic. The minute I walk into the reception room I am irritated, and I can’t say why. The smell of the place irritates me. They have one of those humidifier things that purify air through fake-scented water. And there’s no warmth, no ambience, and serious fluorescent strip-lighting.
At my 10:00am appointment time, there’s no sign of any movement behind the doctor’s door.
A further 5 minutes go by so I get up and ask the receptionist if he’s running late, to which she simply replies, “Yeah.”
So I say, “What, 5 minutes, 10, 15?”
She says “Yes, more like 15.”
Now, I can say exactly why I’m hit-the-roof irritated. She could have called to let me know, she equally could have said something to me as I walked in the door, or whilst I’ve sat staring at her for the last while.
Everything in me doesn’t want to be there.
I think about leaving but think of the journey across town, the fact that my knee and my hip are giving me issues and they need to be looked at, and that I can’t just leave, I’ve made an appointment! Twenty minutes later, the door opens.
“Sorry, it’s not my fault when patients run late. I’ll quickly see you now and get you sorted” says the doctor.
“NO” I shout in my head. Not quickly, I need your full attention. I need your care. I need my time to be as whole as anyone else’s.
To make it so much worse, he then puts on an American accent and starts telling the shittiest joke which ends in ‘whaddaya want from me huh?” The pressure gauge hits red.
With pride more than shock, I hear myself saying, “I’m really irritated and annoyed, I’m in pain and I don’t want you to rush my appointment and charge me for a whole one when I’m getting so much less.” He looks a bit stunned and defensive.
And I find myself leaving.
I’ve. Never. Done. This. Before. I usually would have ridden that whole appointment out thinking:
- I’m here, so it’s meant to happen
- Never mind my gut feeling of irritation and dis-ease, he’s a professional so even if I feel off about this whole thing, he knows what he’s doing (!!)
- I’ve booked time of his so it costs him money if I just leave (triple exclamation mark for this one!!!)
For the past few months I’ve been on quite a process of personal sniffing, much like a wild pig (one of those cute ones, obviously) which with great attention, runs its snout over the earth, using its supersonic hairs picking up every smell until it comes to the most intriguing scent. And then with intensity and focus, it starts digging until it finds the tasty source of the smell.
I feel I’m running imaginary sensors all over my physical and emotional planes, and when there’s a ping, a tweak, a curiousness or a hovering, I too start to dig.
This looking, deepening self-awareness, is a process of stripping off the onion layers, piece by piece, acknowledging what’s there, naming it, and then asking how it got there, how it feels to be seen and what, if anything, needs to be done.
Part of my digging has meant really looking at the idea of personal boundaries, those somewhat obscure physical and emotional limits I think I have set up to help me be my most authentic self. But I sometimes still wonder why the hell did I behave that way or why didn’t I just say what I meant?
Instead of a carefully maneuvered personal shield that gets drawn when necessary, I’ve tended to create reactionary walls that I hide behind and wait for things to pass. No wonder I sometimes get taken out in battle!
It’s been a slow process of overcoming my stuff.
Self-esteem issues used to be a biggy (and sometimes still are), especially in the relationship and career departments of my youth. Older, more self-loving, accepting, deserving and stronger me winces at the younger version doing the right dances, saying all the right things, and yet often not feeling fully authentic and as a result, not fully seen. With love and kindness, I can see that I didn’t understand what my own needs really were, and I also just wasn’t brave enough to be as assertive as I am now.
I’ve had to learn to not justify, apologize or rationalize myself. I’ve also had to learn over and over again that I’m not responsible for how people react to me.
The importance of actually identifying my boundaries, being aware of them, naming and then asserting them continues to help me know and understand myself better. It sounds obvious but I don’t think I‘ve ever done this consciously until now. It really means taking the time to ask myself what I want from myself, or from person X, or from myself in situation X.
Being clear has never been my strong point and waiting for clarity is requiring deep patience. Sometimes I feel like I’m not making much headway, but then I walk out of a doctors appointment high-fiving myself in the parking lot, recognizing that how I feel and taking care of myself is far more important than whether or not the doctor is upset, if he likes me or that he might lose money.
And I realize that every small bit of progress is movement towards the person I aim to become.
NEED HELP STANDING UP FOR YOURSELF?
Who doesn’t. Check out Randi Buckley’s AH-MAY-ZING course, Healthy Boundaries for Kind People. We’ve taken it, we love it, and we think you should check it out.
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