The Right to: Have Boundaries.

In recent months I have forgotten about my one vow two years ago of being assertive and actively pursuing my personal rights. For many many horrible years, my rights were abused and I neglected what most humans do for themselves without thought.

My husband and I are re-assessing ourselves.

He wants to change and so do I. We know that what we’ve been doing isn’t working so something needs to shift. Happy that we are on the same page, I need to build my confidence, self-belief and assertiveness to become strong and secure whatever our future may bring. My husband’s aims are confidence, communication and drive. We all have personal goals we long to achieve. I am more of a talker than a doer sadly but all that is about to change.

We all have the personal right to have boundaries.

My father encroached on my personal boundaries daily. He regularly interfered with all aspects of my life from reading my bank statements to rifling through my drawers and bin (trash), from checking the bath’s cleanliness after my every use to locking me in his bedroom to “think about my behaviour”.

He had no sense of boundaries when it came to me. It all began as a child. He was always too tactile and it always felt too much. Sometimes a child needs reassurance not with a cuddle but with words, with support, with laughter. He never respected that and I was wrong to question him if I dared. So I didn’t.

I came from the generation and background where adults made every decision for the child even if it infringed on their personal choices. There was a lot of sitting on laps at parties and gatherings even up to the age of ten. I was a child who had to do as they were told. After all, these people were friends, not paedophiles or child abusers…………well would anyone have ever known otherwise? I never liked hugging strangers. I resisted many a time only to be reprimanded for doing so. It was deemed rude to refuse a kiss or cuddle from a male or female friend of the family no matter how uncomfortable I felt. My feelings were rarely acknowledged as a child in these matters.

On a trip to see family abroad and when an important member of the family passed away, my refusal to kiss the lifeless body of this relative was deeply frowned upon and angered some of the people closest to me. However, I was a young girl who had never seen a dead body before let alone someone I knew. It was terrifying. I desperately wanted to leave the room where everyone else was weeping. I was out of my comfort zone, awkward and numb, there were no tears, only a need to be elsewhere. On my abnegation, I was almost forced by one family member to approach the bed to “pay my respects”. It was only then that I felt emotion. I was embarrassed and angry that my personal rights were being ignored and disregarded. It did not matter what I wanted at that point. The extreme anguish my family were feeling was not mirrored by me and for that I became a monster.

Death is not something any child should have to come face to face with but if they do, it should be dealt with calmly and in a controlled environment putting the child’s feelings and needs first.

A child should not be condemned for not acting as you would. They are their own person and that should be celebrated.

I couldn’t assert my boundaries as a child. I wasn’t allowed any. My family broke boundaries as often as they breathed. Everyone was far too involved with each other and crossing endless emotional lines.

As we grow, we put up barriers, guards to protect ourselves. Having a life where boundaries do not exist makes you more open to letting people through your fragile borders. The lines of infringement become blurred thus allowing people to take advantage of your weaknesses. Boundaries can be established at any point in your life. You only need to know them and assert them when the need arises.

Saying is often easier than doing but ultimately, placing down rules of what is acceptable and comfortable to you will only make life better. We all want to feel safe and boundaries do just that.

They are your personal right.

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Friday 4th February 2005.

Since my father died, I have an abundance of old notes made about his incessant nitpicking and abuse. On February the 4th 2005, my father picked an argument with me over the smallest thing. The note highlights how trapped I was in his company, the fear that encroached me and the endless demands he made.

It reads,

He has guests coming in the evening. His routine of obsessive cleaning is taking place. I’ve locked myself in my bedroom. I’m too scared to come out and be forced to be a part of his army drills. I can hear him coughing loudly downstairs. What’s wrong? Something’s wrong.

(Written later)

I went downstairs, he called me there. He was waiting. There was a mark on the floor. My make up. He found it while he was hoovering. He saw it a while ago but it’s not his job to clean it. It’s mine. He needs to prove a point. I made the mess. That one little mark on the floor. A quick wipe is all it needs but I have to do it. Me. He told me to mop it up today before his friends come. I’m fed up. I want to retreat back to safer ground – my bedroom. I went upstairs mumbling something under my breath. He heard.

“What??” he shouted.

“Nothing” I replied.

He bounded up the stairs behind me. I quickened my pace.

“WHAT DID YOU SAY?”

I shut my bedroom door. I was safe again, “Nothing!” I shouted back.

“If you are nasty then I will be nasty. If you are good then I will be good”.

I’m 23 in under a month. What kind of a father days that? He has never treated me like a daughter, never. He never lets me feel anything, I’m not allowed emotion. I have to be a robot at all times. I cannot cry, that’s wrong. I cannot get angry, that’s wrong too. I can’t even act like a child sometimes. I’m not allowed ‘bad moments’. I have to be perfect. I have no free will. He keeps using money as a threat. If he ever gives me anything he has accounts for how much, when and where. I can’t breathe! Let me breathe.

This was how my father behaved nine years ago. Yet right up until his death he never changed. He had the same attitude towards me till the very end. He held all the power. Not any more.

You only have power over people so long as you don’t take everything away from them. But when you’ve robbed a man of everything, he’s no longer in your power – he’s free again.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

3. Don’t patronise me Dad.

Finding one of my father’s patronising notes to me was quite shocking. Although I wish I kept them all for evidence, I could not stand the thought of knowing his evil letters were filling my drawers.

I must have saved this one for a reason. Perhaps I was losing patience or wanted to remind myself that these things were truly happening. Either way, I saved it. I do not know when this note was left for me or what the circumstances that provoked him to write it really were. But usually it didn’t matter what I had really done. It was probably the smallest thing that prompted him to write it. All that is clear, is that I had annoyed him. He does not talk to me like his daughter in it nor like someone close to him. If anything it speaks volumes of how he could not communicate with anyone especially his own child.

 You still have got a part filled tall glass in your room. Can you bring that down and do the rest as you have said. I do not wish to prolong this topic but why do you need to use a fresh towel each time you wash your hair and then dump it somewhere? A little effort to live in germ free conditions and a little good taste in living conditions would be appreciated.      ‘Cheers’ 

I have no idea why he signed off with cheers in inverted commas. Was he being sarcastic? Or making fun of me? Probably. He never vocalised his grievances to me when they were small. He’d write these notes and leave them throughout the house surprising me in every room. He would wait until the little annoyances built up to a point of frustration and he would take great enjoyment in each explosion of utter rage.

My father couldn’t have wanted a good relationship with me. Surely, if he did, he would have recognised that these notes were pointless and all he needed to do was communicate calmly to get what he wanted. I wasn’t obstinate. I just wanted respect.

Respect he always said I never deserved.