Boundaries & Blooming

Once a week, I have lunch with a spunky and sassy 7th grader. We’ve been doing this for two years now. Back then, she used to whoop me at Connect Four or Hangman in the library. Now, she loves fake nails and the subject of boys most always pops into our conversations. The school she’s at is bursting at the seams with toughness and she has grown to fit her environment. The cafeteria, with its chaotic symphony of curse words and reprimanding teachers, makes me dizzy. This has been my toughest year as her mentor. I honestly don’t know how we made it to the end of the school year some days.

A couple of weeks ago, I made the decision to end our mentoring session early. I 100% didn’t want to do this but her actions spoke loudly that day. I can see how much we both have shifted. Her, on the cusp of childhood ending and wandering into that space where we discover who we are as women. Me, wanting to let her know that absolutely anything she yearns for in this life is attainable. Both of us at a standstill in this space. I have come to adore all pieces of her because even in the moments of frustration, when the language is unbearable, I catch glimpses of her sweetness. I’ve learned she is not the sum of these actions but trying to stay afloat in the sea of changes she is constantly presented with has worn her out.

I didn’t want to walk away that day but I needed to. We had consistently approached the topic of respecting our time together and that day, all such discussions went out the window. I told her friend I needed to leave and explained why. I went to my car, with the tears flowing from the weight of my decision. Being a mentor (at least through this program) is a fine line some days. It is limited to contact only within the school and there are guidelines, understandably, for the safety of the students. I needed her to know how great she was but how do I convey that when everything else is trying to pull her down?

We create boundaries, not only out of need for ourselves, but to say we care. Drawing that line. Saying no more. They don’t seem like acts of love do they? They are when we show up again. When we know the lesson is needed. When we halt, take that person by the hand and say, “I want you to see all you are capable of. The brushstrokes you will one day leave behind on the masterpiece of life. But, it can’t be here. Not while you are unwilling to take care of yourself. We need to resolve that part first.” So, we build the fence and leave that opening. Healthy boundaries mean we recognize that person can come back when they’re ready. And you’ll be there waiting, ready to take those next steps.

I’m beginning my Masters’ program in the fall and will have to put off mentoring. I felt guilty about this at first but have finally been able to find some peace. I haven’t the slightest idea if she’ll remember me down the road. If the truth I spoke into her life will make a difference. She needs room to bloom though, that I can tell. I will keep hoping and praying she knows she is enough. That this big world can be pretty sucky (especially middle and high school) but it’s how many times you get back up that counts. I’d love for her to do great and wonderful things in this life. I also have to accept the fact that not everything blooms. Some struggle and pop out of the ground, suddenly, after years of nothing. Some might not at all and the ground will be tilled in order to begin again.

We can never discount the simple fact of showing up, each week, as a reminder that someone will be there. Though difficult and heart-wrenching it may be, boundaries create space for love. When there is struggle and strife, when we are challenged to meet that person in uncertainty and where we may not feel comfortable, it’s not the time to quit. Make the line in the sand. Let them know you’re there. And when they’re ready, they just might take your hand. Ready to erase the line and welcome in something new. That which they might not have recognized before is now so clear. The simple and delightful notion that they are loved.

Flowers & Filling Up

“You are spending so much time pouring into others. Make sure you take the time to fill yourself up too.”

That’s what my mentor said to me when we got together this week. She really is the10273912_10152199094073763_5981953878757103830_n sweetest soul. Always watching out for me, checking in on me and asking if there is anything she can do. A month after my break-up, I reached out to my church community. I needed a guide. Somebody who would look at me with zero judgement, remind me of my worth and speak positivity when all I saw in the mirror was the complete opposite. If you think that is unnecessary then I’m sorry but you are wrong. You can’t do it alone. Not your struggles, not this life. We weren’t meant to. Say it with me: You NEED those people for this specific purpose. We need to be lifted, not to feed our ego but rather, to nourish our soul. In the past couple of years, I have realized the difficulty and pain that comes with living far away from family. I love my life and the roots I have placed in Washington but I knew my habits and old self were trying to kick down the door of the woman who now stood in her place. And maybe, a stranger who becomes a friend can be that person. Unlike family, they don’t know your garbage and baggage. You know nothing of them and what the burdens they carried. Both are entering this relationship with zero biases. They are simply saying, “Place your hand in mine. Take a walk with me. Let’s take a look at the bigger picture and work out the smaller details as we go.”

13086824_10153661362928763_3805220378019328500_oThat’s how I found my mentor. While I have been a mentor myself for two years and the idea of having somebody to take on that role in my own life sounded just peachy, I had no idea of the imprint she’d place on my heart. The love and care she would speak into my life. This was exactly what I needed. In all the moments that I had been there, to listen, to just be and to have a hand when they needed someone to hold theirs, I was now reaching my own hand out, grasping for a brand new connection.

Her words stuck with me that day. I’ve often heard and have been hearing this reoccurring theme lately. If I don’t take the time to re-energize and recharge then how is what I pour into others of any value? It isn’t. Just like the flowers that soak up the springtime rains, we need our own nourishment to grow. We need rain in the form of rest. In the beauty of nature. In the laughter with our friends. In the quiet moments of reading a good book. In dancing with a stranger in Mallorca. (Check!) In enjoying this very life that we are so blessed to live out each day. Did I really need to pencil those things in? Schedule time just to ensure that I’m actually….living?

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What an eye-opener friends. If we truly listen to what the world is telling us, we are often met with the people and situations we need in those moments. My mom was one of the hardest working women I know. She sacrificed each day so my sister and I were provided for. Only when her body was breaking down, when she knew there wasn’t much time left and there was one place she wanted to be more than anything, did she get to go. My parents picked up and moved to Alabama. Where she could sip coffee on her porch and take everything in during those Southern mornings. I walk with that reminder and I will never stop feeling enveloped in that love she gave me. I will always wish she could have enjoyed Alabama for longer than she was able but the fact she was able to go at all is still a miracle.

Pushing the accelerator to the floor might feel like I’ll get there faster but I am going to be so wore out by the time I arrive. Let’s not even talk about my flowers, which will have zero chance of thriving in such a stressful state. The giving, serving, goal-achieving and box-checking look nice and feel even better when that dopamine is released, telling our brain how great this is! And, that is awesome. Our brains and bodies are super smart that way. I want you to reach your goals. I implore you to live a life in service to others. But, don’t forget to water your flowers ok?

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Even flower dresses. Happy spring y’all!