B is for Boundaries. Nowadays instead of feeling miserable after I’ve been told off, I practise distancing myself from unhelpful or hurtful criticism. Having watched enough crime dramas, I’m finally able to say “no comment” instead of trying to justify myself when I’m being lambasted. Truth is I have used lockdown self-reflection time to work out which of my people I need to keep in friendly remoteness.
Throughout our lives we make an effort to gain acceptance, approval, friends, even followers. Like others I have momentary struggles when I realise that I’ve been muted, ghosted or in some way ignored. Also we often feel that to be morally good we need to be a ‘yes’ person as much as possible. Yet sometimes saying ‘no’ is required for self-care. Children are teachers of our need to establish boundaries as they depend on guidance to know balance and often force us to refuse them what they want even at the cost of tears and tantrums.
Social distancing has illuminated perimeters. Strangely enough when this concept of apartness was first introduced, we were all more friendly to each other. In the same way when decades ago the phone was tied with a wire, we were all more free from it! It’s almost a year since I kissed a person hello on both their cheeks and certainly I’ve lost the habit of high-fiving. As I greet loved ones I take a moment to ask myself – to hug or not to hug?
One good thing that coronavirus has taught us about boundaries is that if you’re sick you should stay home to recover and avoid passing on your illness. For a long time there’s been a common belief that in order to succeed at work we need to do our jobs also when we feel physically unwell. As somebody who has worked in offices I recall how often I wished that the person sitting near me persistently sneezing and coughing would not give me their cold.
These last ten months have been a time of non-stop restrictions and a cruel curtailing of possibility. To think that one day I might be telling my grand god-children how once it was illegal to cross the threshold into a relative’s home. Frequent bans on physical movement have forced me to expand my domestic and inner worlds, like being more ambitious as a cook and painter. I haven’t been abroad for a year but I still see myself as a citizen of this planet, acting local yet thinking global. For this pandemic has also reminded us of our interconnectedness and how in unity we bring down divisive barriers and create collective healing. I like to remember that me is a mirror image of we.
By Nicola Manasseh