Andrea without borders

I am boundaryless. And I don’t mean that in a transcendental way. I friggin’ wish. I mean it literally: I do not maintain appropriate boundaries with people. My friends are probably laughing right now thinking, hello Andrea, are you new here?

I always introduce my family to new people by asking them if they’ve ever seen the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I follow that by saying my family is just like the Portokalous family; we’re fun, loud, gaudy (maybe that’s just me) and have a lot of body hair. The exception is that we don’t own a restaurant and instead of being Greek, we’re German.

I see my family a minimum of twice a week and I don’t mean just my immediate family. I mean my cousins, aunts and uncles, in-laws, etc. Everybody is lovingly all up in everyone else’s business and my favorite is that we’re kind of like the mob. Actually, I have always wanted to be a part of the mob. Big fur jackets, even bigger hair, lots of money and expensive jewelry. Most attractive to me is the loyalty-‘til-you-die part of the mob. All excellent characteristics in my book.

I was raised in a very warm and welcoming, boundaryless but loyal, ride-or-die family. To be clear, I love my family. They are amazing, generous, outgoing people and I am beyond blessed to have their constant support and encouragement.

Growing up around people who include  and consistently let others in on the blessings God has given them has been pretty special. It’s true in life that sharing our gifts with others is a beautiful thing when the people we allow to partake have some appreciation and respect for these gifts.

The trouble comes when a boundary-confused gal such as myself lets in people who are untrustworthy, selfish and straight shady. They’ve gotten into my life and more importantly, my heart. In a few weeks, a man who I perceive as genuine has an all-inclusive pass into the Andrea Tree of Trust (TOT). Expiration: never. Even when they act like an a-hole. However, I’d like to take a moment to remind these a-holes of the whole family-like-a-mob sitch.  Y’all don’t know, but before I became a Nurse, I was a Mortician. I embalmed and buried people for a living. Chew on that for a hot minute. 😉

After some time in a few of my big relationships, it was difficult to tell where the other person ended and I began. This may be hard for some to understand, but bear with me. In a family that is open and speaks very freely with one another, it has always been accepted to say exactly what’s on our mind. It was normal when I was growing up for my parents, aunts and uncles to discipline the mass of us children, regardless of who we belonged to. Normal for cousins and siblings to fight and then make up and normal for us to b-slap each other if it was warranted. Simply put, my family unapologetically expresses themselves.

So then I grow up and think I can just say whatever I want to anyone because that’s normal, right? I’ve often thought being open and sharing what’s on my mind would be a good way to connect with people. If I am mildly vulnerable, the person I am engaged with will allow themselves to be vulnerable as well. Bingo bango! We’ll connect the way human beings need to and then we can climb the TOT together.

Of course I’ve taken connection to the Siamese twin level via a little somethin-somethin called enmeshment. As fun as being twinsies is, I’ve learned that it presents a lot of challenges to get enmeshed with others. It becomes difficult to regulate emotions and reactions, and it detrimentally promotes dependence.

In relationship, individuals should feel safe and secure in being themselves and being on their own. We should compliment each other, not become one another. Ultimately, we are all imperfect and flawed, the idea is to be accepting of each other in spite of our full human condition. 

In order to have mature relationships with others, we need to maintain boundaries, not blur them. This is something I’m really working on in my late-ass adulthood. Turns out people can connect with others and maintain a healthy sense of vulnerability, without totally losing who they are. Amazing!

Recently I’ve been trying to be open enough to hear another person’s reality but throwing back anything that’s incongruent with what I understand or who I know myself to be. I’d like to stop measuring myself with someone else’s measuring stick, because it’s exhausting and unfair. My Aunt Shelly once wrote a sweet card to me that said: “Andrea, let us not listen to others’ judgments of us, as we are hard enough on ourselves, all on our own.”

I am excited to be in a relationship where I maintain healthy boundaries. I won’t be perfect at it, I’m sure I’ll still wear my heart on my sleeve and be a bit off the chain. But I am aspiring to stand strong as the woman God made me, even if she isn’t liked, or worse, gets rejected. I’m the only Andrea Ann Dinglehopper the world will ever have, better make her memorable as all get out and crazy fun to boot.

“All my life, I had a lump at the back of my neck. Right here, always a lump. Then I started the menopause and the lump got bigger. From the hormonees, it started to grow. So I go to the doctor and he did the biop, the bop, the bios, the bibop, the bibopsy. And inside the lump, he found teeth and a spinal cord. Yes, inside the lump was my twin!” ~ Aunt Voula, My Big Fat Greek Wedding

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