I attended a friend’s funeral recently and I’m a different person today.
We weren’t close, we didn’t text each other, we went months—years really—without seeing each other. When we did connect, it was always a positive experience. I’m closer to many of his family members than I was to him and yet his death affected me. It stunned me into once again facing the reality of mortality. His death was sudden. He was working outside his home one minute and on the ground the next. Although he was rushed to the hospital, sadly, he died shortly after arriving.
We’re used to eulogies being full of glowing memories of the deceased, but this somehow went beyond that. It was full of true fondness for him that flowed out of each speaker, wrapping the rest of us in the dreams of what we hope people could and would say about us. He was an old hippie, a free spirit, and he danced to his own drummer. And he was deeply loved.
His son honored him with one of the best eulogies I’ve ever witnessed—honest, funny, touching, heartbreaking and heartwarming. Friends followed with their remembrances and unique dealings with him. We all left satisfied that all his goodness had been recognized and shared; nothing was left unsaid that needed to be heard.
A phrase one of his friends used stayed with me and I’m still processing it. I’ve been working on learning how to set healthy boundaries. Yes, after all these years and all the inner work I’ve done, boundaries still often elude me. As a therapist once pointed out to me—much to my chagrin—most of us build a wall and shut someone out and mistake it for a boundary. Well, that was a showstopper! When I heard one of the eulogists say, “He had no boundaries,” in what seemed to be a complimentary way, I noticed and was temporarily confused. I thought about the times I’ve heard that said about others and it is usually understood that the person described “without boundaries” is someone who comes off rude, or inappropriate, or even mean. That’s not what the speaker meant when he was describing our friend. He meant he never met a stranger; he meant he would ask you about your path instead of what you do for a living; he meant he would say, “to the star and take a left” when asked where he was going. He meant he didn’t let boundaries hold back his love for people and his zest for life.
What became very clear in that moment and the time I spent thinking about it afterward was that instead of working so hard on setting boundaries, maybe I could spend that time being kinder and gentler to myself and others. Maybe I could concentrate on letting go of people who treat me in a way that doesn’t feel good and realize how often I respond in a similar way and make them feel just as bad. Maybe I could surround myself with people who allow me to be myself—who inspire me to be my highest self—without walking on eggshells, worried I’ll say something that offends them without knowing it. Because few of us in that dance of relationships know how to set healthy boundaries, we end up taking turns in leading the passive aggressiveness, delivered with the biggest smiles you’ve ever seen. I realized the reason I was working on boundaries was because I wasn’t saying what I felt or needed at that moment; I was letting it boil within me and then I would search frantically for the boundary I needed to express how I felt and to keep that same experience from happening again.
How am I a different person than I was before attending the funeral? I put aside the books about setting boundaries, committed to stop passive-aggressively posting quotes on the subject, and decided my new goal is to have people say, “She has no boundaries,” in the most complimentary, loving way you can imagine because I will no longer let boundaries hold back the love that so desperately needs to flow to and from my soul.
What about you? Is that a mutually healthy boundary that you set, or did you build a wall? Let’s join together and tear down those walls!
President, The Zen Speaker
Take a deep breath. Now imagine yourself with a small group of creative souls feeling what you’re feeling. This time it’s going to be different. No excuses. You’re in the right place, at the right time, with the right people. And you’re leaving with the speech (or book or blog) you’ve had in your subconscious for a long time. Out of your head, out of your heart, on paper and on the way to those who need and want to hear it. Finally. We will brainstorm, we’ll listen, we’ll write. We’ll laugh, we’ll cry (I hope because I love the catharsis of it), we’ll bond, and we’ll write. You'll be surrounded. inspired and nourished by the group's loving support.