There are lines all around us in life. Some are easy to see, clearly marked, and easily avoidable. Others are blurry, less sure, and needing defining. Testing lines, learning from them, it’s part of what makes us human.
A while back, I was teaching a piano lesson. Nothing unusual, I do it multiple times a day. This student was struggling though with motivation, paying attention, and knowing that it was her second to last lesson. Instead of listening, she decided she wanted to try to pull the black keys off the piano. I drew a gentle line – if she pulled the keys up again she would go to time out. And she crossed it. Off to time out and talk about respecting the belongings of other people. She learned, she came back to the piano and we finished her lesson.
She was testing her boundaries to see what was acceptable. It was a line that was easy for me to draw. Other lines, lines about how people are allowed to treat me, are harder to draw. It’s kind of like being a kid, people could be as mean as they wanted to me; but if they were nasty to my siblings, it was game on. I actually broke up with my first boyfriend because he was rude to my sister. He’d been treating me poorly for weeks, but the second he cussed out my sister? We were done.
I read in an advice column recently that you can’t control the behavior of others, but you can control how you consent to be treated. Nothing earth shattering or new, but it sparked something in me. There’s been this guy in my life, a friend of B’s for a long time, who has always been caustic. We snip at each other, but there was always friendship behind it. Something shifted recently and what was left were cruel words.
I struggle with setting lines that I don’t feel are mine to set. I want someone else to set them for me. I want B to lay the line out and enforce it, but it isn’t his line to draw. He doesn’t get to pick what is acceptable behavior for my treatment. I do. I get to say what I will and won’t put up with.
After tonight, after being called a bitch, after hearing my husband be told to control me, that line is drawn. Cross it at your own peril. No one gets to talk to me like that. No one gets to treat me this way. I deserve people who treat me well in my life. All others? Are more than welcome to leave.
And that’s the thing about lines, drawing them can be so incredibly freeing.