The idea of boundaries gained a lot of favour in the last decade. For a generation ravaged by economic meltdowns and the cultural volatility caused by connectivity, it seemed important to move to some kind of structural safety. We were (and still are) otherwise living in schedules with no day, week or timezone reference points. We’re surviving cultures caught between outdated traditions and imported, alien rituals. Boundaries are our way of rebuilding the rudimentary structures of our identity, our community, our goals and purpose. I say rudimentary because these are the rough stone pile versions of a need that was earlier fulfilled by concrete tradition, cemented rituals and brick-hard roles. Yes, we need boundaries.
But also, we need to learn how to build them better. I find people militantly imposing boundaries the way they would stockpile ammunition. They ration the time they ‘allow’ people. They hoard empathy, doling it out in strict transactions. How can love, relating or for that matter, conversations flourish in a world governed by wordcount or a metered clock?
Boundaries were meant to be holders, not fortresses. A boundary that is bloodied is a warzone. So lashing out, being harsh or cold is not a boundary, it’s a defense mechanism. A boundary is a line in the sand, not a line of fire.
I think it’s a mistake to tie one’s identity to one’s boundaries. You are not just what makes you feel safe. The comfort zone is a waiting room at best, it’s not your entirety. If you define yourself by the outer layer that carries you, you limit yourself.
Boundaries that are too rigid become the outdated structures that our generation worked so hard to dismantle. Boundaries must be porous, fluid even. After all, we are all evolving and life is ever changing.
Skin is a good boundary. It stretches as we grow and it adapts to new conditions. It is as alive and changing as every aspect of our selves and life around us. Stay safe but also stay alive. You can only do that by letting yourself be touched by air, heat, water, food and other people.