My childhood was endowed with unrestrained life in the country, surrounded by a diverse set of farm animals, and gardens of fruits and vegetables. Daddy was a master builder, erecting sheds, kennels, coops, our home, and cedar fences. He would place one long cedar pole lengthwise between posts, setting it firmly in place with an extended solid nail. Our horses were enclosed here in the paddock, with room to run in circles, dust to roll in, and a covered feedlot out of the weather. One day, I came home from school to find the sorrel mare missing, with the fence fallen down and hoof prints scattered up the road. Frightened, I followed the horse’s suspected route, finally coming upon her in a neighbor’s field, backed up in the corner by one of the neighbor boys. I talked calmly to her, managing to grab onto her halter, discovering her legs cut and bleeding from tangling with barbed wire in her wild flight and her neck gashed where she shied from a tree into a thorn bush. At home, she was doctored and lodged back in the repaired corral where her wounds and her spirit healed over the following weeks.
As a young woman, my home was my fence, patrolled closely by my parents, allowing me to escape into the outer society more often as time went on. But did I learn how to put my own fence in place? In thinking back on my upbringing, the importance was placed on the male as the authority, as the leader, the protector. My Daddy filled the room with his presence and booming voice, sternly directing the activities around us, and I automatically fell into line. My own needs and identity were not really a consideration, except as my parents saw them. Wishing to forge my identity into a child of God, a child of innocence, devoted follower, and faithful believer, they forgot to teach me how to erect my own barrier. In my late teens, I finally managed to escape my confines, emigrating into the wider world, a world of diverse people, and a world of untold subtle danger.
As the years passed, I came to feel like Little Red Riding Hood, always on the lookout for unseen hazards, watchful, but not courageous enough to stand up for myself. Over and over I found myself in situations with others where I volunteered to do it all, becoming resentful when my helpfulness was not appreciated or reciprocated. I found myself in relationships with men I had no feelings for, just because they were nice guys and I should have felt something. I discovered myself being taken in by unscrupulous businessmen because I thought they had my interest at heart.
“Find yourself!” I had heard it said. But when I went searching, I ended up scratching my head, without a clue as to what was meant. Finally, I opened a book by Dr. Christiane Northrup, “Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom”, concerned with giving voice to women’s identity and needs, reclaiming femininity, and being female in our own way. She pointedly explains, “I want to awaken that still, small wise, intuitive voice in all of us, that voice of our own body that we have been forced to ignore through our cultures’ illness, misinformation, and dysfunction.” Finally, my eureka moment arrived and understanding began, allowing me to start the process of stepping forth with confidence, beginning to build my own protective fence of emotional awareness and acceptance around myself.
Boundaries are meant to protect me from outside influences that may be detrimental or harmful to me physically and mentally. Identity has to do with seeing myself as a person deserving of respect and protection. As I learn to respect myself and pay attention to how I feel, to honor how I feel, and to act on my feelings, then I know that I am finally being lead back into the safety of my paddock.
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