One of the greatest gifts I've reaped from my 10-year self-help journey, is my ability to put up BOUNDARIES with friends, family, clients, and...STRANGERS.
As much as I love great conversation or an impromptu laugh, this extroverted introvert has NO PROBLEM asking for space, so that I can take some time to unwind.
Or should I say, "un-WINE-d."
Like with wine. At a bar. Solo.
This is one of my favorite past-times-- a little date with myself if you will, and if Chatty Chad to my right attempts to disrupt it, Shut-it-down-Sheila (AKA ME) will give zero f$%& about "seeming rude," by making it clear I have no interest in engaging.
I actually quite enjoy implementing boundaries with strangers who seem to think that a woman sitting solo at a bar means it's "game on" for conversation. Of course I honor any gentleman who politely attempts to connect-- it can be super vulnerable to make a first move...
but when the Chads of the world aren't respecting the Sheilas' "thanks-but-no-thanks," responses, I've been known to teach a lesson or two during happy hours across the LA and NYC areas.
This past week, however, I learned that my boundary game with strangers apparently only turns on post-5pm.
The most precious time of my day begins at around 6:30am. There's nothing I love more than taking my computer and journal to my favorite local coffee shop, ordering a $9,000 latte, and indulging in NO ONE TALKING TO ME or NEEDING ME.
Sure, I enjoy fun exchanges with the guys who take care of my insanely high-maintenance order they've now memorized, as well as a friendly hello to the other regulars, but then it's time for me to turn within and hide under the aggressively large brim of one of my many brightly colored trucker hats.
Chatty Chad XXXXXVVVIII, however, had a different agenda for our morning coffee one day last week.
He is someone who I've shared a very limited friendly hello with over the year I've been frequenting this place, but everything in my body has said, DON'T ENCOURAGE MORE.
I always feel a very attentive vibe from this #CC, which is a little extra awkward because we share an intimate space most days of the week, but I'm a firm believer that boundaries don't mean I have to be rude, so I always have a smile for him when we see each other, and then immediately get back to my business.
However, last week when CC XXXXXVVVIII walked in, the voice in my head said "KEEP IT SHORT, CLAIRE" but somehow I managed to verbal-diarrhea, "Look at us! Up and early getting work done while everyone else sleeps in!"
I'd just given him the opening I'd been suspecting he'd been waiting for...
It suddenly went from "Where are you from, Claire?" to him pulling his chair over to my table--WITHOUT ASKING-- and boring his eyes into mine with long awkward pauses, telling me I'm very mysterious...
All I remember is my face getting red with a big protective grin on my face, my stomach and chest tightening, and I immediately thought of my dear friend Annabel's favorite question in moments like these:
WHAT WOULD YOU WANT THE HEROINE OF THIS STORY TO DO?
After the third deep gaze into my eyes, I finally said, "I think it's time for me to get back to work now."
A pretty decent recovery if I say so myself, but HOW DID I LET THAT HAPPEN???
I'm the QUEEN OF BOUNDARIES!!!
This is what I boss my clients about being better at: Who cares if he thinks you're cold?! Don't feel like you HAVE TO indulge him in polite conversation after YOU just indulged in your very own $9,000 latte for you to enjoy SOLO!
So obviously this self-help nerd had some self-inquiry to investigate...
I realized that my discomfort came from the fact that the week before, he had formally introduced himself, and I quickly but politely stated my name and immediately turned back to my screen.
Guilty as charged: I felt rude being so short with someone who now knew my name!
I also gave myself a little slack-- it's one thing to have a guy you've never met attempt to derail your solo cocktail at the bar, which tends to be where most boundary-crossing occurs, but it's different when you're in a Cheers-like environment where all the staff (everybody) knows my name at 7am!
STILL. I could have shut it down when he invited himself to my table without asking, but truth be told, I was SO CAUGHT OFF GUARD.
So what's the lesson from your high and mighty BOUNDARY QUEEN I??
Life is ALWAYS going to throw you curveballs-- especially in areas where you THINK you have it all figured out.
Sometimes we'll fall into old patterns, but this ISN'T AN OPPORTUNITY TO SHAME OURSELVES or say, "I should have known better."
It's also NOT an opportunity to give someone else the power to "MAKE YOU FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE."
How often do you give your co-worker, partner, child, or neighbor the ability to "make you feel" a certain way?
The discomfort actually comes from us making it clear to the other person what we would prefer for ourselves without taking on their disappointed reaction or negative judgements of us.
It was my THOUGHTS about Chatty Chad XXXXXVVVIII's engagement with me, (don't be rude Claire!) which led me to my ACTIONS (nervously overly-talking), that RESULTED in exactly what my body told me to avoid-- him inserting himself into my space.
If I THOUGHT, "My not engaging in more than a polite hello doesn't mean I'm rude, despite us now knowing each other's names," the whole episode probably wouldn't have occurred.
But then you guys wouldn't have learned about your new alter ego, "Shut-it-down-Sheila" the next time Creepy McCreeperson wants to say hello.
Happy Claire Your Mind Monday!
INTERESTED IN WORKING WITH ME?? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and let's start indulging in saying more no's to create room for your YES'S!!!