May 7, 2024

Invisible Boundaries.

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There are certain boundaries which I view as peculiar entities. These are not property rights, national boundaries, titles to material things, and so forth, which should have legal protection to prevent trespass and theft.

There are, however, assumed boundaries that we take for granted that when impinged upon we become rightfully indignant. For example, if a neighbor grabbed your bike from your driveway and rode it around without asking you, you would not be pleased he did so. When I think about boundaries, it is this kind of boundary about which I am thinking. Many of our boundaries are assumed and ones we would hope to have no need of enforcement. But why do people cross our invisible boundaries?

I am not speaking of the worn-out topic of lustfully trespassing another person. I am speaking about people imposing themselves on us socially, getting into our “headspace,” and why we should feel defensive about letting them know we do not want them there. Moreover, when we tactfully let them know our feelings, we may evoke a one- or two-word response that amounts to “gaslighting,” of which a movie was made of the same name.

Gaslighting” is an attempt by an intruder to not only fail to acknowledge his own error but shift the blame on the one intruded upon and the feeling of guilt, as well. The manipulation is often successful. Often, we do not think about having to defend our “space” because it is rare that we have encounters that demand it. So, when we are forced into such a position, we naturally feel a bit apologetic because we like to think of ourselves as “open” and generous people. Yet, it seems that people who are perhaps motivated by emotions of jealousy, loneliness, fear, or seeking a challenge tread where they do not belong

In the complex of buildings where I live, there is lots of open space everywhere. Many residents have made use of the space and put picnic tables and barbeques and so forth for their own use. Everyone knows who uses what and everyone gets along. My particular garden area has been used only by myself and guests for the last six years, and I have assumed squatter’s rights.

Two days ago, I made the mistake of being too talkative with a new neighbor. That friendliness led him to repeatedly request to walk through my garden on the way to his place even though he had his own walkway that was shorter. I was a “yes” person the first few times but today asked him to use his own walkway evoking the response, “enjoy your day” in a tone meaning just the opposite.

There is no question the garden is big enough for the two of us, but then it would not be private, and it is to be alone with nature and my thoughts that I value it. But of more interest to me than a reluctance to share my space is why this individual wants to challenge it. It is not like asking to share a table at a crowded restaurant but something quite different.

There was an Oscar winning short called “The Birds,” about 20 years back. It was hilarious. A single bird lands on a telephone line, and then another, and another, and another, all together forming a long line of merrily chirping birds on a bright sunny day. Then out of nowhere comes a single bird, which, rather than assume his place on one end of the line or the other, forces his way in the middle causing consternation of all his feathered friends whose sweet song becomes suddenly harsh.

I feel a bit of consternation, a bit of anger, and a good dose of perplexity. The perplexity is because the generosity and openness I take for granted in myself seems to be more easily undermined than I had previously thought. Conversely, I cannot but wonder if I should feel guilty at all, and whether my indignant attitude is justified. Also, perplexing is the action of the individual wishing to take liberties walking through my space, especially when his own walkway is shorter.

Today, as he stood with a heavy box of stuff and laid a guilt trip on me for denying him entrance, I realized that the invisible boundaries we all have are more porous than we might wish.


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