Boundaries are very important and often we think of setting boundaries as protecting ourselves but knowing, sharing, and enforcing our boundaries, no matter how small, can actually help to create safe space and trust for others.
One of the things I like to know about my friends is how they take their coffee. Having coffee with another is an intimate experience of getting to know someone that I truly enjoy and it warms my heart space.
“I will build your coffee but I won’t sit and drink it with you,” he said.
I’ve known him for ten years and this finalizing statement at first triggered some fear in me. If he wouldn’t have coffee with me, how can we stay friends? What if he was telling me that the long phone conversations we sometimes shared were no longer a fit for him? How could I fix this? What could I do to make this different?
All these messages, these stories I had about what he said and what it means happened in an instance. Almost too quickly to identify in the moment but I felt it in my body; the freezing and the tension.
But in the midst of my tense response, I also heard, “He goes for a walk.”
Oh yes, he does. I might sit and sip my coffee while we talk and he goes for a walk. I can hear the scuff of his boots and the crunch of leaves. He’s done it for a long time now. I felt myself relax in a new way, it wasn’t just the physical tightening of my body in response to the stories I had, I realized I could relax more because I could trust him to take care of himself.
It wasn’t my role to fix, figure it out, or decide how to make things different. I realized that his not wanting to have coffee with me wasn’t about his not wanting to spend time with me, in fact, it meant he really valued our conversations enough to find a way for it to work for him. It meant more that he was willing to do that than if he had capitulated and done something that was wrong for him just because it was correct for me.
The automatic messages I had from my mind were a result of my own filters and conditioning. It had nothing to do with his needs or desires. Had I acted in response to them, it may very well have hurt our long-standing friendship as I tried to make things better, or control, the situation.
I’m so grateful I have learned the skills I need to navigate my own behaviors and have had the realization that the only person I can change is myself. I’ve learned I can allow others to have their experience and that rushing to take care of things doesn’t always get me the response I desire. I value that I can help my coaching clients heal in a way that they can learn to do the same thing.
When we trust those we care about to take care of themselves, even if it doesn’t work out, we give them the opportunity to find their own way; to overcome challenges, to shift, and to grow. They also have to stop relying on us so much, which means we are free too. Change yourself and you change the world.
Today I was making my own coffee and as I waited for it to settle into my cup that says Trust on it. I texted him, “I was thinking of you while making my coffee and I thought about your coffee boundaries. I think I would take a clue from Ford for mine. I’d love to hear about your coffee preferences and I’d gladly make it for you, just the way you like it, as long as it’s black.”
“That sounds about right,” he responded.