boundaries · codependence · service

The management reserves the right to refuse service.

6.21.18Opening this morning’s Oprah/Deepak meditation, I was sorely tempted to skip right past today’s topic: “How can I serve?”  Nope, nope, nope, I intoned aloud.

Though in the end I listened anyway, I immediately turned “How can I serve?” into “How can I be positive?”

As a recovering and compulsive co-dependent, self-abandoner, let me do for you what I will not do for myself-er… I have a complex relationship with “serving others.”

But during the pre-meditation talk, the point that struck me most as, “Oh, here’s where can I learn,” was when Deepak reminded me that, “Giving and receiving are merely different aspects of the same flow of energy.”  Harumph.

This stings because I have a lot of trouble on the receiving end of things, particularly to and from myself.  It’s difficult and uncomfortable for me to treat myself with care, priority, and love.  This compulsion is better than before, but I know the giving/receiving coin is one relationship that needs healing.

Because when I hear the question, “How can I serve?,” I see The Giving Tree.  More specifically, I see that stump at the end of the story who’s like, “Nah, man, it’s totally cool that I’m nearly dead.  Use what’s left of my husk to park your ass.”


Turning toward filling someone else’s need is a long-ingrained, long-painful pattern of mine, and so when I hear this question, I recoil from it dramatically.

But I know that’s not truly what Deepak is saying (perhaps it is what some religious or spiritual tenets are saying).  I am not being told to give of myself until there’s nothing left.  I am not being told to give away something against my will that I don’t want to give.  I am not being told to over-ride my “Red Alert!” alarm when a soul-vampire is at my door, and invite them in anyway because “they need me” or “it’s the ‘kind’ thing to do,” or because “that’s what a spiritual person would do.”

But in order to hear what is actually being said, I must replace the word “serve” with the words “be positive.”

I can be a positive force in the world.  I can offer a smile, return a text, share my words here.  I can not be a f*cking drag, even though I feel breakuply shitty right now.

I can get out of my head, meet a friend, go to a museum.  That is how I can be positive today.

But I cannot “serve” you.  It’s self-service here, buddy.  Get with the times.



boundaries · self-care · service

“You can’t save anyone.”


When ordinarily I’ve heard this phrase, I’ve bristled.  Is it something in me, something wrong with me that I can’t?  If I try harder or fix myself more, will I then be able to?  What if I really really love them?

However, last week, a friend said this declarative sentence to me, and I replied laughingly, “What a relief!”  Phew!  Jeez, that really takes me off the hook now, doesn’t it?

I can’t save anyone.  I don’t have to keep trying, adjusting, modifying, cajoling, coercing, monitoring, mothering.  I can lay it the f* down … and continue working on what I’m really here to work on: Me.

There’s not nearly as much work as there used to be, but certainly a lifetime’s worth.  Which is good, because you stop growing, you start dying!  But overall, I feel healthier now than at many other points in my life.

I feel more able to accept that other people have their own row to hoe, and no amount of my overseeing can change or improve or lessen their work.  I once told my (as of this past week ex-) boyfriend:( that I felt like a sword-fighter against his darkness, and that I needed him to take the sword.  To fight his own battle against his own internal foes.

The rub is, truly, that he never asked me to fight that battle for him, but I leapt in suit of armor and all and said, “Alright beast, let’s go!”  And then I said, “Omigod I’m tired,” and then I said, “This is not a battle I can win. Here, you take it.”

Fighting others’ darkness is a long-earned habit of mine, the daughter of an untreated manic-depressive.  When the yawning darkness of depression descends upon the woman who is to care for you, as a child with few tools, all you can do is set aside your own needs to try to fight her darkness so she can possibly help defend you, too.  And lo, codependence is born:  if you’re okay, I’m okay.

Yet though this is a long-worn caul of mine, that does not mean it fits, makes sense, is healthy, or … is sane!  And it is up to me to stop jumping in to every person’s fight.

Indeed, “coincidentally,” as all this boundary-strengthening/awareness has been taking place in the last few weeks, I’ve had 4 people reach out to me to help them with some self-help work they’re doing (yes, I see the irony there).  At some times, I would have leapt in (Sure man, let’s slay that darkness! How much of me do you need?), but these past few weeks, I’ve taken account of who I know these folks to be and what kind of energy I truly have for assisting them.

And my answer has been, No.  “Thank you for asking, but I’m full up on service right now.”  “I’m grateful you thought of me, but I’m only available to be friends on the path right now.”  “I’m very glad I got to serve for a while, but I need to leave your committee.”

There are voices within that chide it’s selfish or miserly to say No.  But, I imagine that one day, when my boundaries are more firm—when I don’t run for my longsword every time someone says, “Hello”—that I’ll be more able and available for service to people … but for today, for now, saying no to them is saying yes to me.

And that, friends, is progress.

(And yes, home sick with the flu this week—hence no blog—I’ve been reading Game of Thrones and all about longswords.) 😉


boundaries · confidence · letting go · relationships · self-doubt





I had a boss once who was the consummate micro-manager. I
would be asked to carry out a project, and as the week would go by, I would get
inquiries about the state of the project, if I’d done a, then b, then c. Did I
remember to? Did I contact? Where was I on it?
I spent nearly as much time on the project as I did answering my boss’s incessant questions.
At one point during my employment, I had come to the end of
my rope about this type of management style, and I let my boss know
that I was having a hard time with our communication – that I felt my boss did
not trust me to carry out a job that was assigned to me.
Although it was stated that of course I was trusted to do my
job appropriately, the actions that continued to take place showed that wasn’t
entirely true. And even though it wasn’t exactly personal, I felt
disenchanted with the duties I was performing, feeling my power of ownership, and therefore, my professional confidence, was being undermined.
In a total book-reader/movie-watcher’s understanding of such things, I would say that
it’s like defending a castle.
There is usually an external wall built around a castle and its grounds, in
place to prevent ingress and marauders. The citizens trust that the wall will
defend them.
However, what if there is a monarch who doesn’t trust those
walls to hold. Despite the greatest masonry, the height
of engineering and construction, the monarch still feels at risk.
And so, she sends out sentries to patrol the exterior of the
castle wall. There are boundaries, but these are not trusted, and so she
employs a defensive and offensive line.
The thinking goes: I do not trust that the boundaries I have
put up will hold, and so I will go beyond them, in front of them to fend off
any attacks. I don’t even know if there are any enemies out there, but there
could be
. And I don’t think the walls I’ve
built will hold.
I am not willing to have the boundaries tested. I must make
extra defense.
Let’s turn the analogy to personal boundaries. If we don’t
trust that our boundaries, our internal mechanisms, will be faithful, will
perform their job appropriately, or have been built to the utmost of our
knowledge, we will continue to send out sentries beyond those boundaries to
defend ourselves.
What this does in the end is show that we do not trust
ourselves and our boundaries. We never get to test those appropriate walls to
see if they can in fact do their job. By not allowing them to do what we’ve
built them to do, they will never get the chance to prove to us that they can,
and we will continue to send out a forward offense/defense.
At the risk of being obvious, I am that monarch.
I may have spent years building and refining a system of
appropriate boundaries, but I am loathe to test them. Instead, I employ an
extra electric fence to ensure that those boundaries are never even tested.
Because what if they fail.
I surround myself with an added, superfluous layer of
defense and offense, because I am scared that if you get too close, my appropriate resources won’t have the ability to measure and defend your threat.
But. If I don’t allow you to get to the wall of the castle, I
will never know if you are friend or foe. Instead, I will always interpret you
as foe, because I have paid my sentries to treat you as such.
I don’t trust you, I don’t trust my boundaries, and so I am
insulated and impervious. To all comers. Benevolent or not.
I hated feeling treated as though I were not capable of
doing my job appropriately. It felt diminishing and disrespectful and
disheartening. I hated having an extra layer of checks and balances around a
system that worked just fine.
The appropriate layer of boundaries I’ve built around
myself, that we all need (that is permeable, and fluid, and always learning and
gaining in refinement) has been long-sheltered and is tired of this
trigger-happy band of sentries, “protecting” my own system of protection.
If I don’t allow you to pass that ridiculous layer of
defense, I will never know you. You will never know me.
And I will miss the opportunity to learn to trust myself and
to create relationships that will enhance the whole kingdom. 

balance · boundaries · career · creativity · meditation · self-care

You Spin Me Right Roun’…




I’ve been looking up meditation retreats. There’s this one
I’ve heard about for years that’s a 10-day silent meditation retreat – I
remember a guy I knew once shared that his therapist advised him against going on a silent retreat! (He went anyway, and
reported great tidings.)
But, one thing I always seem to forget until after I’ve gone
on such a retreat or weekend away is that I can effect the same kind of stillness without going so far, and without paying so much.
I remember last year, I went north to Marin to participate
in a half-day meditation retreat. The meditation itself was lovely; the grounds
are nestled into the hillside near the ocean, and there’s an organic farm and
garden you can walk through during the walking meditation part. But… the zen
talk… eek.
This day’s particular teacher stuck in my craw the whole time, so before the second “dharma talk,” I left. I felt good about having gone, being
among the greenery and the eucalyptus. I even saw a chipmunk on my way back to
the parking lot. But, I didn’t need to stay and “practice listening” to someone
whose personality shone way larger than his teachings. It was way more about
him, than his teachings.
As I left, I noted that I could have found the same or a
similar degree of stillness, just by driving up into the nearby national park
in Berkeley. I didn’t have to sit in a “zen-do” or listen to teachings –
really, I just wanted to listen to the silence, and although I can do that in
my own home, I prefer to go somewhere nature-y when I really want to recharge. 
I’m reminded of this as I look up retreats this morning: a
day-long one at the same retreat center, the 10-day silent retreat place, even
a hot-spring zen-center-meets-spa related to a nearby center.
But really, what do I want to achieve or gain or experience?
I feel very harried at the moment, with a lot of irons in
the fire around creative endeavors, work endeavors, and even friend endeavors.
I’ve been wanting to strengthen my relationships with
friends, form new or stronger connections, and this weekend has been the
perfect exercise in that – it’s been chock
full of friend-related activities that have been truly wonderful. But, I’m
Yesterday morning, spur-of-the-moment birthday plans were texted to
me: “Join me in Marin for dinner and a hike under the full moon.”
Um, Yes, please!
None of the 6 dinner attendees knew anyone except the
birthday boy, and we had a great time. The hike was fantastic. Epic, really.
The view over the Bay, the fog rolling in, the lights below, the reflection of
the “super moon” in the water. – That, my friends, was meditative.
But, it also wasn’t. Different personalities require
different levels of reverence, and for some people, silence isn’t really an
option. – I’d love to go back and experience it in the quiet. It was
And, I wasn’t home til after midnight … which if you didn’t
know, is way past my bedtime. But, so
worth it!
However, I begin to feel a draw inward. I’m an “X” in the
“introvert/extrovert” Meyers-Briggs scale. Meaning, I am neither an “I:
Introvert” nor an “E: Extrovert” – I fall so perfectly between the two, needing
both in such equal amounts, that I am an “X: Right in the middle.”
So, with all of this external push (creative stuff, job
stuff, friend stuff), Anty needs a recharge. (Honey, I Shrunk the Kids reference, fyi.)
But, it is important for me to remember that I don’t need to
retreat from the whole world, put huge parameters around my life in order to do
this. It’s as simple as committing 2 hours, getting in my car, driving 20
minutes, and crunching through the soft-fallen eucalyptus leaves until I get to a spot
where I can sit – no incense required. 

acceptance · boundaries · disappointment · family · father · recovery · sadness · self-love · truth · vulnerability

My Own Private Fan Club.




“I’m a fan of you, Molly Daniels, in your entirety,” he
Granted we later slept together. But I digress.
I had the good fortune to spend time last night with several
women I admire. I shared with them what’s going on with my father and my
having to make the decision to attend his wedding in lieu of performing in the
play in which I’m cast.
One of them reflected: “I’m sorry your dad is not able to
see you.”
And when I listen to this more deeply and clearly, it is a
bell of truth.
The fantasy and illusion I’ve abided by for years has been
that if I am a good daughter, a good girl, a devoted and doting woman, then I
will be seen. The delusion is that my people-pleasing will make him see me. But. This is false.
I have tried many times, this path of behaving. And I’ve
tried its opposite, being a wanton, crazed, rebellious teen and young adult, in
order to be seen.
But what struck me this morning was this image: You know
when someone has a lazy eye, and you’re not really sure where to look, so
sometimes you just look at their forehead? Or if you’re trying to avoid
someone’s eye for another reason, you focus somewhere else that sort of looks like you’re looking at them, but you’re not?
That’s how I feel with my dad. That he never actually looks
directly at me, which is why I’ve tried to make the trappings around me so much
larger or different or “approvable” or “disapprovable.” If you can’t see me,
maybe you’ll see the life I’ve built that meets with your military/engineer’s strict
sense of correct.
If I have the job you can brag about, … but that’s not me. I
am not my job.
If I have the relationship with you you can brag about, …
but that’s not me. We don’t know each other.
If I have the life you can brag about, … but I’ve tried
that. You threw my own failings in my face.
I have tried to make the external parts of me approvable
enough for you. But even those periphery trappings (and they are “trappings”)
have not been enough to hone your focus onto the all of me. Me in my entirety.
I didn’t know that was what I’ve been seeking until my
friend told me he saw me. I didn’t know that was what I’ve been missing,
and making a pretzel out of my life and myself in order to make happen.
If I want to please my father so he sees me, what do I think
will happen if he sees me, “in my entirety?” … I don’t think I can answer that.
Except to say he’d love me, in a way that I could feel.
Because here’s the thing: If he’s looking around me, and not at me, he’ll never love me in a way that
I feel. He may “love” or approve
of the things around me, the life I meticulously and back-bendingly try to
arrange around myself. But that’s still not me.
This is a system, a relationship in which I am not seen. The
one thing I want to glean from it is the one thing I cannot have.
In reading Brene Brown so voraciously right now, I can know
this: He’s not able to be vulnerable enough to do that.
To see me, is to expose himself, is to open himself to being
vulnerable, and for him, that is not an
option. His whole life has been built on a foundation, a faulty one (well, in
my own estimation), that precludes true connection, because he is unable to
look at and love himself. I know how this formed, and I can only presume the
pain that’s caused, because he’s never shown it. (Except in these indirect ways.)
Brene writes that men deal with vulnerability in one of two
ways: Rage or shut-down. (She also writes about those who find ways
out of that dichotomy, but those are the go-to’s without the tools to do
anything differently. And surely, those aren’t the only means to deal, but it’s her
research, not mine!)
I know that when I told my dad that I might not be able to
come to his wedding because I’ll be in a play that weekend, when he put on his “I insist” voice, that was his way of hiding his vulnerability, his
disappointment and hurt. I know that this was rage to mask actual feelings. I
know that this rage was to protect and prevent of moment of true connection, in
which something different might have been said like, “I’d really love for you
to be here. It would mean a lot to me.”
That directness is too vulnerable.
To look me in the eye and say that is too vulnerable.
To see us both as humans doing a dance of having a
relationship, instead of as a master and a servant, a “father” and a “daughter,”
is too vulnerable.
If I can’t squash it or approve of it, I can’t deal with it.
I “get” this. I get and have compassion for and understand
this dilemma for him. Also, this is a dilemma that I’ve prescribed for him; true or
not, it’s only my interpretation.
But, like I said before, it’s my choice how I want to engage
in this “relationship.” Because for as long as I can remember, I’ve been waving
my arms in an effort to start one. An effort in vain. And my arms are tired.
Brene writes that shame is countered by self-love, and that
shame resilience is a practice, not a diploma.
“I’m a fan of you, Molly Daniels, in your entirety.”
I’m going to have to say this phrase to myself, repeatedly.
To truth-test the thoughts of “not good enough” – especially “not good enough daughter” – as this future unfolds.
I’m going to have to truth-test my fantasies around this
relationship versus the reality, and I’m going to have to accept, even for a
minute at a time, that this relationship is the way it is, and that my father
is the way he is.
I’ve heard many times that “acceptance is not the same as
approval.” No, this isn’t ideal. But turning my life into a pretzel to garner a
connection I will never (or not today) have, is the worse fate.