On boundaries, caring, suffering, and what it might mean to emerge from the dark night

Most often my boundaries are not clear.  I am not totally clear on what it exactly is my responsibility to give and when I can and should say ‘No’ most especially when the situation concerns someone I love being in pain, even if a lot of what they have done or are doing is adding to that pain.

I awoke feeling exhausted today after spending most of the day in the emergency section of our local hospital with my Mum yesterday.  It is was her third visit yesterday and all at the recommendation of the visiting district nurse.  Mum has an infection in her legs and her temperature has been up on those three occasions but that is how the body responds t to an infection.  She was on her second lot of antibiotics and yesterday, again, her temperature was up.  I got a call at about 11 just as I was settling down with my dog Jasper to have a cup of coffee after some time at the park which I didn’t find relaxing as I got caught up with a very talkative woman who was running through an experience of abuse in the place she worked quiet a few years ago.  I felt exhausted leaving the park.

I am a deeply sensitive person with a kind heart, at the moment though I am just fed up to the back teeth with other people and their problems. This comes from my head, in my heart my heart is with them in their suffering and pain, but what I am realising is that the energy that it takes out of me to be with them in that place is too much lately.  Yet I feel guilty if there is a call for help and I cant respond.

While having said this though there was some sweetness in being able to just be with my Mum yesterday and support her in emergency.  After a reasonable wait we were taken in and attended to by a beautiful warm African doctor, we also had very positive experiences with two lovely male nurses who were so soft and caring.  One of them wrapped my Mum up in a warm blanket as the air conditioning in the little room we got place in was on too high. There was a sweetness and softness to this experience.  I stayed with my Mum as long as I could but then I had to go home to care for myself and Jasper, but I woke last night feeling so guilty I had not stayed the full way through with my Mum.  I looked back to the times I have stepped away from relationships and of the many times I myself have been the one in emergency and on at least four painful experiences I was there alone with no one to hold my hand.  Thinking of this today I am aware of how well I did just being in the emergency department in that hospital for so long yesterday with all the people in pain I witnessed which is a huge trigger for me.  But today I know I am tired.

There was a point there waiting with my Mum that I just felt so completely overwhelmed and over come.  I had the thought that my strong Neptune in Scorpio squaring my Leo Ascendant and Nodes as well as the Moon and Sun, Mercury and Venus means I will never be totally free of this place of deep suffering which at times feels like a whirlpool or cesspit that seems to want to drown or erase me.  Thinking of this now though and writing about it a D H Lawrence quote I just read again the other day in David Richo’s book on the shadow has come to me.  It says :  are you prepared to be erased, rubbed out?   If you are not you will never truly know love. That is not the direct quote but its what I make of it. And for me it raises these questions?

What really is my deepest purpose in life?  Is it to remain separate, distant, emotionally remote, removed from all of this trials and pains and tribulations of life, or is it to enter the fray fully with my heart wide open to others, to their hopes, dreams, pain and suffering?  At times is all seems too much to take on board.  There seems to have been so little carefree life, and living and joy in my own life over the past 30 or more years.  A thick blanket of suffering has at times appeared to cover everything and a dark shadow of unresolved grief and doom dog my family leading to accidents, mental illness, medical botch ups, cancer, other illnesses and death and through the last part of this I have been there as a fully sober person with no anaesthesia to protect me.  Now I am tired but in some deeper way yesterday I accepted my fate.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am not going to stay in the suffering, in opening my heart to it fully I am also going to move through it to joy hopefully on some days.  My therapist said something very significant to me the other day when we were discussing the shadow. “Maybe all of your happiness is in your shadow, Deborah.”  But the fact is I want my shadow to become light.  I want to live from a happier place,  but on some days the neverendingness of suffering and pain in my family seems to swallow me and I drown for a time.  And its not the place I want to keep living.  But maybe for this to happen I need better boundaries and I doubt my strength to say “NO!”  I cannot be there for you in your suffering as I am choosing joy, but it also seems that to deny suffering is also on some level to deny life and the necessary rebirth of Self that leads us through its dark corridors to a greater sense of wholeness and life, a wholeness and life in which the suffering in being no longer negated or denied reminds us of how precious living life each day is, open in our hearts to true and deep feeling.

This morning I sat quietly feeling so exhausted in the quiet, dark living room.  I sat and opened my heart in meditation to what I was feeling.  A river of tears flowed  out for a time.  I knew myself to be home in my heart but the truth is my heart is tired.  There is only so much I can give and live for others and there is still, as yet, so much I need to give to myself and live.  Yesterday I felt the deepest sadness and utter despair of my inner child for all that she has not had the chance to live.  15 years ago I put my life on hold to be there for my sister now dead. I had a brief time in Glastonbury where I began to open up to and give to my child things she loved, music and dance and artistic, spiritual friends who saw me, knew me, loved me, got me.  I then got pulled home again and had another chance at happiness in my last relationship which I then stepped out of to give love to my ailing family.  The relationship blew apart and he got very angry at me for leaving, even if for a time.  Last night in the middle of the night, I saw finally and irrevocably what my choices have cost me.  Now I see I have to make a new choice and it involves boundaries and self care.

Words cannot fully describe where I am today a few days out from my 55th birthday, but I know something is shifting at a deeper level, some kind of formative understanding is coming to pass and emerge.  This morning I remembered the words I heard from a loving inner feminine figure when I was experiencing one of the deepest darkest times alone following the ending of my marriage.  The voice said to me. “Deborah, you will emerge from the dark night victorious!”  Those words make my cry now and fill my soul with a far deeper recognition than I could ever fully communicate.

What is going on for me has very deep roots and is about far more than just one woman’s individual journey but on many levels is an archetypal woman’s journey in the deeper themes it embraces.  How do we get to be and live who we are outside of all the ties that pull on our hearts as women?  We each suffer our own dark nights, times of absolute aloneness and extreme pain, but in allowing ourselves to be there and open our hearts to the love both denied and longed for deep within on some level we emerge in time from the depths of darkness to the dawning of a new day in which all our pain on some deeper level makes sense and a road beckons us forward to a life of true expression and openness in which we make the choice to live fully centred in our hearts.  This is what I pray for as I face towards my 55th year.  That and the strengthening of boundaries which I am seeing I must begin to use to care for and nurture myself and my heart.

4 thoughts on “On boundaries, caring, suffering, and what it might mean to emerge from the dark night

  1. First off, I want to say that you should try and not feel guilty for not spending the night with your mom. You got her there, stayed with her till she got in her room, made sure she was ok and went home to rest. That’s exactly what you should do. It’s perfect. Not only do you need to take care of yourself first, in order to be the best “you” you can be to help her, she also needs rest. I worked for years in a hospital, and saw so many patients not get the rest they needed because family and friends kept coming in to see them. The patients were always grateful for the love, but they became exhausted…feeling as though they had to stay awake for their visitors, or keep up their end of the conversation, or whatever. Family meant well, but almost always overstayed their welcome. As it is, it’s difficult to get quality sleep in the hospital because the staff is always coming in to check on you, perform tests, make your bed, empty your trash…things are beeping…you get the picture.

    Second, I love this quote….”I cannot be there for you in your suffering as I am choosing joy”. I’m going to save it for when my family starts to get angry at me for removing some of the toxic members from my life. I can remember telling my husband, “I can’t keep healing and stay with you. I can do one or the other…not both”.

    1. Yes, I totally understand that last sentence. I could never have healed with my ex husband either. He was so antagonistic to me feeling the truth of what I had been through.
      Its also so true what you are saying about the rest issue. I feel personally that Mum’s infection will heal better if she can just rest and be left alone to heal for a time. I can pop in for a cup of tea from time to time and give her love but her healing is her job. Love you Jamie. Thanks for your feedback. My inner critic was beating me up over the not staying long enough issues. Thanks so much.

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