Nothing to Fear – Let’s Respect Each Other’s Boundaries

What misery comes from trampling all over each other’s boundaries? What joy could come if we simply respected that we are separate entities, entitled to love freely but not with the expectations we are accustomed to? Until women are free from the shackles of ‘ownership’ by men, we are not in our power.  

This is for a friend.

Until you have experienced the insidiousness of abuse by another, you don’t know what it means to be stalked, threatened, played with emotionally, and on edge literally 24/7.

I’ve been in this situation once, with a man in university who desperately wanted me to be his girlfriend. I went on one date with him, maybe two. He was an intellectual, and I was and am attracted to that. The last date was a hang-gliding afternoon, where this fellow kindly decided to show me how to run off a cliff – and I decided not to. It was somewhat metaphorical.  Self preservation was my instinct, and I had calculated my inexperience.

It should be said, I have always had a sharp instinctual sense and trusted it. But sometimes I’ve been talked out of trusting my gut. This is wrong. Trust your gut. It’s all you have sometimes.

The next week, this character began to call me, drunk. He slurred angry thoughts over the phone and made it impossible to communicate with him. My instincts were right. Something was amiss. I now had confirmation of why I didn’t want to date him. But I would be his friend. He had an incredible mind. I genuinely wanted to be his friend and I thought I could be…until the calls became disruptive to my life.

He was 35. I was 19. He had a confidence that I did not. Eventually, after the calls turned into diatribes against me, I had no choice but to hang up on him. That elicited more calls, fast and furious calls followed by one where he said, “Check your car.” I went outside and found that he had left a card on the windshield of a friend’s car who happened to be a lawyer I was going out on a date with that night.

I was living in a cornerstone building that was a youth shelter where I was employed as a live-in youth worker  and supervisor of teens in care. This was the night I knew for sure the man calling me had crossed the line. I called the police. My friend the lawyer waited for me as I filed the complaint.

The police said they would warn the man. They did. He called me back screaming. I hung up on him. The police called and an officer said, “Did he just call you back? Just now?” They’d watched him from the street. Yes, I told them, he had just called. They arrested him and charged him with harassment.

The next day, a mutual friend, a woman who cared about him, called me and asked me to drop the charges, and I would never hear from him again. I felt pressured, but agreed. But the police did not, and they would not drop the charges. I can’t say this was explained to me nicely, but it was put to me clearly: they themselves were witnesses to this crime, and the charges would stand.

We went to court weeks or months later, and the man who could have been my friend was sentenced to a year of probation, community service, counselling for drug and alcohol addiction, and a life-time restraining order. He was never to contact me again or, the judge said, “You’ll be in prison.” And that was the end of that. It was the end of my friendship with the mutual friend, too, who did not seem to recognize that a violation of my boundaries had taken place.

I guess the lesson is, sometimes people don’t get it, and sometimes friendships need to end in situations like this. Sometimes it takes a sharp rebuke from the authorities to put an end to abuse, too.

Too bad, because our super lesson for today is bigger. Chris Rea in this song sings about about it eloquently, and it was in my early years of university back in the Eighties that I discovered the man’s music. The song is all about loving without expectation, respecting one’s boundaries, and that includes the right to come and go. Until we can assert ourselves in this manner, we are not fully free. Until we can respect others in this manner, they are not fully free. And a relationship that controls each member of the party in it cannot flourish.

So how about a new way of thinking, one that I have held all of my adult life? How about totally respecting one’s right to choose – to be in relationship or not to be…and how to be.

I dedicate this piece to a friend who has shown the courage to endure and overcome the crossing of her boundaries during a time of great difficulty. Life is not easy. I dedicate this to every woman on the planet who is under the thumb of a man, in any way, shape, or form. Abuse is real, and sometimes hard to spot because it appears culturally or socially acceptable. But it’s not.

Chris Rea sings of how beautiful life and love could be, but only if we respect each other and respect the fact that anyone can leave at any time. We are not meant to be shackled. We are meant to be free. That is why the price of freedom is so high for some and the taste of freedom is so sweet to those who have long suffered a lack or loss of it. There is nothing to fear in letting love be bigger than control.

Nothing to Fear – Chris Rea

I feel your heat in dusty whispers
The wind is cold around your moon
It’s getting hard to keep our distance
I know your time is coming soon
Don’t point your dream on my horizon
Don’t take your rose too far from home
Please don’t forget we’re not each other
Each soul has black thorns of his own
I see you dancing
Your song is clear
You’ve got to show me, got to show me
There’s nothing to fear
Nothing to fear
I have my loved ones you have yours
So let us gaze upon the feast
In God’s own name let’s eat together
In God’s own name please come in peace
See how our children play together
While you and me we stand alone
I know we’ll never be each other
If I leave you leave me alone
I see you dancing
Your song is clear
You’ve got to show me, got to show me
There’s nothing to fear
Nothing to fear

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