Image description: A grey-haired person (me!) holds up a card that says “You’re a Tea-rrific Friend!” and a box that is labeled “Letters to Myself” – these are items from the self-care kits described in this post.
I spent a bit of time today putting together the self-care kits for the Bridge-building Giveaway and the Boundary-setting Giveaway. I’m happy with how they’ve come together, and I think the winners will be getting something worthwhile.
But I found it interesting how much easier it was to put the bridge-building kit together and how few people entered that giveaway, in comparison to how difficult it was to put the boundary-setter kit together and how many people have entered (you can still enter until 9 am Sunday! Just poke through the pictures on my Facebook page to find the giveaway).
There is a lot of external support for bridge-building – card sections, books about friendship and the value of social support, gift books about friendship, a TON of books about romance, heaps of books about family connections. If you want to build bridges, it seems like there’s an almost infinite amount of support.
And although there are folks working on boundaries, and there are books about boundaries, there is just not the same range of material available. And most of the stuff that I would recommend is not easily packed up into a gift box.
I sincerely believe that the bridge side of social self-care is critically important – the willingness to be vulnerable, to ask for support and connection, to reach out after an absence, to recognize our own needs and honour them by seeking connection, to learn what meaningful connection means *for us* and work towards it.
I think this is just as important as the boundary side of social self-care – knowing our limits, recognizing and communicating where we end and others begin, allowing ourselves to step into the risky space of saying “no”, setting limits that allow the kind of expansiveness, spaciousness, and generosity that can only happen when we feel that we have agency and choice.
But I think that it is much easier to talk about building bridges than it is to talk about setting boundaries. I think that we sort of gloss over and ignore the sense of isolation, loneliness, and disconnection that we feel – it doesn’t feel as important to build bridges because, really, there ARE all those books out there, and anyway, what is the point of a bridge when our boundaries are being trampled every single day?
But as I put the kits together, and as I worked on the course content for Bridges and Boundaries: Social Self-Care, which is starting on Monday, I felt sad about this.
I know that in my own life, both bridges AND boundaries are important. I spend so much time not knowing how to connect meaningfully to my communities while operating under the pressures of capitalism, the stress and pain of chronic illness, the fog of depression and anxiety. I do need boundaries, but I need bridges, too. And although there is a wealth of material available, so much of it feels trite, superficial, and steeped in ableism, heteronormativity, and the casual assumption that we are all part of the (vanishingly rare) middle class.
Bridge-building is a skill. Maintaining (and finding!) friendships and other meaningful connections takes effort, and has to happen in combination with boundary work, so that our bridges are safe and life-enhancing. It’s a skill that many of us struggle to learn, because as often as we walk past the card section, how often do we actually feel confident in reaching out to our communities, in being vulnerable, in establishing intimacy that is consensual and brave?
It’s harder to talk about boundaries much of the time, because boundaries are tangled up with feelings of shame, obligation, attachment, fear, and vulnerability. Some of us struggle more with boundaries than bridges. Some of us struggle more with bridges than boundaries. But I think they’re both so important for our social wellbeing, and I think that often when we struggle with one, we’re also struggling with the other.
Hopefully, the course will offer support for both!
If you want to sign up for the 6-week online course, the cost is $150 ($75 for Patreon supporters), and you can sign up by emailing me.
(Among the boundary supports I would recommend, which are not easily packed up but thankfully ARE easily shared –
Rest for Resistance‘s amazing article Washing the Salt Out of Shadow Wounds
Jane Clapp – Body Intelligence for Trauma & Mental Health‘s post on Property Lines and Self-Care)