To live and enjoy every day to its fullest, use my gifts to help others, I travel to wherever passion finds me.

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Friday, December 04, 2009


December is an emotional roller coaster for many, and I like to write about some of these upheavals and conflicts as it may help someone you know. This post is about belonging and boundaries.

In this time of year many meanings may be attached to coming home.
First of all, is there a place to call home?
If so, does coming home mean having to deal or face unfinished business? It may be a conflict either party was too proud to address, or it may be a very serious matter, such as abuse of any kind, mental illness, domestic violence, criminality, and so on.

The following story is more typical. This young man insisted on getting his inheritance early.
Can you believe it? He squandered it! Then he ended up working as a worker at a farm, so at  least he had a place to stay.
When he came to his senses, he wondered why he should stay with these pigs, if he probably would get a better treatment home??
But...there were all these "issues" he had to face.
He knew he had disappointed his dad deeply by leaving home. On top of that, the guilt and remorse over blowing his inherited money on useless entertainment... he had nothing to show for!
He didn't even count on being treated as a son now. He looked disheveled, clothes torn, dirty and smelly...but yet home was somehow drawing him.
So he started the journey. The knots in his stomach became bigger when he saw his home at the horizon. Who was that, standing there by the house? No, it can't be! The young man started running and running, all the way into his father's arms.

© Graphite, St.Germain
He searched his father's face for clues of anger or indifference. To his great relief, he could only see joy. His father's eyes were somewhat misty, and the son's remorse increased when his dad called  a worker to start cooking for a welcome home party.
I love this story, because the father obviously believed his son would eventually do the right thing. This son somehow knew that his father would give him a place, even if it was where the workers slept.

A homecoming is an opportunity to face unfinished business, most often with family members. The same concepts apply for friendships. If all parties are willing, there is a good chance for a new page or chapter in one's life.
But I've also had people in the therapy room, coming back from their holidays at home, needing a few months to recover emotionally, because of the continuing dysfunction there.
Not every parent is mature enough to overlook and forgive the wrongs of their children. Not every child is able to forgive their parents/mentor/boss for hurting them emotionally or physically, and then move on with their life.

That one belongs to a family does not mean that one does not have the right to a life of his or her own. When you reach adulthood, you eventually catch on if you are treated as a doormat, an object, or as a valued human being.

If things are broken, and one of the parties back home is not willing to change, you might be better off celebrating the holidays somewhere else. You can only pick up the pieces of your own life, hope for the better regarding the other(s), and move on.
You don't have to pick up the other person's pieces, unless you want to and you are very sure it will not cripple your own life.
To put it in a visual picture: boundaries are like a picket fence. The fence is  where the (other) person's property (boundaries) end, and where yours begin. The fence is a clear demarcation between the two. On my second blog page ART NOTES is a painting that gives you an illustration what happens when boundaries are lacking. (click on right column: view my complete profile. Then on the bottom, click on Art Notes, which will take you to that page)

Living without your family of origin or you past best friend, doesn't mean though that you have to go through life alone, or be lonely. We all need a sense of belonging. Our family mostly provides that. But if not,  look and find people who will receive you with open arms. They can become your "family." (They don't need to be older;  they could be friends your own age).
Home is a place where the heart finds belonging. A good and safe place.

One of the best books on the subject is "Boundaries" by Cloud and Townsend.


DawnTreader said...

Good post!
I actually have that book by Cloud and Townsend in Swedish translation!

Reader Wil said...

Home is home be it ever so homely...
Home is where the heart is...
My home is my castle...

All these quotations show how important is to have a home.
Great post Jeannette!

Angie Muresan said...

You know why I love this parable, Jeannette? Because it shows what true love is. The disobedience and disrespectfulness and self-indulgence of that boy would have merited a strict father. But instead he was accepted, coddled, really with open heart and arms, because his father truly loved him.

Rudee said...

Interesting topic, and very timely. We had a family reunion of sorts in September that was my idea. I must have been out of my mind and today, I'm still recovering from some of the things my brother said to me. It may have been the wine talking, but I believe he said some things he really believed and felt. I had no idea he harbored these thoughts and I was hurt by his words. He's a sensitive person and realizing he was hurtful, he apologized the next morning, but the damage was done.

Feeling a strong need to keep a little distance as a decent boundary, though we did speak on the phone, I didn't see him at Thanksgiving and I haven't made a decision about Christmas. I think I just need a break.

Gaelyn said...

Excellent post and suggestions Jeannette. Knowing your own boundries and being honest with yourself and others can make your life complete with family, whether they're blood or not.
The story is a great example of love without judgement.

Paula said...

Jeanette, that's an exceptionally thoughtful and insightful post and a great reminder to center ourselves during the Advent season. The secular Christmas season is nothing but traumatic, full of neediness and unrealistic expectations. I unplugged from it years ago.

jeannette stgermain said...

thank you Dawn! Isn't that book amazing?
They had the same profs. and same training I did (same university) and was the reason that I wanted to come to the States and study.

jeannette stgermain said...

Reader Wil,
thank you Wil! You would be surprised Wil that so many, at least where I live, so many families are leading distant and estranged lives. This makes for depression and worse things more rampant at this time of year.

jeannette stgermain said...

It's a challenge to truly love without conditions, isn't it?
But it is medicine for the soul!

jeannette stgermain said...

That's a bind you're in. Your brother has some issues. At least he apoligized...Would he be open to counseling? Because you don't have to be his counselor!
Do whatever you can handle, Rudee (without guilt)!

jeannette stgermain said...

Thank you, Gaelyn, It's a catch, isn't it?... the family is the first place where we learn what bounderies are.
But mostly the most healthy ones in the family have the guts to come to therapy!
That story is one of the most challenging!

jeannette stgermain said...

Good for you, Paula! Not all that glitters is gold! You choose the path less trodden, but the best for our soul.

Whitemist said...

how very true and sometimes home is NOT with your blood family, but with those who love you no matter what.
I have heard many therapist talk of the difficulty with "family" and holidays, I feel very fortunate that I have those closest to me around me in times of trouble and celebration.

NCmountainwoman said...

What a thought-provoking post. I will definitely come back to refresh myself on these wise words during the holiday season.

DUTA said...

Home sweet home. There's no place like home regardless of the conflicts that arise among family members. The key phrase is: Forgive and be forgiven.

crochet lady said...

Thanks for posting such insightful thoughts on home and sharing ways to give others hope who have severed ties from home, no place to call home or just needed to take the imitative in putting the past behind.

I am grateful I know the meaning of home.

jeannette stgermain said...

Yes, you are a lucky man! I agree wholeheartedly, "family" are the ones who love you - within the bloodline or not.
Many people need an outside source like a therapist to entangle the mess (see my blog Art Notes).

jeannette stgermain said...

Thank you! Hope you can pass on some what you read to people who need it (you can print out these posts:) ).
Have a good weekend!

jeannette stgermain said...

Home is sweet when people are able to forgive and forget, but many are too stubborn, to proud to see it is in their best interest to forgive and forget:)

jeannette stgermain said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jeannette stgermain said...

Thank you, so many don't understand "boundaries" and get in an emotional mess in Dec. while it should be the most precious time of the year.
The older I become, the more I realize what a privilege it is to have good relationships in a family.

Protege said...

Very interesting post to someone like me, who feels home anywhere and nowhere. The holidays are indeed sometimes a time for contemplation about these, more grave issues.

This Is My Blog - fishing guy said...

Jeannette: This story is based on the story of the prodigal son in the bible. There are many lessons to be learned through the biblical story.

ANNA-LYS said...

Great and important subject, Jeannette!

jeannette stgermain said...

When you feel home anywhere, you have a sense of belonging, but you probably come from a home where you were valued and not treated as an object? It is for the latter people that I felt the need to tell them it is okay to live their own life.

Holidays should be a celebration for everyone:)

jeannette stgermain said...

Fishing Guy,
How do you know? I'm just faceteous (spelling?) -thanks for getting visiting my blog:)

jeannette stgermain said...

Thank you! Many don't know it is okay to live one's own life, without strings attached:)

Jo said...

Sometimes our friends become more of our family that our blood families. Why is it that families think it's okay to hurt each other? I got sick with the flu recently, and a family member actually got very angry with me, because my being sick had inconvenienced her plans. To me, that is unbelievably slef-centered. But what can we do?

jeannette stgermain said...

Sadly on one hand, but true. On the other hand, we can be thankful for friends sticking closer than a brother/sister to us:)
What you can do is telling her your reaction if you were inconvenienced if she were to be sick (and that she was just having a bad day that day, and she is not "really" that way - hope for you that that IS the case).

distresseddamsel said...

Very insightful and helpful. Our homes hold the core of our beings. Even if we have already ventured into our own separate lives, going back home brings us back to what made us the person we are. The lifelong thread that binds parents and their children could never really be severed no matter what conflict may have surfaced as the years roll by.

jeannette stgermain said...

So much for modern day independence! The older I become the more I see the need for healthy relationships between the generations in a family!

jeannette stgermain said...

Thank you for visiting my blog! Welcome any time:) - I tried to look up your blog, but I got an advertisement blog for pills?