"I am large. I contain multitudes." - Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Boundaries

I realized today how very un-Filipino my sister Piglet and I can be.

I got an email from a niece of mine asking to stay in our flat for two weeks sometime in March while she looks for a job here. I called my sister Piglet to let her know that I was saying yes to two weeks but that over and beyond that she will need to find other accommodations. Piglet was reluctant at first but eventually agreed to that and off the email went.

I received the perfunctory thanks from my niece but it doesn't escape me that that probably wasn't the cold response she expected from relatives.

Here's the thing, I believe there are boundaries and if you don't let people know where you stand (provided you are sure of where you stand) in this kind of scenario, then problems percolate. You lose patience with others for abusing the welcome - real or imagined. You want to kick yourself six weeks into the predicament because she's quit her job in Manila, she hasn't found a job here, wants to keep looking and doesn't have a place to stay.

Sometimes, it pays to draw the line as early as possible. Especially when it comes to these open-ended things.

Does it sound cruel? Maybe a little. But it's also cruel to seethe through a situation you are unhappy with in your own home. Seriously.

It will already be quite an adjustment for me when my sister-in-law comes over, but I'm working through that and making arrangements so that I keep as much personal space I can still get in that situation. I have also spelled out the terms with which I am agreeable to it so that we're all aware.

What I'm avoiding like a plague is the act of putting myself in a situation that makes me unhappy because I didn't speak up for myself. I didn't make myself heard. I didn't explain where I stood on things.

I would probably feel different if we lived in a three-bedroom flat. But we don't, so it's a major production every time more than one person comes over for an unspecified, substantial length of time.

Do I sound so adamant? That's cause I spent years - years! - tolerating the laziest flatmate just because my other flatmate didn't want me to tell her about her behavior. Since then, I have vowed not to put myself in that circumstance ever again.

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