Protecting Our (Emotional) Garden

I like to think of the soul as a garden. It is up to each of us to tend to what goes into and out of that sacred space.

With COVID-19 in full force worldwide, the previously heated political climate is now past its boiling point. Turn on your TV, scroll through social media and you are catapulted into a world of information overload and with it, a myriad of strong and often divided opinions.

It is easy to get overloaded in our 24/7 news coverage world; it is also easy to get persuaded to share our opinions, to “like” a friend’s political cartoon or meme or offer an angry emoji to show support for said friend’s left or right wing views. And if you are comfortable doing so, that’s great, keep doing you!

But there is a fine but distinctive line between supporting a friend and abdicating your own comfort level; it is one thing to support a cause important to you and another to feel cyber-pressure to agree with something or someone online when you don’t feel comfortable sharing.

In our omnipresent social media world (particularly now that we are flattening the curve through social distancing), we are hungry for connection. After all, we are humans, connecting is what we DO. Yet we owe it to ourselves to share what each of us wants to share, not feels obliged to share.

I like to think of the soul as a garden. It is up to each of us to tend to what goes into and out of that sacred space. What makes your space fertile might cause another’s to perish. I encourage you to reflect on what helps keep your emotional “garden” flourishing.

When I was a little girl, I recall hearing the phrase “There are two things you don’t talk about in public: sex and politics.” Of course, I didn’t get it at the time. Now as an adult, I know that the world isn’t black and white and this pithy statement is no exception. But it is a cliché for a reason: it is a reminder that certain topics are either gateways for growth or destruction.

So how do we know when politics, sex or any other impassioned topics are healthy or harmful to “air and share”?

The answer is simple but not easy: heed your inner garden each time someone or something online or in the news stands at its entrance. Each time, depending on the topic and/or person, your garden might perk up or shudder. The key is to listen to its personal message to you and you alone.

“Serving Boundaries”

A dog feeling the strain of someone’s lack of boundaries…

Last week, I had the pleasure of virtually speaking at an Author Talk with Rabbi Dan Gordon and his Temple Beth Torah congregants to promote my new book, The Friendship Diet. The book explores the deep, often-overlooked connection between our edible and emotional nutrition.

One of the participants asked a powerful question about boundaries that I would like to address here now: “How do you create important boundaries when you encounter “cilantro” that you don’t like?”

The cilantro is a metaphor in my book, referring to times when we encounter something we don’t care for the taste of (in my case cilantro) yet tend to ignore in an effort to please others. When we continue to ingest our respective “cilantros” we can feel bitter over time, if not downright sick to our spiritual and physical gut.

So back to the insightful question that was asked at the Author Talk: 

“How do you create important boundaries when you encounter “cilantro” that you don’t like?”

Those boundaries are going to look different based on the nature of the relationship. After all, the boundaries involved in limiting your child’s screen time is going to look very different from the boundaries invisibly erected between an intimate couple and what they share about say, their past romantic relationships.

Yet regardless of what kind of boundaries we are wanting to create in the face of said “cilantro,” they will all begin to manifest as a natural by-product of the internal work YOU do.

There’s a famous quote by motivational speaker, Tony Gaskins:

 “You teach people how to treat you by what you allow, what you stop, and what you reinforce.”

Chances are, if you are receiving a dish of poor boundaries, you are serving a plate of low self-esteem. Change externally needs to start by altering our perceptions internally. When you care about how you feel first—regardless of what is going on externally in your life, you are sending a signal to others that you matter. That invisible but powerful signal is real and will affect all of your relationships, from your partner to your colleagues.

For many, learning that poor boundaries is often a by-product of low or weak self-esteem is a tough pill to swallow. There’s a reason growth is usually associated with pain. On the other side of that pill is clarity and awareness—beautiful harbingers of inner growth and change.

I encourage you to do the guided writing prompts in my book, The Friendship Diet. If the pandemic isn’t a time to examine the inner contents of our metaphorical fridges, I don’t know when is!

I’ll close with some auditory and visual food for thought with the link to our Author Talk: (Available on YouTube)