When guests gather – and don’t leave
DRAW A LINE IN THE SAND
by Alice Inoue
QUESTION OF THE WEEK: I am getting more and more resentful toward my family and friends. They tend to gather at my house and not leave. They always stay longer than I want them to, and I don’t know how to get them to leave sooner. I feel bad that I am not more “welcoming,” but I am starting to dread family gatherings, or even hearing the doorbell. May I have your advice?
First of all, I always tell my clients and students to accept how they feel without judging their feelings as “good” or “bad,” or “right” or “wrong.” When you do, you add another unnecessary layer to an already challenging situation. Embrace and acknowledge your feelings. Everyone’s privacy needs differ. I’d like to offer a way to look at the need for privacy that has nothing to do with feng shui, but will still empower you in your home. You have the right to set your own rules for your home, but the longer you wait to do that, the harder it will be to establish those rules.
Start by taking time to ask yourself some questions, being very honest with your answers. You must determine what is and is not acceptable to you. We all have boundaries that we consider “bottom lines” that should never be crossed, because when they are, we feel violated and resentful. For some people, a bottom line could be unannounced visits; for others it might be a guest who stays past 9 p.m. Take out a piece of paper and detail what is not working for you. Among other things, ask yourself, “What is acceptable when it comes to unexpected visits and the length of family gatherings?” Do not compromise or judge yourself. No right or wrong answer exists, only what is right for you.
You may be battling the feeling that being a good friend or family member means that you should work on “letting go of your feelings.” You may also feel guilty for feeling the way you do, hesitating to bring it up or cause conflict. Stop those thoughts immediately! In Hawaii, because of our local culture, many tend to feel “bad” about speaking up, burying their own needs instead. But it’s also important that you honor and express how you feel. This issue is in your life to offer you the opportunity to speak up and empower yourself.
As uncomfortable as it may be, it is always OK to speak up in order to meet your own needs. You may have felt as if you had “no choice” in all these past incidences, but you have always had a choice. You just chose to go along with things because you either felt you had no choice, or a greater overall benefit trumped the immediate benefit.
What is your overall benefit? Is it that it’s more important to keep the peace and do the “right” thing, according to your family, rather than respect your own time by creating healthy boundaries? Is it because it wasn’t worth the hassle of hearing your mother or family harp at you? You have always had a choice; you just chose the easiest path at the time. Remember that you are your own authority, and anything that makes you feel resentful is not healthy. Suppressing your feelings can never lead to a positive outcome. The resentment you have built up is because you have betrayed yourself to please another.
The next time a family event is coming up, establish rules. Determine what time will work for you to end the gathering and do your best to let everyone know it in advance. Announce it to everyone, in whatever way you can, prior to the event. You can use email, conversations with those attending, or you can ask others to spread the word. For example, you can say something like, “I have a very busy week coming up and look forward to spending time with everyone, but I’m letting everyone know now that we’ll need to wrap up around 9 p.m.”
The first time you do this, it may be difficult. Even thinking about doing this may give you anxiety, but, if you don’t set the boundary, others will do it for you, and your resentment will continue to build. You will feel bad and may have to field questions like, “What’s wrong with you?” The important thing is to remember that you are setting a new standard, honoring yourself. If you have trouble doing this, take the time to write down 20 benefits that will result from speaking up, and 20 drawbacks that will result from not speaking up. By doing this, you will immediately see why it is time to make a change.
Another option is to consider asking to change the location to another relative’s house, or to a restaurant for a change. Many options exist, and anything you can do that takes you one step closer to what feels better for you is a start. Remember, if you don’t put forth the effort, nothing will change. At our school, Happiness U, our tagline is “Your life. Your way.” In your situation, modify it and use it as your personal mantra: “My house. My way.”
(Alice Inoue is a life guide that uses the modalities of feng shui, astrology and spirituality in her work. Her offerings include award-