#SWAAYthenarrative

Tapping Into Strength: A Life With Healthy Boundaries

4 Min Read
Culture

As a mental heath clinician, I was fascinated by the podcast on NPR One last spring entitled "The Shrink Next Door"(produced by Wondery and Bloomberg) for several reasons. For one, it is an alarming story of betrayal and of a degraded mental judgment on the part of the patient that occurred in this day and age, this century, which is probably the main reason for most of the shock.

However, I have to say that most shocking of all was the tepid response to Marty Markowitz's initial conclusive complaint and the many steps that he had to take to receive an appropriate interest into his remarkable story of psychological mistreatment and betrayal. His damning complaint took four whole years to review, and it was not even completed at the time of the story's broadcast.

What's more, it appears that once the responding agency got wind of the media attention following the story's publication, their handling of the issue changed for the better — which is even more discerning and telling of American culture and its feckless systems.

Interestingly enough, this is a culture that rails over "Big Brother" watching, but it has repeatedly shown a lackluster response unless there is intense scrutiny. It seems that it is not until many eyes are watching that certain people in power feel the pressure to respond compassionately — which is a devastating reality when you think about it. I can't imagine the atrocities that have gone unheard simply because people have been numb and hard-hearted in their response to minor and major personal attacks.

Naturally, a nation is made up of people, and when people are not supportive of boundaries, it becomes evident in all that they do: systems falter, relationships crumble, and violence occurs.

As much as it saddens and enrages me, it does not totally surprise me, as I have seen it before; the people who know better (i.e the people who publicly pledge to ease others from their mental ailments and suffering) are oftentimes the chief ones inflicting pain. It usually is because they are impotent and shiftless beings who are seeking to establish their own dominance rather than looking to provide the kind of attention that heals.

The thing about psychology and mental health treatment is that it does not work if you do not have boundaries. Boundaries are the imaginary lines that form the basis for treatment and psychological and emotional wellness. The importance of having them cannot be stressed enough, as they are key psychological constructs that are only upheld by consistent behaviors. They really are the source of mental fortitude and strength; boundaries are responsible for all aspects of a society and a community.

Boundaries are upheld by people, and consistent upkeep of each boundary establishes the limits that ultimately provide directions that are helpful and, indeed, protective. The ideal is to have everyone in the community supporting the boundary; this gives strength to the ideals set forth in the community and it creates harmony amongst the people.

It is no wonder that America has lost its stride as a nation because of the obvious erosion of boundaries. Naturally, a nation is made up of people, and when people are not supportive of boundaries, it becomes evident in all that they do: systems falter, relationships crumble, and violence occurs.

The thing about government agencies is that they are entirely reliant on the boundaries of those that are leading them; therefore, when agency policies are consistently derided and made awash as government leaders abandon professional boundaries for personal profit, communities suffer. Agencies become money pits with few profits to render. It is why many social service agencies suffer from recidivism and high staff turnovers.

Interestingly enough, this is a culture that rails over "Big Brother" watching, but it has repeatedly shown a lackluster response unless there is intense scrutiny.

I believe that there are few government agencies that are effective. The majority really just exist to provide some people with a consistent paycheck and aimless routines. This is all because of a lack of boundaries that are supportive of their everyday mission. Many agencies continue in a haphazard fashion of functioning for years simply because their actions are not rightly aligned with their stated goals.

This issue of boundary erosion also explains the systematic racism that afflicts government agencies and even private ones; people like being around people that are supportive of their boundaries and/or a lack thereof, so they will readily hire a person who appears to be like them. When you have large swaths of people living alike and doing the same things, it is likely that they would think the same way and support the same boundaries, and any efforts to dissuade them from it would be immediately thwarted and unsupported. This also further explains American economic disparities as well, for obvious reasons.

I have to note that anything can be set as a boundary, so it is not simply about having a boundary. It further requires the boundary is connected to something that will historically succeed. For example, when an agency's mission is reflective of society's mission, success will abound, all because of the strength that is tied into the collective mission. We live in a world that was formed by God, and any actions that are tied to the teachings of his son are ultimately connected to God and will be supported. This is the way that has been allowed for us to tap into the ancient streams of life; supporting God's teachings is supporting his boundaries, and this gives us the chance to align with his ancient strongholds. Any longterm success can be traced to this fact. It is for this reason that many agencies have to pivot to a story of giving and overall humanity so as to tap into this eternal strength.

Honesty with yourself is also important, because once you know who you are, you will come face to face with your truths: Are your actions supportive of yourself? Are you living as you believe you should?

In the workplace, terms like "team player" always leave me on guard, as they are often used as an opportunity to erode personal boundaries. Fast-paced, fast-changing practices are likewise ineffective and an effort to distract from the necessary human underpinnings of small gains, consistency, and enduring focus. The idea of a democracy is a double edged sword, and it is only useful when everyone is given the opportunity to express themselves. One must be aware that this takes time, respect, and a clear outlook on what one is trying to achieve. Given these necessary parameters, it is no wonder so many agencies are unsuccessful, as people lay unfulfilled and and frustrated. Many leaders are often under intense pressure, especially in government, and they often fail to see the forest for the trees.

It is important to note that personal and professional weakness abound when individuals are not supportive of their own personal ideals, as this affects their ability to continue successfully stand up to external and even internal pressure in the face of adversity. This is the same for agencies and companies, who will not sustain their efforts if they are not aligned in a way that is protective of their employees, their customers, and their mission.

In the workplace, terms like "team player" always leave me on guard, as they are often used as an opportunity to erode personal boundaries.

As complicated as our problems seem to be as a nation, we are able to fix it pretty quickly with a few things. One of the most important is self-knowledge: Who are you? What is your core? Honesty with yourself is also important, because once you know who you are, you will come face to face with your truths: Are your actions supportive of yourself? Are you living as you believe you should? Respect for boundaries is the next natural step, as you have to consider whether you are upholding your own boundaries. Once you are able to recognize this, you will naturally recognize the boundaries of others and respectfully support them. When you have completed this self-examination, you will have a firm belief in the things that are true, and you will tap into the ancient strongholds that have been designed to keep people safe. No matter the constancy of the hate that is hurled in your direction, none of it will materialize, as you are strengthened against any onslaughts. Truth has no match, and the spectacle that is the current American presidency is simply an opportunity for us to witness lies disintegrate in the infirm. Each day, our job is to dig in our heels into our beliefs and to do the little acts that we can do to support them, whenever we are so inclined. This is the meaning of life. This is the tree of life. It is every man for himself!

5 min read
Self

Lessons Learned and the Power of Turning 50

Except for 16, I have celebrated all of my milestone birthdays in New York City.

I turned 16 in Arnold, Missouri. Arnold is a small town (though not small anymore) 20 miles south of St. Louis. St. Louis is known for the Gateway Arch, a beautiful arch of shiny stainless steel, built by the National Parks Service in 1935 to commemorate Thomas Jefferson's vision of a transcontinental U.S. St. Louis is also known for its custard, a frozen dessert that is so thick, they hand it to you upside down with a spoon inside. Something else about St. Louis you should know is that there is a courthouse just steps from the base of the Gateway Arch where one of the most important cases in history was tried: Dred Scott v. Sanford.

I'm turning 50 during what I define as a miraculous time to be alive.

Mr. Scott was born into enslavement around 1799 and, in 1830, was sold to a military surgeon who traveled back and forth between his military posts in Illinois and Wisconsin, where slavery was prohibited under the Missouri Compromise of 1820. In 1842 the doctor and Mr. Scott both married, and they, all four, returned to St. Louis. Still enslaved, Dred Scott filed a lawsuit against the doctor's wife for his and his wife Harriet's freedom. We don't know exactly why he chose this moment in time to file a lawsuit, however, he did. At the time of filing his, now, famous lawsuit, he was 50 years old. Ultimately, The Scott family did not gain their freedom, but their profound courage in filling this case helped ignite the Civil War and what we would come to know (or think we know) as freedom from enslavement for all human beings. Powerful then and even more powerful now.

My next milestone was turning 21, and I did it in the Big Apple. Having only moved to "the city that never sleeps" a few months prior, I knew nobody except my new friends, the bus-boys from the restaurant I was working at, Patzo's on the Upper West Side. And, yes, pazzo is actually the correct spelling of the Italian word, which translates to "crazy." Trust me we all had several laughs about the misspelling and the definition going hand in hand. I worked a full shift, closing out at around 11 PM, when, my kitchen team came out from the line with a cake singing, "Cumpleaños Feliz." It was fantastic. And the kindness of these almost-strangers was a powerful reminder of connection then as it still is today almost 29 years later.

I design the life I desire and the Universe creates it for me every day. I show up, keep the story moving, and work hard because I am relentlessly devoted to making the world a better place and this is how I choose to leave my legacy.

When I turned 30, I had just finished a European tour with Lucinda Childs dance company. The company had been on tour for months together and were inseparable. We traveled through Paris, Vienna, Lisbon, and Rome. We ate together, we rode on a bus together, we had drinks after shows together, and we even took turns giving company class to get warmed up before a show. It was deeply meaningful and dreamy. We ended the tour back in New York City at BAM, The Brooklyn Academy of Music. It was an incredible way to end the tour, by being on our home court, not to mention I was having an important birthday at the culmination of this already incredible experience.

So, when I invited everyone to join me at Chelsea Pier's Sky Rink to ice skate in late August, I was schooled really quickly that "tour" does not mean you are friends in real life, it means you are tour friends. When the tour ends, so does the relationship. I skated a few laps and then went home. This was a beautiful lesson learned about who your real friends are; it was powerful then as it is today.

Turning 40 was a completely different experience. I was in a serious relationship with my now-husband, Joe. I had just come off of a successful one-woman dance show that I produced, choreographed, and danced in, I had just choreographed a feature film, John Turturro's Romance and Cigarettes, with A-list actors, including Kate Winslet and James Gandolfini, who became a dear friend and had even been on the red carpet with Susan Sarandon at the Venice Film Festival for the movie a year earlier.

And I encourage all women to identify their power and choose to be fully in your power at any age.

This was a very special birthday, and I had, in those 10 years between 30 and 40, come to cultivate very real friendships with some wonderful colleagues. We all celebrated at a local Italian restaurant, Etcetera Etcetera (who is delivering for those of you in NYC — we order weekly to support them during COVID), a staple in the theater district. Joe and I were (and are) regulars and, of course, wanted to celebrate my 40th with our restaurant family and friends. We were upstairs in the private room, and it was really lovely. Many of those in attendance are no longer with us, including Joe's Dad, Bob Ricci, and my dear friend Jim Gandolfini having transitioned to the other side. Currently, that restaurant is holding on by a thread of loving neighbors and regulars like us. Life is precious. Powerful then and today even more so.

I write this article because I'm turning 50, still in New York City. However, I'm turning 50 during what I define as a miraculous time to be alive. And I could not be more filled with hope, love, possibility, and power. This year has included an impeachment hearing, a global pandemic, and global protests that are finally giving a larger platform to the Black Lives Matter movement. Being able to fully embody who I am as a woman, a 50-year-old woman who is living fully in purpose, takes the cake, the rink, and the party.

I'm making movies about conversations around race. I've been happily married for 11 years to the love of my life, Joe Ricci. I'm amplifying and elevating the voices of those who have not previously had a platform for speaking out. I choose who to spend time with and how long! I design the life I desire and the Universe creates it for me every day. I show up, keep the story moving, and work hard because I am relentlessly devoted to making the world a better place and this is how I choose to leave my legacy. Being 50 is one of the most amazing things I ever thought I could experience. And I encourage all women to identify their power and choose to be fully in your power at any age. I'm 50 and powerful. Dred Scott was 50 and powerful. This powerful lesson is for today and tomorrow. We have the power. No matter what age you are, I invite you to use your powerful voice to join me in making the world a better place.