A call from “Restricted” woke us up. First Jerry’s cell, then mine. I stumbled out of bed in time to pick up the landline.
It was a familiar and importunate friend, wanting a ride to a doctor. This particular woman has appointments with one of dozens of specialists almost every day (usually far away) for herself or one of her three elderly cats. Or she wants rides to stores for which she has a 5-cent coupon on toothpaste or a two-for-one on refrigerator magnets. She has a mailing list of close to 100 people she contacts on a regular basis for rides and other favors and whenever we hear from her I feel like I have fishhooks in my flesh all over my body. We have helped her when we can but–
“No,” I said. “We’re not available. If we were I would have responded to your emails and texts.”
“Let me understand–”
“We have doctors’ appointments ourselves every day this week. I have to go now.”
“Let me understand. You aren’t available–for how long?”
“For the foreseeable future. I need to hang up now.” Catch and release, T–. She doesn’t let people go, even if she keeps us hooked by apologizing and offering us gifts to compensate for bothering us–a book she got free or a bag of oranges someone gave her–but I have gotten H-E-double-toothpicks from her in the past when in desperation I finally hung up on her, or even gave her suggestions like letting her long-suffering cats be put down.
One of the best books I never read is titled, “When Helping You is Hurting Me.” Or my husband. Or brother. My ability to be there for them.
Boundaries. When I’m not blindsided by penetration from an unexpected source, I’m getting better at enforcing them.