My perspective on boundaries, avoidance and letting go of the “I am to busy to….”

By Lori Gabriel Gunther, MS, CPXP
CEO Synova Associates LLC

When we avoid what hurts us we aren’t escaping the pain/challenge, all we are doing is delaying the inevitable or denying an opportunity. I think this goes personally or professionally. I can think of many examples in my professional life when I didn’t want to do something because it seemed too hard. It could be addressing the staff member who was having a performance issue. Or applying for a job because the interview process seemed daunting. It could be just asking or advocating for what was needed. It always surprises me what I avoid or just put in the “too hard” box because I feel overwhelmed by the demands of life or there just isn’t enough time.

Lori Gabriel Gunther & Sara R. Gabriel 1995

Lesson learned this weekend. My beautiful loving grandma is 103 (and was a preemie). I used to go once a year to see her in North Carolina.  It’s where all my father’s family lives. When he died unexpectedly 9 years ago, I found it harder to go. I am so much like him I think they found it hard to. My grandma always wanted me though- she never found it hard. I think she found my absence painful and yet I delayed going due to the “busyness of work, kids, life…” As most working Moms I seem to prioritize everything above my own must dos.

My Aunt kept telling me it was time to come. Grandma was failing- it was time. So I went even though I was filled with emotion (and I hate that) to see her. I think I was worried she wouldn’t recognize me. I knew it would be painful. But it wasn’t. It was a gift. She knew me. She couldn’t say my name. But those blue eyes knew me. I got to love her and talk to her and tell her I had come. I brushed her hair like she did mine all those years ago. I feed her lunch and even made her laugh. I got to have a family dinner and sat in the chair my father would have occupied and listened to all the Glen stories and got to hold my Aunt when she cried as I was leaving.

I keep thinking about our last general session talk at the Perinatal Leadership Forum where Dr. Sasha Shillcutt said, “A boundary is a fence that protects your energy, your time & your mental & physical wellbeing.”  Setting boundaries and being clear about what we as individuals need is so important.  For me, I woke up one morning two weeks ago and said, “I need to skip a business trip, cancel my Friday meetings, and buy a plane ticket to go.”  I drew a box on my calendar and said this is what I want and what I need and by being clear with my non-negotiables I got support from every angle.

Was it hard? Yes. Am I so happy I did what I knew would be so hard? Absolutely. Had I been making countless excuses that delayed my trip? Yes. I need to remind myself that having protected family time (not just for my kids or spouse) is crucial. Sometimes everything else can wait just so you can go hug your grandmother. This trip made me reflect on what is important in life.  This is the gift in tackling what scares us- we get reminded what in life matters most and that making time for those things and people is exactly what we work so hard to be able to do.

Lori Gabriel Gunther & Sara R. Gabriel 2024