“Fences needed to go up; boundaries required protecting. Bin Laden was not invited to dinner, nor was the humanitarian crisis in Libya, nor were the Tea Party Republicans…Our family time was when big worries and urgent concerns got abruptly and mercilessly shrunk to nothing so that the small could rightly take over.”
– Excerpt from Becoming by Michelle Obama
The end of 2018 gave us a gift, the release of Michelle Obama’s Becoming. She has been touring and filling arenas based on this book. People have been flocking from all over to get a copy and to hear her speak, and rightfully so! My book club even decided to stop our current read and shift gears to gain a glimpse into the life and times of our Forever First Lady. (FYI: I do not intend to spoil the book for you if you have not read it yet. However, if you have not already done so, you need to find the nearest version and jump into this book!)
While Becoming was filled with many gems, notes of honesty, and wisdom, the above quote stood out to me as profound among the rest. Here was the first Black woman to occupy the White House as a tenant rather than a servant, who dealt with various world leaders, daily criticism, her own platforms of health initiatives, kids, the weight of being married to the President, finding time to remember herself and who knows what else, saying that she had boundaries. Saying that each thing had a stopping point for her to be able to maintain a semblance of herself and to keep perspective on the little parts of her day that made her feel whole, which at the time was her family and 2 little girls. This statement seemed so self-empowering and assuring.
I don’t know about you, but the end of 2018 and the start of 2019 have been low key kicking my butt. Between crazy work hours, a long commute, organizational commitments, trying to be present for the people in my life, showing up for myself, fitting in some time to eat and sleep, and starting my own blog, some days I barely find myself functioning by the end. If not these things for you, I am sure that you know what it feels like to try to maintain balance in your own seeming chaos. I felt all of my lines starting to blur together as I started to push everything into overdrive to make the most of the end of last year and capitalize on the start of this new one, staying late at work, staying up later to write, trying to wake up to do it all again.
I feel like Black women are always expected to be 100% with all things at all times, which was the model to which I was trying to ascribe. Yet, here was Michelle saying 100% in one thing at one time is okay. Everything has its place. It was like a breath of fresh air. Permission to take a step back and to build the boundaries for myself to maintain the things that bring me joy. If Michelle Obama can listen to what her daughter did in kindergarten instead of worrying about a humanitarian crisis, I can take advantage of the time when I get home from work to finish reading that book that I have been enjoying instead of worrying about and responding to that work email. It’ll still be there once I have given myself the time that I need for whatever I need.
With Michelle’s words in my mind, I am moving forward into this year resetting and protecting some boundaries for myself. If you find yourself also in a boat with the gears shifted into overdrive, I hope that you’ll join me in doing so as well. In seeking to do so, I find myself thinking on a new set of questions:
What are the moments in your life that you need to place a fence around for yourself?
What are the areas taking up more space than necessary?
How can you protect the boundaries you want to establish?
As you think on your own boundaries, share your thoughts below!
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