Boundaries & Vulnerability

I had lunch with a friend today. He’s an insightful guy, and we tend to have intense conversations. I was telling him about a date I had recently, with a guy who spent most of the three hours we were together telling me about himself. “Didn’t he ask you any questions?” Dan asked, and I kind of shrugged. Well, yes, a few. But they were so general I didn’t know how to respond. “So you’re a writer” leaves me at a loss. I like specifics. I thrive on detail. Ask me about my process. Tell me you want to know something titillating no one else knows about my characters. “So you’re a writer” will just close me right up.

Dan begged to differ. Dan said I’m wide open and curious about other people, but reluctant to let anyone go too deep when it’s my turn to be explored. I tried to tell him he was wrong, but he was having none of it. I’m territorial, he said, and he backed up his assessment with specifics: I don’t always like to answer his (probing) questions. I’m a little crazy about my writing time. I wouldn’t share my curry with him. There might have been a pantomime, with Dan demonstrating the walls I’m apparently erecting left and right.

He also reminded me that I’m interested in boundaries, and explore them voraciously in my writing.

Here’s a snippet of Joel’s voice from my third novel, in progress.

Seven years of therapy and a flicker of faith in some sort of inherent self-worth made me leave Adam when I found out about his affair, and despite the current of pain that runs through pretty much my every waking moment, for the most part I’ve been grateful I didn’t stay. My boundaries suck. If I needed proof all I’d have to do is look at my relationship with James. I let those boundaries bleed all over the place and just when I think we’ve cauterized every last vein we start seeping.

Of course, when those boundaries start seeping… well, that’s where the story gets good. I suppose I have to remind myself of that every so often, because vulnerability doesn’t come naturally to me. My tendency over the years has been along the lines of suck it up. Case in point: the day before yesterday I was boiling a pot of tea and I poured the water directly into a glass pitcher. The glass exploded, and this happened.

Ouch

My first thought? How much writing time am I going to lose.

Thirty minutes, as it turned out, just enough for me to clean up and post a Note to Self about the mishap on Facebook. Adrenaline might have carried me, but I wrote for over two hours and saved the sobbing for the afternoon. I was going to hold that boundary.

Negotiating the space between boundaries and vulnerability… that’s not easy for me. It’s not easy for my characters either.

I suppose the question I have to ask myself–and thank my characters for epitomizing–is, do I want to live a good story?

Copyright © 2015 Jennifer Hritz All Rights Reserved