What does it mean to have good boundaries? I've been told that good boundaries are porous. Does that mean that things that hurt me make it through anyway? Does that mean that things that I'd rather not have known make it out?
Yes. Because the alternative is stasis. The work lies in what happens next. Instead of seeing boundaries like walls, I try to envision them as gates into a palace. Each with successively more protection. The reason for the guards isn't to keep everyone out (unless there's an attack) but rather to let people in. To make sure that they're the right person to enter to the next level. Each of these gates creates successive layers to our interconnected circles of trust.
When we make vulnerable work that seeks to make change in the world, we put ourselves at risk. Emotionally, spiritually, and sometimes physically. If we make a piece about trans rights, we may not want a gender critical "activist" to make it to the panel discussion to tell us that we're a travesty to humanity. When we write about an old lover and the effects of the relationship on our work, we may not want them to receive that email.
I think of my creative practice like a giant flow of energy that is successively dammed and diverted by the boundaries of the different mediums and distribution channels that I've beginning to engage with. I write everything in my morning pages. It's for no one - I don't ever read it later. I write a bit less in my Akimbo dailies. I edit that post a bit and strip out some workshop specific things to post to my blog (although I am considering how I may want to reconsider how much I share here). I'm considering how this translates to social media. A quipy line for twitter. A photo and vignette for instagram. A video clip of my music for tiktok.
Do you filter your work to protect yourself? Do you understand who your audience is on a particular platform? Do you understand their expectations? Do you work to set expectations for yourself and those that encounter your work? Do you create clear directions for how someone might move inwards or outwards within your circles of trust?
Yet regardless of how much we work to clarify these boundaries and the interchanges between them, things will always slip through. The most important questions come then? How do we respond? How do we direct people back to the right level? How do we redesign the process? We may need new guards, new levels, new expectations. Sometimes the only redesign required is a deep breath.
Ultimately the only person responsible for your own boundaries is you. If someone ends up where you don't want them to be, the only person you can control is still yourself. Do you treat yourself gently in that moment? Or are you busy pulling out the whip to flog the guards who were just doing their best within the imperfect systems that you set up for them.
The truth of being porous, of being vulnerable, of being an artist is that we will be hurt. The courageous bit is when we show up anyway, again, and again, and again. The stupid part is if we don't bring a helmet.