Thursday, November 20, 2008

Personal boundaries

We've all stepped out of our comfort zones on occasion, yes?  Life is all about learning to move beyond comfort, experiencing new things and well, seizing the darned day.  I'm having comfort zone issues lately.  Thought I'd tell you about them.

Call them personal boundaries, or what they really are—quirks.  This weekend I'm going to spend a 'plotting weekend' with friends.  Lois is one of the culprits.  She can verify some of my stranger personal quirks.  (But please, you don't really have to, Lois.)  Anyway, I'm excited for the weekend.  Look forward to plotting out a new book I have to write, and learning by helping others work on their books.

But.  I'm freaking about the whole 'leaving the safety of my home to enter a strange environment' thing.  You see, I don't travel well.  And I really have a problem with staying at new or strange places.  I've already hit Lois with the burning questions: "Will they have clean sheets?  Do we bring our own?  Will I get my own bed?  Do I have to talk to these people all day?  What if I just want to get away from everyone?  Do we spend the whole day in the same place, just...talking?  Communicating?  Bonding?  What will I do?  What WILL I DO?  

Our own personal boundaries are set at about a three foot circumfrance around each of us.  Invade that space, and you're stepping beyond the comfort zone, or rather, into it.  Me?  My boundaries stretch out to about five or six feet.  I see a person enter that zone, I tighten up and cringe.  I see the arms spread for an imminent hug the warning lights start flashing.  "Danger, danger, Will Robinson!  Evacuate!  Get to safety!"

So going to a strange cabin, and sharing rooms with new people is going to really test those personal boundaries.  I know, Lois will pre-warn them not to hug me.  And like I said, I have no problems chatting and plotting.  That will rock.  But will they wonder what's up when I don't sleep at all at night because I'm on a strange mattress that other people have actually slept on before me?  Or have to use a bathroom that people not even in the same family as mine have used?  Aggh!  I'm getting anxious just thinking about it.

Whew.  I leave tomorrow afternoon.  I  can do this.  I really can.  But it's going to be freaky, I just know it.  

So tell about your personal boundaries?  What is truly out of your comfort zone, that you will still do, yet shudder all the way through it?

Hey!  Are you a Follower yet?  You can sign up to Follow to the right.  There may be something fun for Followers next month.  I'm just sayin'...  :-)


AuthorM said...

Your post made me laugh, even as I nodded.

I sooo get you on the hugging thing. I've gotten better in that I can sometimes fake it 'til I feel it regarding hugs, but even then I'm not truly comfortable giving them. Give me a sideways one-armed hug over the full frontal, please. Or better yet, shake hands. Or better yet -- just say hello and say a few feet away!

Sharing a bathroom...oh, man. I don't even like to share with my spouse.

But I like to go places and retreats and conferences and stuff like that -- I have some trusted roommates I'm "used to" so it's not so traumatic, and I can get past personal space issues when necessary. Or at least pretend I'm cool with it.

I promise to NEVER hug you when we meet. We can simply stare at each other from a few feet away!


lois greiman said...

Michele!! I haven't warned them not to hug you! I'm so sorry. What if they like you?? :)

I read somewhere that in the USA our comfort zone is about three feet and that's why we shake hands. In lots of other countries it's about five inches so they're hugging and...I hate to tell you this, M...KISSING. Which, I admit, would pretty much freak me out. But I think that's all about the way I was raised. Growing up, we didn't even TALK to people. In fact, my dad encouraged us not to WAVE to people. But I think now I could get into the whole huggy kissy feely thing. But not with you M!! So you can still converse with me.

Kylie said...

You're talking to someone who refuses to get a relaxing massage (offered free through our district's wellness policy) because I don't like people touching me, LOL!

I have learned to do the hugging thing. I have even learned to get over my problems with it.

As far as outside my comfort zone, I'm thinking of Thanksgiving next week. Having our family (13 of us by now) home to fill the house, which I love. Having their friends in and out all weekend, I also love.

But...there's the dogs. Why do children think I should love their dogs? I have one and having these other two monsters in my house is like having a couple deer running through it when I'm already surrounded by people and trying to keep things clean and cook. Just the thought of the dogs coming home makes me hyperventilate. Really. Need valium. Or lots of margaritas! That is soooo out of my comfort zone!

AuthorM said...

ewwwwww! KISSSING! Kissing has to be the most disgusting thing in the whole worrrrrrrrrrld!!!!!!!!!


Once I get to know someone a little better I can manage a hug, way.



Cindy Gerard said...

Well, gulp. I met Michele face to face for the first time last weekend when I traveled north for the now infamous Chippendales outing and our group book signings. I was so tickled to finally meet her that I hugged the hell out of her. Oh Michele, I'm sorry!!! I missed all the clues.
And darn you Lois ... you tell the world about certain, shall we say, 'happenings' on our night out, but, you didn't think to tell me about the hugging thing!!! We need to talk, woman :o)

Obviously, I'm a hugger. Big hugger. I love people and love to make people feel loved and welcome and wow ... in my tunnel vision world, a hug is supposed to make someone feel comfortable, NOT cringe. And I always assume that if someone doesn't make the overture that really want to but are just too shy to do it. I wonder if I was Italian in one of my other lives??
Anyway, thanks for the reminder that I need to be more sensitive to others' boundaries. Are there signs I should be reading? I mean, so far no one's made a vampire warding cross when I come at them but, there must have been something that should have tipped me off.

Helen Brenna said...

I always miss those signs, too, Cindy, so don't feel bad. In fact, I KNOW this about Michele, but I keep FORGETTING!!

I hate getting up in front of people and talking - even the round robin at our local meeting bothers the heck out of me. But I see it as part of my career, so I even sent in a couple workshop proposals for the RWA conference next year. That should be interesting.

I think you're so brave, Michele, for doing this!! And I hope you have a wonderful time.

Keri Ford said...

I'm a hugger too! I'll hug anybody I know. I'll hug people I saw yesterday or if I haven't seen in a long time or never (meaning we met online!). It'd be weird not to hug. If you nonhuggers don't hugs, we need a list of things body language to look for!

Michele, take you some flip flops to wear in the shower and grab an eggshell mattress to sleep on.

D Twomey said...

I'm a huge hugger too.... and you're right, it doesn't really occur to me that I may be making someone uncomfortable when I hug them. In fact, now that you mention it, I hugged a long lost high school friend a week ago when parting company after lunch a few of us had. Based on things she said during lunch and her demeanor... I'm guessing the hugging thing wasn't something she really care for. I'll have to apologize!

One thing I can't stand? Someone standing so close behind you in a line that you can almost feel their body heat. Ughhhh... That freaks me out! I usually have to sidestep to get away from that situation when it happens.

Anonymous said...

Kylie - NO MASSAGES! ACK! One of the finer pleasures of life!

Hugger - I'm not a big hugger with family. I'm more likely to hug a friend than family. Isn't that odd? I bet a psychiatrist would have a field day with that revelation. And yes, Keri Ford is a hugger. Watch out for her.

I hate taking showers in strange places! And I hate rough sheets. And don't get me started on pillows! I have been tempted to take my own pillow and sheets!

I get weirded out by men who kiss me on the lips when we meet. Isn't that worse?

Michele Hauf said...

Megan, it's a deal. A purposeful stare from across the room when we first meet. Yeah, the sharing the bathroom with the hubby is hard, which is why I've proclaimed our 1/2 bath completely mine. Hee.

Lois, liking does not equal hugging. I mean, come on!

Kylie, I hear you on the massages! Never had one because I don't need all that touching! (BUt man, would it be nice.)

Michele Hauf said...

See, Cindy, for us non-huggers, we know we are outnumbered in this world. So we sort of expect that we will have to put up and hug on that initial meeting if we read the person that way. I could read the hug coming from you, and trust me, it was NOT cringe-worthy. But I'm sure you noticed I didn't get too close or hug too tightly. ;-) But after that first obligatory hug, all bets are off!

Helen, talking before a crowd! Oh man, that's hard. But, surprisingly, I'm getting much better. I just start out my talks now by plaining stating "Hey, I get nervous. My voice shakes, my face turns red." ANd you know? I don't get so nervous anymore. Maybe it's just releasing that anxiety that helps.

Keri, I am taking down names today. Huggers and Non-Huggers. This will come in very handy!
Flip-flops, oh yeah. And socks to wear all over to protect me from the strange carpet and flooring.

D Twomey, the close person in line! aghhhh!!!!!! I just want to turn around and say 'Step back, buddy" but instead I step away, and of course, the breather steps closer!

Arkansas, the pillows! I have lost more of my own pillows because I leave them behind in hotel rooms. I NEVER travel without my own pillow. Who can lay their head on something someone else has lain on? Hundreds of someones!

AuthorM said...

Michele, you're making me cringe and stifle a gag. Please don't make me start thinking about hotel sheets or bathrooms or public restrooms. I swear, the older I get, the more germ-phobic I become.

As for hugging...well...sometimes you have to put up with it, but it's still disconcerting, and if someone *knows* you're not a hugger, they should respect that! Or at least notice the stiff body language and grimace! LOL

Michele Hauf said...

M, does it just kill you that first time you have to carefully ease onto the hotel sheets? Aggh! I always do a once-over, and should really stop, because I hate the things I find sometimes.

Okay, this is creepin' me out!

AuthorM said...

I block a lot of life from my mind in order to get through it without triggering my gag reflex.

Kylie said...

This didn't used to bother me so much but I notice as I get older I have sort of a thing about public restrooms. Love the places with the sheets that automatically puts a fresh cover down for you. It's starting to kind of creep me out.

Perhaps it started when my oldest two were in college living in what my youngest called 'the crack house' with four other guys. It did look like something you'd find in the 'hood! I'd make my husband take me the gas station on the way there so I wouldn't have to use their bathroom!

And port-a-potties. Shudder. The biggest downfall of tailgating!

Betina Krahn said...

Michele, you have my sympathy. At one time in my life I would have thought your need for distance and extensive boundaries strange. . . now I think it's positively sensible.

As I get older, I get a little pickier and a lot more germ-and-dirt phobic. My mother started the thing with public toilets. . . in the absence of real toilet covers, she made us make a toilet paper "nest" in order to go. I quit that as soon as I was old enough to be in a stall by myself. But now I always use the seat cover if one is provided! TMI, I know. sigh.

But the thing that really gets me is people grabbing my soda or water bottle or coffee cup and taking "just a sip." That makes me nutz. Especially when it's my sister, who always wears tons of lipstick. I hate the thought of contact with somebody else's lipstick!! How do guys do it?

I haven't quite gotten to the "always take my own pillow" stage yet, but I can see it coming. And hotel carpets. . . I now wear flip-flops all the time.

What I reeeeally hate is that faintly musty, there-must-be-some-mold-in-here-somewhere smell in hotel rooms and hospitals. (And I don't have a normal sense of smell; I shouldn't be able to smell anything like that, which is why it freaks me out!)

The whole city of New Orleans freaks me out because of it. It takes me three days to get used to the smell. . . by then it's time to go home. But I have always loved going to The Quarter.

Michele Hauf said...

Betina, I have my mother to thank for teaching me the 'hover' method for public restrooms. Don't think I've ever touched a public toilet seat because of it. Yeah, I know, TMI.

I too wonder how guys can handle lipstick. I mean, eww. All smeary and doesn't even taste good. And the lipstick on straws of glasses? I always protect my drink. Don't even share my chapstick.

Michele Hauf said...

Kylie, the portapotties at the Renaissance Festival are the reason I usually end up leaving early. Gotta go!

Michele Hauf said...

ANother thing that disturbs me...incorrect math. Does it bother no one at all that the list of Followers to the right says (19), but it only displays 18? Aggh!

But go Followers!

Keri Ford said...

Michele, my dear, I think it only displays so many before the others are hidden. click on the '19 FOLLOWERS'to see the rest! Which means *pout* I'm about to disappear!

Keri Ford said... won't let me click it. Janet Reid ( has a view all option.

Debra Dixon said...


I totally understand. No one will ever know that I'm not perfectly comfortable in strange surroundings, but I would rather be in my home, dirt sprinkled though it may be. I rarely sleep the first night. And there are all the differences with roomies. I read at night. I don't get up early. I don't always like to be joined at the hip buddies.

When I was on the RWA board, I paid for my own room rather than share. Actually I had no shortage of people who wanted to "room" with me because RWA paid for one room and we split the cost of the other, which gave us both individual rooms.

I find it hard to work at my top speed and best efforts and then not be able to get a little space of my own to recharge.

I did get over the hugging thing (I'm from the South so it was do or die from a very young age.)

Sean and Anna said...

I too have personal boundary issues and I'm glad to see that I am not the only one. I have taken my own pillows and blankets with me when I travel since I was a child. Everything gets washed upon returning home- even the "clean" clothes. I sanitize everything! My family thinks I am totally neurotic about germs but my husband and kids understand.

I hate hotels because of the whole people everywhere thing. I sleep on top of the covers and bundle up in my own stuff. I wear socks in the shower and I refuse to eat of any dishes or drink out of any coffee mugs etc. Don't even get me started on the phones or remotes!

I am also not the most huggy person ever. I'm not mean about it but my husband says I get a panicked look when people hug or strangers touch me. I stopped wearing my favorite perfume because people wanted to smell me all the time- PE teacher, lady at the store etc. Typing all the personal space issues makes me feel a bit loony but I'm really not:)

Do you also have issues about really public places with lots of people? I tend to feel overwhelmed but I go anyways. Being in the military makes it hard to remain private because spouses tend to want to care for everyone and know everyones business. I tolerate that because I know that I can disappear into my room, my haven, later.

lunaticcafe said...

Yeah! I finally figured out how to make myself a follower with a blog name and avatar!!!! In case you were wondering- I am computer challenged. So, now no more Sean and Anna when I comment:) He can get his own-yippee!

Michele Hauf said...

Thanks, Keri, will check that.

Yes, Deb, that space and recharge time is such a necessity. Some people thrive on being around others. I do not. I think social/emotional vampires can suck me dry pretty quickly.

Anna, I cringe to hear you touch the covers! That's the first thing that gets turned back when I arrive. I truly believe those covers NEVER get washed. Aggh! socks in the shower is a new one, but hey, sounds good to me.

Issues with public places? Oh baby! The State Fair makes me want to just die. For real. All those bodies, and so tightly packed together. I never go, and the few times I've had to (kids had art projects that won blue ribbons) it was a harrowing experience.

Now, I can handle something smaller, like the Ren Fest. Personal boundaries are still pretty good there. But the players that come up to you and try to talk or get you to react to their character? Somebody help me!

lunaticcafe said...

I don't lay on the main cover- that gets tossed on the floor! However, I do lay on top of the sheet because that seems better than touching the mattress. I cringe thinking about it. The last time I went to my moms I brought one of those memory foams(resists germs and icky mites) to sleep on, packed it up into a space bag and put it in the closet when I left. Now nobody but me and my husband get to sleep on it!

MaryF said...

I am SO much like this! I take Tylenol PM every time I travel, and my son is the same. I go to my chapter's retreats but drive home to sleep, because I just can't sleep with people I don't know! It's not a germ thing. I think it's a vulnerability thing.

And yes - needing time to myself is important, as is knowing what to expect ahead of time.

M. said...

I tried to click on the follower section and it wouldn't let me in. Only the individual follower pictures were clickable.

catslady said...

I tried to and couldn't do anything!

When I was young there were some distant relatives that would hug and kiss you to death. Apparently my mom grew up with the same thing and so she did the opposite. I was older before I learned it was really kind of nice WITH FRIENDS AND RELATIVES THAT YOU KNEW AND LIKED lol.