I’m a country girl from way back. Rumor has it my family is related to Daniel Boone, the man who continuously moved west, opening new territory because he needed “elbow room” and because, so the story goes, he felt that if he could see the smoke from his neighbor’s chimney, they were just too close.
Whether we were related or not, I can empathize with “Old Boone”. Driving down the highway, I tense if a car is closer than three car lengths ahead or behind me. I hug the shoulder, especially when being passed- being less than a car width away from another driver is just uncomfortable to me.
Walking or standing, there is an imaginary buffer zone we keep around us, called personal space. Some people don’t need much. Others need a lot. I’m one of the ‘a lot’ people. I can understand if someone reaches out to shake my hand. But I’ll meet them half way. The cashier who hands me cash and casually brushes my hand in the exchange disturbs me, because she unwittingly entered my space. Warn me about those frontal hugs, please. I much prefer shoulder to shoulder hugs. Even then, I need to mentally prepare for a few seconds before contact.
In the malls and on the streets, and especially at church, people constantly invade my space. I’ve watched others pile together like puppies, and I laugh at their antics. But I prefer to stay on the outskirts of such activities. Fun? Oh, yes. But put me in the middle and I’ll act like a cat over a bucket of water.
Friends begin to realize that my personal space zone is pretty broad. They are careful to stay out of this space, or to give fair warning before entering it. I’m grateful and much more comfortable for their understanding.
Spiritually, I need space too. Room to grow and react in. Space to be myself, to live up to my potential and to realize my dreams. Too many rules, and I begin to feel stifled. It isn’t that the rules are bad. I can even enjoy them at times, and I understand why others might need or enjoy them. But I need to be given the opportunity to decide which I will follow, and to grow into them on my own.
Having people to be accountable can also be great, but again, people need to warn me before they step in my spiritual space. I don’t care to be watched and hovered over. I need people to trust me and allow me some independence. Perhaps I’m like the teenager who never questioned parental authority. Still, if the parents don’t give me a chance to grow up, I will find a way to grow around the restrictions and overcome them, even if it means distancing myself from them. Like the tree next to a barbed wire fence, I’ll either move the fence or I’ll make the fence a part of me, but I will grow, whether the fence or the farmer want me to or not.
We need boundaries to grow, but we also need space. The amount of space we need can change through the years. But we all need some amount. The sooner we recognize and respect our space and others’ the sooner we can become what we are meant to be.