Can we talk about what boundaries really mean?


Well-Known Member
Witz, I was thinking the same thing. She thinks it is controlling her and what she can say. I feel I've done my time and it is distressing to listen to the same ole and same ole over and over again so I feel I am protecting myself. My attempt to talk to her about it was met with EXTREME hostility so, no, I guess we can't talk about

From now on, just like I do with my Dad, our talks are not going to be of any substance anymore. Just the weather, our general health, and other non-contentious topics. That's all.

Scent of Cedar *

Well-Known Member
When she typed "You are borderline. I don't expect you to understand boundaries" I
just typed, "Ok." (I think it was nasty to bring up borderline. I do have
traits. I have never been diagnosed and I have made good progress.).
This is a cruel and manipulative statement, made to destroy you.

Your posts are kind, sincere, and fair, MWM. You share with all of us to help us with no gain to yourself. That is not what someone with borderline issues does.

I am sorry this person attacked you. Your sister sounds like a heartless bozo who struck out to hurt you. There is nowhere else for a statement like that to go.

I thought I was setting a boundary, and her reaction made me wonder about boundaries...are they an attempt to control the other person as she suggests?
Yes. We are learning to set boundaries around ourselves, so people who should love us (and whom we trust to love us) cannot slam through our vulnerable places to hurt and control US.

So in a way, your sister is right. You are setting a boundary to control her. She cannot knock you, cannot reach in and hurt you, with impunity, anymore. She has to fight for it, now ~ which is why she brought up personality traits you might feel would make you unfair in your judgments. That is the abuser's primary tool, MWM. I know you know that, already. When we are hurt out of left field like this by someone we think we can trust, we are shaken to the foundations of our beings.

And for what?

So the abuser gets a "win".

The abuser's primary tactic is to make us doubt that we heard what we heard, that we saw what we saw. Then, they have us right where they want us.

Your sister is abusing you.

She does not like it that you are standing up.

Her responses are classic abuser responses. Right down to using information you shared with her in trusted confidentiality against you.

I want to punch her right in the nose.



Maya Angelou says there are people in all our lives who are what she calls "duck peckers". These are people who get close enough to blow on your skin to anesthetize you, to get your guard down, to soften you up. Then, they lean in quick and take a bite out of that little side of your nose or maybe, out of your earlobe. So quick you can't even be sure they bit you, they stand back up, denying they would ever hurt you and accusing you of being a nasty person for accusing them of wanting to hurt you.

"Besides," they will say, with contempt, "you're bleeding! Geez, go take care of that."

That is a duck pecker, according to Maya. And when we see one coming, we need to holler, with our whole might, "STOP IT!"

We need to not listen to them, MWM.

What they want, again according to Maya, is us, dead.


I am going through something similar with my sister. Since I have been standing up, not forgiving, not backing down, not understanding ~ man, has my sister grown teeth!

I didn't know what to make of it, either.

But for your sister to throw an illness in your face, knowing that comment would give her an unfair advantage because the nature of the illness is that you are not sure your behavior was the best you can be...that is plain mean duck pecking, MWM.

You are right to establish boundaries with this person. I am learning that the abusive people in my life aren't even benefiting in any way that would at least, be some reason to betray and belittle and manipulate me. They are just abusive people, MWM. Like any rapist, who rapes because he is a rapist, like any thief, who steals because he is a thief, abusive people abuse because they are abusers. There is no reason, no rationale, no justification, and worse yet, no pay off.

It is nothing personal, MWM.

If you consistently stand up, she will run away. Your sister will play the old games with a vengeance. And then? She will run away. That is what mine is doing.

And my mother.

I am looking with these new eyes of mine at the strange patterns of behavior I have encouraged all these years, in my family of origin. In seeing it that way, I can actually see the pointless ugliness of it and, at the same time, remain just far enough away from it that their terrible manipulations don't hit home.

So...I have been able to stay standing.

I wished for the fantasy family too, MWM. But now that I am stronger, I see what I see. And it is so pointlessly ugly and hurtful that it breaks my heart.

But the thing is, they have always done this. I understand, I back up, I forgive, pretend it didn't happen, assure myself they never meant to hurt me the way they did.

But they did mean it, MWM.

And I am sad, but I have to see it for what it is.


That is what I am learning, MWM. Maybe it was Recovering who told me that every dysfunctional family has a caretaker type. I am the caretaker in my family of origin. Given that you are so kind and so fair, here on the site, I would venture a guess that you are the caretaker in your family.

The rest resent you for who you are. That is what fuels the meanness.

My heart goes out to you, you are trying so hard to see her point of view and do the right thing, you are most endearing MWM.
I wholeheartedly agree. You are most endearing, MWM.

Your sister kind of sucks, though.



She was really being abusive, bringing up every secret I have shared with her about myself in a nasty way
I am sorry you were abused in this way, MWM. But I am gloriously, passionately happy that you are seeing it for what it is. Keep those texts. When you begin to doubt that she did what she did? Reread them. It is unbelievable what people say and do...and I can never understand what the payoff for them is. It must be like Recovering says. Though we cannot see it? There is some underlying jealousy or resentment or something there that we don't see.


Actually? I don't get it, either.


But at least I have my eyes open, now.

Still really hurts me though, to know what they did to me, to think how they must see me. But if I can stand up to my kids? I can sure stand up to them.

With bells on.

You're confused because she counterattacked hard, hitting your soft spots
Yes she did! And you were not attacking her!


I am so happy that you posted about this. I have been trying to answer for two days. I keep rattling off into my own stuff.



Scent of Cedar *

Well-Known Member
This is a shock to me. I always told myself she was the nice one and I was the dog. Looking back, it was never that way.
I always told myself that my sister needed me. She was younger. I was responsible because I was older. (By two and a half years ~ which isn't much, when you're both little kids and the situation is abusive. But I never thought that way, until now. I felt so guilty and responsible because I could not protect anyone. Not even myself, of course.)

I have that shocky feeling too, about my family. I remember that same feeling when I read your posting on abusive adult children and realized my own son was being abusive to me. I don't know why we forever forgave the nastiness in the words these people spoke to us, MWM. My sister was not verbally abusive until I called her on some of the things she was saying and doing to our brother. But boy, when she let loose. That was a shock, too.

But now that I am seeing? I have that same, shocky feeling.

I looked up bullying on the internet? Boy, that was helpful to me.

she used to talk to me about him looking "gross" all the time.
That is a pattern in our dysfunctional family too, MWM. Everyone is running everyone else down behind their backs, or treating them as unimportant to their faces. It's all so pointless, so stupidly ugly. They say dysfunctional families do that because the children were raised in an atmosphere of scarcity. The other sibs must be destroyed so there will be enough for you.

I hope I never did that?

But I am sure I did.

Like Maya Angelou says: When we knew better, we did better.

My sister and my mother do that too, MWM. Between them, they create a reality skewed (decidedly skewed) in their favor. But here's the thing: What they get out of it makes no sense. I don't understand the putting someone else down making the person feel better. That would just make all of us feel worse, right?

But that is what they are doing, alright.

she got all defensive and said it's in the past and we have different memories
Now that I have been listening and responding differently to my sister? She tells me RIGHT IN THAT MINUTE that I said something different than what I just said. Do you know that, until I caught on to what I was doing, I explained what I had meant by what I had said, over and over?



I can not have this toxicity in my life.
I WILL not have this toxicity in my life.

You all know I was addicted to Beverly Hills Housewives for awhile, there. One of them who was in a contentious relationship with one of the others said: "It's not acceptable."

That is all she said.

Clear, steady, no defensiveness.

"That's not acceptable."

So, I have been using that.

When we don't know how to think in a healthy way about standing up for ourselves? That is when I try to catch an episode or two of Beverly Hills Housewives.

It works, for me.

What do you think I should respond if she texts me yet again in order to get the last word in?
husband gave me this one, just the other day. I was wondering what was going to happen next with me rebellion to my family of origin.

"I told you what I expected."

That's it.


Keep it really simple, so you don't forget, when the time comes.

I realized I'm actually afraid of all this confrontation. Part of me is. Now that I am healthier from being here on the site? A bigger, brighter, freer, kinder and more sincere part of me refuses to accept anything less.

I like it.

I'm pretty scared? But I really like this standing up business.


Scent of Cedar *

Well-Known Member
Boundaries have to do with forgiving ourselves. As we become healthier, as we are more and more "present" in our interactions, boundary issues will no longer be a problem for us. When we forgive ourselves, we stop punishing ourselves. When we stop punishing ourselves for whatever is happening, now or in the past, we begin to like ourselves, to cherish ourselves even.

That is why it is important to do special things for ourselves as we heal.

It all goes together.



Well-Known Member
That is a pattern in our dysfunctional family too, MWM. Everyone is running everyone else down behind their backs, or treating them as unimportant to their faces. It's all so pointless, so stupidly ugly.

Whoa and Wow, and Ouch. I have often thought about this in my family. My brother (only sibling) and i build each other up, we support each other--as this board does--and it is, oh so helpful/valuable---to have that.

My parents tear down, find fault (disguising it as "just worried"), as do my father in law and sister in law.

husband and i keep contact to the minimum necessary for keeping relationships with them. We both have many beautiful memories of our parents (mother in law has been deceased for 12 years), but there has also been pain. Our parents are 83, 84 and 90, so that plays into our roles.

This has been interesting reading...eye-opening for my own life. Difficult choices to weigh--sometimes clear cut, sometimes not so much.

Scent of Cedar *

Well-Known Member
My parents tear
down, find fault (disguising it as "just worried"), as do my father in law and sister in law.
Yes. My brother is helpful to me, too. Your comment, Strength, brought up my sister's behavior just after difficult child daughter's beating. Poor difficult child, her judgment affected by the beating, was posting about all of it on FB. Pics, too. Though I had already had the second run in with my sister and was persona non grata with a bullet, my sister FB me, wanting to know how difficult child was. I posted back: "What is it you want to know." Quick as a wink, she posted back, "Nothing. I already know."


My mother? I never heard from, at all.

But, just like I posted somewhere else, I had everything I needed to incorporate what had happened to difficult child, and to heal, from this site, from all of you.


I think ("Oh, brother!" MWM says. "Not what Cedar thinks, again!")


I think that, having established boundaries with our children, something in us requires that we "expect to be respected" in our other relationships, too. We don't buy into the excuses as readily and when we do, we are excruciatingly aware of it. It bothers and bothers us until eventually, something happens and we choose not to ignore it. I remember Recovering posting that this new strength of hers affected even her professional life.

My point is that, as I think through what my intentions are for my family of origin, I don't think I need to think too much more about any of it except to have that key phrase husband gave me ("I told you what I expected."), and to forgive myself around that whole issue of trying to ~ I don't know. Trying to find a better way for me, for my family, I suppose, and failing.

It turns out that was such a big piece for me.

I never even knew it was there. But, just as I felt guilty for what happened to my kids, I felt guilty that the "fixing" (or standing, or loving them anyway ~ whatever it is that we call that caretaking role) I try to do in my family of origin never fixed either me or them.

husband gave me that one, too.

Know what happened when he said that? When, during another marathon session about what to do about my family of origin, he said, "Forgive yourself."

I started to cry.

That's how deeply buried, and how intense, those feelings of guilt were.

I never cry. Maybe a little eye moisture. Maybe, with everything that's happened with the kids, that kind of rageful crying you do in private.

One time, when we believed difficult child daughter was going into organ failure, I could not seem to stop that kind of crying where you aren't really crying, but you can't seem to make your eyes stop getting wet. That happened RIGHT IN PUBLIC.

I even posted about it.

But I did cry, when husband said that I needed to forgive myself.

And I never even saw it coming.

When husband said to forgive myself? All at once, I could see then, that I had been brave. That I had been generous. That I had, to the best of my ability to do that anyway, chosen to hold an intention to love instead of giving in to the blind defensiveness of hate or anger to build myself up, to protect myself from the hurt of it. I could feel how bone tired I was, from standing up like that. (A codicil: It may be that the others just don't see what is happening, and I do. So, it would be my responsibility to hold a good intention and blah, blah, blah.)

If you are the caretaker type, you may have that same tiredness, you may hold those same judgments against yourself of having failed to help, of having been able to change nothing.

Forgive yourself.


After whatever it was that happened around forgiving myself, I began (and I am still seeing) to see a different interpretation of the things that somehow always keep happening, in my family of origin. That is why I keep coming back to this thread. Posting here as I have has opened secret places where I harbored the hurt of it, has opened secret places where I never let myself see what it was for what it was. But you know, after a flash or three of blazing anger? What I feel is compassion. Like me, they are doing the best they know to survive what has happened to all of us.

Recovering described it to me once as a feeling of having been raised like a litter of puppies where the mother has only one nipple, only one place where the nourishment we all needed to live could be found. Somehow, even as adults, we are all still trying to get that nourishment we need to survive.

That made such perfect sense to me.

How can any of us be faulted, for trying to patch ourselves together out of the hurt of it, out of the scarcity, in whatever way works, for us?

So...what I am working toward here is that it isn't about them. It is about me, it is about trusting my interpretations of what is happening between all of us.

And it is about understanding that, even if we all are starving, expecting respect is a correct stance.


I let myself see the nastiness in the games my family had set up around my typical responses to them, to their meanness or craziness, after the forgiveness episode. It was like I knew it? But I didn't let myself have a feeling about it.

Now, I do.

Here is one: So, my sister told me that, since my father's death, she and my mother have come up with a phrase they use whenever they do not know how to look at a thing. The phrase was, "What would Cedar do?" And then, my sister said, they would laugh and laugh and laugh. (For those who aren't aware of it, there is a phrase: "What would Jesus do?") Do you see the sickness there, the determination to find common ground on which to exclude and make me look foolish?

And the deal would be cinched, of course, when my sister made me aware of the private joke she and my mother shared, about me.

Laughter can be an acceptable cover for hostility, of course. It (laughter) can be the anesthetic used before someone duck pecks us. If everyone is laughing, no one is being hurt, right?

That is why it is important to remember the duck pecking analogy, if your family of origin is dysfunctional.

My sister laughs, alot.

My mother is outright mean, and makes no bones about it.

Ha! I'm still scared to death of my mother, a little bit.

So, for those of us who are caretakers, for any of us who felt responsible for what happened to our kids...forgive yourselves. You need to be able to access that strength, that passion and compassion, for yourself and your own family, now.

It isn't even like standing up to anyone, anymore.

It feels more like clarity of vision. And like we say here on the site about our relationships to our self destructive kids...once you see it, you cannot unsee it.



Well-Known Member
Another good, thoughtful post, Cedar.

Reading about all this "family of origin" biz (I call them my DNA collection), I am relieved that I had such a small family. They sure caused fireworks for so few of them. Thankfully, they didn't include many and my brother and my uncle (mother's brother) and my father's brother did not breed. I think it's a good thing. I feel that personality disorders/meanness is partly inherited, if not mostly inherited. I think it will be proven in the future, just as we now know that schizophrenia is biochemical and inherited and only fifty years ago, when I was a kid, they swore it was caused by faulty parenting. I think biology is going to win the battle of who we are, in large part. We have difficult children. We tend to have crazy DNA collections too. The difficult children, if not adopted, did not happen in a vacuum. If adopted, look at the family of origin they came from.

I am also glad that, for reasons beyond my own will, that I had little contact for over ten years with difficult child mother, little to do with brother in NJ (talk to him once every four or five years now) and my mother's brother (my unc) who my first memory of is when he called me "brat" back when he was in college and I was maybe four years old. That was his nickname for me and he meant it and my mother cracked up when he called me that, even when I cried. Then I was being "sensitive." Such a nice guy!!!!

I've actually only had contact with my own little family (husband and children) and my sister and she's been driving me up a wall. Oh, yeah. I can deal with my Dad too, since I set boundaries and since he has been very good about following them.

My mother kept my pretty much away from my father's family and he allowed her to do it. He has a big family. I do not know how they function. I am not a part of them. I guess I'm glad, knowing my father's narcissism, that I did NOT know them because I can only guess what sort of drama goes on amongst that many people who are or are living with difficult child adults.


Well-Known Member
Staff member
I've had 22 years of therapy since I was 23 years old, a good portion of it to get over my childhood. As I've progressed along the road of health, I've had to detach from many family members. Each one of them was literally a casualty of my growth and health. If I did not detach, the nature of the connection shifted dramatically as we attempted to form a new connection that was healthy for ME. I've done that with quite a number of people over the years. I think it is a byproduct of healing.

It is not anyone's fault, there is no blame or judgement, no superiority or righteousness..............I think it is simple, you do not allow any human being to treat you without respect, honor, compassion and kindness.

Growing up in a dysfunctional family disrupts one's abilities to recognize that because the very people who should be caring for you and teaching you those boundaries are themselves wounded.

Most of my healthy friends who come from "normal" families already knew that and did not get involved in abusive or hurtful relationships, they had their boundaries intact from childhood. I didn't. I had to learn that. And, thankfully, after many mistakes of judgement, I have.

My circle is considerably smaller. And a whole lot safer.


one day at a time
Laughter can be an acceptable cover for hostility, of course. It (laughter) can be the anesthetic used before someone duck pecks us. If everyone is laughing, no one is being hurt, right?
That is why it is important to remember the duck pecking analogy, if your family of origin is dysfunctional.
And if you get upset while everyone else is laughing, you "don't have a sense of humor" and "are always too sensitive." Outside the circle while everybody else laughs. Humor is a wonderful and healing thing but not when it's used to exclude other people and make yourself feel superior. My family of origin didn't use humor---they were very serious and still are----but when I was upset about something, I was always being "too sensitive." When I married and we had two sons, there was a lot of male humor, and if I protested, I "didn't have a sense of humor." Not having grown up around humor and not realizing how men connect with each other, I was outside the circle. I still don't find humor at someone else's expense funny.

As I've progressed along the road of health, I've had to detach from many family members.
Maybe, RE, this is necessary even in healthy families, so that we can grow up, and form our own attachments and our own families. I didn't know how to do this either. I was too attached to my mother, and the detachment process was painful (I wrote about it here on this site on another thread). Today, we have a much better relationship---more balanced and healthier.

I drove by the jail today when I got back from out of town, and I didn't feel anything, neither sadness, upset, fear or even relief. Just nothing really. I have another month of the reprieve. I believe I am making progress but I'm always cautious when I say that.

I hope you all had a good holiday weekend.


Well-Known Member
Why would it be necessary to pull away from healthy family relationships? Sure, healthy young adults want to be independent, but they still maintain warm bonds with family members who are kind and loving (in both directions). This is hurts and it isn't about both of you growing. It's about one person pulling away to grow while the other person...stays in the

In my case, and I assume in RE's case, it meant not really trusting many members of ones own family. Letting Jumper spread her wings hurts me sometimes because I'll miss her so much, but at the same time I have pride and am so sure she will do well. Letting 36 go or Julie when she did drugs was gut-wrenching and did not make me feel positive because I was so sure neither would end up anywhere good. Both made me cry. I was fortunate that I was wrong about Julie. Deciding to never again have a close relationship with my sister leaves me feeling cold and angry and betrayed by who I thought she was...I am angry at her for not living up to the person I thought she had been.

Why had it taken me twenty cut offs from her AND the use of police to shut me down for me to see that she is a major difficult child and a drain on my serenity?

There are different types of letting go...I guess I'm just venting. I'm still in deep shock to learn who my sister really is so I'm rambling....sorry.
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one day at a time
I understand what you are talking about, MWM, and the differences you describe. I know the relationship with your sister is not healthy for you at all and it's not the same thing as what I was describing about my mother and me. I was too attached to my mother for way too long---I was well into my 30s.

I was just seeing, through your discussion, that we all have to detach and create healthier boundaries in varying degrees from all people from childhood, in order to grow up.

And detachment at its best is not cold or distant, but warm and loving....but detached. Respecting boundaries and allowing other people to be who they are. Giving space. Not codependent. When both people are healthy, it can be a much better relationship than before.

I am so sorry for the loss of your sister. Like you said, you are seeing something that you kind of knew all along, but now are seeing it in full living color. And that is so painful because after all, she is your sister.

Big hugs to you tonight. You are a wonderful wise person who gives so much. Take care of YOU, MWM, you are so worth it.


Well-Known Member
COM, thank you. Your post warmed my heart. And you are really right. Some people are too attached to parents, even though they are good parents, and it is best to detach with love. You are very blessed to have had such wonderful parents.

You are a giving, warm, wise person yourself. Have a good day...and do something wonderful for yourself :)

Stress Bunny

Active Member
MWM, I'm sorry you are dealing with this from your sister. I am no expert, but I do have a sister, and sometimes I have found the need to have some distance in order to keep myself in a good place.

FWIW, I think boundaries work both ways. For example, you absolutely have the right to state that you aren't comfortable participating in a conversation about your sister's abusive partner. However, the consequence may be that she feels hurt and chooses to talk to someone else instead. Because you set a boundary does not obligate her to feel great about it. She should respect it, though. A one-way conversation isn't very engaging anyway.

As for her text messages, I find them to be very provocative. Bringing up those issues was baiting, pure and simple. She may have wanted to upset you and get you to react negatively in some way so that she could be justified in her anger toward you. It may also have included elements of revenge or retribution. Great job not overreacting. I know about this because my difficult child sends me provocative text messages sometimes, often one-liners, meant to upset me. I think it makes him feel powerful. Once I realized this by objectively looking at the situation from a step back, I knew I needed to ignore these sorts of messages. That probably irritates him more than anything, but I am not going to take the bait. That's what it is. He is fishing; fishing for a big reaction from Mom. Well, he's not going to get it any more.

Whether you choose to ignore these sorts of messages from your sister or formally state that you are taking a break, it is important to disengage. And, it sounds like you have. Save yourself from the emotional toxicity. It will feel so great.

I hope you are doing alright and that your relationship with your sister improves after this setback.


Well-Known Member
I appreciate your caring words but I've decided that after thirty years of this, with her both withdrawing totoally for nonsense reasons and then calling the cops if I call her to find out why she's angry (telling them I am harassing her), I'm done playing games with her. It is not going to change. I am not sure what her deal is, but it's unhealthy for me and disrupts the peace I have created in my life.

I have no idea why she does what she does and I don't think she really knows why she does what she does either, but the purpose of it is definitely to hurt me, punish me, teach me a lesson. She has not had good luck with relationships in her own life (I haven't always either, but I am more of a loner than she is so I've kept two very special friendships for very long periods of time). And two Seventeen years for both and I get along well with my ex. Seems like my biggest problems are with my DNA collection.

At any rate, for the sake of my mental health and peace of mind, hereafter I am only going to talk to her if there is a family emergency with my father and she happens to call to tell me, although I think my brother will be the one to do it. After my dad is gone, I can't see any reason for us to speak again. She has never been there for me, although I have often been there for her, and a one way relationship, with abuse involved is not worth hanging onto.

I tried to have a normal relationship with my mother until the day she died and my mother would not allow it. My sister is a lot like my mother who was very mean to me often in a passive-aggressive way and my sister is VERY passive aggressive too. Nothing worse than being devious...that is thy definition of passive aggressive. I should have stopped trying with my mother, but I didn't and when she slapped me from the grave it hurt so much. I am not giving another DNA collection member the chance to break my heart over and over again. Not happening.

I feel very clearheaded, surefooted and calm right now. It's like I know that I did my best and that this is the only solution there is.


Well-Known Member
Seems like a good day for a Maya Angelou quote:

"I do not believe that the accident of birth makes people sisters and brothers. It makes them siblings. Gives them mutuality of parentage. Sisterhood and brotherhood are conditions people have to work at. It's a serious matter. You compromise, you give, you take, you stand firm, and you're relentless...And it is an investment. Sisterhood means if you happen to be in Burma and I happen to be in San Diego and I'm married to someone who is very jealous and you're married to somebody who is very possessive, if you call me in the middle of the night, I have to come." — Maya Angelou


Scent of Cedar *

Well-Known Member
eciding to never again have a close relationship with my sister leaves me feeling cold and angry and betrayed by who I thought she was...I am angry at her for not living up to the person I thought she had been.
MWM? I think that, like me, you never had the relationship you thought you had with your sister.

I'm sorry for the hurt of it. But it is better to know, MWM.

Maybe, it will be losing her relationship to you that will help your sister face up to what she does. I think if you look into what you know of her other relationships, you will learn that this is the way she treats everyone in her life.

The difference for you and for me too, MWM, is that we are healthy enough now to know the difference.



Well-Known Member
Scent, I think you're right. She is always in some high drama with somebody. And she claims she "likes" exciting people.

She can have them.

Echo, I so agree. I'm going to add another winner to your post :)


one day at a time
But it is better to know,
It is always better to know. I never want to live in stupid ignorance and naivete again. Tell me the truth. I will find a way to deal with it, in time.

No lies, no shadings of the truth, no truth-held-back, please. Just give it to me straight.

I am grown up enough to take it, deal with it, accept it, and hopefully grow from it.