I can do what I want. This is true of everyone. We’re not as constrained as we like to think. At least not in any real sense.

The constraints we experience are primarily self-imposed. We choose what we do. We choose what we don’t do.

We allow ourselves to be constrained. There are reasons. Often, we don’t realize that’s what we’re doing.

Beyond some minor physical restrictions, I can do what I want, when I want. By physical, I mean of the body and also of the wallet. Reality is a legitimate constraint. I’m constrained in my desire to wear only Stella McCartney by my pocketbook. This is a real thing.

Other constraints are less real than they first appear.

My therapist asks me the same question time and again: “what do you think will happen?”

What will happen if you do what you want to do? *

Bad things. I think bad things will happen. That is the gut response.

The imagined consequences and the pleasantness or unpleasantness thereof hugely impact my choices. I forget the constraints may not be based in reality.

I start to believe my uncomfortable feelings are real.

They aren’t.

It’s convenient to forget that fact. Because if I do, then the responsibility is shifted away. It’s nice, not being responsible. If the constraints are real, then not doing what I want isn’t my fault.

I like it when things aren’t my fault.

If my friends really will abandon me for setting boundaries, it makes sense not to bother. But the question my therapist would pose is, “Is it likely?” Their wholesale rejection isn’t particularly realistic.

Constraints can probably be categorized. I’m sure someone has done it already. That’s the joy of the internet. It brings home how similar we are to everyone else. It makes ideas accessible.

As mentioned, financial constraints can have a real impact. You can’t do the things you can’t afford to do, at least not without unpleasant consequences like debt. Two other constraints I struggle with are tradition and understanding.


The kitchen makes me testy. My children are on the messy side. They don’t do things the way I’d do them. I prep beforehand and clean as I go. The kitchen looks little changed at the end of whatever I’m doing compared to how it looked at the beginning. Post my adult-children’s food preparations, however, it looks like a bomb went off.

Food debris on the counters and sinks. Dirty pots and pans and plates. Towel, patently unused, wadded up on the counter. Supplies still out of the cupboards that are still open.

I seethe. I get irritated. I wonder how I failed to communicate the “clean as you go” principle.

I resent that they leave it to me. Which they do but only because I do it.

Why, when I don’t want to clean the mess, didn’t make the mess, and have adult children do I proceed?

Because I’m the mom and the oldest female in the house and that influences my behaviour to a degree.

I didn’t even think about it being an inculcated belief based on societal structures, but there you have it. Tradition. Just one in a long line of women doing more than their share.

But I can do what I want and to answer the therapist’s question, the only thing that will happen if I stop picking up after them is that the kitchen will stay messy. They won’t care. They are supremely unaware, no doubt a function of age. It will bother me immensely. Even so, I don’t have to clean it.

I can do what I want.

Spending my life as an unpaid maid is not on my list.


We can’t do what we want if we don’t know what that is. We can’t stop doing the things we don’t want to do if we don’t know we don’t want to do them.

Examining my behaviours to see if I want to do the thing urges and impulses are directing me towards is something I rarely do.

I have mental conversations ad nauseum but never get to the want of the thing. Once the internal conversations end, habit takes over.

I have a problem with NSSI, the charming acronym they now use for people who self-harm. For me, it’s mostly about my face. I cut and mutilate. It’s a whole self-loathing, body dysmorphic, obsessive-compulsive, anxiety tic kind of thing. The process itself is fugue-like at times; it brings a kind of Zen.

Until I come to and stare at the damage and berate myself again.

I don’t transport to the bathroom in a fugue state, however. There is the before-time when the discomfort and the urges are rising and the feelings are all about needing to cut. That it’s necessary. That it will make everything better.

I counter, argue, and debate.

But what do I want? I can pretty much guarantee the answer is not going to be “blood and gore”.

The corollary of “I can do what I want” is “I don’t have to do what I don’t want”. I really don’t want to keep cutting.

There is an important caveat, however, to doing what you want. Do as you will, as it harms none.

Not causing harm is a legitimate constraint.

One thought on “Constraints.

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