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Yes, that was a dark time, Greg said, adjusting his jacket. It was the Cold War. When we compare the highlights reel of the people in our feeds (because that's pretty much what social media is) to our reality, it's skewed well out of our favor. The comparison between carefully edited, really well-considered photos and captions and our own reality can make our relationships seem dull and ungratifying, creating unrealistic expectations that damage our real-life relationships--and don't ever really give them a fair chance. Boundaries are the underbelly of what nourishes a relationship. What all of our meaningful relationships have in common is that they require maintenance to keep them meaningful: time, commitment, ongoing support, attention, effort, mutual trust, affection, and respect--the willingness to work together and write a new article when it has become problematic to reside where you are. None of that sounds particularly compelling or adventurous, but boundaries are the underbelly of what nourishes a relationship way past the exciting and magnetic sunshine-rainbows, butterflies-in-your-belly, knees-wobbling stages. Healthy, long-lasting relationships are cultivated continuously and consciously. These relationships of ours can be long-lasting, like those we have with our siblings, parents, children, friends, or those of the romantic kind. They can also be shorter term, such as those we have with teachers or coworkers. They can be fleeting: the there's-not-going-to-be-a-second first date, the conversations we might have as we're served in a bakery or waiting for a bus, that knowing nod in a packed lecture, or the unity we experience at a concert, play, or sporting event. It doesn't matter how long-term or fleeting, these varying interactions leave their mark on us--even the blink-and-it's-over ones. Where you walkin' to Janey, Janey, Janey? Anger lit up inside of me as if my legs were matchsticks and the ground beneath me were flint stones. I wanted to hurt him, knock him off his bike, and maybe punch him in his face, but I didn't. Instead, I walked to the other side of my aunt and stood between her and the boy as he steadied himself on his banana seat. Get the hell outta here before I punch your teeth down your throat, I said to him. My voice was stern, and the look of surprise in his eyes blended into concern as he rode off saying over his shoulder, Ah, whatever. I didn't even care if he thought I was a boy. On that day I began to realize something I never had before.

In all the differences between my retarded aunt and me, on a deep level she and I had things in common. She didn't fit in. Futurist think tanks were being asked to imagine a future after nuclear war--or worse, after mutually assured nuclear destruction. The businesswoman sitting next to Greg at the bar must have heard a snippet of our conversation. She glanced at Greg with a puzzled look, then returned to her conversation. But during that time, in the 1950s and 1960s, we also saw the rise of private futurists, Greg continued. They started consulting and working with large corporations. The profile for futurists as a profession was on the rise. And then the Tofflers happened. Greg nodded, amused by my enthusiasm. Then the Tofflers happened. Alvin and Heidi Toffler were a husband-and-wife team who popularized futurism, bringing it into people's living rooms. Consider being the recipient of a random act of kindness and the emotion that would evoke. Then consider being the victim of a crime and how terrifying and invasive that would feel. The actual interaction itself might not have lasted long, but the effects of it could last a lifetime. The things we do or say will be remembered long after we've moved on. It's complicated to know when to give space, when to make space, and when to lean. Holding on to our sense of individual identity while fostering a relationship identity is one of the hardest things to do. And while there's typically a merging of physical assets after a while, holding on to our sense of self can feel like holding back or as though we're not open to intimacy. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Communication is something we underestimate. After all, going over scenarios in our heads means we often put a lot of thought and mental effort into understanding, predicting, and planning. She wasn't pretty. The boys didn't like her. She spent lots of time alone in her room. She fantasized about being loved by a boy. She craved to be loved, accepted, and worthy. She wished she were normal like everybody else, too. But she wasn't. And there wasn't anything she could do about it. The worst part was that others found ways to make certain her feeling of not belonging was something she could never forget. Speak No Evil Their 1970 article Future Shock was wildly popular. When I was growing up, it seemed like everybody's parents had a copy. As a young geek, the futuristic cover always grabbed my attention. The article described the rapid acceleration of technology and its effect on culture and business. The couple even made a documentary about it, starring none other than Orson Welles. You met them, I said, egging Greg on. Back in 2010, as part of the fortieth anniversary of Future Shock's publication, he met the couple for an article he was writing about how the article was still applicable today. There's a part in the article where Heidi talks about clothes made out of Kleenex, Greg said, glancing up at the ceiling.

That seems kind of silly, but she pointed out to me that it's an example of what we today call `fast fashion. Their take on consumer culture is still applicable today. We forget that other people can't read our minds in the same way that we can't read theirs. When we communicate clearly, consistently, and honestly, we find that boundaries de-fuzz. We've all experienced a time when we've said yes to a request of our time, energy, and money when really we've meant to say no. That comes at a cost, not just to our resources, but also to our relationships, which are dented, ever so slightly. Unintentionally, we've missed out on the chance to be honest, to speak our mind. Unless we're willing to verbalize our needs and wants, nobody will ever know what they are. If we're begrudgingly doing something for someone else, we're not giving our resources freely. That tips the scale and leads to resentment that the other person isn't even aware of. Communication isn't just in the words we say; The nonverbal tends to reinforce the words we're uttering--our facial expressions, hand gestures, and general body language--which really helps when we're explaining and asserting our boundaries. My mother's twin brother was named John. He was named after his father, John Healey. He was my godfather. I never liked him very much, and I knew he didn't like me either. When he'd visit our home, he would often call my brother, sister, and me names. He would refer to us as wise asses, smart asses, pain in the asses, and so on. He had little patience for us, as we would draw my mother's attention from him as he sat at our kitchen table, whining about his unfortunate life circumstances. Uncle John was always in trouble, either with women, loan sharks, or from some effect of alcoholism.

On occasion he would sleep on our living room floor. Homeless, he would take up floor space, watch television all day long, eat our food, and complain when my brother, sister, or I wanted to watch a sitcom or cartoon. Why do you think the '80s were such a bad time for future thinking? Yeesh, yeah, Greg said, steeling himself with a sip of martini. It was the dark ages for futurism. The discipline was boiled down to trend reports and dumb taglines searching for the next hot color in women's dresses. Everyone was looking for the next big thing and wanted to make sure they were the one who told you about it first. Greg shook his head. The future was commodified and sold, and people got rightly skeptical. I saw the next change begin in the '90s and really as we moved into the twenty-first century, I said. The PC and the internet started to speed up business. People started seeing small start-ups get big quickly and turn into billion-dollar businesses. When we communicate clearly, consistently, and honestly, we find that boundaries de-fuzz. Communicating and enforcing our boundaries are where the difficulty lies for many of us; Being clear on our boundaries isn't just healthy for us, it's healthy for those around us, too, because everyone's level of tolerance and ability to determine what is and is not acceptable varies from person to person--to know, others need to be told. It clears up misunderstanding and helps avoid conflict while managing expectations about our limits and values. It fosters integrity and trust and, when we're crystal clear in defining our boundaries, words can be taken at face value rather than having underlying unclear and unfair context. When we're in the middle of a disagreement, or indeed when we sense one coming, we might pull up the drawbridge. There's a difference between wanting to make space to reflect, perhaps to calm down and to gather our thoughts, and doing it to evade and block communication, effectively putting up a wall to block out other perspectives and grievances--not conducive to a healthy, well-balanced relationship. In disallowing the opportunity to listen and properly hear each other, we open the door to passive aggression, resentment, and mental exhaustion, with issues being swept under the carpet or worse, becoming the elephant in the room--all of which can put a colossal dent in the longevity of the relationship.