Nobody In, Nobody Out

Growing up with 3 younger brothers, I often heard my mother say “Nobody In, Nobody Out” as she shut the door in the face of neighborhood kids knocking to find someone to play with. This occurred so often that at my mother’s wake one of the kids who grew up across the street from us and had experienced the door shutting many times, recounted “Nobody In, Nobody Out” as one of the most vivid memories he had of our family.

In early March an optimistic Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases,  when asked about what measures he thought might be taken to contain the coronavirus, said “anything is possible” but added “I don’t think it would be as draconian as nobody in or nobody out.”

I emailed my brothers to ask if our mother was training us for a pandemic and suggested that if anyone asked about our childhood we could say we were periodically quarantined under draconian measures.

Now that so much of the world is living under ‘Nobody In, Nobody Out’ conditions, what if we saw those constraints are an opportunity to explore our personal boundaries?

A visual for defining your personal boundaries

Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others.”

Brene Brown

Since I remember things best if I have a visual reminder, I went to the creativity room at Arcadia and drew my personal space with a flexible boundary. That drawing is framed and hanging in my kitchen as a reminder to pay attention to my boundaries.

Shortly after my diagnosis, I spent three weeks at a German cancer clinic, Arcadia, which was an immensely healing experience. In a session with one of the doctors, Dr. Buttner, placed a 3 foot diameter yellow circle of fabric on the floor and asked me to stand on it, imagining that it represented my energy field. He then challenged my sense of personal space by moving closer from different angles, stepping into the circle with me, and pushing the edges in, all the while asking me how each movement felt. He then offered me a piece of purple fabric to create a boundary around it in whatever way felt safe to me.

Dr. Buttner explained that cancer patients often have a challenging time setting emotional-psychological boundaries. Cancer oversteps boundaries in one’s physical body. The coronavirus does as well, overwhelming one’s immune system and lungs.

Social distancing has created new physical boundaries for many of us. Whether sheltering in place with others or alone, reflecting on and redefining our emotional boundaries could be a positive outcome as we navigate this new territory.



  • where do you have good boundaries in your life that have worked for you?
  • Are there areas in our life that could use better boundaries? In your own behaviors or in relation to others or the world?
  • do you need more effective boundaries to not be overwhelmed by the constant barrage of coronavirus news?


to simulate your own boundaries and sense of personal space, find a 20 foot piece of string, rope, hose, and place it around you at a distance that feels safe. If you are quarantined alone, imagine what it feels like when people approach your space. If you are living with others, you can engage them in doing this with you. In the process you may learn more about one another that could help in future communications.