Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Responsibility and Power

I always try to keep in mind that the majority of people in this world have everything in common. We have two arms, two legs, two eyes, one nose, ten fingers, ten toes on two feet and we all poop and pee. We have basic needs – food, water, shelter and air. If you put all of us in one spot naked with no make-up or any other accessories, aside from differences in body mass, varying shades of flesh color, and the size of different body parts we would all be pretty much alike. If no one had any money, prestige, fame or any other symbol of wealth and power, we would all be equal.

That’s how we all start out and that’s how we all end up. What we do in between defines us as individuals. What keeps the playing field from being level is not what we are but what happens once we arrive in this world – it’s who we are. Children born in abject poverty have different experiences from those born to wealth. Children born in countries where there is war and upheaval have different experiences from those born in politically and economically stable countries. Children born into loving, happy and nurturing families have different experiences from those born into angry, unhappy and neglectful families. Children born into love have different experiences than those born into fear.

As children we’re at the mercy of our environment. We don’t know better yet. We haven’t developed the skills and instincts to move us beyond our circumstances. We rely on adults to set an example for us and show us the way. We trust them to teach us how to successfully navigate the road of life. Our choices later in life can be permanently affected by the actions of those into whose charge we have been placed.

While we’re children and still trying to develop our skills and instincts, we have every right to blame those on whom we’re relying for help if they don’t provide it. We have every right to call them to task for not fulfilling their responsibilities or for not finding someone else who could discharge those responsibilities and help us fulfill our potential.

When we become adults and start taking responsibility for ourselves, live on our own, make our own money, and create our own reality and families, the time for blame and finger pointing has ended. Once we enter the world on our own or with our mates we have choices. We can choose to be perpetual victims – to wallow in our shame, sorrow and issues, live in turmoil, repeat the past and create crappy lives for ourselves and those around us. We can act as if someone is pointing a gun towards our head and forcing us to be miserable. We can be willing participants in our own despair. But we don’t have to.

If the news media covered anything related to positive and enlightening stories, every day you could read about those who have decided not to be victims of their circumstances. You could hear and read about people rising above their situations and creating their own success. You would learn of the courage and fortitude of some amazing people who overcame what seemed to be insurmountable odds. These are people who made their own happiness and refused to allow their past or their circumstances to prevent them from achieving their goals.

The point is, once we’re adults we’re no longer victims of our circumstances and environment. We’re victims of our own thoughts and actions – or lack of actions. We’re as good or as bad as we think we are. We’re as happy or as miserable as we believe. We’re a success or a failure depending on our own perception of what success is.

I’ve read countless books and articles on abandonment issues, intimacy issues, emotional abuse, addiction and whatever else you want to blame your life on. To some extent, they all fit the way I lived my life. I can see myself in every scenario. I was a victim of my circumstances because I chose to be. Choosing to be a victim was extremely painful. When the pain became unbearable I took the steps necessary to find another way - to choose again.

Re-reading my post titled “I’m Fine” made me realize I had slipped back into victim mode. Yes, there are things happening in my life that don’t seem right or fair. But I have a choice in how I contend with those things. If I believe I’m a victim, I’m right. Then, not only am I a victim, but I’ve given my power away to people who don’t deserve it.

So now it’s time to take back my power and stop being a victim. It’s time to stop feeling sorry for myself and move forward. I don’t want to change jobs. I want to change the circumstances in my present job. I don’t want to allow my health to prevent me from doing what I want. I want Rosie to be healthy and happy again. I want to be responsible for my own happiness.

Who has your power? Are you responsible?


Church Lady said...

AW, This is a very thoughtful and complicated post. I believe that shades of happiness can be a choice.
But I do believe that even as grown-ups, the history of our lives will continue to impact us.
If you grew up in a neglectful household (which I did)--then you don't have this very important 'back-up' system in times of emergency or crisis. For me, it adds a low-level of constant anxiety (my husband travels a lot; friends are working/extremely busy with own lives).
Mothering/Fathering doesn't end when the child is a grown-up. If a grown-up doesn't have parents to rely upon, that does have ramifications. Realizing that doesn't make you a victim. It takes away a basic security that many others may have. But...it doesn't have to cripple you. You have to look for strength from other places. From inside yourself, and also from other places within your community.

I believe you need a village to live. If it's not within your family, you need to create one.

Hope I'm not rambling. Seems we have some things in common, AW.

Ello said...

I agree with this post in many ways as I do agree with you that how we approach life sets the stage on how we live it. But I do think it is perfectly fine to feel sorry for ourselves every once in awhile and so from that viewpoint I do not think you fell into victim mode from that particularly posting. Venting is a rational and psychologically proven method for relieving stress, anger, sorrow, pain, etc. It is an outlet, not a mindset. Now, had you continued along that course for months on end - then you may be falling into a why me mindset. But you didn't, you bounced back quite quickly. Other worries came in that you handled so well.

while I only know you from your blog, you strike me as a strong confident woman. This was a great post!

The Anti-Wife said...

Our history does impact us. But we determine the extent of the impact by our choices. It does take a village and agree that you sometimes have to create your own. You're not rambling!

Thanks for reminding me that I shouldn't be so hard on myself. I'm glad to have this blog as an outlet and to receive the feedback.

Merry Jelinek said...

I tend to agree with ello, if we don't allow ourselves time to wallow, vent, or grieve out some of these feelings, they only back up on you - acting like you're fine won't make it so, it's better to get it out of your system when you can.

I also agree that our lives are our responsibility. Sometimes there are things we simply have no control over and we have to find the best way to weather them. But you can't blame your life situation on others.

For me, I think making the decision to get married and have children had a huge impact on where my life was supposed to go, as opposed to where it is. I should be ten years ahead of where I am in my writing career. On the other hand, I made a conscious choice to put my aspirations on hold to take care of my family - it's not a choice I would change... though sometimes I feel very far behind.

Great post, as always, anti-wife