I’ve done some stupid things in my life. It’s true. Most of us have.
But I have chosen, as I’ve grown, to only do things for which I was willing to stand up and take responsibility. Stand up, and answer for my actions, no matter how stupid.
And let me be clear: some of them have been really, really fucking dumb, irresponsible, or self-absorbed.
But I have endeavoured to make them consciously enough to know that I would take my rap on the knuckles, my slap on the ass, my consequences for my actions, for my choices.
And when I took responsibility, it was incredibly freeing.
No longer was I doing shit to please other people. Because other people weren’t going to have to pay my price tags, I was. So I was the one who had to be on board. I was the only one who had to be on board.
There are some things that we do or don’t do because it’s just the right thing. We don’t kill people who aren’t immediately threatening our lives. I don’t think this is one to screw around with, no matter how long you’re willing to spend in San Quentin. We don’t push little old ladies into traffic. We don’t abandon babies in dumpsters. You get my drift.
For most things, however, we have the ultimate amount of choice. And really, two factors weigh into our choices: how will this choice affect me? And how will this choice affect other people?
On the one hand, I say live your dreams, ignore the nay-sayers. In other words, live for yourself. You are the only one you must please.
When your mom wants you to become a doctor, but you can’t stand medicine, and all you want to do is paint? When you burn with passion for your art, but Mamma has her heart set on Dr. Bubba, your choice to break up with your parents to follow your dream will, in fact, hurt them. But it’s a calculated hurt on your part. In order to stay true to yourself, you have to go through that process, and Mom and Dad might not like it. But they are not the ones who have to live your life. You are. They just want to see you set up with some stability and security (and maybe the ability to take care of them in their old age!)
However, when you want to sleep with that married guy, and he’s all up in your grill…you might think, “Who’ll that hurt? It’s not my problem that he’s married. That’s his responsibility. She’ll never know anyway.” And here I beg to differ.
This is a big, huge, blisteringly important choice.
You have a responsibility insofar as the amount of information you have. (If you know he’s married, you know it’s a shitty thing to do. Would you want someone doing that with your husband if they knew he was married to you?)
Your first responsibility is always to yourself. How will you feel if you do? How will you feel if you don’t? Is this the love of your life and you will spend the next 50 years wondering, “What if?” if you don’t go there? Or is this just another…fling? Will this matter to you a week from now, a month from now, a year from now? Because you can bet it will matter to her in a day, a week, a year….
Whatever your choice, what is ultimately at issue, is your willingness to take responsibility for your choice.
Let’s continue with the married man example, just for sake of ease. If you were confronted by his wife on Monday, and she asked you if you had slept with her husband, would you lie and say no? Or would you be willing to stand up, say, “yes I did and I know it was shitty, and I’m really sorry,” and listen to the pain you’ve caused her? Take your rap on the knuckles?
If you’re not willing to take responsibility for your actions, you’re not ready to take action in the first place.
No matter what the details of our choices are, career, love, money, health, friendships, family, or any other detail of our lives, the bottom line is the same. Never make a choice for which you are not willing to stand up and take responsibility.
On the one hand, it seems relatively simple.
On the other hand, we spend so much of our lives numbing out, disconnecting, and not being present in one way or another, that we constantly make choices we don’t even realize we’re making. How can we be willing to take responsibility for choices we’re not aware we’re making?
So once more, it comes down to getting conscious.
(Damned consciousness! Can’t we ever just numb out for a while and ignore it all? Why yes, yes we can. And in fact, I advocate it occasionally. But it’s much healthier if we set a time limit and some parameters around that numbing space and…sigh…consciously choose to go into that space, allow ourselves to have it, and know when we’ll pull ourselves out of it. Set a time limit. Choose the vehicle: TV, movies, shopping, sleep, crying, pity party, exercise, food, sex, writing, music…lot’s of ways to do it, just choose one that isn’t harmful to you because of your own personal demons. That way, we don’t get mired in an unconscious quicksand from which we can’t free ourselves. Unfortunately, if we numb out totally unconsciously, we are just abandoning ourselves.)
So, we have to start thinking about the implications of our choices. Not because we have to make everyone happy. We most certainly do not, and if we try, we will kill ourselves. Let me repeat: NOT BECAUSE WE HAVE TO MAKE EVERYONE HAPPY. It’s that important. But we do have to start thinking about the implications of our choices to weigh out any harm they could cause, what they are worth to us, and if we are willing to take responsibility for the fallout of our choices.
We’ve all been around those people. Those people who constantly point the finger at somebody else if there’s even a hint of a problem or friction. Those people who can’t just say, “I didn’t get my homework finished. I really don’t get this algebra. Teacher, can I make an appointment to come and see you for some extra help?” They have to say, “I didn’t get my homework done because my grandparents came over and the dog barfed and then my little sister broke her arm and my mom made ME clean up the dog vomit because she had to take my stupid sister to the hospital and I don’t know how the teacher expects us to understand this bullshit and why are my parents so mean anyway?” Everything is somebody else’s fault. Always. Always, always, always.
Those people annoy the shit out of me. (…I say with love and light, recognizing that everybody is at their own place on their own learning curve, and we all need to be gentle with one another…those people are my gentleness challenge.) They say everyone’s a mirror. Maybe I react to the part of myself that still goes there. We all have it, after all. One of my dear, sweet, I-love-her-to-the-ends-of-the-earth kids is like this a lot of the time. I’ve left relationships with people who are like this. It’s a prevalent personality trait, a common growth area to be addressed.
But. Here’s the thing. If we never learn to take responsibility for our own choices, we will always limit our own truth.
Taking responsibility for our choices is the ultimate form of living out loud. Living in our truth.
It is no one else’s choice. It is no one else’s fault.
My choice. My consequences. And I’m doing it anyway. I’m willing to take the risk.
Or I’m not. But if I’m not, then back that truck up, sister. Because if I know ahead of time that this is something I’m not willing to stand up and answer for, then it is not something I should be doing in the first place.
(Just imagine life if all of our politicians lived up to these standards.)