Responsibility (noun). “The state or fact of having a duty to deal with something or of having control over someone” or “the state or fact of being accountable or to blame for something.” (Source: Oxford Dictionary)
Being responsible is a big part of adult life. We are accountable for paying our debts, and our behaviour as well as looking after our children and pets. We are also responsible for taking care of our property and assets (including our own health and wellbeing). However, sometimes we also unnecessarily take on the responsibility of maintaining the wellbeing of other adults when they are able to take care of themselves.
Responsibility Versus Choice
It is a beautiful thing to care for another and to be cared for. However, when another person doesn’t take ownership of the choices they make for themselves, this is unhealthy and not your burden to bear.
I can provide you with numerous examples of how this has played out within my own life. It seems to be a key lesson I am learning in this incarnation, from all angles.
The thing is, one person cannot be held accountable for another adult’s choices in life. Having control over another adult is also not feasible. In fact, it is manipulative, and born out of fear and insecurity. It has nothing to do with love.
“It’s alright for you”
The other day I was asked to assist with a couple of tasks. Previously I cast my own needs aside to assist because the other person deemed their tasks to be more of a priority. On this particular day however, I decided to push for some semblance of balance. I was more than happy to assist. However, I wanted assurance that my own errands would not be kicked to the kerb. I asked whether we could undertake his tasks over a couple of days rather than cramming them in to one day.
The response was quite unexpected. In fact, it was as if I had flatly denied my assistance. Arguments ensued and we walked our separate ways.
Later in the day when matters had calmed down a little, he talked. “I have so much stress in my world right now. Everywhere I look there are chores to be done. I don’t socialise. I don’t get many hours at work and I need to take on other work to make ends meet. It’s all right for you. You have a career that is going places, you catch up with friends for coffee, and you have hobbies that you enjoy.”
I sat quietly listening to him talk about his depression, his aches and pains and quality of life.
Misery Loves Company
He told me how pissed off he felt that I was experiencing such joy and he was not. I asked the question: “Is it that you would prefer me to keep you company in your misery?”
Genuinely shocked at my suggestion, he conceded that it is awesome I am happy. However, there are times when he doesn’t want to feel alone in his experience.
I sat there listening to and feeling his vulnerability, all the while recognising numerous repeated choices he had habitually made that were key contributors to his current mindset. I also noted he had somehow allocated me responsibility for his comfort and self-care.
What is My Responsibility Here?
Besides providing companionship, while undertaking tasks my presence seems to be about providing him comfort. You see, when working on his own he doesn’t stop for meals, he doesn’t take a cold drink with him when he sets off down the track, and he works to the point of exhaustion. When I am there beside him I take care of these things, I nag him to stop when to the point of depletion and I provide the support once back home with a tired, sore and exhausted body.
My role as nurturer has meant I have somehow taken responsibility for the simplest of tasks that a grown adult should be able to do for his or herself. Over the years, an expression of gratitude has taken an ‘exit stage left’ and has been replaced with expectation, as if his basic care is my job. Being taken for granted is never a comfortable position to be in at the best of times.
I have tried martyrdom on for size in the past. It doesn’t suit me. Invitations to join me for walks and adventures in nature, and to listen to live music are declined with a variety of reasons given. I used to not go. However I realised I was denying myself joy by not getting out there by myself.
I am Responsible For Me
My happiness and joy are my responsibility. Nobody else can do this job for me. We are all unique and we all need to follow our individual paths toward our bliss. If we find ourselves not on a path that provides us this, we have the power to make a change. Where we are unable to physically transform our circumstances, we can choose to nurture a different approach in the interim.
I used to prioritise my partner’s needs over spending quality time with friends. These days I recognise and value the contribution that those special people make in my life. And I make time for them, even if it means catching up on the fly for a hug or meeting up with them in the evenings or skyping and phoning.
The Power of Loving Kindness
Likewise with work, if I feel unfilled in a job or undervalued, I have the power to choose another experience. Furthermore, when I have had to remain in an uncomfortable work environment, I have been able to transform the way I approach my experience by shifting my perception. Instead of focussing on work tasks or difficult individuals with a mindset of obligation or with a victim mentality, I infuse the situations with “gift energy” akin to doing anonymous random acts of kindness. Work tasks are undertaken with care and without attachment as to how the energy will be received. For difficult individuals I do a chord cutting visualisation and send them loving, healing compassionate thoughts. It doesn’t matter how this energy is received or what these people think. The most important this is that I feel wonderful and full of loving kindness as a result. Our minds really are wonderful, transformative machines.
Over the past few years I have become quite adept at finding ways to indulge my passions of writing and spiritual development despite always being busy. I choose to use the time when nobody else is around to write. When I am home alone or in the evening after I have prepared dinner. I attend gatherings in the evenings also.
When I wrote my second book, Peacock Dreaming: The Wisdom Of Flowers I spent my lunch hours sitting in my car, meditating and writing. An hour a day over a period of six months created the first rough draft of the book.
Everything is a Choice
It feels like I am walking a tightrope. It feels like there is a fine line between kindness and cruelty. However, the perceived cruelty is self-inflicted from both sides of the equation.
A part of me seems to have interpreted his vulnerability as an inability to cope with life. That part of me that chooses to facilitate healing in others wants to facilitate that sense of psychological ease within him also. However, he needs to actively choose the journey to that stream himself of his own volition. Only then is he able to drink its cool, refreshing waters.
Feature photo courtesy of Pixabay