Envy and Choice

This past weekend, I had an amazing experience at a “Meet & Greet” for current Martha Beck Institute cadets. It was a tremendous opportunity; I got to meet Martha and hear her speak, as well as connect with an amazing group of women from all over the world. I do plan to share my impressions from the weekend, but for now I’m just leaving it on a low simmer, allowing the different experiences, thoughts, and feelings to blend and meld.

In the meantime, I wanted to share this experience from my run today. As I ran through the common, I caught a brief snippet of a conversation between an older man and older woman sitting together on a bench. His comment to her was, “She’s living like she’s not responsible for anything!”

The comment was completely without context, but I felt a charge of emotion with which it was said. There was frustration, anger, and dismay. But, I also caught a piece of something else—envy.

As I continued on my run, I let this moment dance through my mind and heart. Haven’t I taken this same mental journey myself? “She” was refusing to believe herself responsible in a society that insists upon this very principle. Accountability. Blame. Ownership. Each person has a set of responsibilities for which they must control and claim ownership. Right? How dare she refuse to be responsible! Why, it’s downright criminal.

I’ve felt burdened by the beliefs of should, must, and have to that have materialized in my world. I have shackled myself unconsciously to ownership of these responsibilities. I should work harder; no pain, no gain; I have to make a lot of money to be successful; everyone must like me, and I should make everyone happy.

And, I’m not the only one. Most of the rest of society “knows” what their responsibilities are. Yet, there are those few people, every once in a while, who don’t follow the rules. They don’t accept responsibility. And, it tends to feel unfair to the rest of us. She should know better. It’s not right. She’s a bad person!

What this societal philosophy does is defers the personal self-responsibility of each of us. It’s illogical and convoluted, but with this construct I accept responsibility for the happiness and centeredness of everyone else, while I give the responsibility of my happiness and centeredness to
everyone else. I would argue that this is a structure that is doomed to fail.

So, the big question really is: What really is my responsibility? I am not responsible for the weather, the price of gas, the speed of traffic, sickness or health of anybody, or whether a coin lands heads or tails. I am also not responsible for how people react to whatever I do or don’t do.

I am responsible for my choices. I am not necessarily responsible for the consequence of my choice, but I recognize that I always have the power of choice. Furthermore, I have responsibility for myself. How I feel, who I am, and what I do are all my choice. This is my ultimate and fundamental responsibility. I am whole; I am big enough. I accept my responsibility to choose to recognize this within myself.

I also choose to recognize you as whole; as big enough. I wish you to recognize it in yourself, but that is not my responsibility. All I can control is to not limit myself to a smaller life than I am capable of living; I hold hope that you will choose to do the same.

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