A week into the new year and I hadn’t really thought about a new focus for it. Last year, Alex, Max and I dubbed it the “Year of Releasing Judgment.” It was huge. All three of us worked through it in our own way. I faced my depression, examined my disease to please, forced myself to go on the dating market, discovered I am a lesbian, came out of the closet as such, and faced my father. Oh, and I finally took control of my health, discovered I had cancer, and went through surgeries and treatment.
In no way have I mastered “releasing judgment,” but at least I am more self-aware. I still battle vulnerability. I hate opening myself up, being more authentic…but I also thrive in it. I have felt more joy and connection by doing so, even if it is still excruciating. I had trouble today just asking some neighbor kids to shovel my yard after having two feet of snow dumped on it. Admitting that you need help and seeking it takes vulnerability.
At the end of 2013, I was very satisfied with my growth and development. When you see how far you have come, it does motivate you to continue. I just didn’t know how. I am still working on saying what I believe, even if it differs from what someone else believes. Standing in your truth, accepting criticism, but not being defined by it is still immensely difficult. I have found that communication and super understanding friends help, but it takes practice. It is like developing a new muscle. It may hurt when you are working it out, but it gets stronger and easier each time you do it.
As we start the new year, I intend to keep “releasing judgment,” but it is time to step it up a notch. For inspiration, of course I lean on my buddies Alex and Max. We had been locked up in our homes for three days during this “polar vortex,” and finally had a chance to pow wow last night. After a lovely meal, Alex casually busts out, “I think I know what 2014 will be… the year of taking responsibility.”
Immediately, I felt a wave of horror. This is a girl who will go weeks without opening her mail, avoids answering the phone, is behind on most of her bills, and is beyond discipline. Most of this was a response from the days where I over scheduled myself. When I wasn’t working 80 hours a week, I volunteered, went without eating to pay bills, over extended myself with friends, and went to bed feeling used and miserable. I would take trips to see Alex and Max in Chicago and call them “vacations from responsibility.”
I am sure that I am not the only one with an immediate repulsion to “responsibility.” The dictionary defines it as: ”the state of being the person who caused something to happen; a duty or task that you are required or expected to do; and something that you should do because it is morally right, legally required, etc.” An appropriate synonym in my head is “obligation.”
Alex and Max agreed that this was a common way to view responsibility, but they had a new approach. “Responsibility,” in their view, “means simply, to respond. To take action and ownership of your life.” Instead of viewing it as doing something you don’t want to do for someone else, or to act because someone else feels you should, “responsibility” is about using your gifts and energy by responding with action. You act because you are owning who you are and fully exercising your passion to create and thrive. It is about shifting focus from being a passive passenger on the bus of life and taking the reins and owning your life by taking the wheel and making the decisions instead of just letting life happen to you.
An important disclaimer. For some people, there is a tendency to claim “responsibility” for things that aren’t theirs to own. I am guilty of this. I will often apologize when I have nothing to apologize for. I will feel guilty about things that I have no control over. I have used the label of “responsibility” to demonize or dehumanize me. I count my lack of responsibility with my level of self-worth. It is a great marker to abuse and bully one’s self with.
Redefining “responsibility” requires releasing judgment. It asks for us to take action on the things that are within our power and releasing things that are out of our sphere of influence or control. It is about empowerment. You can make a difference by responding to life in a way that is authentic and true to who you are and what you are meant to be.
Alex also made a great point that 2014 should be a year of “love.” Valentine’s Day is 2/14->2014 Also, releasing judgment helped us find and feel love; taking responsibility should help us respond to love and help it grow. God knows I need help in the love department.
I am indebted to Alex and Max for this brilliant idea. I accept the challenge a little more enthusiastically now that I have dispelled some of the myths of responsibility. I can’t say that I don’t feel intrepidation, but I also understand that this is a long overdue step in my maturation. In order to open the door for great things to happen in my life, I have to prove that I am willing to take enough responsibility to even just push the door open.