I was driving home tonight with my iPod on shuffle and a song came on that made me sad because it made me think of a past relationship. Layered with the sadness was irritation because someone had ruined a song I used to like, and so I just flipped on the radio.
There was Kelly Clarkston, singing her heart out on a song called “Because of You”. If you’ve not heard it, the basic premise is that each line of the chorus starts with “Because of you” and then states something that sucks in her life:
Because of you I never stray too far from the sidewalk Because of you I learned to play on the safe side so I don’t get hurt Because of you I find it hard to trust, not only me but every one around me Because of you I don’t know how to let anyone else in Because of you, I am afraid
And it goes on like that. I listened to it for a minute or so and then I thought to myself…
Holy crap Kelly Clarkston, stop whining.
and then I thought to myself…
Holy crap Ragen Chastain stop whining.
Thank you song lyrics for proving once again that if you can’t be a good example, at least you can be a horrible warning.
Nobody can ruin a song for me. I ruin the song for myself because I choose to continue to associate it with a bad relationship that I chose to be in.
What has two thumbs and is completely responsible for this situation?
(Bonus points to Scrubs fans who get the reference)
This is a standard to which I hold myself and others, and I was shirking on the principal without even realizing it:
I believe that I am responsible for everything in my life. Not because I always control my circumstances, but because I always control my reactions.
Being a victim of something only lasts as long as the bad thing is actually happening. If I get mugged, I’m a victim of a mugging while it is happening. After that I’m someone who was a victim of a mugging who is choosing how to react, what to do about it, and what affect (if any) it is going to have on my life going forward.
Nobody can “make me” anything, I have to choose things for them to be in my life, otherwise I would have done what was necessary to get something else.
Relationships don’t make us bitter – we choose bitterness. Life doesn’t make us jaded – we choose to be jaded.
So why do we choose to abdicate this responsibility and run around blaming our issues on someone or something that is not us?
Convenience certainly comes to mind – it’s pretty easy to blame someone else. I have a friend with two teenage daughters who were both going through a particularly angsty phase. She was driving herself to distraction trying to balance discipline, independence, empowerment etc. It wasn’t working. Finally she said “Because I’m your mother and sometimes you have to do it my way. I’m not always right. If you end up damaged, take it up with your therapist”. If you ask me, that is some brave parenting – and what she has taught her girls is that while they are not always in control of their circumstances, they always get to choose how they deal with them.
There’s also sheer cowardice – maybe we don’t want to accept responsibility for the choices we’ve made and where we’ve landed because of them. Maybe admitting that we are responsible for them is super-scary. Maybe we don’t try because we’re scared to fail. Maybe what we want seems more frightening that what we have but don’t want.
In the end, I think it pretty much comes down to what these things are buying for us. We think they are buying us some modicum of safety. We think they are buying us the approval of others. We have created a nice safety blanket of issues that keeps the world out with the added bonus of it being “not our fault”.
I’m not saying that I think we all have to work though everything in our lives, I’m just suggesting that we take responsibility for it all. I’m saying that by taking responsibility, we take power away from our circumstances and other people’s actions, and we claim that power for ourselves.
Someone once told me that they were making a decision that hurt me because they were a coward. I was incredibly sad and disappointed then, and I’m incredibly sad and disappointed now that they chose that - but there is a lot of credit to be given for that level of honesty in that situation. I would much rather hear that than some lie fabricated to try to control my reactions by attempting to make the situation “easier” for me to deal with.
The price you pay for authenticity and freedom in your life is that you give up blaming someone or something else for your problems.