Not Because of You

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.

You choose.

Published in: on August 13, 2010 at 5:07 am  Comments (10)  

10 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I associate former relationships with songs, too. I don’t care if the song is ruined forever, because there are millions of amazing songs in the universe and if I attach a memory to a song and then purge the song from my life…I’ll randomly think about that person when it pops on the radio and pretty much at no other time. Plus, I don’t listen to radio-friendly music so there’s really even no chance of it being on the radio.

    It helps me to not obsess, and after time, when I hear or listen to the song I remember why I picked that song, realize why things happened the way it did, and then can listen with a bittersweet enjoyment and remember what was good about that person and how knowing that person led me to where I am now.

    I’m at the point in my life where I THANK every ex for being an ex, because it was either that or I’d be with them and not the person I am with. I love who I am and I love my life and every ex was a thread in that tapestry. They were all necessary to create the picture that exists now and the lessons I learned are ones I use when I talk to friends after a break-up. They have helped me in so many ways by NOT being part of my life that a song is a small price to pay for all of the knowledge.

    p.s. LOVE the Scrubs reference!!!

  2. Very well put Ragen. Everyone should read this post. 🙂 Thanks for the great reminder!

  3. Thank you so much! I was having a huge (albeit PMS induced) pity party this morning…I definitely needed the reminder that how I see today is my CHOICE!

  4. Great post. It’s a huge responsiblility to realize that you and you alone are responsible for your reactions and actions. But it is also the most freeing part of growing up.

    xo Susie

  5. This post is awesome! I agree 1000%. We choose between being a victim or a victor.

    Check out my blog on the same topic:

    • Victim or Victor – love that! If I steal it I promise to give you credit. I read your blog and it’s excellent.

  6. OUCH!!
    I’ll be in recovery if anyone needs me 🙂

  7. Oh great. So you’re saying everything is my fault. I must be very horrible and worthless, or else why would I CHOOSE to let people hurt me so much? Thanks, I feel so much better.

    • I’m not saying anything about you at all – I’m explaining how I feel and you are choosing to apply it to yourself and then choosing to blame me for your interpretation and subsequent bad feelings. I’m not sure that I could have said anything that would have made you feel better. I believe that how I feel is my responsibility because if it’s not mine – then whose is it and what choices does that leave for me? Do I have to just sit around hoping for a gang of positive people to make me feel good about myself? If that never happens am I doomed to a life of blaming and explaining to everyone how my life is crap because of other people and experiences and there is nothing I can do about it? I do not choose that for myself, but I absolutely respect anyone else’s right to choose it for themselves. I don’t know what your philosophy is on how to improve self-esteem and live the life that you desire but whatever it is I respect your right to choose it and have whatever life experience you create for yourself.

  8. Ohhh, I love this post. I used to be best friends with a girl we’ll call “P”. One day, P was telling me how she admired me and was amazed at everything I’ve accomplished, given what I grew up with. I didn’t have the greatest childhood, and there were a lot of issues at home (and still are). It could have been much worse, but it definitely wasn’t good.

    I found P’s comment puzzling at first, because I didn’t really understand how what I grew up with should affect what I do once I found a safe way to leave that environment. She explained further that she feels a lot of kids in my type of situation turn to drugs or alcohol to “make things go away” or give up on accomplishing anything.

    I could have chosen those things. I could have chosen to keep looking back at what I went through and keep being miserable and depressed because those years were bad. I could have done a lot of things. But if these things hurt me so much, why would I want to keep focusing on them? If my parents took away a happy childhood from me, why would I let them take a happy adulthood from me as well? If I don’t like the path I’ve been on, why would I keep going down that same path? I am responsible for my choices and I am responsible for the future path my life will follow. I may not be able to control every obstacle I find along that path, but I can keep deciding whether I want to give up because of those obstacles, or keep fighting to find a way around it to my goal, or find a new path.

    I think this is very much akin to what you are saying when you say,”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.” I am responsible for how I react to what my parents did. I am not responsible for my parents acting that way, and I certainly did nothing to deserve it, but I am responsible for deciding whether I want to give up and blame them for every unhappiness in my life, or if I want to put that part of my journey behind me and forge my way ahead to my own happiness.

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