Friday, January 2, 2009

Taking responsibility

railroad tracks

Here's some additional musing on my New Year's resolutions.

I've found an overarching theme to my desires for the year, and it's to choose responsibility (hence, the unimaginative title up there).

In the past, I've excused myself from doing something I want to because no one else was doing it, or I've blamed someone else's lack of participation on why I couldn't follow through.

My NaNoWriMo experience, where I wrote a novel in one crazy month, taught me that it was up to me to make the choice to finish or not to. My husband was telling me I didn't need to kill myself writing it all in one month -- but I'm not making him the Satan of this piece. If I had listened to him and let that excuse me from finishing my novel, that would have been my choice. It would have been my fault that I hadn't finished, no one else's. Fortunately, I realized that and made my choice to power through on my convictions.

In other areas, I hadn't had that revelation. There have been parenting ideas and ideals that I've had that I've been half-hearted about. I haven't talked about it much, but I have a goal to raise Mikko bilingual in English and German (along with the sign language!). Since Sam speaks kein Wort Deutsch, he's understandably not been able to support me in that vision. I've let that corrode my own ambition to follow through, but that's my problem, and only I can resolve it.

Similar things have happened with keeping our apartment clean, or practicing elimination communication, or losing weight. I feel like I'm the only one desiring those things, so I'm the only one performing the necessary tasks. I start getting resentful that Sam's not pulling his weight, or at least encouraging me at it on an emotional level. I finally had to step back and say to myself, for example: Hey, Self! Who wants the apartment clean? Has Sam shown the least interest in that? Is that a desire of his, or a desire or yours that you're foisting on him? How do you feel when he projects his desires onto you and wants you to fall in line? Because if it's my desire, then it's my responsibility. If I want the place clean, then it's up to me to clean it. There's no shaming anyone else into helping. There's no justifying my lack of willpower on the absence of others' participating.

I know Sam reads this blog, so let me step in and say that I really am not trying to air dirty laundry or make him into some sort of villain. It's truly because we're so close that he's the only person who's able to have such a strong effect on me. I let negative reactions from other people roll off me a little more, because they're not part of my day-to-day life. But with a beloved spouse -- it reminds me of that scene from Mad About You, and I can't find the quote online, so here's a paraphrase. Paul and Jamie have just woken up and they're considering going out jogging. They turn to each other and say, "I won't tell if you won't," and roll back over to sleep. When you're close, you become co-conspirators of sorts, and that can be comforting (or stagnating, which is also up to you).

As one more element in Sam's favor, he supports me in almost everything. I just need to learn not to rely on it. For instance, he supports our attachment parenting ideals and happily bed shares, hands Mikko over to breastfeed, and wore Mikko all over the place -- but what if he hadn't? Would I have abandoned my own goals? I hope I'm not that weak, but I need to check what's important to me and make my decisions accordingly.

Besides actions like cleaning and eating and parenting choices, another place I need to take responsibility is with my emotions. I choose whether to feel angry with a situation or annoyed with a person. I don't choose the experiences or triggers, but I choose my own reactions. I learned this in my pregnancy as I was preparing with hypnosis for birth. There were a lot of affirmations about choosing to feel peace and refusing others' attempts to break that peace. That served me well in planning a home birth and in ultimately having a 42-hour natural childbirth (of a 12-pound baby!), but somehow I never applied those lessons to the rest of my life.

I hope this hasn't just been a self-indulgent, obnoxiously drawn out post on my own failings and wishes. I hope there's something in this for other people contemplating the same discouragements and desires.

I think so, because isn't it funny how when you're thinking about a subject, your eyes are opened to other people talking about the same thing? Here's the Daily Groove I received today from Scott Noelle: Two Kinds of Responsibility. And here's a quote:

"[R]esponsibility is the ability to respond creatively, and it's an acknowledgment that each individual creates his or her own experience of life."

And here's a good review of an intriguing book at My Life, by the Book, by Susana la Banana: Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline. And here's a relevant excerpt from the review, though you can read it all for the context:

"The book also addresses the fact that you cannot MAKE your children do anything. Think about that for a minute. You can't actually MAKE your children eat vegetables.... You can't MAKE them 'be nice.' All you can do is help them learn how to achieve these things through trial and error, which is what being a kid is all about.

"ALSO...this means that other people can't make YOU do anything. If you're mad at traffic, you're choosing to be mad at traffic. If you're having trouble sticking to your new diet, it's because you're choosing to eat a food that's not on your diet plan. Thus, you are free to decide NOT to eat that food or NOT to be irritated by bad drivers. To me this has serious potential to change not only the way we treat our children but the way we treat ourselves and the amount of independence and choice we have in our daily lives."

Well said! Here's to a year of enjoying responsibility!

Photo courtesy of Jan Flaska on stock.xchng


Susana la Banana said...

I did hypnosis for birth too, and I agree, when I can remember the lessons I learned from that and apply them to my daily life, I can MUCH more easily change my experience of a situation to a more positive one...and reflect on how my negative opinions of the past were not really based in any more objective reality.

Happy New Year and have fun with your responsibility!

Kate Wicker said...

I enjoyed your thoughts on resolutions - especially with regards to emotions. I struggle with letting others break my peace or letting my emotions be at the whim of things I can't control. I like what you said about choosing your reaction to experiences/triggers. This is something I have to work on.

Oh, and I have to say this: 42 hours of natural childbirth? You go girl! Seriously, I'm a big advocate of natural childbirth, but I had it so easy (warp speed labor; you can hate me now - it's okay) when I read about women like you. You're an inspiration.

By the way, this is an aside and just an interesting tidbit, but I saw your reference to Mad About You and my dad's brother/my uncle played Cousin Ira on the show (John Pankow). When I was in college, I spent time in L.A. and had a chance to meet to cast. My favorite cast member? Murray the dog.

Here's to a healthy and happy 2009!!! (Sorry for the lengthy comment!)


Lauren Wayne said...

I forgot to say -- very cool about Mad About You, and I'm jealous you got to meet Murray! :)

P.S. I'm hoping for warp speed the next time around...

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