Assuming Responsibility

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On the first day of the Canadian Roadtrip Part Une this year, Melody looked over at me with a big grin and said, “We’re going on an Adventure! Are you excited?!”

I took a moment and gave the question serious consideration. I was excited about the trip, but… it was a cautious, tempered excitement. When I plan a trip like this, there’s a certain amount of anxious nervousness that goes along with the planning. Did I pick good campgrounds? Will we enjoy the planned activities? Are my directions going to be adequate? Is the RV in good shape for the trip? Did I allot enough time (or too much) for driving? Will customs be a hassle? How is the cat going to cope with the RV? (I could go on and on and on.) The questions and uncertainties around a trip I’ve never done before leaves me with a low-lying level of fretting that gets in the way of me being fully relaxed and excited about what lies ahead.

By contrast, the Canadian Roadtrip Part Deux will revisit some places I saw and loved on a trip in 2004. For this adventure, I am genuinely excited and much less fretful, in no small part because I have a much better idea what to expect, what lies ahead. I know the landscape is stunning, the activities will be a joy, and I have far fewer questions occupying the hamster wheel in my brain.

I’ve longer been aware of that vacation conundrum: what’s better, repeating a previous vacation that you’ve loved, or striking off for new experiences and fresh adventure? I absolutely do not want to be one of those stodgy people who follow the same rutted routine year after year, but it’s fruitless to deny that I like an occasional taste of the tested and familiar. Keeping those two choices in balance will take some mindfulness.

 

Sitting and meditating with these thoughts over a few days, combined with some other discussions I’ve had lately has tied this to another issue. I have a tendency to feel responsible for things that I shouldn’t, to an extent that I shouldn’t. If I suggest a new restaurant and it turns out to be mediocre, that’s my fault. If the campground I picked has no privacy and nothing to see or do, I’m to blame. If the route I picked has horrible traffic and lots of delays, I should have anticipated that and picked another route. If I try out a new recipe and it’s lousy, I should have made something else. (Again, I could go on and on and on.)

I don’t have a clear answer for where that impulse comes from. There’s cheesy pop psychology around being the youngest child, and how those people tend to be the people pleasers, the ones who look for the compromises and solutions that will make everybody happy and maintain the peace. As much as I want to dismiss that as unsubstantiated bullshit beneath even undergrad psychology, it certainly resonates with my personality and the role I fell into in my family of origin. I have also been the fulcrum in three polyamorous V relationships, dating back to my high school years, and I think that has been a significant contributing factor. Trying to keep one girlfriend happy can be enough of a challenge; trying to keep two girls happy simultaneously can be an exhausting effort, weighing each of their (very) individual likes and dislikes, preferences and needs, weighing all of that and looking for the solutions that will satisfy each and keep the peace. And then if you have a relationship that is some degree of codependent, that might result in trying to take on too much ownership of meeting your partners’ needs *cough* whims. If you have a partner who isn’t very capable about taking responsibility for her own emotions, perhaps with a dose of narcissistic personality disorder, you might find yourself getting a substantial amount of external feedback that blames you for how she feels and encourages you to take responsibility for the things that upset her. You know, hypothetically speaking.

Okay, so there might be some reasons I got to where I am today. That doesn’t mean it’s a reasonable or healthy place to be. It’s something I want to be more aware of and look for opportunities to grow out of it. Thankfully, I am in a relationship presently with an amazing person, someone who is very good about owning her own emotional issues and very thoughtful about not pushing those off onto other people. She is also deeply perceptive and terribly kind and gentle about noticing my own foibles and giving me the opportunity to move past them. She has boundless patience for talking through such habits and is extraordinary about giving me reflection and feedback as I look at the habit from multiple vantage points. As is true with some many issues, simply developing an awareness of the issue and attempting to be mindful about it in the moment is the majority of the battle. It becomes something we can note in passing, “Look at you, trying to take ownership of something entirely out of your control”, and the more I can see it, the less hold it has on me and the more I can start leaving those habits behind me.

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