I’m diligent, responsible and can be counted on; I do what I’ve promised and have a strong internal accountability to the people and things I’ve taken responsibility for.
What if this isn’t because I’m an all round amazing person? What if this is instead just my carefully cultivated survival instinct?
I take huge amounts of responsibility; a strategy sculpted by my own need as a child for my family not to fall apart. I make myself indispensable; a scheme crafted by my subconscious so that I might then stay safe, so I might not be abandoned again. I give; a plan devised as way to pay my dues in order to receive the love and care I need, motivated by a belief that I need to buy my right to occupy that space in the world, buy my right to be loved by trading all my energy and skills. If I fail to show up as wonder-woman, a debilitating fear sets in that I will be thrown out like a working horse gone lame.
I realise I have outgrown these survival strategies; as a child they did indeed keep me safe and needed but I failed to learn that I had the right to be safe and loved just for who I am. My responsibilities eventually became a source of destruction to me, a source of burden and guilt, acting only out of duty and obligation. Pouring from an empty cup for so long the cup has itself become porous and cracked. Now I’m on the path to learning how to plug the leaky holes and strengthen my cup so that it may be finally filled just for me.
I’ve done a lot of preparation to get to where I am today. Gradually shedding responsibilities and letting go of material possessions to be able embark upon the journey I have now begun. Just me and my backpack in India. I set out with the clear goal of allowing each day to unfold exactly as it wishes without my interference, controlling and planning. My pace set by the signals of my own body, finding a place to settle and moving on only when the internal motivation emerges by itself.
“Nothing goes away until it teaches you what you need to know” ~ Pema Chodran
Over the last two weeks I’ve been revisited by my old habit, my compulsion to take responsibility to assuage my guilt for taking space in the world. Staying at an Ayurveda centre here in India where I’ve been before to take treatment, I asked to come to stay again to coincide with some friends and to have a known place to reside in the early stages of my travels. I asked to stay as a volunteer; now I marvel at the fact that it didn’t occur to me that I had the right to ask to stay just to stay, without any reason more than that. As the two weeks passed I found my guilt and low self worth tormenting me as I struggled to force myself to do at least some of what I promised as a volunteer. I became more tired, more depressed, more confused until I finally understood and could articulate my need for rest not responsibility. I tried to express this in a few ways over the period of time, only to find I still hadn’t really managed to convey what I was yearning to communicate. Finally I came to my own total acceptance of what was and found my voice and could express myself. Suddenly my journey there was over, my world seemed to have shifted. Weirdly it was suddenly time for me to move on. And as that door closed, another door opened.
I’m now in a place where I have just shown up as myself, I have been open and articulate about my need for rest, for space, and I have found a safe and unconditional acceptance. My instinct to take responsibility and put others first is becoming more easily identifiable and I’m learning to nip it in the bud before I take on things that will weaken my cup before I’ve had a chance to make it whole again.
My cup is gradually mending and becoming strong again. Where once there were cracks it is becoming stronger than before, like the Japanese art of mending ceramics I imagine those cracks filled with gold, making me both beautiful and unique.
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