I have sometimes felt like the ghost of Jacob Marley who dragged around the chains he had forged in life. Tied to his waist were money boxes and ledgers. Money and the accumulation of it had been the sole goal of his life.
In my case, the burden was feeling responsible for everyone else’s life. Making my mother’s transition into widowhood easier; making my sister’s life dealing with Parkinson’s Disease simpler; wanting to fix things for my other sister so that her life would be less stressful; helping my best friend deal with her partner’s stroke and her 100 year old aunt’s health. As a teacher, I always felt responsible for my student’s success. If the student had difficulty understanding anything in the course content, then it must have been that I had not explained it sufficiently or that I had not found the ‘one’ way to help my student’s understanding. As District Educational Services Officer for my OSSTF District, I always felt that it was my responsibility to ensure that our professional development day unfolded easily for the presenters and that each teacher had the best experience possible. In going through evaluations after each PD day, I felt responsible for every negative comment. And on and on it went – in every area of my life.
The words which have, for so much of my life, rambled around in my head are: “It’s my job.” “It’s my responsibility.” “I’m supposed to…” It seems that I’ve been looking after everyone else AND not myself. I’ve put what I thought were everyone else’s needs before my own. And so I’ve been dragging so much not real but still immeasurably cumbersome baggage around. Baggage which has increased in size and weight as I’ve aged. Baggage which my body has felt is there even as it is not real.
I know that I am very good at multitasking. I know that I can complete what I do quickly and well. I also know that I’ve become trapped by the allure of feeling indispensable. I mean, if everyone wanted my help and looked to me to ‘get ‘er done’, then that must mean that I was important and essential to the world. That must mean that I had a right to be here. I also know that, in the family system in which I grew up, after I had doffed the persona of ‘family rebel’ who cross questioned every edict from my parents and other authority figures, I became the ‘family hero’. I felt that it was my job to make sure that life worked for everyone else. My own needs be damned!
Since I believed that I was responsible for everyone else’s life, I also got caught in the trap of never saying ‘No’. To do that would have been, I believed, incredibly selfish. To do that would mean that I was no longer needed. I mean, the more I was asked to do, meant that I was valuable to my world. I had no other measure of my worth.
What I know now is that I AM DONE. Done with old ways of being and thinking and responding. Done with feeling that I had to live up to everyone else’s expectations. Done with believing that it was my job to look out for everyone else. Done with living my life in ‘if only land’ – if only I could do what I want, if only I had time for myself, if only….
What I know is that I, my large S self, am a being of great talent, skill, ability and worth. I know that in my cells. I need no validation from anyone else. I am my own measure. I am beholden to no one. And so, I have laid down my burden. And in so doing, my life has become marvellously simple, easy, and joyous.