Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Responsibility. Why this is on my mind today, I don’t know. On the responsibility spectrum, you once could have considered me on high red alert although I try to bring myself to a calm blue, or at least a violet these days.

I guess my thoughts began in the shower as I wrestled around the bucket I have to catch shower water. I have it there to justify showering over ten minutes, although we have well water so it’s not draining the municipal resources. All the same, I don’t want to be wasteful. On that, I remembered these little girls washing their hands in the bathroom at the Asian Art museum. I heard a loud rushing sound. Startled, I looked over to see girls washing their hands under taps turned to full force. With the city in water restrictions, their wastefulness shocked me. I thought of saying something but that raises an ethical question for me. Who am I to tell other people’s children what to do? I looked for their parents and didn’t spot any waiting for them. Were they outside? Was it that important I give up my space in the waiting line to track them down just to tell them, your daughters don’t need to wash their hands for 5 minutes with the taps running at full force! For all I knew, they got that behavior from their parents.

The quandary for me telling kids what to do stems from harsh childhood experiences where adults, other than my parents, scolded me for actions I didn’t know were wrong. Like when my friend Debbie and I found one machine at the supermarket giving free gumballs. Delighted, we kept turning the knob to get another gumball and shove it in our mouths. “That’s stealing,”snarled an adult. “What?,” I thought, shocked. It didn’t occur to me that it was and here this woman was calling me a bad person. A thief! I didn’t get over it. That’s my own quirk. Even in my more adult years (if you can call college that) when friends snacked on food bins in the supermarket without paying I wouldn’t. That’s stealing. I told them it was. Didn’t stop them though, nor did I try to with any force.

I’m responsible – yet is it my responsibility to point out to others where I think their actions are potentially harmful? How wasteful were those girls really being? What would I do with my own children? I’ll never know.

In high school, I never took drugs. Why? Because I thought of future conversations with my future kids. If I caught them doing drugs and they countered, but you did it, I could say with impunity, “No I didn’t, not in high school. You can do whatever you want at 18, but not that under my roof…. “

At college, the pretend conversation with my future kids became moot. After learning the environmental and social devastation of overpopulation, I decided never to have kids. That would be irresponsible. And I, was responsible.

I spent a good part of my early twenties being a do-gooder – working for social harmony. Burned out, I quit being an organizer. Still feeling guilt over it my friend Gina said, Jen you’re not responsible for the world! Well, if I wasn’t, who would be? I mean, gosh, the world was so fucked up.

Well, I got tired of being responsible for the world. It didn’t revolve around me after all. I wanted fun so I sought a career in entertainment. Was it fun? Sometimes, the times I didn’t take it too seriously. But boy, when I did and my uber-responsibility came out, you’d think the show would stop if I didn’t perform my job above and beyond. Well, I didn’t want to let anyone down. That was all in my head though.

I had a good time to think and stop. Having all that weight on me manifested into a bulging spinal disc. If I tried to stand up straight, it hit my sciatic nerve causing debilitating pain. I had to crawl on the floor to the kitchen to feed the cat. I couldn’t let him go hungry.

I got back surgery, my cat died (by stroke), and I had to go to physical therapy. Touching the tension in my shoulders the therapist commented, “You’re really responsible. You have the weight of the world on your shoulders.” That comment really hit me – in the right way at the right time. Yes, I was responsible. Maybe too much. Maybe more than average and certainly more than I needed to be.

I’m not completely cured of fretting over the world. But now, when I receive those pleading donation letters in the mail, rather than cursing myself for not having the money to send, I throw them away. I don’t have the money. Let them find someone else. I’m here to take care of me. And I don’t have to be responsible for someone else, which is why, now, I still don’t want to have children. From the greater Universal perspective, we can only be responsible for ourselves because it us up to us to forge our own lives. That isn’t to say we don’t help others when we can. It’s our choice though as to whether we do it or not.

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