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The "R" word

Lately I have been hearing inside and outside of me the word RESPONISBILITY. Responsibility for me has always been a role that I must fulfill. It has been a way that I have acted or behaved to gain approval from the adults around me. “Mandy is so responsible. She can be trusted to make the “right” decisions or choices.” What I hear for myself now is very much conforming, keeping status quo, and compliance.

Growing up and even into my early adult years, I prided myself on being responsible, accountable and reliable. I was the one who got things “done” and managed her time well. I never let people down and always did exactly what I said that I would do. At the cost of my own impulses and desires…. I was responsible.

Since having children, I have found myself labelling them. “ Oh Bauer, he’s the responsible one and well Aspen…. he isn’t.” I have put great weight into responsible. You get more flexibility, approval and perks. If you can prove to me that you are reliable and responsible, I will just about agree to anything.

I am slightly embarrassed to admit all of this but it has brought me to a different understanding of responsible. With the flexibility, approval and perks comes a very tight and restricted box of SELF. There has not been much room to expand and try things on. Responsible has not allowed me to stretch any further than what I was told I was capable of or what I could do or BE. With the label of RESPONSIBLE, comes a never ending expectation and a loss of freedom.

If you are responsible, you will anticipate what another may want or need and fulfill those needs. If you are responsible, you will always take on the mood of another because if they are upset or disappointed, you should have anticipated it and done something to mitigate it. If you are responsible, you will sacrifice any and all things that make you unique and in doing so….. give up your freedom for exploration, creation and MAGIC.

As with many times in my life before, lately, I have felt strangled by my responsibilities. I have felt the weight of “mother” and “wife”. I have felt resentful in moments and have come to realize that this experience of “responsible” was defined for me and now that I am 37 years old….. I get to redefine it. I have discovered that the only person putting roles and responsibilities on me is ME! Not my husband or kids, in laws, or ex’s, parent or siblings, bosses or co-workers. I AM the one with the unchecked expectations. I am the one with the rules, roles, responsibilities and dogma. I am the one holding myself captive to an old and out-dated set of beliefs.

“I long to be FREE”!

How many of you can relate to this? How many of you want to be Free from bills, bosses, kids, parents’, shitty Christmas suppers that end in fights, and all general responsibilities? How many of you think back on your college or high school years and can feel that spacious sense of freedom? Nothing to “do” and no time to “do” it in.

I can and I do. There was MAGIC in those spacious times of freedom. I was able to move and flow through my life without timelines and expectations. I wasn’t responsible for bills and bosses in the same way I am now. I didn’t have to put food in my kids belly or get them to their 100 different activities. I had time to create, watch TV, go snowboarding, or travel at any moment.

So what has changed?

Being a “mother” has changed for me. The moment I gave birth, a blind set of rules and responsibilities kicked in and I starting abiding by them. Mother shall, make every meal and clean up, mother shall do all the laundry, mother shall clean all of the toilets, mother shall attend to the emotional needs of both her kids and partner, mother shall attend every xmas concert, special class day, performance, hockey, soccer and ball game, mother shall……………… This list would literally take 2 years to write for me. But you get the point.

As I begin to question the “responsibilities” in my life, I can see where I have mindlessly taken on roles that are NOT meaningful to me in anyway. Roles like “ daughter in law”, “sister in law”, “ ex wife”, “granddaughter”, “class room rep”, “ doer of the bills” etc… I participate in these roles and become very resentful, burnt out and angry because of it. The process of “letting go” of responsibility has been a very long road for me. Each time I reach a point of feeling strangled by that which I feel I am responsible for, I relax into it and usually…. there is a role or set of rules that have been burning under the surface of my day to day life that I have ignored.

Creating a meaningful life for me requires that I am present and in my body at all times. That I am deep enough inside to actually feel the deep impulse of what I want. Without this first step, I cannot truly make choices for myself and often make them in reaction to all that is outside of me. When I say YES or NO to something I ask myself, “ I am saying this because I think it is expected of me or is this truly what I want?”

Recently, I discovered that I have been living on autopilot with the software being “ mother responsibility”. I pick the kids up, bring them home, discuss school, unpack bags, make lunches, nag at the kids about the food they didn’t eat or the homework they didn’t do, make supper, do the dishes, hate the kids for not offering to help or worse yet, yelling at them to help, poor poor me and then….I tuck them in to bed and feel totally happy that they are not anywhere near me.

Some days, I do this day in and day out. I HATE myself for it. My body hates it. I hear myself aloud and could literally hit myself. BUT…. There is a familiarity in all of it for me. There has been a safety in it for me. The routine, structure, habit and pattern of it all holds me in a false sense of safety. It is what I have known for a while and if not that? Then what?

This is embarrassing for me to admit. I can feel the shame and guilt rise up as I type these words. But I know that this is my gateway for change. I have asked myself the hard and scary question of, “ where are you comfortable?” “where do I still hold patterns and habit as automatic?” AND…what is the genius in it? When I go into auto pilot, what can I avoid or not engage?

When I ask myself these questions, I can feel a softening inside and the self judgement doesn’t exist. When I am busy with my “doing” in life, I become focussed and small. I collapse the space. I collapse my own potential for growth. When I drop my “to do” list or agenda, It frees up the much needed space for movement and flow. For change and transition and exploration and curiosity and the diversity that I crave.

When I free myself from the self imposed chains of “responsibility”, I am no longer held hostage to what has been. I am free to explore new notions, ideas, beliefs, values and attitudes. When I am not tied into my day-to-day safety net, I have freedom of choice and I am not bound by those “mothers” that have come before me. I do not have to perpetuate the cycle of self judgement and martyrdom that is so deeply woven into my DNA.

When I LET GO…I am free to be the WILD, UN-TAMED, UN-MANAGED, UN-RELENTING and UN-APOLOGETIC force that I AM.

I am aware that the winter SOLSTICE is fast approaching for 2015. Tonight I engaged in a ritual of letting go of those things that have not, and do not serve me. “Responsibility” and “mother” are two of those experiences that I am letting go of and re creating for myself in a meaningful and fully engaged way. I invite you to consider those responsibilities and roles that you are engaged in and take a long hard look at them. Do they light you up? Do they bring out the best of you? Do they hold any meaning? If not…. What does? Be the creator of your own world.


Mandy Sandbach