Who's In Charge Here?

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How responsibility is the ultimate freedom.

I just finished reading This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein. I’m not a book reviewer, and I couldn’t do this tome any justice, but I will say that it is a must-read. Because, well, it changes everything. Not just the view of climate change, which the book is about, but, for me, it calls into question how I come up with my views. About everything. What I’m gleaning, so far, is consistent with a point Michael Moore made recently in a political endorsement. He talked about challenging the status quo. He said that in the 1960s, people used to say the US would never elect a Catholic as president. And then JFK was elected. In the 1970s, Americans said they’d never elect someone from the deep south, and Jimmy Carter was voted in. In the ‘80s, never a divorced man — until Ronald Reagan — and in the ‘90s, never a man who hadn’t served in the military. Enter Bill Clinton. And of course, most recently, never a black man. The point is, there is always a prevailing attitude, and it is always pliable. 

 

This is a big lesson for me. Because as much as I hate to admit it, I have, in many ways, been indoctrinated or at least lulled into accepting predominant perspectives in many areas of life. There is an “is-ness” to my attitudes about much of the world. To those I’ve inherited and even to some I’ve thought out. As in, it “is” that way. Thankfully, I didn’t follow along with accepted standards when a chronic care specialist told me there was nothing I could do about my chronic fatigue. She actually advised me to “stop looking. Go home and manage your symptoms.” I am still incredulous and enraged when I think about this advice. Imagine all the people suffering unnecessarily because they listen to people like her! But it is a natural outcome of an obedience to the status quo. It’s just so much easier to follow conventional protocols than to break new trail and lead the way. Both on the giving and receiving ends.

 

When it comes to my health, I have always had an instinctive “knowing” that there was a way not just to manage my symptoms but to get rid of them. To flourish, rather than just survive. While I have sought out and found proof of the body’s ability to heal itself of auto-immune and other diseases, it’s my instinctual experience and the ability to think for myself that most interests me — because I haven’t always done that. Living in a fact-based society, I haven’t even been trained to practice rational thinking. Rather, I’ve been taught to follow rules and predominant views supposedly created by rational thinkers. But who said so? Who says that our medical, economic, political, religious, academic, business or any other institutional models are correct? Are the best possible models? Isn’t it just as likely that others followed a drift as well?

 

I’m not so much interested in a debate about institutions, but in questioning my own adherence to automatic assumptions and existing biases. I have certainly learned that the medical model, while useful in many ways, is woefully lacking in others. And that not just advocating for oneself, but researching, getting educated, asking questions, making requests, and acting in partnership with those in the know is the only way to take full responsibility for one’s well being. If being sick has taught me any lessons, this is the greatest. Until I am willing to take complete ownership of all aspects of my life, I will remain at the effect of all external norms. Other people’s beliefs and limitations and predilections. In other words, if I’m not in charge, my life is a crap shoot.

 

In the beginning of my career, I was an employee. As such, I was subject to the vagaries of my employers. As an actor, I have been subject to the vagaries of my industry. As an entrepreneur, it was the economy. It’s difficult to confess, maybe most of all to myself, but I have been a victim of circumstance. This has left me diminished and weakened in my own mind. It has not only served to lessen my experience of myself, but to disable, or at least mute, my impact on others. To stifle what I have to offer to those with whom I interact, and therefore to limit my contribution to my communities and the world at large. Because we know that every action has a ripple effect. And when we, in our minds, minimize the impact of those concentric circles, we dismiss who we are and negate personal responsibility. Because every problem then becomes an external issue separate from who we are and what we can do about it. By default, it’s now someone else’s problem. Someone else’s fault. And someone else’s blame. We have then successfully removed and distanced ourselves and can now rest assured that we have nothing to do with “those” problems. 

 

Except we don’t rest. We don’t really sleep as well as we could. We are ill at ease in the world because on some instinctive level we know better. We know that we are at the heart of everything, in the thick of it, at the centre where we all meet up as part of life itself. It all comes full circle. That niggling, deeply personal voice inside is the connection to all of it. And the degree to which I resist taking responsibility is the degree to which I suffer. This does not occur as good news to me. Every instance in my life where I have stepped up my ownership, my leadership, engaged in a new realm of responsibility, has led to a moment of terror. A moment where I have to face the bigness of what’s possible when a human being, okay I, choose to expand who I am. I am afraid to say that I am afraid. But I also have a knowing that this is where ultimate freedom lies.

 

 

From A Run In My Stocking: Confessions Of A Recovering Perfectionist     www.aruninmystocking.com

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