03 January, 2010

Getting Old?

Perhaps this is just a function of age and the truth that wisdom only comes paired with an accumulation of years (no, I know I've only accumulated less than half of my expected years), but a couple of interesting things came together for me this evening...

Cassandra wrote a wonderful post about personal responsibility, politics, government and marriage. And no, I doubt you can guess her point--or even her subject--from that list of topics. As with everything Cassandra posts, it's well worth your time.

We put too much faith in institutions. I think we do this because we get used to them, and because depending on someone or something else is much easier than holding ourselves accountable all the time. It's much easier than taking responsibility for our own happiness; than facing the strong likelihood that we're (as my friend spd so trenchantly put it once) responsible for at least half of every disappointment we encounter in life.

Of course, she's right. But usually when I think of aversion to personal responsibility, I chalk it up to a desire to avoid the consequences ("It's not my fault that ______! I'm a victim!"), or just plain laziness ("If it's my fault, then I have to ________ to fix it"). Today I realized there's another reason to avoid accepting responsibility...

I had a very personal epiphany not too long ago that has changed many things about how I view myself (and by extension, the rest of the world). It's been a very good thing, but it also has made me look back at certain moments and times in my life with a bit of sadness. Today's vision means I can see the missed opportunities and the self-imposed wounds of the past (as well as forgive myself for some of the mistakes--as I think back to certain of those moments and recognize that AT THAT TIME I probably wasn't capable of understanding or seeing my options any differently). But I find it all so frustrating! So amazing to see how much of those moments--even when I truly was a victim of circumstances--were shaped by my response to them. In some cases, I doubt any response could've "fixed things," but at other times my responses (no matter how considered before acting) made things worse.

I've always understood the idea of "If I knew then what I know now." I've just never felt it so acutely.

And so I wonder if part of our reluctance to accept personal responsibility is that there's a great deal of disappointment in accepting the truth that we weren't as smart or clear-headed as we'd like to think we were back when... and a great deal of fear in accepting that today we aren't as smart or clear-headed as we'll hopefully be tomorrow.