Accepting the Realization That I Carry
The Sins of Others on My Back
An old friend of mine often joked with me to “…get off the cross, we need the wood” because I had a horrible habit of internalizing everything and blaming myself for situations where I wasn’t at fault. My mother suffered from what my sister used to refer to as the “Poor Patty complex” because my mother never accepted responsibility for her actions, instead swearing that the world was working in unison against her. I was raised with continuous mental and emotional abuse, convinced from an early age that I was at fault for the majority of the problems in my mother’s life. Add those together, combined with the fact that I made it a personal mission in life for years to be the polar opposite of my mother in every way, there is no wonder why it was always so easy to blame myself for everything and accept full responsibility even when the fault rested elsewhere.
In my ongoing quest for self-awareness, I have come to the realization that this particular quirk of mine extends beyond merely accepting blame where none is due. Not only do I carry the sins of others on my shoulders, but I let their lives guide my choices, as well. Throughout my life, I have made a multitude of decisions based not on my own faults or experiences, but rather based solely on the actions of others.
My mother shot my father. I have never personally done anything violent or illegal involving a gun. Over the years, friends and exes have teased me about hiding weapons from me so I wouldn’t follow in her footsteps. I have no issue with guns themselves or with people owning guns, yet I have avoided firearms throughout my life because I didn’t want to be like her.
My father was a compulsive gambler. The ponies and OTB, in particular, were his drugs of choice. Addiction ran strong in his side of the family, with alcohol and drug abuse running rampant. My brother even battled with drugs and alcohol for years. I have never gone to the track and watched a horse race, never been drunk and never tried any type of drug. Addiction scares me. I feel like there’s a predisposition towards my becoming an addict and I don’t want to follow in those footsteps.
My mother was a hypochondriac. She ran to the doctor for everything, real or imagined. If a doctor didn’t give her the answer she wanted to hear, she would get a second, third or fourth opinion until the outcome met her satisfaction. Personally, I have no problem with doctors or modern medicine, yet time and time again I have avoided going to the doctors until my condition has escalated to serious for no other reason than I did not want to be like my mother, running to the doctor about every little thing.
Throughout my life, many of my decisions have been based on the actions and experiences of others rather than my own life experiences. My parenting choices, in many cases, were based on raising my children completely opposite from the way I was raised. I shut down and avoid confrontations in relationships because I spent my childhood watching my parents explode at one another and I never wanted to repeat that cycle. Instead of living my own life and learning from my own experiences and mistakes, I have stumbled through life making many of my choices based on the lives those around me have lived.
In an effort to overcome this glitch in myself, I have decided to own many of these past choices as unreasonable and face them head on. While there are some decisions I can continue to stand behind, such as avoiding addictive behaviors and vices, the majority need to be honestly reevaluated and readjusted. I cannot spend my life avoiding doctors until my health plummets, nor can I indulge my flight response in order to avoid conflict in my relationships. More importantly, I cannot live my life in fear of embodying the worst aspects of my parents or repeating their mistakes. Learning to shoot a gun will not make me more likely to shoot someone. Going to a racetrack to watch the horses won’t spiral me down into the world of compulsive gambling. I cannot spend my life letting the actions and mistakes of others in the past that have nothing to do with me preside over my decisions in the future.
I have heard “Get off the cross Beth… We need the wood…” many times over the years. It is time I not only stop accepting fault when I am not to blame, but that I also stop letting the past mistakes of others control the way I live my life. I have added some of these things to my living list, as well, because I truly need to start living for myself instead of living in the shadow of the sins of others. I will learn to shoot a gun. I will go to the track and watch a horse race. I will live my own life and learn from my own mistakes and experiences. While I can learn from the experiences of others, I will no longer allow their past to unreasonably control my future.