Today Soulmate cleaned the cat dish. Well, cat fountain actually. The cat in our house gets to drink from a cat fountain. During the day when I sit on my butter yellow leather chair in the livingroom, I can hear the cat fountain bubbling. Fountains are good feng shui. Except this one is for cats. Hey, no judging!
I told Soulmate at least a week ago that I would clean the cat fountain. But for various reasons that seemed good at the time — dishes in the sink preventing adequate cat fountain cleaning; Soulmate showering and would be affected by sudden hot water usage for cat fountain cleaning; inexcusable forgetfulness of cat fountain cleaning — I didn’t do it. Meanwhile, the algae level in Kitty’s drinking water kept increasing. So this morning Soulmate cleaned Kitty’s fountain. He said, She’s my cat. It’s my job. I should know better than to rely on anyone else. I am paraphrasing. He didn’t exactly say that. But that is what my heart heard. Ow.
A Wild Goddess wears her heart.
I am reminded of that in so many ways. She wears her heart.
What Soulmate said hurt. Why? Because I too sometimes believe I am an island. I too believe that I and I alone should be responsible for the things that are my responsibility. I too have been hurt in the past, perhaps because I was too open, too trusting, too heart-filled. I heard Soulmate’s voice but it could have been me talking. I should know better than to rely on anyone else.
The words also hurt because I took my failure to keep Kitty’s fountain from becoming an indoor swamp as my failure to be a good partner to Soulmate. And a failure to fully wear my heart. So ow, that hurts.
This is what I think in my head: If I had been fully wearing my heart, I would be a better partner to Soulmate. I would be more fully engaged in our life together, and I would be cleaning the cat fountain as if it were my own.
As I write these words, I see the trap I set for myself. Can you see it?
The responsibility trap.
Many aspiring Wild Goddesses struggle with this one. The fine line between Connection and Responsibility. This the Erroneous Responsibility song I sometimes hear in my head:
In order to be Connected to you, I must take Responsibility for you.
Now that you have read those words, please please please scrub your eyeballs thoroughly and pretend you never read them. Because those words are wrong, so wrong. But they are a song that has been chanted in my inner depths since childhood (it’s comforting to know you have been dead wrong about something all your life, no? ). The song is wrong.
I see all over my life how this Erroneous Responsibility song has crept in and tainted my very being. I erroneously think that in order to GET love, I must TAKE responsibility for the actions/thoughts/emotions of the one whose love I desire. I write these words and see how messed up they are. I couldn’t be more wrong about this. Love is not dependent upon responsibility. Assuming responsibility for something that is not yours to begin with is not only a huge unnecessary burden for you but is also taking away something from that other person that is theirs to begin with. See what I mean about messed up?
How we get trapped in Erroneous Responsibility.
I can’t think of any more culturally pervasive way we trap ourselves into believing that Connection = Responsibility than when we are mothers.
At first, it’s so easy. So clear. You hold your tiny fragile newborn — a tiny creature all wee waving birdbone arms and legs, with breath like butterfly wings — and you feel so much love. You just know that when you hold this amazing small being that you are holding your baby’s life in your hands. Literally. You don’t do this, and you don’t even let yourself think it, but one reason why you are so, so careful holding this tiny loved person is because you know this baby could not survive being dropped, or smooshed accidentally into a doorway, or rolled over upon in bed. And so you are so, so careful. You take Responsibility. You love your baby so very very much and you want years with this baby, years of laughter and silly faces and helping with homework and walking down the aisle and eventually grandchildren. All those years are crammed up together in every moment you hold your baby, and it is right that you feel responsible because this amazing tiny being really truly depends on you.
And this, this feeling that you feel is a mixture of Responsibility (an ancient deep ancestral survival cry of Must! Not! Harm! Baby!) and Connection. Baby looks up at you with her baby eyes, a soft milky gurgle on her rosepetal lips, and sighs a sweet soft contented sigh. And that is the beginnings of Love. Connection.
And Baby grows up.
Twenty years later, we are Helicopter Parents, frantically texting our college-age kids at 1pm because they are not returning our 17 frantic phone calls and we haven’t heard from them since 8 am and can’t track debit-card usage of our joint parent-kid account to look for late-night pizza indiscretions (and therefore evidence of said child’s continued safe existence) because the bank’s server is down. Oh yes. this stuff happens. And we get there from newborn I-am-your-world to college I-still-want-to-be-your-world because we haven’t learned to fully wear our hearts and trust that love comes back to us when it does.
This is one very big way we get trapped. We think we must suffer, sacrifice, and be responsible in order to be loving. I used to think that. I am learning not to.
What is in your heart is a gift.
The other day I told a friend how much I treasure our relationship. She had just shared with me her emailed account of a very vulnerable experience. All she did was share. She did not ask what I thought about it. She only told me about something that happened in her life. I wrote back and told her what a gift she is, that I so appreciate her way of being with me and what a gift it is for me. Her sharing — and being vulnerable — was a gift. She expected nothing in return except perhaps the hope and desire that I receive what she shared.
She wore her heart.
I used to believe I had to sacrifice and take responsibility for my children’s well-being. I now practice wearing my heart.
Wearing your heart? What does that look like?
Here are some ways I practice wearing my heart with Soulmate:
- Being true.
- Being vulnerable.
- Saying what you feel.
- Saying what you want.
- Holding yourself accountable.
- Being 100% responsible for You.
- Trusting the other person.
- Letting go.
Start with the Responsibility Trap. Where in your life have you taken Erroneous Responsibility for the experiences of someone else?