We got a pandemic puppy. It wasn’t the first time I impulsively purchased a pet to solve some problem in my life. The last time was to save my first marriage. It made perfect sense: when you have a two-year-old, a full-time job and you’re married to a chronically ill, addict who can’t function, the only solution is to give yourself more responsibility, right?
Walter. He was adorable; a brindle Basset Hound mix with big floppy ears that drug on the ground as he tripped over his own paws. When I finally did leave my husband, my two-year-old and I moved into our new rental. Walter happily destroyed everything in his path, quite literally eating my deposit. Within days I asked myself that question. You know the one.
“Am I the worst person in the world if I __________.”
Fill in the blank here. In my case it was “Am I the worst person in the world if I rip my son’s heart out by getting rid of the puppy?” Of course, I had already ripped his heart out by moving away from all of his friends and leaving his father, so the question carried less and less sting.
However, I think we ask ourselves this question often, and in a myriad of circumstances. Am I the worst person in the world if I:
- say no to volunteering my time
- don’t contribute to the cause all of my friends are
- aren’t more involved in my kids’ school
- don’t go the dinner party I’m dreading
- take a weekend away just for me
- don’t let (or let) my kids do whatever
- break off this friendship
- let my spouse down…and on and on
The answer? I don’t know, but more importantly, who cares?
If these are the things that make me a bad person, then bring them on because to do the opposite – to do what the judgmental, deranged, mean little voice in my head says to do is “right,” is the very thing that found me married to a hopeless addict, overwhelmed, exhausted, depleted and downright nasty to myself and others in the first place. And that my friends, is wrong.
We are given a set of rules when our soul lands on this earth, which are entirely separate from the laws of the land (which I’m not suggesting anyone disobey, so please, no hate mail). The rules we’re given are unique to each of us. We may not like them, but we’d best adhere to them if we don’t want to end up sleepless, overwhelmed, victimized, bitter and generally miserable in any given moment.
Don’t know what your rules are? Neither do I, but I know how to find them: Listen to yourself. Listen to the twinge in your gut and the tightness in your chest. Listen to the rumble of anger gurgling in your throat and the swirling of guilt in your tummy. They are there to tell you something. They’re telling you, you’re about to betray yourself.
I found myself in crappy situations and I deserved to be in every one of them because I broke my own rules. I made decisions based on the validation of others, I subjugated my needs, I had unrealistic expectations of people and relationships, I didn’t set boundaries, I allowed my emotions to dictate my behavior, and a host of other things, I’m sure.
I believe we do these things under the guise of doing what’s “right.” That makes us good people, right? Wrong. Doing whatever trumped up idea we have of what’s right – attending that family dinner party, staying up all night because our kids decided they wanted to spend time with us at midnight, donating too much money when our own retirement isn’t safe, giving in to the whims of others – all of that can be costly.
I know, it’s not a good look to get rid of a rescued puppy whose had a hard life to begin with, or to not show up to a family gathering or whatever it is. In fact, some things are a really bad look depending on who’s looking. But being a victim is an even worse look, and that’s where we’re headed if we’re not listening to ourselves.
People will be let down. They will be upset. They may even think and feel nasty things about us, but it’s nothing compared to how we feel and act if we didn’t attend to our own laws first, if we didn’t first check in to the knowledge that lives within us.
The question to ask isn’t “What’s the right thing to do?” The question to ask is, “What am I right with?” Inherent in that answer (assuming no sociopaths are reading this), lives what’s right.