I spent a LOT of years in the back seat. For some of those years I sat there contentedly unaware that I was even in the back seat. But mostly I sat there, feeling guilty for doing so, but also afraid to get out.
It is sometimes embarrassing to admit that it has taken me longer than I think it should to “grow up” and “be responsible,” at least in the way I used to define those things.
For so long the idea of “taking responsibility” and caring for myself in any meaningful way had the power to bring me to my knees in fear. Now what I understand is that it isn’t the actual act of taking responsibility, it’s what I made it mean, that scared me.
It was the “should” that was the source of my fear.
I thought that my life (body, career, finances, family…) should look different than it was, and so I felt uneasy, unhappy, desperate, and perhaps most significantly, unsafe. And when I felt that way, I tended to act in self-destructive ways, and so my life (body, career, finances, family…) continued to look different than I thought it should.
Now I understand that sitting in the front seat and taking responsibility does not mean contorting myself to fit any “should” (my own or someone else’s), it simply means that I am able to respond (if I so choose) from a place of “can” rather than “should.”
It certainly feels better to have made this distinction, and when I feel better, I do better. It’s as simple as that.