Absorbing Responsibility

My whole life I have absorbed responsibility for everything and everyone. I suppose it goes along with trying to control all the details.

When I was in kindergarten, my dad lost his job because he slept through his alarm and got to work late. I was awake and heard the alarm going off, but I didn’t know if I should wake him up, or if there was some reason he wasn’t getting up. (The mind of a 5 year old!) For years I blamed myself for the fact that my dad lost his job and as a result we had to move across the country to a place where my mom was unhappy the rest of her life.

P1000010Growing up, I was always the responsible child.  I remember one time I was sitting on my grandparent’s deck when my mom yelled for me (we lived on grandparents’ property for a while). When I came back later, she asked what my mom wanted. I told her I had to pour a glass of milk for my sister. I remember my Grandma shaking her head and telling me someday I would be grateful. I didn’t understand what she was trying to tell me then, but over the years it became clear. I always had to watch out for my sister- make sure she brought her coat home or else she would lose one every week. In high school I remember finding a trail of papers someone had obliviously dropped as they walked along, only to find out it was my own sister with her backpack wide open, clueless as to what was happening around her.

My younger sister was, shall we say, a dreamer. My parents expected me to be responsible for her, but I think I took it too far. After we were both adults I still found myself giving her all the “you shoulds” until I had an epiphany: I didn’t need to be her mother anymore! I could just be her sister and listen and nod along without judgement as I would for anyone else. She was an adult. She could make her own choices and mistakes, and I no longer needed to take ownership of her faults as well as my own. Once I did that, our relationship got better over night.

IMG_5069Also in high school, I would feel so guilty for asking my parents for money when I had an away tennis game or other activity that required dinner out. They would give me $5. I would bring back the 32 cents, knowing that money was tight and I could at least do that much. My mother’s anxiety about money made me anxious and worried.

P1000230My parents always had a rocky relationship. Some of my earliest memories were of them fighting with each other. Thankfully, I never worried about them hurting each other physically, but in many ways the emotional scars were worse. When I was about twelve years old, my Mom asked me if I thought she should leave my dad. I distinctly remember feeling torn: I desperately wanted my mom to be happy, but I was afraid of how life would change if they separated. And of course somehow I figured that I could be responsible for keeping the peace and making them happy– that somehow if only I did more chores, or got good grades, or babysat my little sister more often– things would be okay.

P1000085Today I still feel like my little efforts can make a big difference. I still tend to absorb responsibility in places where I don’t need to. I could say that one of my life’s mantras is:

If you find yourself thinking, “Someone should _______,” then that someone is probably you!

For example, I feel passionately about recycling. If only everyone would recycle, maybe we could save the earth! I’ve seen a need at church and started a Facebook group to fill the need. Nobody asked me, I didn’t ask for permission, I just did it. When my husband is stressed I tend to get sympathy pains. If he has an upset stomach, I get one too. If he has a sore neck, I get one the next day.

IMG_6512Absorbing responsibility can be debilitating. No child should feel like anything their parents do or don’t do is their fault. No young person should feel so much weight on their shoulders, but be focused on creating their own fabulous life story, supported by their family. (This is not to say that children and young adults should shirk reasonable responsibility.) And no person should feel like if they fail, something bad will happen. I am trying to adopt the philosophy of just doing your best and the rest will fall into place. How faithless it is to feel like you have responsibility for everything and everyone around you! God is good, He will lift you up.



Where to start?

This is the primary problem preventing me from writing more and sooner. I am the kind of person who likes to have a Plan. Everything all nice and tidy. The more life I get behind me, the more I realize it’s just not how things work. Life is not tidy. Life is not linear like freshman algebra (which I looooved!). Life is circular and inside-out and upside-down. Is there even really a true beginning and ending? Does it not all just feed into itself? A jumble of memories bubbling up and then dropping back down into the abyss of our minds?


I’ve decided to simply write where I am. Today, here and now- whatever is in my heart at the moment. I hope to get back to where I was, but I am forcing myself to do it in a non-planned, non-linear way. The telling of my story will just have to be spontaneous and organic, taking me to wherever it leads.

So. Today. I suppose it is appropriate that it starts on a Sunday.

Today of all days, I feel like I actually lived a good story. I woke later than I would have liked, but I let go of my self-imposed “rule” to take a shower on Sundays. I looked at myself in the mirror and recognized that I was good enough. Oh how far I have come.


We got the family out the door to church with ideal timing. I even remembered to return the glass and spoon that had somehow found themselves sitting on my kitchen counter for weeks now. I teach music to the 3-11 year olds at church. It’s only a 20-minute music time, but it makes me so nervous every week. 1. I am an introvert and being in front of people, essentially performing, is not my idea of a good time, and 2. Right now I live in Germany and teach in German. Except that I don’t speak German. Once again, I just have to be good enough, relying on my preparation and friends to get me through it.

After church we rested a bit. (My eyes wanted to close so badly all throughout church.) But I resisted actually falling asleep. Instead I rode the wave created by my three children. Playing, being silly, arguing, talking, eating. I am not usually so go-with-the-flow. But that’s what tired does to you.


It was a beautiful early spring day with full sun, blue skies and warm enough to wear short sleeves. We couldn’t let the day slip away without spending some time outside, so we went for a traditional family “Sunday stroll.” I did my best to soak it in by taking pictures, even the eye-roll inducing family selfie. (Someday they will thank me for all these family pictures!)

Once home from the half hour walk, I started on dinner preparations. I often find myself stewing in the kitchen because nobody wants to help me. I want them to WANT to help. Don’t they recognize how much work I do around here?? But today, I declared dinner would be a family affair and handed out assignments. Surprisingly there was little arguing and it made the whole experience much more enjoyable for me. Oh how far I have come.

I’m learning to let go. As if somehow little ole me has any say in the Running of the World. I find my most joyful moments happen when I surrender my desire for control. Today is a perfect example of that. Oh how far I have come.



Author of a Good Story

I have been a journaler most of my life. One time I tried to get my husband to keep a journal. I told him that someday my truth would become THE truth of our family because I would be the only one to write down our experiences. Maybe that is still true; maybe not. With advances in technology every day, I don’t know how our future generations will learn about us. But I do know, that in some form or another, telling my story has always been in my heart.

I am no one special. I think that I am a typical American woman trying to live my life as best I can, given my experiences and knowledge. I don’t know if you will find anything about my story interesting or worthwhile. To be honest, I am not all that sure how this will play out. But I do know that I need to tell my story.

I don’t have an end in mind. This will be my process of self-discovery more than anything else. As with any story, you may find yourself relating to it. Or you may find yourself hating it. I hope at least we can all learn something from it. I will never claim that it is a perfect telling. As with any human, there are limits to my memory, so in a way this will be only one version of my story. I will do my best.

I realize the concept of story and how it shapes our lives has become a big thing the past few years online and in media. We read books and watch movies to get lost in a story. Or be inspired by someone’s story. The Bible is basically a whole book of ancient stories and the lessons we learn from them. People are infatuated with super-heroes and mythology. Some little part of our souls resonates with the concept of being or having a super-hero in our lives.

What I am getting at here is that we are all living a story. Are we living the kinds of lives that we would want to read about in a story? I, for one, want to be the Author of a Good Story, not just on the screen, but in real life.