Thursday, 17 January 2013

C.O.W.S. and Responsibility


                        Crazed Obligants Wanting Something

I've known people who expect others to do and do and do for them.  In my experience, they are stuck in the emotional stance of a baby.  Rightfully so, an infant is dependent upon others for care and nurturing.  As the maturation process takes hold, that infant becomes a child, teen, adult who hopefully has moved beyond the "Love me!  I am loved!" stage of identity.  But this is not a perfect world.  Some percentage of the time, human beings get stuck.

Viable adults have certain obligations.  As Victor Emil Frankl said in his book Man's Search for Meaning, "Freedom is not the last word. Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth. The positive aspect of freedom is responsibility."  Without including responsibility as an integral function of freedom, freedom becomes a slogan without meaning.

In twelve step programs, the Second Step talks about a restoration to sanity.  The version I prefer is "If I want something different, I gotta do something different."  Saying it that way is an admission that I have to do something other than passively wait to be restored [usually by a deity of one's choice] or pretend that I am mentally getting myself ready to be restored [usually by said deity].  The father of self-esteem, Nathaniel Branden, tells us that doing more of what doesn't work just doesn't work.  If I don't like the stuff I have-- whether it is material stuff or the way that I live my life-- then I have to choose to do something different or to try it another way. 

Enter the crazed obligant from stage left.  The obligant has binded to us and we have allowed this binding.  In order for there to be a taker, there has to be a takee.  And that takee has agreed on some level to be taken.  The obligants in my life were like Jupiter when I first met them.  Usually they come with a coffee pot, a homey and cozy kitchen, and the gift of gab.  Everything works for the first two weeks.  The honeymoon phase gets itself over with.  The hooks drill inwards.  Suddenly I have a project.

In one memorable instance lasting a year and a half before I caught on, I was invited over for coffee over a particular talk show host on television.  Funny that.  The schedule turned out to be always at the later half of any given month, several days a week.  When she was running out of money.  "Oh, I need cigarettes.  Can you go to the drugstore up the street and get me some?" she whined.  Like a fool, I did.  Because Jupiter is jovial and I got sucked in by the gaiety.  Quem Jupiter vult perdere, dementat primus.

Another instance did not involve coffee.  I was working, where does not matter.  I was routinely given new workers to train.  The young man was eighteen and very short and slender.  He looked like a boy and in many ways he was.  He was from Imperial Beach and his mother found that she could not control him.  He was drinking, gambling, and starting to hang out with people that scared her.  She sent him to live with his uncle in the small town in the middle of nowhere that I lived in.  Within ten minutes of meeting him, I knew two things.  I knew he had a drinking problem and a gambling problem.  He told me he did.  He didn't use the word "problems" but it was obvious to me that he had them.  He didn't realize how desolate our town was.  He thought he was moving to a big city.  He was bummed.

But who we are follows us.  Very quickly, the young man found a card game and a bookie.  And of course he found the bars.  He became my project.  He became everyone's project.  All of us who worked there were invested in how much he drank or gambled on any given day.  I wanted him to quit his drinking and gambling.  I wanted him to find some health for himself.  The workers who went out for a drink after work were saying things to him like, "You can come with us but you're only going to have one or two."  Invariably, someone else would chime in with, "No, you're not going to have any."  One day, he told me he had gambled away his entire paycheck.  I was worried about him.  But he was not mine to worry over.

I came to my senses over a period of three months.  One morning, we were sitting in the cafeteria before our shift started.  I said to him, "Young man, you have two hobbies.  You drink and you gamble.  You suck at both of them.  I suggest you get new hobbies."  Then I walked away.  I cannot want something for someone more than they want it for themselves.  He was no longer my project.  Shortly after that, he came in still drunk from the night before and was throwing up all over the bathroom.  I called the supervisor and demanded that she do something about it now.  It was a Friday.  She suspended him for the weekend.

He came back to work the following week.  He told me he had to go to a series of counseling appointments at the local addiction treatment center.  I nodded.  He wasn't my project anymore.  He didn't stick.  He laughed off the information he was given by the professional helper.  I had freed myself.  There is no ending to the story of the young man.  Eventually, he went off to find his fortune elsewhere. 

There is an ending to the story of the cigarette smoking, coffee drinking, television watching woman whom I had allowed to leech off of me for a year and a half.  I broke off contact.  I'd heard that she had moved back in with her parents about an hour and a half away.  Several years later out of the blue, I got a message on my voice mail.  "It's my birthday," she started out.  "Come and see me.  We can hang out."  I erased the message.  Jupiter's path had moved on without me in tow.

I was brought up to be nice.  My wise old aunt quietly watched me go through a series of hanger-on-ers over the years.  Finally one day, she said to me, "sapphoq, it's nice to be nice.  But sometimes you are too nice."  That clicked.  

As I meander along this incredible journey called life, I have an obligation to myself to remember the things I learned from my role as a takee.  Everything works for the first two weeks.  I cannot want something for someone more than they want it for themselves.  It's nice to be nice but sometimes I am too nice.  When Jupiter begins his descent, when the C.O.W.S. begin their braying, when the hooks begin seeking flesh to drill into, I am no longer waiting with a sign in flashing neon letters that say, "Here I am.  Take me!  Take me!  Take me!"

sapphoq itching for a coffee, but careful now about how i get it

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