The One Thing We Should Take Responsibility for and the One Thing We Can't

There is one thing I've learned indefinitely in my 36 years on this planet, and it's the following:

Only I am responsible for my happiness.

I can choose to surround myself with people who support me, love me and treat me with respect. I cannot, however, place my joy, or my lack of it, into another person's hands.

In my marriage, I'm with my partner because I like him, I love him, I respect him, and I want to spend my life together with him. He is not capable of making me happy though.

I'm not responsible for the happiness of the people that I love either.

I have two little children -- I'm gratefully in charge of their well-being. They will grow, and they will physically need me less, but I want to remember even then that I'm their parent, and they will still need my guidance, love and support.


This said, one of the most difficult aspects of parenthood -- and sisterhood, and marriage, and loving someone in general -- is understanding that those we love will have their own life experiences, their own hurdles, their own choices, their own emotions, and that we are both not capable of fixing people or preventing all obstacles.

It's empowering to own my joy. Remembering that, for instance, I can't make my husband happy, and that he can't make me happy makes us stronger individuals, and this makes us healthier partners for each other.

Yet I want to show him love. I want to be there for him when he needs me. I want to laugh with him, and to grow with him, too. But knowing that I'm an independent person, outside of my marriage and within it -- that my moods and life are still mine to claim and care for -- makes me a better spouse to him, and it empowers me to make my own good life choices.

I want to show my daughters that if they should choose to love a partner for life, as I have their dad, that a person -- be it a spouse or a friend -- should compliment them, and encourage them, and even stand up to them when it's best, but that another person cannot, and should not, attempt to complete them. We need to feel complete on our own.

I've learned this, too -- something that we need to let go of responsibility for:

We can love people, we can try our best to be descent people, and to live authentically and with respect for ourselves, but we are not responsible for people liking us.

People will not like us. People will treat us poorly. This doesn't have to be a reflection of us, but a reflection of their own lack of happiness and self-care, or general kindness.

It's sometimes hard to stop wanting to please others. It's become much easier for me after having children because, for one, I want to teach them through my actions what's appropriate and not appropriate for me to put up with, and, equally, I simply care more about my girls than I do other people.

Our lives are our own, for better or worse.

Our lives are ours to live, to own, to claim, to enjoy, to freely experience, and, yes, my life intersects, intertwines, and is inter-connected with those around me.

But in this intersection, it's also true that not everyone will like us, and it's okay not to care.