There’s a running joke in my house about my broad shoulders. It started because I have such difficulty finding good pillows to sleep on. Regular pillows tend to be too flat or flatten over time, and with my shoulders being wider than the average person, my head then kinks downward over time and I develop neck pain.
So, I need something that keeps its form and is a little thicker than most. The awkward part is that I also really like a soft pillow and mattress, because I am “soft boy” as Russian student assassin Victor would have said on Deadly Class.
There’s a conflict there.
I’m also a firm believer in taking responsibility for whatever we can in our lives. The problem is that we can’t control the behaviour of others, so it becomes this whole huge dance, wherein we want to take responsibility and make everything work and be all right, but we can’t.
This desire to be responsible often conflicts with the desire to be free; the irony is that there’s no such thing as freedom without responsibility. If you are truly free (and we all are, always, regardless of circumstance, because we can technically make any choice we want whenever – we simply have to accept the consequences of whatever that decision might be), then we are responsible for each and every thing we do. Of course, not everything we do will be with full consciousness of the repercussions, and certainly, much of it will be due to habits or coercion or learned reactive behaviour, which presents another conundrum.
If we are not fully aware of what we do, how can we be responsible?
Still, I feel that responsibility. I yearn for the freedom of not having responsibility, but feel the weight of being responsible for everything immensely. I feel responsible for my family, my job, my politics, climate change, poverty, bigotry, the state of our culture and society, for bringing kindness and understanding and joy to the world, you name it.
But I fail, inevitably. I’ve solved none of those problems, and I have no control over the behaviours of others. I see us past the point of no return for climate change, and the rising bigotry and desired fascism of right wing nutters and powermongers, and it just all feels so big. It’s so overwhelming, it’s crippling and I freeze up, and that means even the things I’m actually capable of doing, that I’m actually responsible for, don’t get done the way they should.
And things fail.
Then I feel guilty. And powerless. And still responsible.
I don’t know how to make it stop. Where’s the line? How do we remain free, responsible for our own behaviour, being a better person to make the world however slightly better than it is, and still just say, que sera sera, in the face of Republican fascism or climate apocalypse?
Do we simply dance on our own graves?
I have no desire to be someone who takes and takes, and doesn’t give back. I need to give more than I get, pathologically. I won’t use points at the store. If the grocery store gifts me a free “summer grill” box for spending over a certain amount, I feel like a thief taking it out of the store. I’m waiting for alarms to go off. I try to do the right thing, to pay my own way, over and over again, often to my own detriment. People decide they can abuse me because I’ll just take it. Because I proclaim to hold to that higher standard, people hold me to it, even if they hold themselves to no standard. The hypocrisy of that pisses me off, especially when I fail to meet that standard, and they give me hell for it, ignoring their own culpability and behaviour.
It’s at that point that I shut down to protect myself, and that then makes things seem so much worse. I start to fail for real and here we are.
Back at ground zero.
Responsibility. Guilt. Weight. Indescribable weight, dropped down on my shoulders like a goddamn planet, Atlas style, with none of the nobility, and all of the ineffectualness.
It would be easy to turn bitter here; I still hold myself to a higher standard. I still pray for the breakthrough.
The Mungk haunts me, even in the light of day.
Target: 400 words
Written: 146 words, novella: The Mungk