I saw a post recently on Instagram; it was about responsibility and the various things in life that we not only take responsibility for, but that we take pride in being connected to. The account was LilacCalligraphy, and the post listed a few things Isabel (the account holder) felt proud to be responsible for/to. The post inspired me to think in more concrete terms about my own responsibilities and what they mean to me - not because I don't already think of those things in a subconscious sort of way, but because I think it truly never hurts to be more conscious in our daily lives.
This has been a long few weeks for me, with my mother in the hospital from Wednesday of last week until Saturday. The day she went home, my grandmother was admitted, and she's still there. But I keep thinking on that post I saw, and how it plays into certain things happening in my personal life lately, so I thought it might be nice to begin our Saturday with a short list of some of my responsibilities - and why I'm glad to have them.
- First up is the easiest one, and that's God. I make a point here (usually) to not be "preachy" but lots of you are aware from talking to me that I am a Christian. What non-Christians (especially ones that might be angry or resentful for whatever reasons) may not know is that for real everyday Christians, the relationship we share with God (because of the sacrifice and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ) is no mere crutch. God is not our personal genie, He is the protective wall around our hearts, the friend that never lets us down, and a responsibility we feel the weight of everyday of our lives. Not out of fear, no, but out of a desire to do well. It isn't unlike the way you know that your mother will still love you if you get a B in English … but you want to show her that A. It's the same thing that makes you try harder at work, dress up for a date, smile when you see your kindergartener's 87th "art" project of the week. The desire to please those that we love and receive their approval (or please them by giving ours) is in itself a responsibility that we take on willingly (in most cases), whether that's God or anyone. For me, the one desire of my heart is to have achieved the purpose I believe He gave me, and to have served Him well. Sadly, I fail more often than not sometimes … but my burden of responsibility comes with a promise: As long as my heart stays in it, He will ALWAYS let me have one more chance to try again.
- Myself. As deeply as I feel the burden to please and serve a God that I believe loves me and wants the best for me, I also feel a burden of responsibility in my own self-care. l can't serve anyone well if I'm not healthy, well-rested, and at least happy enough to function. Just as my Christian faith is no secret, neither is my struggle with depression, and while my faith is a constant source of strength and encouragement, my depression is a slow steady leak, like a bucket with a hole in it. Taking good regular care of myself is vital, from getting enough rest to staying hydrated, to following my passion and allowing myself the grace to be human. I practice mindful meditation, self compassion, and positive affirmation. I read (a lot), I sing (terribly), and I try to surround myself with people who encourage me to be a better and more peaceful me. This burden of responsibility comes with a blessing too, though: I get to live inside this body, with arms and legs and organs that work. I get to feel generally alright most days, if not spectacular, and I get the confident satisfaction of knowing that I love me enough to take care of me.
- My Kids. In the everyday sense, my kids are really my biggest and heaviest responsibility. They're 12 and 7 right now, old enough in many ways to have found some semblance of independence, and yet still young enough in many ways to still be demanding of my time, my effort, and my energy. They are good kids, and they are good kid because I struggle daily to provide them with a good mother. I screw up a lot in this too; sometimes I'm too tired and I'm irritable. Or I'm emotionally worn down, and I'm angry at the world. On these days, I'm not the best mom, and I know I'm not … but I also know that my children live secure in the knowledge that it's not them, it's me. It's my own response to daily stress and life as a responsible adult. They know that with some quiet rest, I'll be Mommy again in the way that I want to be, that I'll be encouraging again, gentle and kind in my attempts to share with them what guidance and wisdom I have gleaned from my years in this life. I don't always get it right, but even at just 12 and 7, they know that they are treasured, valued, and wanted. They know that they mean something to someone, that they matter, and their existence is a blessing.
- My Family. I list "Kids" and "Family" separately because these are different burdens; if you're a mother, you'll understand how strong the distinction can be. Most of my family doesn't need my guidance in quite the same way as my kids. They don't (usually) look to me for their every need, and they don't call on me often because we're all fairly independent of each other. This may even be an overly nice way of describing it, particularly in regards to my particular family, but the description stays nonetheless. Still, there are the few that I am close to, that I care deeply for, and that my heart still craves relationship with. And this is as it should be … sometimes I wish I didn't feel the aching sense of loss that comes with being part of a family that is not a close one, but mostly, I dread the day when my few close familial connections are no longer there, and those fragile ties that once held so many people together will simply be no more. In the meantime, I make a point to call, to visit when I can, and to stay up to date. It doesn't always pay off in the way I want, but I can rest easy knowing that I did my part.
- My friends. My friends are the people that keep my life smooth. They're there on the other end of the phone when I need to cry into it, when I'm so spitting mad about life that my language degrades all the way back to the level of a high school boy's locker room, when I'm so hurt I don't even have words to express myself. They're there to pat me on the back when I succeed, to defend me when I need it, to celebrate with me in the happiest moments of my life. We speak through phone calls, send each other silly photos, video messages, texts. These people are spread all over the country, but they are never more than a thought away, and they mean everything. These people are the backbone that holds me up, the strength that allows me to carry the burdens of my responsibilities. In turn, they provide responsibility of their own for me to live up to. They call when they're in need. They reach out from the depths of depression, hoping I can walk them out of the darkness. They call me with questions and needs of their own, knowing that I will respond to them as they have always responded to me. These are the bonds of life - at least, they're the bonds of mine.
- My Writing. Writing is my passion. It's in my blood, it's part of my soul. It's my craft, my art, my release, the thing I hope to build a legacy on that will last as surely as my bloodline in my children. I want my love of words and my chasing of this dream to show my daughters exactly what "You can be whatever you want to be, if you try," really means. But books don't write themselves, and that's where even this great love becomes another responsibility on my list. Desired, beloved, and yet it's there, a certain burden to be carried each day. Which leads me to …
- You. My readers. The people who buy my books, who open my emails, who visit my website. Who follow me on my social media pages. The people who care enough about me to want to know me, who care enough about my characters to wait faithfully for the next book. I carry you with me each and every day, through your emails, your messages, and your occasional comments on my social pages. I wish I could keep the occasional surprise Snapchat for all eternity … and some of you have even become friends. This is a blessing beyond compare, the way my life has grown through this journey. And it is a responsibility that I hold dear, with the sheerest and most utter determination to never let y'all down. Selkie II is now past the halfway mark, Still Fighting For Freedom is telling bits and parts of itself to me now and then, and Winning Wit (Kingsley Series #5) is all but plotted already. Your patience with me will be rewarded with beautiful stories just like the rest, stories that are meaningful, inspiring, romantic. Real characters, and honest love, just as it has been from the beginning.
Speaking of which, I'd better go work on those. But while I'm doing that, tell me … what are your favorite responsibilities?
Until next week,