Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

Archive for May 23rd, 2009

Taking a break from being an adult 6

Posted on May 23, 2009 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes Updated May 24, 2009 12:00 AM

Illustration by Rey Rivera

I came across a funny letter supposedly written by a grown-up resigning from the adult world.

The writer complained that as an adult, he had too much responsibility. Also, he claimed that adulthood made him know and experience so much pain and confusion. As a result, he was resigning as an adult and was accepting the responsibilities only of a six- year-old.

While I laughed reading it, I could readily empathize with the writer. I’m sure many of us would gladly be relieved of the burdens we carry and the things that we adults have to do for other people, and just live our lives pleasing ourselves. It can be exhausting trying to behave as a responsible adult 24/7. I can only imagine what it must be like to embrace the responsibility of leading, say, a nation and committing to all its duties day after day.

Being responsible for one’s family alone can already be daunting. Sometimes, I feel like I am giving too much of myself in assuring everyone’s happiness and well-being, even when I know intellectually that happiness is a personal project and decision, and thus cannot be given. In a bout of self-pity and anger at not feeling appreciated, I once sidetracked an article I was writing and instead wrote a “letter of resignation” — not seriously, of course — addressed to my family. It went something like this.

To my family,

I am writing this letter to hereby resign from all my duties as father to my kids and husband to my wife which include:

1. Paying all the bills for school, house amortizations, food, gasoline, car, house repairs, medical expenses such as medicines, dental, doctors’ and hospital bills, eating out, books, magazines, cable TV, Internet, the salaries of maids and drivers who serve you, electricity, water, cell phone bills, and all the things that hold the sky up for you. This also includes the bills for clothes and gadgets that you buy, luxuries that you enjoy, and other items that feed your vanities and keep you warm, happy, healthy.

2. I also hereby resign from caring to know the whereabouts of everyone, or what time you guys come home, or worrying about how you are in all ways, or adjusting to your schedules so I can be with you, or missing you, or calling or being present or concerned about you in any way.

3. I also hereby resign from all other unmentioned but real duties that have been imposed on me as a parent, husband, or family member. No more commitments, vows of any kind that limit my movement, loyalties, and whatever else. These include promises I have taken upon myself with the intention of fostering greater care, closeness, peace and family bonding.

I wish to be free of all things — obligations, duties, guilt and compulsion to care for any of you in any way whatsoever now and in the future.

In place, I will live life as I totally please, free of any responsibilities, obligations, duties, vows, and spend my remaining time on earth in any manner I see fit. I also wish to spend every cent I earn from hereon in any way I wish.

I have given you enough of my time, patience, attention, love, devotion, resources and everything else. I am sick of caring and trying to be a good husband, partner, loved one, father, pops, dad, provider, adviser, rescuer, and source of any financial fix, and a promoter of your happiness, real or imagined, etc.

I am tendering this irrevocable resignation starting today!

I never sent it of course and that explains why I am still alive and loved by my family.

It’s a nice fantasy not to be responsible, to be able to wake up without worrying about anything or being answerable to anyone but oneself, to go for pursuits and pleasures with impunity and not care about consequences.

But I also know that it can be an impossible and an untenable state of affairs. Too much of anything, be it vice or virtue, can’t be good, especially selfishness and narcissism. In the end, anything, even the most exciting pursuits, when indulged in excess, leads to boredom, ennui and a meaningless existence. I once read that a maharaja in India actually died of boredom amid the unending luxury and debauchery that surrounded him.

One thing I have learned about life is that we keep on growing. It is the natural way of things. The only time we stop is when we die or if we make an act of will to stop growing. In this latter case, we end all expansion and go into contraction mode and engage life in a limited way. It is the beginning of the end.

As we grow, we are continuously developing the ability to respond to ever-changing situations. The more we learn to act on complex issues, the more we become able to do even more of them in ever complicated ways and with greater intensity. As children, we learn and acquire skills continuously. And even as adults, we are still constantly challenged to learn.

Responsibility is the ability to respond — response-ability. Because we can respond, we are expected to be responsible. My father–in-law used to say that to get things done, assign them to the busiest people.

I think about that every time I find myself in a situation where I know that my input, if I so decide to give it, can change things. In such a case, my ‘response-ability’ is needed to nudge the situation forward.

Of course, we always have a choice not to respond, or back out from being responsible. In such a case, we consciously decline answering the call. And we can do so for many reasons. One of them may be because we prefer to redirect our energies to other pursuits, or it could be a case of “responsibility fatigue,” or some other reason.

But those who choose to continue to grow cannot help but take on more “responsibility” for their decisions and their lives, and even the lives of others while they experience the thrill of shaping their little corner of the world in their own image and likeness. The person who can say that he/she is totally answerable for everything that he/she experiences is a powerful person. I even venture to say that he/she is God-like.

Some responsibilities can be tedious, daunting even. But the constant exercise of any muscle makes the job easier. Sooner or later, we get better at it. If we live our lives with eyes open, we become more responsible but less paranoid, and complain less. We can do more and hurt less. And when we really look at it, less hurt translates to more pleasure as we enjoy our marvelous ability to respond to and create things.

Thus, responsibilities beget more responsibilities, just like power begets power, wealth begets wealth, happiness begets happiness. But it only pays off if we never tire of it.

And so, the same rule applies to both the responsible and irresponsible. It is good to say no sometimes, only to be able to say yes at other times when you really want to.

And so, take that day off, turn off your cell, be unreachable or even benignly irresponsible, if only occasionally. Let someone else take over in holding up the sky. Indulge in a hobby you enjoy, whether or not your family enjoys it or shares it. You may be surprised that when you do things that are for yourself alone, the less you feel trapped about being responsible, and the more your loved ones will appreciate you since you’ve most likely become a calmer, looser, more fun person.

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