When I was in Outpatient Therapy a year ago, we covered a broad range of subjects. Some days focused on The 12 Steps, others focused on Brene Brown & Shame, while others were just kinda random. One of those random days was worth the entire six weeks I was in that program. It dealt with Entitlement and was taken from the book The Entitlement Cure by Dr. John Townsend (coauthor of Boundaries). For those of you not from a Judeo-Christian background, please look past the writer’s point of view because the content is worth the price of admission.
When I was at the Life Healing Center last month, people would often say to each other that they “deserved” to be happy or that they “deserved” love. Dr. Townsend would totally disagree with those statements. His argument is that there is very little we deserve in life. There is, however, a lot that we are responsible for. No, this isn’t about semantics. It’s about the posture we take towards life.
Let me pose a question to you: what does someone that deserves the new iPhone have to do to get it? The answer is “nothing.” When we are deserving of something, we merely wait for it come to us. We are approaching life in a passive posture… and that is the problem with thinking that we deserve things in life.
The approach Dr. Townsend suggests (and I find healthier, at least for me) is to take out the word “deserve” and put in the phrase “responsible for.” Let me pose that same question, reworded, to you: What does someone who is responsible for getting the new iPhone have to do to get it? They have to find out the cost, look at if they can afford it now or have to save for it, then they’ve got to go out and buy it.
Do you see the difference? When we’re responsible for getting what we want, we become an active participant in writing the story of our lives. I have found this approach to living extremely important as I start from scratch in Dallas.
It’s overwhelming to start over. I didn’t think I’d ever be crippled by depression. I didn’t think I’d ever have to look for love again. I didn’t think I’d ever have to learn a new city. I didn’t think I’d ever have to buy a sofa again. I didn’t think I’d ever be out of the closet much less have to decide if I want to get on hormones.
Well, unfortunately, all of these things are true… and life doesn’t owe me anything. I’m responsible for actively pursuing the things I want in life. I’m responsible for the management of my chronic depression. I’m responsible for finding love again. I’m responsible for learning the weird freeway system, local coffee shops, and part of Dallas I want to live in. I’m responsible for furnishing my future residence. I’m responsible for figuring out how far I want to transition and/or if I want to transition at all.
If I’m honest, as I write all of this down I feel despair and frustration coming up. It’s too much and it’s all at once. It’s easy for all of that freedom and decision making to be overwhelming. The good news is that, since I’m free and since I’m responsible for everything, I get to decide the pace for all of it. Right now, the priority for me is building my mental health team as well as learning Dallas. I found my psychiatrist last week and am currently researching therapists that are in my insurance plan, so I’m halfway there with my mental health team. I still don’t understand how three different interstates can all get me to work within five minutes of each other and I still don’t know which city within the metro is the one that I want to plant my roots in but these are things I can change.
It’s also important to celebrate the little things. I made it through one week on the coffee and juice bar at Whole Foods without getting a single, permanent stain on any of my clothing. I’ve learned a few of my customers’ names. I got to work and back to my parents’ house yesterday without using Waze. I’ve found a couple of different coffee shops that are really, really good.
Building a new life one brick at a time is painfully slow.
But it’s my life, on my terms, and not a life someone else told me to live.