What they did is not on you

“If there’s going to be a story, don’t you think I have as good a right as anyone to choose it?”–Richard Adams from Watership Down


We give our mind too much power.

We forget that we can change it.

Not listen.

Watch it do its shinanigans like watching a fly buzz around.

Insert a tiny bit of space between us and what it’s saying.

We are remarkably good at this when it comes to kids.

Think of it–whether or not you have children of your own, I’m quite certain you’ve been with or heard of a time when a small child was panicking about something you KNEW was really not an issue, not a concern, a threat, or even possible.

You knew they were seized by some delusion, fantasy, or nightmare.

You knew that as much as it was clearly an illusion to YOU, it was very real and terrifying to THEM.

You also knew that the last thing you’d want to do is mock them. WHAT ARE YOU, AN IDIOT? OF COURSE THERE AREN’T MONSTERS UNDER YOUR BED.

You also wouldn’t join them–OH MY GOD WE’RE DOOMED!!!!!

No. You most likely adopted a gentle, reassuring tone and did what you could to soothe them. Maybe you turned on the light and looked under the bed together or went to the kitchen for a glass of water like Cindy Lou Who Who Was No More Than Two. Or maybe you went directly to distract and redirect.

What story are you telling yourself?

About anything?

Not the happy stories. Those are fine. 🙂  We’re looking for the painful stories.

Like, somehow taking responsibility for someone else’s shit behavior.

Ask yourself, KINDLY, what do I get out of taking this on? What is the payoff?

Is it that you get to settle into the old familiar groove of being fundamentally fucked up? Having missed your chance? Made irreparable errors? Not quite having had the stuff you needed to go after what you want or even having known what you wanted long ago?

Most of the time, the payoff is in staying stuck in some old story that, as much as it feels awful, feels familiar.

This is one of the MANY things we do as human beings. We are a lovely, wacky, brilliant imperfect lot. We are. So sweet and tender and yearning and full of unimaginable GENIUS! And also, this tendency to fall into grooves or ruts that trudge through painful and FAMILIAR sludge.

So, listen–ask yourself: What basic premise do you want to work with? Is it, there is something fundamentally wrong with you? OR, is it, humans are flawed and other people’s bad behavior is not on you?

What they did or didn’t do, or said or didn’t say, is not on you.

It’s on them.

Are there things to learn? A thousand percent, yes. But when we take on what’s not ours, we bungee ourselves to the scene of an accident. We think we’re leaving it behind, but sooner or later that cord yanks us back and we revisit the pain as if freshly hit.

In every painful story, we cast ourselves as the fuck up. Even if we are clear that the other person did the heinous or cruel or fucked up thing, somewhere in our minds, we believe that if we were different, if we were more or less (smarter, younger, thinner, hipper, calmer, cooler, stronger, etc.) it would not have happened. We would have had the power to make it/them be different, or to have KNOWN what they couldn’t do and so we wouldn’t have put ourselves in that position to begin with.


Life. She plows through our lovely gardens and leaves a wake of destruction. It’s not our fault for planting there or planting that or for not being able to forsee the storm.

So what do we do? We grieve, we sort, we salvage, we lean on those who’ve earned our trust, we reach down and find things we didn’t know we had and bring those things to the light where they transform us.

We say, see mind? I am not that old story. I am this ever-evolving miracle of matter and mystery, tethered not to the traumas of my past but to the center of my soul that is resilient and here with me now and always.

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