Posts Tagged ‘personal responsibility’

the freedom to have a past

August 8, 2012

Let’s be honest, I am 43 years old, an american and have been married once before with four beautiful children. No, I don’t have four different babies’ daddies running around, (only one besides my current husband), but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have things in my past that are a bit embarrassing. does everyone have an embarrassing past???? Probably not. and, “embarrassing” is a bit subjective, isn’t it? But, the older we get, the more likely it is that we have made decisions that we are not proud of. some of the decisions can even effect the way we live currently. But, some have a very marginal effect on us. Yet, they might have a very different effect on our spouse.
Before DH and I married, I told him every conceivable thing that he might hear from other people about me. I also told him the gossip that he might hear, even if it was only a rumour. I told him about the relationship with my children’s father and expounded on the decisions that I have made: good and bad. Although, the good decisions actually never get gossiped about, do they? Anyway, I believe that women’s (especially in his culture) pasts are much more harmful to their current and future relationships. What might seem like a learning experience to us, might be major for them. And, what might seem “normal” for us, might be just “unforgiveable” for someone in his culture. So, I was brutally honest. OK, it sounds like I have a very colorful past and, actually, I don’t. But, to him, I certainly do. I made sure that he understood that I didn’t have the option (not that I wanted to) to “hide” my past. He would have rather it be hidden like a dirty little secret and I don’t operate that way. I should clarify that he doesn’t necessarily have a “problem with my past,” just with the knowledge that there are others who not only know that it exists, but were active participants of its making. I am not proud of some decisions that I have made, (and I don’t talk about them endlessly) but I am opposed to lying about such things, that honestly, shouldn’t have a bearing on the present and future. I say “shouldn’t” because I do understand that sometimes people get into patterns that need to be broken and these patterns can start from one’s past. Yes, yes, “if we don’t learn from our past, we are doomed to repeat it,” — I know. But, honestly, my character should be judged by my present decisions, not my past. How “past” is considered “past?” Well, while that might be relevant for some people, I can tell you that the part of my past that is difficult for DH to stomach the consequences to happened more than a decade ago. There’s not really hipocracy here, DH doesn’t have a colorful past at all. This is partly because he is quite a bit younger than I am and partly because he has not had the freedom to make bad decisions. He has not grown up in a society that tells him that these decisions (at least when it comes to alcohol and sex and gambling) are “ok” and he has never come to a crossroads where he has had to make a choice on the matter.
and, this is another point that I’d like to make clear. We will take the issue of alcohol for me to illustrate this point. DH has never drunk alcohol. Not only has it never been offered to him(at least, not until he got to America), but Pakistani society has such strict rammifications for alcohol that it was not appealing to him. I have drunk alcohol and even been drunk a few times. I don’t drink now. It is a choice I make … … not to drink. for DH, until he got to America, there virtually was no choice.Does that make him more virtuous than I (if we believe that not drinking is a good thing) because he has never drank alcohol before? I don’t think so. I believe that virtue comes from having the decision “not” to be virtuous and making the right choice. If you have never had the opportunity to make a decision, then, your character can’t be tested. I am not saying that every possible temptation should be thrown at you so that you can make the right decision. But, what I am saying is that Character can not be “mandated,” it has to be built by a series of choices.
Since coming to America, we know a female who has made some questionable decisions: which have been silently waved away by finding more than one scapegoat — just in case the first one didn’t work out or was questioned. She looks virtuous because noone knows about these decisions. But, it is hard to actually “learn” from something that you spend all day running from. You never ask yourself: why did I make that choice? Are the consequences that I am facing typical for people who have made my decision? What could I do differently next time? Yes, “freedom” means that you’ll probably make more bad decisions than someone who is restricted in the control they have over their own lives. But, “freedom” also means that “when” you make the right decision, you do so with the knowledge that you “could” choose differently. I’d like to have an interesting discussion about south Asian women and responsibility, but that is for a different blog post.
Taking responsibility for one’s past decisions does not mean being proud of them. It just means that you acknowledge that it was “you” who made them and you might reflect upon how not to make them again. If we never take responsibility for our decisions, then we never see how “we” can actually modify our actions so that we don’t make the same — or similar decisions. Your past, like your parents have the ability to shape who you become. You decide how much “shaping” it will do.
and, if you are always haunted by the skelitons of someone else’s past, find someone who either conceals their skelitons, or hasn’t had the opportunity to make any, yet. Because, although skelitons decay overtime, their odor and imprint lives eternally; not just for the person who has accumulated them, but for anyone who has or will open those doors.