My Gift To You

Published October 19, 2011 by sleepydumpling

I’m going to give you all a gift tonight.  A gift that was given to me not that long ago, but one of the most valuable I’ve ever received.  One that has changed my life and made how I approach the world and everything in it very differently.  Best of all, this gift is absolutely, 100% free.  It costs me nothing to give to you, but I hope you get as much value from it as I have.

It is a bit of a multi faceted gift, which has several parts you can put together and use as you need them.  Are you ready?

Your life is yours.

Yep.  That’s the gift I’m giving you.  The knowledge that your life is your own.  It doesn’t belong to anyone but you.  Not your parents, not your boss, not your partner, not your kids, not your doctors.  It’s yours.  It doesn’t belong to “experts”.  Because the only expert on your life is YOU.  You get to choose what you eat, what you wear, what you do to your hair and your skin, what medical treatment you have, what you do with your body, who you have sex with (and don’t have sex with), who you talk to, what you read and what you feel.  Those are yours to choose.

You do have responsibilities of course, we all do, but that doesn’t make your life any less yours.  When you say or do something, you have to accept the consequences of your words and actions.  But those consequences are as much yours as your words and actions.  Yes, you might have to be responsible for your children, a job, a home, a business, all those things that we have in our lives, but that doesn’t make your life any less yours.  You get to work within the boundaries of your responsibilities and make the choices you need to make, with the information that you can source at any given time.  That’s the crucial bit – arming yourself with lots of information, so that you can make informed choices.  The more informed your choices, the less likely you will regret it later.

But what I really want to acknowledge is that when people try to take our lives away from us, to control us and oppress us, as they do to those of us who are marginalised in society, we don’t have to just tolerate it.  We don’t have to play nice, we don’t have to listen to their “opinions” and we certainly don’t have to modify our lives to suit them.  When people say fat people can’t/shouldn’t/don’t do or be something, they are defining our lives for us, not allowing us to define them ourselves.  We have every right to say “Enough!”  We have every right to tell them to piss off.  We have every right to completely ignore their “advice” or opinions.  You don’t have to respect someone who cannot respect your ownership of your own life.

The best thing is, when we stand up for our ourselves in the face of this kind of control, it has a cumulative effect.  It benefits other people like us, who are also pushed into doing or being something other than they want to.  And it benefits other marginalised people.  That’s the good bit about intersectionality.  Speaking up about equality and personal freedom benefits everyone.  The stronger we get about ourselves, the more energy we can devote to speaking up about the other wrongs in our world.

The next time someone randomly pushes their advice, opinions or assumptions about your life on you, remind yourself that your life is yours.  You can walk away from that person, not engage with them, or you can simply tell them to piss off, the choice is yours.

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7 comments on “My Gift To You

  • I think what you are saying is so powerful and necessary, especially for marginalized people. But I am wondering how you 1) learn to own it–how to speak, and live with ownership and 2) what are the boundaries–such as love and care–that make you not your own individual unaffected self, and how do we meaningfully and not-self destructively tie ourselves to others? Just some thoughts…

    • nomvuyo, I just stumble around until I have Eureka moments. Until something sits right with me. I make mistakes, but I own them as best I can. That’s how it works for me. I guess it all comes down to staying true to myself and learning as I go along.

      I don’t think anyone is ever not their own self, but none of us are unaffected. Every person and circumstance we have in our lives affects us, but that doesn’t remove our ownership of ourselves. We’re complex creatures we humans, and we can juggle a whole lot of things. Sometimes well, sometimes poorly.

      As for meaningfully and not-self destructively tieing ourselves to others – I’m probably not the person to ask. Many people would consider me harsh in the standards I’ve set for those in my life… but none of those standards are about performance but instead about behaviour. I just don’t feel the need to waste my life on people who don’t allow me to be me. But then I’m a pretty self sufficient character at this point in my life. As I get older I enjoy my independence more and more.

      I guess it’s about defining your own boundaries, understanding your own needs and making choices about who or how you want relationships with others in your life.

      Good thoughts, thank you for sharing them.

  • Well I for one certainly did not ‘choose’ to get raped. This post neglects to acknowledge no one is ever completely in control of their life when intervening acts happen on a daily basis to take away our choices (whether by law, violence or similar).

    • You’re absolutely right Lisa, and I apologise for omitting that caveat. I too was raped (and sexually assaulted in separate occasions) and I do know that loss of control and the anger at having had someone try to take ownership of our lives and bodies. Again, I apologise for forgetting to acknowledge that. Sometimes I put my own experiences right out of my mind, as a method of coping myself.

      I didn’t mean that we choose the events that happen to us – of course we don’t. Illness, violence, accidents, the hateful behaviours of others… the list goes on. We choose none of these things and they are through no fault of our own. Life is messy and painful and fucking enraging in places. And you have every right to that rage. It’s yours to do with what you will.

      But we do still own ourselves. No matter what anyone does to us, that will never take our ownership away from ourselves. This post wasn’t about control of our lives but about ownership of our lives. Nobody owns you Lisa except you.

  • Thank you so much for this timely reminder of the fact that we own ourselves. So frequently that is forgotten in the mad rush of “Am I going to be able to make rent?”, “I just got laid off!”, “Ug! The car broke down _again_!”, and “I can’t believe the dog chewed up my favorite shoes!”. You’re trying to be so many different people, and employee, a spouse, possibly a parent, sometimes just being the person standing in the line at the grocery store while someone tries to cut into the long line with just two items and you bite your tongue instead of showing your anger verbally feels like it’s not the real, authentic, you.

    That’s where you have to be able to own your reactions to the things that happen in your life and still be true to yourself. I’m trying to teach this to my sons who are in their late teens and early twenties. Owning the consequences of their actions is exceedingly difficult for them even though teaching them this concept started in childhood.

    But again, it’s ownership. I can control myself and my reactions. No one else is responsible for me but me.

    Thanks you so much, Sleepydumpling!

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