What do we think of when we think of our responsibilities? Do we think of getting to work or school on time, or doing a good job in whatever field we might be in? Do we think of paying our bills or taxes on time, not over-drawing the checking account or not maxing out the credit card on silly things? Maybe we think of funding a savings or retirement account or getting life or health insurance. Undoubtedly, we think of our children, our partners, our family! In all likelihood, we do some combination of all of these things every day.
But do we ever really think about it? Why we do what we do, what we hope to achieve, what our goal or purpose is, etc.? Or do we just do it because it is what we were told is "right" or "expected" of us? I mean, obviously you pay your bills on time because you don't want your services shut off, you pay attention to your checking account, credit cards, bank loans, etc. because you don't want to have to pay overdraft or service fees, you put money away now so you will have it when you get older, blah, blah, blah-we all know this stuff already.
No, what I'm talking about is the feeling that you (hopefully!) get when you do a right or good thing. Not like helping some old lady across the street, but the ordinary, everyday things that you agreed somehow to do. Pay the phone bill when you are supposed to. Give up the $5.00 heart attack lunches from MacWendyKing and stick the money in a savings account. Don't let the rent check bounce, even though the landlord really is a nice guy who will understand. Again.
All of the things that balance the scales, bring good karma, yin to yang, superior juju, etc. the feeling you get when you know that you did something small, but right. The sense of satisfaction in knowing that, well...you did the right thing! The happiness that comes from the simple pleasure of a task completed successfully or on time. Just a.....satisfaction.
Why do we feel good when we are just doing something we are supposed to do or that we agreed to do? Nothing big or fancy, not something that will change the course of world events, just something small and simple. Remembering to take out the trash before the old lady asks you to. Cleaning out the cat-box because your kid forgot to do it before she left and the stupid cat is picky. Paying the bills on time.
Sometimes I think that the small things, done right, can give more satisfaction than the big obvious ones. For instance, I sat down and was doing our taxes last week, and I realized that not only had all of the bills been paid diligently and on time, but that there were no late fees or other stupid BS all year long! I felt really, really good about that. To many, that may seem like no big deal, but it coincided with an entire year that I did not use unlawful drugs or use my lawful ones in a stupid manner, it was a year in which my credit report didn't go a little further down, it was a year where I set and met many goals, and in general, it was a good year.
All of a sudden I started to connect the dots in a way that I never really thought about very much before. While doing a big, showy thing right will give a big burst of satisfaction, it is followed by a let-down or the urge to somehow "top" that one and get that good feeling back again. Simple drug addiction 101 here, right? However, doing a lot of small, seemingly unimportant things right not only gives a steady satisfaction all year long, but when you realize what it is you have accomplished, you get the big burst then, too. Again, fairly simple to understand. Just, for some reason, not as obvious to me as it should have been.
You do good things and good things come back to you. It's a law as old as we are. Sometimes though, we get so caught up in this circus we call Life that we forget some of the simple things. The little things that can somehow lead to unsettling thoughts which can then lead to idiots like me thinking about them when he should be doing something more productive, like the laundry or making dinner.
I have kind of rambled around with this, but here is the thing I was originally thinking of-do we get some kind of reward for doing the simple things that we are supposed to do anyway? Is there some sort of karma involved by which we can "improve our destiny" later by doing good things now?
When this life is over, will we be judged on how well we handled our responsibilities here? And as if that isn't a disturbing enough thought, what if our next life is based on how well we handled this one? If this should somehow be the case, many of us-including myself-are well and truly fucked! Unless of course, you believe that the actions you do now can have an effect on your future existences. It is by no means a new concept!
Anyway, what brought this all on was that I am sitting here in my office/man cave/treasure hoard trying to figure out this vaporizer I have (No, of course there are no instructions!), and I finally gave up and tossed the thing across the room. It was a gentle toss, but a toss nonetheless! As I sit there, I realize that my birds are laughing at me. Seriously! I have (in addition to all the other livestock roaming around here) two parakeets. Loud, noisy, messy little birds! I have been teaching then to talk, and they have somehow learned to laugh as well. At me.
So, the gravity of the situation finally hit me and I started laughing right along with them, because.....well, it was kind of funny how I threw my little fit! After we got done laughing, I felt so good that I decided we should have a little treat, so I busted out the bird goodies. Man, they got so excited when they saw me putting it in their food bowl! That's when it hit me.
They depend on me. On ME! Suddenly they became much more than loud, noisy, messy little birds who are good for a laugh now and then. They are my responsibility. Again, that is pretty obvious, but I really started to think about what that means. I have the responsibility for the lives of two other creatures in my hands.
Now, anyone who has had kids will be saying "Duh!" but that is not quite the same. After a certain point, kids start taking on more and more of their own responsibility, until you get to the point in which while you might think you still have some responsibility, your kids will gladly burst your bubble. What I mean to say here is that kids grow up. The responsibility lessens year by year, until one day you wake up and both it, and they, are gone.
In this case though, I literally hold their lives in my hand, and it will stay that way until one of us dies. It is at once both god-like and extremely humbling. Their life revolves around me and I could crush it out by simply making a fist. And they just sit there, noisy and happy as hell, glad that I'm the one who gets paid to think about things like that and all they have to do is say "Pretty Noisy Bird!" and laugh at me.
While I sit here and wonder if somewhere some Power greater than myself is sitting there and judging me on how well I managed to deal with my responsibilities in this life. I have made a right fine fuck-up of it is what I have done. Many, many failures over the course of these last 50 years. Many more failures than successes, if you were to ask me! I have never been what you might call a "good" person, and I damn sure would never consider myself a success! Of course, I can justify everything! What drug addict can't?
No, just another drug-addled small-time loser who never did anything good in his life. Well, except for the kids. Somehow, they came out fucking perfect. Certainly, much better kids than I deserve! Honor students, athletes, awards from politicians and civic organizations because of their willingness to step up and be good citizens, don't smoke, drink, or do dope. Maybe we can throw that on the scale and see how it balances out. I fucked up my life and many others, but two of the ones I am responsible for came out good.
Well, then there are the birds. I take care of them before I do me in the morning. They eat, even when I'm too sick to stand. I put their music on, buy them ridiculously overpriced pieces of wood called "bird toys", and let them get away with laughing at me. I take care of them. Not because I have to, but because they depend on me. Maybe that will count for something too. And the kitten. A 6 month old rescued from the pound devil from hell sent to torment my every waking moment. Well, she likes to cuddle at night too, right next to my side. But other than that she is COMPLETELY worthless! Somehow I ended up responsible for her, too.
No story would be complete without some mention of The Dog. I got her when she was 5 weeks old and that was somewhere around 15 years ago. She has been my companion and my friend, as well as my responsibility, for many years now. There has never been a love story like the one about the Boy and his Dog!
Maybe when the time comes, I won't be judged so much on my many spectacular failures as I will be on how well I handled the responsibility for the lives that were intrusted to me. How I handled the little day to day things that brought happiness and satisfaction to others. How I dealt with the little details that make up a "happy life".
I hope so, because if they look at the big picture, I am SO screwed! I'll get sent back to the next life as a rock or something! After all and like I said earlier, I'm not a good person.
Just ask the birds.