When Responsibility Doesn’t Pay

After a year in Mexico, we have a much better read on the culture. When you make eye contact with anyone, say “hola” and wait for a warm greeting in reply. If a repairman says he will be there tomorrow, he will probably show up three to five days later. The most important law for driving is just don’t slow up the flow for the other drives. If you need something done, just ask around, “there’s a guy for that.” Relationships and being cordial are much more important than getting things done. Some of these items were easier than others to get used to. And now I learned of a new one.

mobile phone paymentMy husband and I have Mexican mobile phones on monthly plans. When we received the phone, we were told that we could pay at the TelCel store or any OXXO convenience store. So after one month, I went to the OXXO and paid for the next month. Or so I thought. I had paid the bill one day early so I was not “late” and would not lose service. But paying early does not put the payment toward the monthly plan. Instead the money I paid added minutes to my phone. (Which I don’t understand at all because we have unlimited talk so why would we need minutes, but that is a mystery for another time.) The result of being responsible and paying early was that I ran out of minutes and did not have phone service when I needed it. After laughing hysterically, this incident made me think. Where else in my life is being overly responsible and pre-planning hurting, not helping, me?

One way is when I jump into caretaker mode. When there are a group of people around me who I feel responsible for, I stop interacting with them person to person, and instead dissolve to into “mom” mode. I premeditate their needs. I worry about them taking a wrong step. I get caught up in the doing, and doing for them, and doing for them when it is not my responsibility. I become a servant instead of a friend. I give and give and give, even if they don’t want it, and I don’t allow myself to receive. The result is that I am no longer with them. I am no longer engaged. And I am no longer happy.

Taking this a level deeper, what it is really about is using control to dispel fear. I was afraid of losing my phone so I tried to control it by paying early. I was afraid of my friends being hurt or unhappy and tried to control it my being a helicopter mom. A better way to combat fear is to lean into trust and acceptance. I trust that I will have my phone available. I trust my friends to take care of themselves. I accept that things are not always perfect. I accept that everything will turn out well.

Where is your fear making you a control freak? How is your desire to control actually harming not helping? What would it look like to embrace trust and go with the flow?

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