What are you responsible for in life? Who are you responsible to and for? While this is On Her Own, where many of us don’t have the normal relationships most folks expect, that doesn’t mean we exist in total isolation because some of us are caretakers for children or other adults.
Sometimes, though, it really is just us, individually, against the world, and we are neither responsible for anybody else nor, for that matter, is anyone responsible for us. For those of us in that last category, it’s not that we are necessarily without loved ones, but there may not be reliance in one direction or another. Support, yes, but more in the nature of friendship than the more concrete forms of material obligation. That’s not to devalue emotional and spiritual care, but it’s a different sort of situation, where someone needs your efforts to keep a roof over their head and food in their belly.
Who we are tied to, and how, changes how we consider the question of defense. It’s partially a matter of protecting who belongs to us in one way or another, but also a matter of protecting ourselves so that we can remain in those peoples’ lives. In much of the self-defense world, the answer is considered obvious for women in particular: protect your children, and protect yourself so that your children do not grow up without a mother. On Her Own partially grew out of the question of what, then, is the motivation for women who are childless for whatever reason? What about the women without those traditional family structures surrounding them?
One of the answers lies in discovering your own value as you, individually, just you. That’s a hard one for many of us. There are cultural, societal, and often familial messages that our value is as parents, as nurturers of the next generation. It is more common now to choose not to give birth or adopt, but many of us have faced the lingering question of when we will have children, or whether we will regret our biological clocks ticking away until it’s too late. The wondering may come from others, or be part of our internal struggle because we haven’t yet decided for certain-sure. I believe, and am telling you, that you are worth defending for who you are all by yourself. I know you might not believe me, but I hope hearing it helps you on the path to getting there.
In the meantime, we seek connection and meaning because we need them to thrive, even merely to survive. It’s not a matter only of responsibility, but of desire, need. Looking for it drives us, and lacking it can lead us to dark places. We find it in our relationships with our families of choice, related by blood or not, and in the work that we do. We might only affect a small piece of the world, but it’s our change. There are people who we would drop everything for if they asked, and they are who we sacrifice our time, energy, and money for. They do the same for us, not because it’s a transactional trade but because they want to. There are causes that we dedicate our lives to, knowing that without our efforts, they would not move forward as much because what we do matters to someone, to ourselves if nobody else.
Even if we have the spouses and children and parents, we might still look for connection and meaning beyond them. We might not be wholly satisfied devoting ourselves entirely to our families, and it’s okay either way even though someone will tell us differently no matter which side we choose. Regardless, if we haven’t before, when we get to a point in our lives where the dependence is less or those people are no longer in our daily lives for whatever reason, we are thrown into the morass of finding out once again who we are and how we fit in to the world.
And when we figure it out, when we see and accept the ties that bind us to the world, how does it change our choices, the things we are willing to do, the things we must do? They can change our priorities when it comes to how we spend our leisure time and pursue our careers. In these moments, one of the additional areas we should consider is how we will focus our efforts when it comes to self-defense. If we shift from being a mom to being an empty-nester or vice versa, how does that affect our options and strategies? If we accept the love of family of choice, how does that affect our determination to struggle to live? If we discover a passion, a cause, how does that affect what we will fight for and how? I don’t have answers for you, and you might not either yet, but now you’ve taken the first step towards them.