I didn’t sign up for this!


Have you heard yourself make that declaration?

What was it you did not believe you volunteered to take on?  For many of us that phrase is used when a relationship gets stressful.  Even when it is someone you love, when the demands and expectations of your role as friend, family member, co-worker or even harder, caregiver, it is easy to collapse under the load and forget that at some point, you did indeed sign up for the trial and tribulation you’re facing!

What? When did I sign up? Was I drunk? I’d never agree to this!

Well maybe you don’t remember. Or, maybe YOUR understanding of how the future would unfold didn’t include any hardship, upset, misunderstandings or physical change (like illness, disability, or mental health challenges).  Your crystal ball didn’t show you that sometimes, we’re called upon to figure it out on the fly – to struggle to be our “best selves” amid the chaos and conflicts that are created within relationships when we’re pressed to our limits.

Consider this, until this point, you may not have even known what your limits were!  Had you known, you might have built a boundary, instead of obligingly saying YES every time the question came your way, “Can you do this, too?”  None of us knows what will be asked of us in this life. We don’t know what hard times will come our way, how relationships may change, roles may stretch and even snap.  But knowing your limits is important information because now, instead of saying “I didn’t sign up for this!” you can instead say, “Okay, I can help, but here’s the limit of what I can do. . .” That’s a boundary. We all need them to stay safe, to stay well, to manage our stress and to define who we are and who we’re willing to be.

I’ve said those words, “I didn’t sign up for this!” And then, I realized I had indeed done just that. 

  • I didn’t sign up for a husband with Alzheimer’s disease – but I did take a marriage vow, “in sickness and health”  — so, apparently I did sign up for this.
  • I didn’t sign up for early retirement – but, I did make the decision that I’d help my husband age in place, if that could be humanly possible, and it is, so I do – hmm. . .looks like my choice again!
  • I didn’t sign up for COVID-19 (right, me and 328 million other Americans – and billions more around the world) – but we did choose world-wide travel freedoms, open boarders, oops – looks like our preferences brought us a virus, as well as a modern, well-traveled, lifestyle.

So, when you catch yourself about to say (often in anger), I didn’t sign up for this, consider, it is likely you did with the choices and preferences that preceded the event by months, years, even decades.

A wise mentor taught me this question – “What part of this is mine to own?” If you take that question to heart, you begin to realize that anything that brings you grief, that adds to your stress, that makes you angry or causes you upset, YOU had something to do with it.

We cannot change the world until we are willing to change ourselves. Now might be the perfect time to examine the choices and decisions that got you here – maybe they were GOOD decisions, yet the outcome still surprises or disappoints you. Maybe they were bad decisions, and you’re living with the consequences of your own poor (or premature) judgment.  Whatever you discover in your honest questioning, you still can change – both yourself and your outcomes.

You’re still able to make fresh choices – so, look around and, if you feel you didn’t sign up for the circumstances you find yourself in, perhaps it is time to chart a fresh course and be the change you want to see in your world!

Change is good! Hey, I’ll even go first!

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