Monday, September 04, 2006

Dealing with Obligation

As the alarm went off at 6 AM I realized that 99% of the people in the US were probably sleeping in today in honor of Labor Day. Why was I getting up of necessity to drive into DC to unlock a door so that anyone who showed up could meditate?

I was so happy when Marjorie arrived just as the clock showed 7:00. The 30 minutes of meditation were actually more quiet than usual since the rest of the world was asleep and the garbage men were off duty. If no one had showed up, however, I would have felt grossly cheated of my chance to sleep in.

I started looking at my life and sorting things into 3 piles: the things I do out of obligation, the things I do because I love to do them, and a third pile of everything left over.

Many of the things I do because I feel obligated turn out to be things I ultimately enjoy – like exercising, practicing the piano, studying French, going to choir rehearsal, even reading the current book club selection – most anything that I feel I must do and I am already tired. But I often need to bribe myself to get started.

The love to do group includes going out with friends, eating out, riding my bike, playing music with others, cooking, listening to music outdoors, sharing a spontaneous moment of intimacy with my husband.

Going to work, cleaning the house, putting gas in the car – these are the things that are left that don’t evoke a strong feeling one way or the other, although if I didn’t do them I would be poor, living in filth, and out of gas.

I want to think more about why I do anything out of a sense of obligation. Obligation has such a negative connotation. This can’t be a healthy was to approach life. Maybe I’ll work on moving things out of that first group.

Have you been able to reclaim your life from obligation?


Blogger Mother of Invention said...

This is a tough one because there is so much overlapping it becomes a clouded issue.

Some things I started out doing because I loved them,(like my choir which starts up tomorrow night) become obligations, but of my own free will. I am committed to them so I have some responsibility. Sometimes, in the winter, when it's cold and I think I don't want to go out, I'm glad I felt obligated to go because once I get there, I love it.

Family is obligation any way you look at it. Some things you do with family is pure joy and fun, while other things, like loking after elderly parents are not so enjoyable.

This also works in the reverse. Some things start as obligations but turn out to be things you love or mostly anyway. Work is definitely an obligation, but most of the time, I'd love going to school every day and it gave me great satisfaction.

With hardcore obligations that you wouldn't choose, I just try to make those as enjoyable as possible or i try to blend in a more enjoyable activity to temper it with something more positive.

I guess for me, these can all transform into different aspects of the same type of thing at various times.

Does that make any sense?!!

8:43 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

I think what you said makes a lot of sense. That's the reason I wrote about it -- because I was having so much trouble sorting out obligation from things I like to do and seeing one morph into the other. I think the trick is to be able to recognize something that becomes completely an obligation and to figure out how to get rid of it at that point. Not always easy. It means recognizing that life is constantly evolving.

8:56 PM  
Blogger Old Lady said...

I have been thinking about this one. Obligation does cover a large area. Some fun some not so fun. Some weighty and some a joy.

9:40 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

I do little out of obligation, but a lot out of "responsibility".

I have a family (wife and two kids), debts (two homes in two different cities in two different provinces - tax time is fun).

I want to move away from being responsible to being fulfilled. I believe it is possible to achieve both, but I still don't know how. We are inculturated to get a job and work and that becomes our overwhelming life. Life is far more, I want more enjoyment out of life. Youth was so much more free of responsibilities. I feel I was lied to when being told that once I started working I would have more time to indulge in the things I wanted rather than studying.

12:01 PM  

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