On this unofficial last weekend of summer I had plenty of opportunity for mental respite. But did I take it? Not so much. Instead I found myself caught between obligation and choice. When does obligation become a choice?
We spent some quality time with Mr. Ex and his Mrs. this weekend, and some may wonder why. We have certainly had our ups and downs. And let’s be real, Mr. Ex and I divorced for a reason, so why make the effort to engage? I think the question really is, why not. There’s no need to get hung up on technicalities or history, although letting go of the past can feel tough to do. When they invited us for a barbecue we opted in. Obligation or choice?
This might be said for any family situation – functional or not. Are we obligated to participate just because we are related? Or even when we’re not?
Mr. Ex’s Mrs. graciously friended my mother on Facebook, which seemed like a big deal to me. We are not related to her, although she is my children’s step mother. But she didn’t bat an eye when it came up in conversation, picked up her iPad and looked for my mother’s profile and within minutes they were friends. Choice or obligation?
I never realized until now, I’m a perpetual obligator. Whatever seems obligatory, I do it, for everything. If we are invited somewhere I never go empty handed. Birthday acknowledgments, special occasion commemoration, thank you’s, volunteering, if someone makes any effort to do something for me or my family, I oblige with reciprocation. I usually can’t say no when someone asks something of me, no matter how much I want to – I feel guilty if I don’t say yes. If I get up the courage to say no, I share plenty of legitimate excuses, and hope to receive understanding. Seems a little ridiculous. Why do I feel so obligated?
When we recently moved in to our new condo and a neighbor found out I’m unemployed, she offered to help me find work. I was quite grateful but equally surprised when the next thing I knew, opportunities to interview literally dropped in my lap. So I did, in spite of my circumstances that may not allow for these types of jobs. Why? Because I felt obligated. She worked hard to help me, so of course I will follow through. On the off chance I am offered a job, I would obviously have to take it. Wouldn’t I?
It’s not easy to be a perpetual obligator. I know at some point there must be a choice. Is it possible to just say no — and more importantly without excuses or guilt? Mr. Ex said there is always a choice. Period. No matter what. I have a friend who said I never have to make excuses. Ever. Instead I just politely decline. Is the bottom line that our responsibility to ourself comes before anyone else?
Maybe it’s nothing but emotional semantics. Obligation – the word itself feels layered, heavy, negative, restrictive. But choice is a word that feels free. Wow! The mental respite is there all the time, we just have to decide to choose.