Obligated to Set Ourselves Free

I woke up today thinking about this blog post, and I readily admit that I became stressed. I thought about just ditching it again and taking a nice, long walk on the beach.  Who would really care?  I’m on vacation.  Not only that, but I couldn’t think of one thing to say. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. But I have to post something because other people rely on me. Other people expect me to fulfill my obligation to the blog.

That made me wonder about life and obligations and why we do the things we do—both professionally as well as personally.

Sometimes I’ll catch myself saying, “I have to call my mother today.” Do I really? And if I make it sound like a duty or an obligation, is the actual act of doing it insincere? And if it’s insincere, should we even do it?

How often do we complain about doing our job or fulfilling a promise hastily given? It made me think about my kids’ field trips. They aren’t busloads of fun. Sometimes they’re annoying and noisy and downright mind-numbing, but I do it anyway. Why? Because I made a promise. Because it’s important to my kids. Because their smiles go a long way toward erasing the negative feelings. Later, I can barely remember the headache. Later I don’t think about all the things I should have been doing instead of sitting on a big yellow school bus watching a random kid make fart noises in his armpit.

There are days when I think about ditching it all. In the end, who will care whether I post a blog or chaperone a field trip or call my mother? Who will care if I finish a scene or finally revise a book or attend a workshop? Nobody. Nobody but me.
Sometime it’s not about just fulfilling promises or meeting those obligations. Sometimes it’s really a wake-up call to look at things differently. We either have to change the way we look at the things we do or else make a change and decide not to do them.

With five kids, I’ve attended my fair share of field trips. Every year one of my kids will attend the zoo. I’ve never chaperoned that one. I hate the zoo. It depresses me, and I decided a long time ago that I didn’t want to go and watch animals stuck in a cage or living pretend lives in a pretend habitat. So, there was no guilt involved. I just told my kids I didn’t like the zoo, and that was the end of that.

It’s okay to say no. It really is. In fact, it’s kind of liberating. But, once you make the commitment, you have to follow through with it.

Next time I call my mom, I’m not going to act like it’s an obligation. Instead I’m going to think about how I always feel better after talking to my mom. I’m going to remember how her chuckle makes me laugh. I’m going to remember how she’s always been there for me, and making a phone call should come from my heart. I should never call her because I feel like I have to. I should call her because it makes my heart feel good. And because I know it will make hers feel the same way.

I came to this same realization about writing. When I would hear my friends talk about deadlines, I kind of felt bad for them. I hate deadlines. They stress me out. How can you still love something if you HAVE to do it?

It’s all about heart and attitude and adjusting those two things to make our lives better. Richer. Complete.

We all have obligations, but if we learn to treat them as a gift we give ourselves, then those same things can enrich our lives. We free ourselves to enjoy the things we have to do and rediscover why we made the commitment in the first place.

Before I go take a walk on the beach in Carlsbad, California this morning, I’ll leave you with a quote by Wayne W. Dyer: “If you are living out of a sense of obligation, you are a slave.”

Don’t be a slave. Set yourself free to rediscover why you made your commitments in the first place. In every area of your life.


14 thoughts on “Obligated to Set Ourselves Free

  1. Oh, good. Someone who speaks truth concerning obligation. Which is why I’m not working on WIP this week until I fulfill obligation to current graduate course for two papers… sheesh. What was I thinking? (Yes, Susan, you were thinking money, so shut it and do the work.)

  2. Love this…and yes, I agree with the field trips, the PTA volunteering and Girl Scout leading. I’ll always have those memories from obligations that I agreed to. But I’m learning now that my own obligations to myself (and my family as a whole) are just as important. I’ve also been learning that obligations mean to take care of myself, relax and enjoy life.

    I love the fact you took the time to make a commitment to post this message…I needed that…also in a good way! 🙂

    Raising my glass of fig vodka to you…Salute!

  3. I love this post, Kim! And you are right — and very wise, as always. It’s all a matter of readjusting our perspective, so that our “obligations” are not a matter of “need-to’s” but “want-to’s.” Hope you’re having fun on that beach and taking lots of walks.

  4. “But, once you make the commitment, you have to follow through with it.”

    LOVE THIS! Obligations suck but I agree that once you make one, you carry out on it. That’s one of the most disappointing things about people to me. When they just stop caring, trying, etc. and leave you with the bulk of the obligation.

    Great post, Kim-Mermaid. Now, go walk on the beach!

  5. Thanks for the thoughtful post, Kim. Treating obligations as gifts sounds like a good plan, though I suspect for me, it would be easier said than done. 😉

  6. You are making rethink my obligations! Thanks! I mean that. So I will smile as I complete a dance company tax return in the next day, because the company had helped grow wonderful children into incredible adults. And I will smile as I make dinner— again. It also means I will try and say thank you when other people help!

  7. Hi, Kim! Wonderful post. Obligations: gifts we give ourselves. That is a radical concept, and I love it. Thank you for shifting my perspective. 🙂

    One thing I would add. Never miss an opportunity to tell someone you love them – and mean it. You never know when they are not going to be there tomorrow, and if you’ve treated your interactions as “(old definition) obligatory” moments, then regret will tug at your heartstrings. Using your new definition of obligation, the gift you’ve given yourself becomes a gift to those in your life.


  8. Hi Kim. Great blog post. You reminded me that we are in control of our destiny as far as how we budget out time! And that the person you need to ultimately answer to is yourself. Thanks for helping me straighten out my priorities!

  9. Great blog, Kim! Love your way of viewing things. I’m going to have to bookmark your blog so I can refer back to it and and remind myself of your wise words!

  10. From reading everyone’s responses, I’d say there are a lot of people who cared about reading this post, me included. Thank you and enjoy Carlsbad.

  11. Oh my goodness, Kim! This is soooo what I needed to read right now as I find myself questioning every decision I’ve made as I face the future. Now I feel like I’m on more solid ground. Thank you!!!

Comments are closed.