I don’t know about you but however much I love most things about my life there are times I feel trapped and annoyed and resentful about things I ‘have’ to do. If I buy into the obligations and responsibilities approach, I get very little time to do what I want to do. Little time for creative projects and play and hanging out with friends and just being.
Then the other day I had this very deep realisation; I don’t actually HAVE to do anything. None of us actually HAVE to do anything.
I’m still wrapping my head and heart around this. It goes so deep that I sort of get flickerings of ‘getting it’ and then I lose it again. So I figure if I write it down here for you all to see and try to ‘get it’ with me it’ll make it stick better. Because I really want this to stick. I find it liberating and heartening.
Ok it goes like this. We live in this society, in a family or group that has norms and expectations of its members. We grow up learning what those expectations are and then doing our best to find a balance between fulfilling the expectations while retaining a sense of self and independence and finding satisfaction for ourselves. It’s a tricky balance to maintain and when you have dependents of any kind that balance gets trickier yet – because of those obligations and responsibilities. If you have to look after your ailing mother or your young child or you are the breadwinner for the family then what can you do? You just need to get on with it, sacrifice your own desires and try to find snippets of nice things for yourself while you meet the expectations.
That sounds logical and familiar, right?
But then you get those people who don’t meet the expectations. They just shirk their responsibilities and they carry on living. So how does that work? Does it mean we are actually free to decide? About everything?
Here’s what I’m trying to wrap my head around. I don’t HAVE to do anything. I can choose what to do and what not to do. Everything I choose has consequences and I decide which of those are preferable to me at any given point. I don’t HAVE to mother my children. I could walk away. There are many parents who have done that. I don’t HAVE to follow the rules. I could choose not to. There are many who have done that. I don’t HAVE to connect to others, be kind, be ethical or be moral. There are plenty out there who don’t. So why do I have to?
The answer is I don’t, but I CHOOSE to. In fact, everything in my life, every circumstance, is of my own choosing. I have agreed to everything in my life. I have agreed to accept the obligations and responsibilities. I have enabled and allowed the conditions. All those things I feel trapped or victimised by are things I have created and agreed to – often without realising it. And WHY have I done this to myself? Because at the time of agreeing to them I preferred the consequences of these choices to the other options.
This is powerful stuff. None of us HAS to conform or be responsible but we choose to because walking away feels awful. Breaking the rules offers jail. Hurting others leaves you isolated. Leaving dependents stranded impacts on your self-worth and trustworthiness… We all have to live in the world we create – on the small and large scale. And live it we do.
So now, I look around at my life and I see the choices I have made. Now that I know they were my choices I can assess whether they still suit me. When I bump into something in my life that makes me feel trapped or resentful I can ask myself, “Is this the choice I still make now? Does it make my soul sing? Is there an alternative that would?”
Your soul may not feel like its singing as you get up for the third time in the night to attend to your little one, or have to intervene in the siblings fight again but if you think of the alternative does that make you feel truly better?
When I know it is my choice –rather than my obligation – it feels lighter, happier, freer to me. Because I could choose not to if I wanted. So I choose to bring home money for my family. I want to be that kind of person. I choose to be here for my children. That makes me feel good about myself. I choose to strive to be kind and ethical – I feel good about creating that kind of world.
You also don’t HAVE to do anything. You may choose to though.
What do you think?