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?
ooohhh this is a biggie!! such personal accountability. somewhat uncomfortable yet sits as a truth for me, so I will go forth “just for today” and observe it in myself.
You know it’s funny, I hadn’t thought about it from the personal accountability perspective until you said that now. Funny how I’ve unwittingly expressed that being personally accountable feels like more freedom to me…
Someone once told me that responsibility is freedom and my head kind of got that but not really. I think I may be starting to understand that on my heart level now.
I wish you freedom as you go forth ‘just for today’ 🙂
I have thought about this often. It is strange that we have highest values that we respond to but don’t value in the same breath. I think it is because we don’t value our own opinion. I regard what I am doing as having little value because I am doing it. I need others to acknowledge the value before I see it myself.
If we know ourselves really well and are clear about our highest values, there is less room for conflict and confusing ourselves with external pressures.
We can then peacefully and intentionally get on with it!! Because in order to be really effective at making my highest values successful, I do need to devote my energy and time to them.
Lisa you’ve taken it to that place of knowing yourself and learning to honour what you know and listening to that. A lifetime’s journey. I can hear you have explored it quite a bit. Your comment is a valuable reflection for me about what I’ve written. Sometimes you don’t see where you are until someone comments on it. That’s partly why I appreciate comments so much. Thank you!
Ultimately it’s all about your state of mind or, rather, how much control you have over it. Of course that ability ebbs and flows. Today you may feel in control, tomorrow maybe less so. But the notion that everything in your life is your choice is dismissisive of the myriad of people, natural forces and events and everything else that impacts you and your circumstance.
I prefer that old Serenity Prayer. G-d grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Of course, I don’t really ask G-d for that ability. It just comes with practice.
Look, in a mere five billion years the sun will die and a billion or so years before that its super nova will consume the earth. Much sooner than that we’ll all be dead, non-existent just as we were before conception.
Everything in your life was your choice? But you’re in your life because of someone elses actions. Things/people/events that molded you: your parents, the times in which you exist, ad infinitum had little to do with your choices until you reached a time when you could actually exercise them.
By then much of your personality was already formed and the things fed to you internalized. So even your free choices are heavily influenced by external forces still acting from without and external forces internalized acting from within.
So, is self determination, all that elective?
Gary I love the challenge and invitation to explore deeper. And funnily I already prepared next Monday’s post on exactly the topic of ‘You always have a choice – even though it doesn’t always seem that way’
My message from this post as I saw it (but I love when comments make me look again) is not so much that we have control over everything in our lives but rather that we always have the choice of what we do with it.
I totally get what you are saying with regards to our existential circumstances. It often does seem pretty random and we are very much shaped by other’s actions and much of that when we are too young to be fully conscious and excercising active choice. We do all have to deal with the situations we are faced with and just get on with it in one way or the other. And as we all know, life is not always very easy. The state of the planets just are what they are. We are born, we live, we die. And it all just sort of is what it is. We live this life as best we can given our circumstances.The Serenity prayer is a beautiful message about courage, trust and acceptance.
On the other hand there are some that believe that as souls we choose everything about our life before we come to earth. We choose our parents, the type of body, health, mental capacity we have, the socio-economic and political circumstances we are born into, certain shaping life events etc. According to this we do so in order to explore, grow and understand more of who we are. The premise is that we come from the Source of love and light and need to remember ourselves as that here on earth. When we are done with this particular learning journey in these physical bodies we leave them and go back to the Source of which we are all part.
This conversation taps into theology, philosophy etc etc. I don’t know what is The Truth or whether there even is one. What I do know is that feeling there is growth and purpose to my life and that in my essence I am of light and love – as is everyone else – fills me with joy and hope and makes me a more joyful and functional person. While it might be a fantasy created by humans too afraid to face their mortality head on – it is my preferred belief and it makes a deep sense to me. Fundamentally I suppose though, in answering your challenge more directly, it means that I DO believe I have chosen everything in my life on a bigger scale and now I get to choose my reactions to it on the smaller scale. Part of my own journey as I see it is learning NOT to feel I have no choice.
However, my intention was not to pass my personal beliefs on as doctrine in my blog post. I’m not preaching here, merely responding to your comment. My intention is to share my journey of self-knowledge and empowerment and help others who want to do the same – however they choose to do it and whichever belief system they ascribe to.
Next weeks post explains a bit more about choice.
What do you think?