Posted on November 18, 2008. Filed under: Culture, Health, HowTo, Philosophy |

This past week has been one of giving up things: responsibilities; plans; expectations; methodicism; activities.

Guess what? Outside of some belly pain, and reactions to drugs (I’m now drug-free; yay!), due to a recent surgery, it’s been wonderful. Sometimes it takes a startling life event like this to put ones priorities in order. Some of my conclusions have surprised; actually shocked me!

For instance: I have been singing in choruses almost all my life. As I love choral music (that hasn’t changed) I often volunteer to help the chorus or musical organization, and, in my current situation, I’ve been on the Board of Directors for six out of the eight years I’ve been a member. I like to sing. I like to facilitate the organization’s continuance. Right?

Well…yes. I’ve been engaging in these activities for so long that they’ve become habit. I’ve not questioned them or my participation for some time. Yet, recently, since a concert is coming up, for which I’ve rehearsed for many weeks, I reviewed my options as to participation in it. There are two more rehearsals, one “mandatory” if I wish to sing, and then there is work to do the day of the concert, as well as the actual singing. My voice is not good, right now; still scratchy from anesthesia tubes, but I can work on that. I could arrange my sleeping, and curtail other activities so I could “get by”, probably, on concert day. On the other hand, my fellow singers would understand if I didn’t participate this time.

I have chosen not to. Immediately upon making that decision, questions and taunts from my ego-centered portion of self began to surface: “But, they need all the singers they can get, as they’ve lost people!” “Who is going to collect the money for the tickets, if you’re not there?” and the most insidious: “But you’ve rehearsed all this time! You can’t give it up now! What if you miss something? What if they don’t like you any more?” And, finally: “You have OBLIGATIONS!!!”

Guess what? (again). No, I don’t. I didn’t sign a contract, swear an oath, or make a promise to put my health and/or ease below the needs of this one, small, organization. I said to myself:Β  “Given that all those ego-taunts are true (from its perspective), and aren’t going to go away—just put them aside for a moment, and ask ‘What is the path of least resistance? What feels better, easier? What would feel more like enjoying the journey as the boat drifts downstream, rather than furiously rowing upstream?'”

Deciding to relax, and just attend the concert, felt like such a relief. The doctors had said I should avoid stress (don’t they always say that?!?), and doing anything other than just attending, felt stressful. Good guidance from my inner self, there; guidance I intend to take more and more to heart. It turns out (of course) that other people can step in to fulfil some of my “obligations”. Others can be postponed. As for the quality of the concert, without my dulcet tones, well, we shall see. It will be as it is.

There are other activities I’ve stepped back from, as well. The word “obligation” comes from two old Latin words meaning “to bind”. (Same root word as “ligament”, which “binds” bones and muscles together.) Most definitions I’ve read use the words “constraint” and/or “constrict”. I believe, more strongly than ever, that I don’t ever want to feel “obliged”. About anything. If I’m not participating fully, with gladness of heart, then it’s not worth doing. Really! In fact, it can endanger ones health, as I feel these obligations have contributed to my recent concerns.

It seems that obligations can stem from habits. When I was first elected to the Choral Board of Directors, I was very excited. I couldn’t wait for meetings; the ability to help plan and shape this wonderful organization. In recent years, though, I realize I’ve gone from complacency, to tolerance, to almost dreading the meetings. It’s been a gradual and subtle shift. Still, I did not question it–after all, “I love music; volunteering; working; serving”.Β  Well. I did. This is my opportunity to reexamine virtually everything. Duty, responsibility, and obligation feel binding and constrictive. Some may argue they are part of the “social glue” which hold society together. Perhaps. I think I’d rather be “un-glued”; and when and where you find me, you’ll know I’m there because I want to be, not because I’m obligated to you.

As I close this post, I notice a badge which has been on my blog for a very long time:

Hmmm. πŸ˜€

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19 Responses to “Obligation”

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I have chosen not to

Good for you! After all, what good are all those things if you are not healthy to enjoy them?

I’m really glad you’re feeling better, and that you’re putting yourself as the number one priority, Muse.


I know what you mean. We are not bound by a contract, but perhaps our inner voice, our sense of responsibility.

I again enjoyed your word study. DO you do it all the time, or you are mostly doing during this interlude?

And I must reiterate, you are right in deciding that your health is biggest priority over any ‘obligation”. πŸ™‚ Take care!

good musing, muse! πŸ˜‰ i do things happiest when i’m not obliged to. right now, i’m still getting used to working life and so i have been doing the minimum to get by, i admit. i have not fallen in love with my job to the point that i want to do things willingly… i was most aware of my voluntary feeling was when i was in college. i happily went for every class! and that is why i am on a constant lookout for my dream job… the one where i don’t feel i have to do work because it’s my responsibility, but rather because i want to for it makes me happy!

Well written as usual!
I am glad you are feeling better. Take care of yourself. And it is great to step back and look/ revamp our lives right? Make great use of this time πŸ™‚ You and your health come first πŸ˜€

Doctors do always seem to say to avoid stress. I guess that makes sense, since stress is always something best avoided! It’s got to be healthier if you don’t bind yourself to any obligations which aren’t obligations at all.

Doing something that doesn’t fit into necessities in life, because you feel obliged just takes all the enjoyment from life. The same reason I don’t sell my beaded stuff. Your health and well-being comes first. I do not want to see a stressed Muse. 😦

Even though I’d miss you to bits and pieces, if you chose not to blog, well then I’d just have to get over it, right?

Take care. Enjoy being a spectator. πŸ™‚

wait are you leaving us?

Thanks, Juan, and yes it’s so true! It’s just amazing how these things can sneak up on a person, though. Thank you for the good wishes! πŸ˜€

Poonam, I don’t wish to necessarily shirk responsibility, but I do want to look at it through new eyes now and then! As for the word study, I don’t do that evey post, but probably more than I should! I like to to delve into word origins. It’s facinating to me to see how language has evolved. Thank you, I am taking good care! πŸ™‚

Thank you, sulz! I understand about wanting the dream job to be like college. Not everyone feels that way about college, so it’s nice you have a standard to measure by. It’s much better to live life by looking forward to most things; being excited about them; rather than just doing! πŸ™‚

Oh, thanks, Apar! That’s nice of you to say. I am doing very well now. That’s a great point you make about stepping back. Sometimes we need perspective we usually don’t take the trouble with, and events like these are reminders. I am thinking during this time! πŸ™‚

Indeed, B0bby. There is a lot of talk about stress, but some does seem to come with the human condition. I’m reminding myself that most of it is self-imposed, as obligations often are.

Oh, that’s interesting about not selling your beadie things. That way it’s always for pleasure, and not out of obligation, right? I wonder if we can learn to combine the two…Aw, thanks! I’m doing well with the stress. That “float downstream” image seems to work well for me. And yes, you’d certainly survive, somehow, if I stopped blogging 😦 πŸ˜€ but I have no intention of doing that presently. It’s more that I’d like to apply the “Blogging WIthout Obligation” badge to the rest of my life. πŸ˜‰

Aw, no, kaylee. I’m not going anywhere. I love to blog. I may be changing some things about how I do it though {ooooh, mysterious} πŸ™‚ Stay tuned!

Glad that you are feeling better Muse! When something goes from being something that you do voluntary and because you enjoy it to becoming an obligation, it seems as though the enjoyment is lost or becomes less. I’ve always liked the “Blogging Without Obligation” badge that you sport here. Avoid whatever stress is possible and take care! πŸ™‚

I just love your viewpoints and philosophies! Right on.

When I got double pneumonia and was stuck in the hospital for 4 days and a care center for 3 weeks was my life altering event. I changed just about everything in my life. It all worked out for the best. I guess I needed a kick in the butt and pneumonia did it for me where nothing else did.

As I get older I am really learning to live for myself. Granted, it took a year’s worth of therapy to help me do this but I have so much less stress in my life now.

I also agree with you about obligations. I’m obliged to my daughter and no one else. She lest me live with her and pays for all my expenses. All I have to do is cook (which I love) and grocery shop. Other than that I just do what makes me happy. It works for me.

Oh, and I am glad you are healing. I light candles in the evening when I retire to my room and I have been lighting one for you since I heard about your surgery. A little positive energy goes a long way.

I am happy to hear you’ll still be blogging, Muse. πŸ™‚
Pleasure and Obligations? They can mix?
Just kidding. I know they can and should!

I followed you here from our dear Kaylee’s site.
Sorry to read of your surgery, but glad to read you are healing well.

I read some of your posts, and I realized what a good thing I have been missing. I should have known, because I am always drawn to your comments to Kaylee.

I feel a very good energy here. So I’ll be checking back to see the coming change, besides I love a good mystery! πŸ™‚

I SO relate to this post. Thank you for writing it.

Healing energies and peace of heart to you.

Brava, Muse! You’re well enough and spunky enough to say no! πŸ™‚ I especially loved your story of “who will if I don’t?” because the answer always is: someone else. It can batter the ego and whoever else does it might not do it as well, but it will get done. It’s trite but true to say, if you don’t look out for yourself, who will?

It so often seems to take life-threatening situations to produce life-altering change. I’ve been near death 3 times, the first when I was too young to know it and be affected by it. The second made me re-assess what really matters. The third let me know there probably won’t be a fifth.

Thank you for liking my “without obligation” badge, Shane! And for your gladness regarding my betterness! πŸ˜‰ I do appreciate it. I agree with your assessment. I must ask myself if something is feeding my soul, these days; because, if not, I’m not at my best for being of use to others, either.

Thanks, C.! I’m glad. πŸ™‚

Wow, Joan! That’s a long time to be away from life-as-usual! I was only in the hospital for one day, and that was plenty! I’m really glad that you recovered so well, and formed a life that works for both you and your daughter. Better you than me—cooking for someone (at least every day) would be a deal breaker for me; I know you love it though! πŸ™‚ I feel I don’t even know the extent of changes I can expect, yet. It’s kind of exciting, and kind of strange. πŸ˜• Thank you, thank you for the healing candle. It does make a difference, and you are just lovely to include me in that! πŸ™‚

Oh, yeah, let’s mix it up, BD! Keep the pleasure, ditch the stress! And thanks. I will have some new posts up next week, which will be about other topics than my self-involved internal processes, LOL! πŸ˜‰

Welcome, gypsy-heart! I’m so pleased you stopped by! Yes, I’ve noticed you over at Kaylee’s place, too. She is certainly going through some things. I’ve seen you one or two other places as well, but I finally checked out your blog before this reply, and, oh how I love your paintings! I just skimmed, but I must make a date to read and study; you create such beauty. Thank you for reading my posts, and for your good healing wishes. I’m glad we’re both good energy sharers!

There’s nothing like receiving a cheer an opera diva might inspire to put a smile on my face, ella, thank you! πŸ™‚ My ego has survived the assault, and quite enjoyed the “vacation”! I have been able to do one or two little things from home to help; and the org. sent me flowers! Nice. OMG three near-deaths for you? I can’t even begin to imagine the self-assessment you must have gone through. I’m certainly glad they were only “near”! Assessing what’s really important is key to a good life, indeed. These interesting economic times are causing some to do that as well.

Enjoy your time “off”. Somnetimes it does take something extraordinary to nudge us into reevaluating what we do with our time. I know for me, if I get too busy it translates into depression. I’m thankful I’ve learned that about myself. Sometimes, I just have to say “no”.

I hope you have a blessed Thanksgiving, Muse. I’m glad you are doing better. I’ll pray for a continued quick recovery.


Well, it’s been a week – so how are ya!? We need to know these things ya know! πŸ˜›

Oh, tee, your prayers and blessings and Thanksgiving wishes are much appreciated and gratefully accepted! It’s interesting how we each react to things like overwork. For me, it leads to overwhelmment and “fuzzing out”; whereas you mention for you it’s depression. I’m so glad you learned the signs and your own processes. I’m learning a lot about mine. As with most things, when I step back and look with perspective, it’s all good and apt, and I’ll remember this as a significant time of awareness. I send my wishes for a wonderful Thanksgiving for you and your family!

Will, my first reaction upon reading your comment was this: “Aw, he’s SO SWEET to inquire after me!” Now I’ve had time to think about it, and my second reaction is the same! πŸ™‚ Has it been a week already since I’ve posted? I see that it has. I am much, much better, thank you. I’ve had a sort of listlessness and challenged ability to focus the past few days, but I believe I feel that passing. I’m enjoying the repose and the change of emphasis. Back to posting, and carrying on!

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