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: “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”. 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: