Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Responsibilities and Obligations

A while back I wrote in response to these two questions: what are you giving up? what are you doing anew?

I’ve started doing something new this year. Working out. It’s a fascinating thing for someone like me, a dedicated sedentary being. I can’t imagine a day in which I will want to go and work out. It is always a struggle because what I really want to do is sit and read or write. Still, it seems that moving the body a bit, building some muscles, exercising the heart might be a good thing.

The benefits of it were commended to me last week, when a dear friend of mine died suddenly in his sleep at age forty-two. I don’t believe that a few hours at the gym each week is going to do much to change my final death, but it gives me the illusion right now of doing something for the body to make it healthier and of conveying to the physical being that we’re having a good time in this life and would like it to last for a while. For a long while.

So that is something new that I am doing. I wasn’t planning to do it. I fell into it. And I’m doing my best to not think about it much and plan and obsess around it. I just do it. I show up. I work out. That’s it.

The interesting thing has been that doing something new necessarily involves giving up things. There is just limited time in the day. So what have I given up? That’s harder to quantify. In part, I have more energy from working out and so I feel like I’ve gotten more time in my days. I have given things up though. The house is in more of disarray than I’d like it to be. I have less time to just relax and veg out. I don’t know if this is a sacrifice, however.

Then the other day a different way of thinking about this question came to me through my friend Nicki, across the pond. A constant question that Nicki and all of the women of Woman-Stirred think about is how are we taking our visions of being writers seriously? How are we moving forward our sense of being writers in the world. Nicki raised the question of separating out responsibilities that we do need to me and sussing out obligations that are no longer relevant in order to release ourselves from those.

My challenge is of course that the obligation always feels like just that - an obligation. Not related to how it relates to my responsibilities or objectives. There are things that I’ve considered obligations that I have recently shed and there are new obligations and responsibilities that I feel as a writer and intellectual. The realization that I have had recently is that I need to start doing new things - take on new responsibilities and commitments in order to shed the old. Choosing what to give up is hard; starting something new is easier. Releasing myself from old obligations is a challenge unless it is overwhelmed by new commitments. I can look easily at how I spend my time and knock things off my list that are no longer meaningful to me, but I have to have a full plate to do that. So one of my life strategies is always coming to the question, what am I doing a new? What new commitments are going to stretch my mind and being? These answers force me to give things up and let go of old obligations.

No comments: