Words Matter

Yesterday morning, I found myself in line with my favorite cashier at a local store I frequent. As she was ringing me up for my purchase, she asked me if I was ready for Thanksgiving. At first, I was confused by her question. Given that it’s 3-weeks away, T-day simply isn’t high on my mental radar. But I re-calibrated quickly and responded in a lighthearted tone: Yep, I’m ready.

It’s important to mention that her question was front-loaded with a tone that clearly relayed not only her own lack of readiness but also a thick air of obligation. It felt very much like she was fishing for a certain stock answer she was looking for – an agreeable party that could share her own sense of misery inherent in the upcoming holiday. I then went on to tell her that we were hosting a community potluck gathering at our house, like we do every year, to which she replied: Oh, that’s good. That way you don’t have to do all the cooking your self. She then told me about how her kids now have kids and even though it’s just her own family attending, her family is growing and it’s a lot of work to host Thanksgiving. Part of me wanted to say: don’t do it, my friend – if you don’t enjoy cooking and hosting, don’t do it. But even though she and I have a lovely rapport together, it’s not like I know her well enough to say something like that.

It seemed very much like she was putting herself in an obligatory state of relationship with Thanksgiving, rather than a choice-state. And having a fondness for her, my heart went out to her, wishing she didn’t feel as though she had to cook and host if that really wasn’t what she wanted to do and could find joy in.


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On Obligation


Over the weekend, my husband and I attended a baby blessing for some friends of ours getting ready to have their first child. We spoke with one of the soon-to-be grandparents, the baby’s maternal grandmother. She was a lovely woman, who joked about how she was planning on becoming one of the best grandmothers around. Not THE best, she clarified, just among the best :) She mentioned that she had already collected an assortment of books and toys to have on hand, along with a couple of other surprise preparations. She then went on to talk, with a fluid sense of ease and joy, about how her actions weren’t out of a sense of obligation but out of great pleasure. I so appreciated hearing her speak about that. It seems so rare to hear someone talk about how they’re being of service from a place of love and enjoyment, as opposed to a burdensome state of obligatory necessity or out of an egocentric drive to be seen and validated.

I say: If we’re going to do something, no matter what it is, may we practice to do it with as elevated of a spirit as we can muster.

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