People are Not Obligations: Some Thoughts on Time
I’ve been giving the idea of time a lot of thought, lately. Specifically, how we choose to spend our time – and who we choose to make time for. Everything about the way you decide to spend your life is a choice. The fact is that we all have the same 24 hours. We all have to work at balancing our lives, dividing our time between this important thing and that important thing. No one ever said it was easy, but it’s necessary.
Yesterday, I had a particularly enlightening conversation that really drove home a few things I’ve been struggling with the past few months. One of the ways that we show people we can is simply by showing up – making time and being present. It’s that simple. Who we give our time to, willingly, is important. Because life is busy and tricky, and it’s often like trying to juggle an entire circus full of rabid, angry monkeys. In short: slightly terrifying and difficult.
The thing is, though, that people are not obligations. I repeat: people are not obligations. Yes, we make commitments to do things and be places. We have family and friends. And with that, certain things are expected of us. But there is, I think, a different between a commitment and an obligation – perhaps it’s all the emotional aspect. But you commit to a person – and that is a choice. You are not obligated to that person. The distinction, however tenuous, is there. It is never, ever okay to make someone feel like an obligation. In the same vein, one of the worst things you can do to someone is to make them feel inconvenient. Hell, I’ve been there a time or two, and it’s like falling into quicksand made of insecurity and guilt. Not fun.
That conversation, though, reminded me that I’m type of person who always shows up. Unless I’m bleeding or physically unable to get to you, I show up. Because the number one sign that someone loves you? It’s just being there. It’s being there without an attitude, without the feeling of obligation. It’s being there, because you want to be – not because you are forced, either by outside influences or some overarching sense of have to or guilt.
The truth is that I’ve always been the type of person who doesn’t want you around, if you don’t want to be there. I’ve seen far too many people, and been in a few situations, where I’ve watched people do things because they feel as if they don’t have a choice. And, you know, it often turns that person into a resentful, cranky adult toddler. It’s not healthy for anyone involved, and it doesn’t even accomplish anything positive. Truly, there are times in life where it’s better to walk away from something, or someone, who isn’t bringing you joy – who, instead, brings you down quick than gravity, who causes you misery or simply makes you feel less. No one should ever make you feel that way, family or friend. It’s just not okay.
This morning, too, I realized that I am – for better or worse – the person who always makes time. It’s never inconvenient to me, because if I care about you, you’re my people. End of story. No questions asked. I’ve claimed you, minus the flag. (Eddie Izzard shoutout!) If you call me up at three in the morning sobbing, I will get in the car and come over. If you show up on my doorstep, because something happened and you need me, I will drag you inside and listen – and probably feed you. (Mind you, my dishes will probably not be done and my house will probably need a vacuuming. That’s life.) No matter what, I’m there for those who I love. It’s never an obligation. It’s a promise.
But that whole train of thought made me think about certain instances where people stepped up and showed up for me. Little things, even – like phone calls and emails. Or, even, big things – like physically showing up even though it was inconvenient. Because it means something when you make time for someone. It means something when you’re present. Because you’re making a choice – you’re choosing that person. You’re choosing that person when the circumstance isn’t ideal – and that has a kind of beautiful power to it. It speaks volumes about your feelings, too. Because it’s not an obligation. It’s a decision.
Time is a funny thing. It’s finite, though we never know to what degree. It’s important to show up, stand up, speak up, and man up (yes, even those of us with ovaries – we have figurative balls). Tell me who you love and how you show that love, and I’ll tell you who you are. Tell me who you are, and I’ll show you who you love. But in the end, who you love doesn’t matter as much as how you show that love. And you need to show it with time. That doesn’t cost a penny, and it means more than any diamond, darlings.