A friend and a I agree, with all due respect to COVID losses and the tragedies that have befallen the world as a result of this virus, that one silver lining that came out of the world shutting down was the lack of social commitments we made over the last year.

Instead of calendars being booked, double booked and always leaving something early to get to another event late (not my phrase but accurate!) we spent time in our “lounge clothes” with our families. We hosted less and spent less time at events that we were expected to attend, but now had a perfectly reasonable explanation as to why we couldn’t make it.

As restrictions have lifted, the hustle and bustle of social and familial obligations seems to be rising back into full swing. Of course, this is fantastic news overall, but did we learn anything in those 15 months of isolation?

My friend shared with me recently that she was going to an event one afternoon. I recognized the “obligatory” tone to her voice and commented on the generosity she would share, by spending her (restricted) free time supporting the event.

I knew that tone, since I struggle with invitations myself. Happily, I have found myself decreasingly able to participate in things that don’t align with my core, but my discretion in deciding what engagements to resume, is a work in progress.

On this day, in response to my comment about it being a generous choice of how to spend her time, my friend replied: “It’ll be fine (insert a bunch of reasons why its a good idea)…plus…I will have a cocktail and get through it.

I called out the growth we’d both experienced. “It’s great that we have evolved to accept and claim what WE need to do something, without judging ourselves like we did for so many years…” Whether we needed more sleep, more help, more money, more chocolate or more wine, we had a tendency to judge ourselves and focus on our “weakness” (something is wrong with me that I need ‘fill in the blank’) instead of just doing the thing we needed to do and kept it moving. So I do see this as progress!

But we still have a long way to go: “…And it is great, but at what point to we get to back up out of that circumstance even further, to simply decline participating in something that necessitates ‘fill in the blank’?”

Is there a certain age we reach, where we have earned permission to pass? Now that we are in our 50s, do we get to stop making commitments that require anesthesia, distraction, or an altered mental state to attend? The short answer to me, seems like “Nope.”

Nope, because there are always going to be people and places that want us there, and may even need us there, mentally present or not, such that we will never be ordained by others to do what we want.

But, we can ordain ourselves. When we think about how to spend our precious, limited moments of time on this planet, maybe we should pass on invitations to events, where we can’t go as ourselves. Perhaps we need to look more closely at our agreement to spend these moments in social, cultural, familial, professional “mandated” engagements that require us to self-medicate, prepare, and hope to “get through” unscathed.

We cannot rely on others to release us from these perceived obligations, since they actually originate from ourselves. If we want be serious about self-generosity before we prioritize the needs of others over our own, we may need to take a look at which invitations we are accepting, and which ones we opt out of, as we also opt out of the anesthesia that goes with them.

As I said to another friend recently, after making a tough decision about joining a potential event: “I do not want to disappoint anyone, but I include myself on that list” (…and therefore simply decline.)

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