Posts Tagged ‘fulfilling our obligations’

Relinquishing Our Slipstream Position

November 6, 2014

Life isn’t meant to be a long, hard slog. It’s just not. Sure, we have periods of our lives where the burdens pressing down upon us are heavier than at others, but ultimately, life is meant to be joyful.


Whenever a conversation gets too heavy, I nearly always switch topics and ask the person what it is they’re looking forward to in the near future. “Nothing,” replied someone who sounded more exhausted than I have ever heard. “I don’t have the energy I used to; I’m scrambling to keep my head above water. A lot of people depend on me.” They sighed before continuing, “and the others are simply waiting for me to go.” Days later, I remain struck by the bleakness of their tone. It would be awful to find yourself feeling responsible for the future of others but cognizant of the fact that your time in a place has run its course.


What do you do when a responsibility feels unrelenting?


Now, I’m all for fulfilling our duties, etc. even when there is little joy to be found in doing so, but I’ve also approached my life from the perspective that I never wish to be indispensible. Because I’m not. There’s always someone else to step up—even when we can’t identify who that person is. They may be an imperfect successor—or maybe they’ll far outshine us—but the world won’t stop when we step off. Please note that I said “when” not “if”.


As I listened to my friend’s reply, I could hear their desolation. We’ve all felt overwhelmed at times. Our lives can feel alone, no matter how many people or how much activity is swirling about us. And it’s true that sometimes the best we can do is to show up day after day doing what we can, however futile or meager it may feel. There’s a constructive purpose to such dedication. But, there comes a time when we must confront the fact that even if there are people depending on us and who will be upset and impacted by our decisions, even if our responsibilities have provided us with a sense of identity and objective, perhaps arriving at this difficult point is the leverage we need to set out on a different path, to relinquish those focus-giving responsibilities, thus facilitating others who depend on us to struggle on their way, no longer drafting on our slipstream.


It’s a big step, I know.


My friend didn’t ask for any advice and I didn’t offer. I don’t know what they should do. What I do know is that life is not meant to be unmitigated torment (speaking as someone for whom much of the past five years has been excruciating) with so little reprieve that there is nothing to look forward to. Of course they feel depressed, wouldn’t you? Our burdens are not easily laid down. But, sometimes, despite all the real world consequences, you’ve just gotta…let go. Let someone else figure it out—let them assume responsibility for the paceline.







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