Why obligers need a deep interior life…and why it’s so hard for them to take time for it. 

You may have read some of my past posts about happiness author Gretchen Rubin’s theories about the four tendencies people have with regard to habit formation and meeting inner and outer expectations. As a quick review, the four types are: 

  1. Upholders (meet inner and outer expectations)
  2. Questioners (meet inner but question outer expectations)
  3. Obligers (meet outer but resist inner expectations)
  4. Rebels (resist both inner and outer expectations)

I’m an obliger, so I’m writing from my personal experience. Obligers have a keen sense of others needs, and tend to focus primarily on them. It always feels more virtuous to be doing something for someone else rather than ourselves. We have a hard time doing stuff that’s “just for me.”  


Obligers need to reflect to make good decisions about their priorities and needs, but struggle to take that time. Often they push themselves to remain in busy activities for others instead…even when that inner voice is screaming, “No!” Instead of stalling for time so they can calmly quietly decide what to, they try to silence that inner voice of resistance and force a guilt-induced “Yes, of course!” This can lead to them getting burned out and resentful–punishing those they love most with grumpiness–a bad pattern!

So if you’re someoe who falls into this, resist the temptation to say “yes” right away…make some good easy lines to use:

“Let me just check my calendar and get back to you.”
“Sounds interesting. I’ll talk about it with my spouse and let you know.”
“Thank you for the invite. I’d love to come but I’ll just have to see what my week is looking like before I commit.”

And then pray about it. Consult your calendar. Consult your gut…and listen to it! That quiet time in which to make decisions is essential. Helping your inner life to flourish can bring such strength. Taking things to prayerful refection can help you discern which things are really the most important and necessary, and also which are actually your responsibility. This is key because obligers can struggle with boundaries and often feel responsible for the perceived needs of others, even other adults. 

My Dad told me the other day something very simple but which stuck me like lightning:

“Other people’s stuff is not your responsibility.”  Really!??! Wow!!

How freeing this is! It is such a beautiful thing to just focus on the task at hand–to totally concentrate on what you’re doing, whether it’s grating carrots, writing or folding the laundry. For there is something really beautiful about just doing one thing and not thinking about anything else. Airplane mode! Just cruising without all the beeps and bells intruding from the internet. 

Alternatively, can you imagine if God was the way we are, getting so distracted by every possible thing going on all around the world? He would be completely insane because he knows everything. And yet somehow, living in the eternal present, aware of past, present and future, He is still able to simply exist. He is able to live fully and totally present in each moment. 

What a gift it is when we have a little taste of this! But to find it we have to be intentional, and block out all the noise and distractions around us,  to focus on what really matters. We need to have the humility to acknowledge that all we really need to do is take care of our tiny corner of the world. If we don’t, no one else will. And actually no one should. 

To need to be rescued is ultimately disempowering. 

Remember this. Give people the fishing rod, not the fish. Otherwise you imply they couldn’t have done it themselves, which is actually depressing. We all want to be able to take care of ourselves. And with the grace of God, and perhaps a little help (but not rescuing!) from friends, we can. 

So, Obligers, it’s so awesome that you are sensitive to the needs of others, but pack up your super-hero capes and martyr badges and stop being so afraid to say no. The world will not fall apart if you set a few much needed boundaries and focus on taking care of your own needs and duties, your own personal mission, before deciding how much you can help others with theirs. Perhaps in what the women from the podcast Project Love call  this “brave act of self-love” you will give others the freedom to do the same, and more people can find the peace that comes from simply doing what they need to do, without getting tangled in guilty knots when they can’t do everything else! 😉

PS This rare sighting of the ‘creatura materna’ without countless offspring was captured by my friend Rachel Lalonde on an awesome 4 hour moms only coffee date and walk! Also… I highly recommend the podcast on boundaries mentioned above! So awesome…especially for women who tend to feel the need to always put others first, even to the point of neglecting themselves:

 The art of saying No and setting healthy boundaries

Early Evening Glory

Last week, after a vivacious spring day of intense showers interspersed with golden sunshine pouring through steely grey clouds, I snuck out while my kids were having their bedtime snack to drink in the early evening glory of the garden.    

       

I love the peppery purple scent of lupins…they always make me think of high school graduation because they were blooming abundantly in our back yard when I was finishing grade 12. We took pictures of me in my velvet green ( :> !) grad dress in front of a pink, purple and blue sea of lupins in our garden. 

        
Everything is glorious after the rain…the delicate ferns curling their fingers artistically…the billowy cotton candy clouds that look so bouncy and fluffy you could surely dance on them, if you could only get up there….the little pansy playing peekaboo underneath the blooming thyme bush.
Is it any wonder, with a garden like this (I take no credit; it’s my green-thumbed and maybe even fingered landlord) that taking out the compost is my favourite chore? 

  

  

Wishing you all a beautiful Mother’s Day Weekend, with many flowers and gorgeous sunsets! 

Images of Silence

I.
The still water reflects the beauty of the sky
gorgeous billows of blue-tipped clouds
The rippling water has a busy beauty of it’s own
but takes all the attention for itself

Sometimes the noise of so much chatter
(mostly my own)
becomes like a wind which

blows out my interior candle

I need some silence
some still air
to let the flame rekindle
to warm the ember to a steady glow
burn brightly enough to heat me
from the inside out
light streaming forth
my eyes as stained glass
shining

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II.
The still morning lake
sits silent
grey and reflective
full of slightly fuzzy trees
solemnly upside down
green but not laughing

The majestic cedar trees
wave their thin green hands
ever so slightly
like ancient queens
acknowledging their people
who celebrate with the sudden confetti
of falling snow

Down below, the dew-spangled moss twinkles
and the ferns bow their heads shyly
Slippery salaal leaves shine
next to delicate huckleberry bushes
not yet adorned with tiny red berries

I’ll have to come back
in the summer

In the mean time
all these pieces of beauty
fill up the puzzle of my soul

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III.
Sitting here in the quiet chapel with
tall windows like eyes into the forest
I watch the snow fall against the cedars
like mercy from heaven
a gentle steady blessing
a constant message of beauty
a gift from one greater
ever reaching towards me
I am here I am here I am here

The snow falls
and my sleeping baby
breathes warmly on my chest
The candles glow
and the lake calmly receives
the many kisses of snowflakes

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