doubt · relationships · self-care



There is a subtle, ever-present equation being solved in my brain by the minute.  To be happy in this moment, do I need a little more rest or a little more activity?  To be happy in this lifetime, do I need a little more savings or a little more spending?  To be happy in this relationship, do I need a little more stability or a little more spontaneity?

This weighing and measuring circulates incessantly that old GPS tagline beneath all my thoughts: “Recalculating.”

I’m listening to the audiobook of Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before, a book about the formation of and adherence to habits.  Of the 4 tendencies she describes, I most clearly identify with “The Obliger,” with some elements of Questioner, Upholder, and Rebel.  As an obliger, I am most apt to complete something I’ve set out to do if I have accountability.  In fact, all the positive habits I’ve formed over the last dozen years, I realize, have been as the result of making an explicit or implicit pact with someone (or something, like a daily vitamin pill dispenser):

  • Stay Sober & Solvent?  Accountable to a group of people doing the same.
  • Run a 10K?  Accountable to a running group doing the same.
  • Write Morning Pages?  Accountable to my Artist’s Way group from 2008.
  • Make fresh coffee in the morning (instead of nuking one pot all week)?  Accountable to my boyfriend’s insistence that I have nice things!

What harangues me is the more insidious obliging that I engage in, where the motivation is much less clean:

  • Return the guilt-inducing phone call from my father?  Accountable to:  A) “Good daughter”ing or B) Genuine desire.
  • Remain a mentor to someone who is clearly not a fit?  Accountable to: A) “Good mentor”ing or B) Saving them from themselves.
  • Stay in a relationship peppered with my doubts from the start?  Accountable to: A) My partner’s wishes; B) Saving my partner from himself; C) My mom(!); D) My genuine desire for and love of him.

Where does my obliger nature veer into codependence rather than self-support?  And with every new piece of information — with every glance, hug, laugh, anger, sorrow — I calculate again, an always-running app in the background, doomed to refresh infinitely.



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