48 essays by Elizabeth Shé

Essay #40: duty or delight?

In Love on December 12, 2011 at 3:37 pm

“If you feel a sense of delight, you know you’re on the right track. Delight is a marker for the soul’s truth — it’s never wrong.” ~Kathy Freston, Expect a Miracle

Amen, cousin.

Who would you rather be around: someone who’s delighted to be here or someone who thinks she should be? Don’t do us any favors by saying yes when you want to say no. We can tell it’s a should — a duty, not a delight.

How much energy are you expending on duty, on shoulds? Do you talk yourself into hateful jobs? ill-fitting friends? Do you pray for traffic or nasty weather so you have a good reason to skip the company Xmas party? Or do you immediately reschedule everything so you can attend?

I’m not saying duty can’t be delightful. Take exercise. It starts out being a duty, something I should do, but by the end of the walk or ride, I’m delighted. Life is good.

Figuring out whether something is a duty or delight can be tricky. Usually the body knows better than the brain. I recently, surreptitiously, returned the music to a dance piece I hadn’t bowed out of. My body wouldn’t let the CD all the way into the house, kept it near the door so I could slip it in my pocket next time I visited the choreographer. Afterward, my brain finally let me e-mail my resignation. If I attend rehearsals for a piece I think I should do, I’m doing my Self a disservice, as well as the dance.

Moving toward delight can be scary if you’re out of the habit. I have actually run from delight, talked myself out of it in all its manifestations. Years ago, I was hugely attracted to a man at work. Instead of talking to him, I avoided him like the plague. Could barely look at him. Whipped a quick 180 from the very possibility of delight. I’ve regretted it ever since.

Which are you choosing — duty or delight?

  1. I’m all about the delight….I’ve recently stopped volunteering for things that don’t mean anything to me. I also stopped doing extra projects at work I don’t get paid for….frees me up for delight!

  2. I like this and could have used it during the holidays. So much of holiday stuff feels like duty rather than delight. I will keep this in mind for next year and go for delight.

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