We all have "obligations" in life. But I've come to recognize that there are real obligations, and then there are things that feel like obligations but actually aren't. As I've gotten older, I've tried harder to separate the two.
I feel increasingly protective of my time, my body, and my mind. I think all of us have probably felt a sense of false obligation at one time or another: that retirement party we have to attend; that night out we've promised to friends; that work teleconference we can't afford to miss. Each of us has a different idea of what our life's "real" and "false" obligations are, but my point is that everyone's got both.
There was a time when I would routinely push myself past my comfort zone to meet false obligations. I still do that sometimes, but nowadays, I really feel it. Against my better judgment, I'll go somewhere or do something that I'm just not in the mind or body space to do. This most often happens in the context of severe allergic flareups or attacks. I'll stay for dinner at a house with cats to be polite, because I didn't realize the person had cats, and it's "just" a stupid cat allergy. I'll go to a party even though I feel distraught, self-conscious, totally beaten up by my body, and unprepared to socialize (the latter of which, as anyone who knows me knows, is a pretty rare mindset for me). Sometimes I'll be pleasantly surprised and enjoy myself. But usually, when I ignore my instincts in favor of meeting false obligations, I end up not having--or being--any fun. And then I just feel bad, because my emotions show through and everyone can tell I'm miserable.
Life is a process of learning to trust oneself. For me, that means convincing myself that I'm not a total flake and no one will disown me just because I "can't deal" at a particular point in time. Between my ACL surgery and my skin, I've had to put this theory into practice more than usual these last few weeks. I value stoicism and prior commitments, which is why I rarely call in sick to work and why my friends can count on me when it matters.
But the operative words are "when it matters." Because as the saying goes, there's a difference between giving up and having had enough.