People come, and People go.

If one were to stop and consider the number of people who had ventured in and then out of one’s life the number would be staggering. When my oldest daughter became engaged, we sat down and collectively wrote a list of all those people who were currently important to us and we were amazed at the length of that list. We had actually thought it would be much smaller, since thanks to our move out of the city, our address book is fairly empty.

When we began taking stock of what was important 4 years ago we evaluated personal relationships as well as personal belongings. It was a difficult time, as we came to realize how many of those relationships were based on burden and obligation, rather than pleasure and happiness. It’s fair to say, in the end, we made a lot of people angry.

There was the sister-in-law, a great woman, but a recovering crack-addict, who had been sentenced to 6 years in jail in one of our city’s largest drug busts. Upon her early release two years later, we became her major support system. Many people had decided that they would be “there” for her, but of course only wanted to do so on their own terms. For over a year, we opened the door every time she knocked, regardless of what was going on in our own lives at the time. She knocked every single day.

When we made the decision to move out of the city the rest of the family wondered what she would do without us. We realized that our relationship with her was not joyful and that it was not mutual. Sure there were fun times, but we had become obligated to relate to her. She couldn’t realize that it was possible to have a relationship without that obligation and that we as a family needed that. She was so busy stressing over the fact that we were “leaving her” that she failed to see the opportunities that were becoming available to her. Our leaving became the excuse for her first line of cocaine, six months after we left, three and a half years after getting clean. We let go of the responsibility, and our obligation to her, and without us as an excuse she was able to move on with her life. We’re not so important to her anymore. And neither is crack, nor cocaine.

Our first Yule (Christmas) out of the city, we were bombarded with complaints from family members because we weren’t “coming down” for the holidays. They were angry. They were really angry. How could we NOT spend the holidays with them? How could we not allow them to see the children? Ironically, we hadn’t spent Yule with any of those people in over 10 years. And it had been a mutual arrangement. Suddenly however, they were angry. They were angry with what they were losing. They weren’t angry about the holidays, they were angry because they felt we had taken their choice away, a choice they hadn’t taken advantage of in years.

At first, they called, even came to visit once or twice, but in each of those interactions, we as a family were subject to a barrage of bitching. “You don’t want us here”. They spent so much time telling us how much we didn’t want them around (because this is the only reason they could focus on when they discussed us moving away) that eventually they had themselves convinced and they no longer make an appearance in our lives. We realized they had only been there in the first place because there was an obligation to “family”. None of us actually enjoyed each other’s company and we don’t miss the lack of bitching and burdening.

I have a brother who lives on the other side of the country, one who has done so for 15 years. He absolutely flipped out because he might have decided to come visit my mother, and we wouldn’t be in the city if he had wanted to stop by. The main highway, the Trans Canada, which he would have to travel to visit my mother, is 25 minutes away from my home. He drove himself three weeks ago, straight passed my town, and then called from my mother’s to remind me that if I hadn’t moved out of the city, we could have stopped by my mother’s to visit him.

People come and people go.

The more often we discovered the value of joy in our lives, the easier it became to rid ourselves of the baggage.  Once we began basing our relationships on how we could contribute fulfilment in  each other’s lives instead of how we were obligated to connect, we saw how easy it was to put honest to goodness effort into growing with those around us. Not everyone opened their eyes and it became exceptionally easy to live without their burdens and obligations.

Many relationships blossomed from that discovery, and many more deepened to an intensity that we hadn’t expected. We remind ourselves every day to live without obligation and this helps us to appreciate what’s dear to us.

A cousin, who at one time was so important I named a child after her, now sees how much more fulfilling our relationship is, since focusing on the joy we can bring each other. There’s no need to stress the distance, there’s no time to in fact, our time together is spent enriching each other’s lives.

We are friends with a couple in the city, whom we only see for one week every other year. There’s only one phone call between us, and that’s to make arrangements for that one week. I can’t even begin to explain to you the value that one week has to us all, without the pressure of “keeping in touch” simply because we’re obligated as friends.

It’s difficult for most people to understand the idea of living without obligation. How selfish are we, to only surround ourselves with what provides enrichment to our lives? We are very selfish, since realizing that surrounding ourselves only with what provides us enrichment, affords us the opportunity to provide only enrichment to others.

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25 Comments

  1. beautyoftheyear said,

    June 9, 2010 at 11:58 am

    Family is a blessing, but it can be a burden. At the end of the day, we have our happiness and our sanity. When someone is sucking that out of us, I think we need to become incredibly selfish and look out for ourselves.

    Don’t feel guilty. You did the right thing.

    • June 9, 2010 at 12:10 pm

      Thank you for that.
      I’m confident we did the right thing, and we live with our decision guilt-free, which is an added bonus. We do still however, receive the odd “how could you” phone call from family and “friends”. We’ve learned (and are still learning) to live beyond them, even if it’s harder than actually letting go in the first place.

  2. Diane said,

    June 9, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    Preach it, sister.

    You mentioned once how similar our lives are in many ways — count this as yet another one.

  3. Melanie said,

    June 9, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    Family? At this point in my life (transition) I don’t honestly know if anyone in my family will completely accept me, sometimes it’s better just to let them go.

    • June 9, 2010 at 10:15 pm

      I don’t envy your position Mel. As much as you and I both hope that you won’t suffer any sort of attack on your character, the chance is high that there will be many who will feel “betrayed”. You’re aware of that, but sometimes, yes, it is better to let them go. Some will come back around, as they begin to realize it’s not all about them. Those are the ones you’ll grow to truly cherish. I for one, plan to support you every way I can.

  4. June 9, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    I think you were very brave to write this. Realizing who does and doesn’t support you in this way must have been painful. Perhaps some of your family are also envious, because they may be aware that you have found a way out of the rat race. They may be resentful of their own lack of courage regarding change and are displacing it toward you.

    When I was preparing to move from Iowa to California, people kept saying things like, “There’s no jobs there.” They said the same thing in California before I moved here. Here I am. You know the details. Each time was just the right thing to do. Each move was to a far better life than the one I had before.

    • June 9, 2010 at 10:29 pm

      Thank you Mikey. I was hoping to be brave enough to write the story behind our great “awakening”, but apparently I’m not there yet.

      The most painful part really, was being unable to share the experience. We tried to explain, we begged others to see where we were headed, and at first, desperately wanted all of them to join us. But, closed minds can be very hard to open. Resentment seems like a very strong padlock.

  5. Sarah Baram said,

    June 9, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    As Mikey said, this is a very, very brave post. You should be proud of the choices you have made. You should not harvest relationships just because you feel obligated to do so, it is far from healthy and fulfilling. Our family has always worked in the same way. If there is no mutual gain of joy from the relationship, even if it is a blood relative, we just do not hold that close of a relationship. For the others we do keep close to us, the relationships run so deep and bring so much to the table for all of us.

    • June 9, 2010 at 10:37 pm

      Through it all, we discovered how obligated we had become to everything in our lives. Friends, family, material things, even participation in the community and municipal politics. We began to realize that we were living our lives devoted to others, instead of to each of our own individual selves. It was a rude awakening and a hard lesson to learn. I’m happy that I was able to shift directions early enough for my children to understand. You are fortunate to have been given a head start Sarah, don’t ever let that go.

  6. willowbatel said,

    June 9, 2010 at 10:52 pm

    Every time I read your posts, they make me think. You’ve got such a wonderful way with words that always seems to enhance my way of thinking. Thank you for that.
    And you are not selfish. You’re life sounds so amazingly blissful.

    • June 9, 2010 at 11:12 pm

      You inspire me so often Willow, I’m happy to know I can do the same for you every now and then.

  7. Skinny Love said,

    June 10, 2010 at 7:47 am

    That actually hits so close to home. I have so many family members that never come around because its so inconvenient for them.

    Your page has officially become one of my favorites!

    • June 10, 2010 at 9:26 am

      Isn’t it strange how many people only make an effort when they want something? We have a few family members who we only hear from for the two weeks preceeding their birthday. As if they want to remind us that their day is coming up, so we won’t forget to send them a gift. Any other time of the year they’re “busy” and will get back to us. We’ve stopped sending gifts.
      I’m happy to have you here.

  8. Pie said,

    June 10, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    I remember you mentioned in passing about your family and friends giving you grief for moving out of the city as part of a response to one of Mikey’s posts. I wanted to ask why you should be given a hard time for making a choice. Now I’ve read the whole story, I find I’m scratching my head even harder. I was particularly struck by the example you gave about your brother. That was priceless.

    If you went to live on the moon, with no form of communication, they may have had a point. But assuming they have a car, online access, a telephone, or just good old fashioned pen and paper, they could’ve kept in touch – if they wanted to. These kind of events like moving far away, or illness sorts out the wheat from the chaff, in my opinion and experience.

    You don’t need any endorsement from me, but as far as I’m concerned, you absolutely did the right thing and the resulting fallout proved it, although I’m sure it didn’t feel like it at the time. Keep living the life you want, bird. You’re doing OK.

    • June 10, 2010 at 7:57 pm

      Yes, they all could have kept in touch. And really, we’re only a few hours away. It did help to make things more obvious however, so in the end, we’re pretty thankful for the experience. In essence their refusal to accept our change re-inforced our goal. Like you said “the resulting fallout proved it”.
      I may not need your endorsement Pie, but I’m thankful for it. It’s nice to hear that other’s think you’re doing OK.

  9. June 10, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    […] She’s Boxing Clever mentions a specific relative, a sister-in-law, who when it came down to it forced herself upon SBC’s family as an obligation. In fear of just regurgitating what was a memorable post, that is where I will stop in describing it. SBC’s piece did make me think of someone specific. […]

  10. Lisa said,

    June 10, 2010 at 10:45 pm

    Wow. You are just the most amazing person. I would cry and cry, feel terrible,etc. I wish I had your way of thinking and not being obligated. It’s obvious you are a very kind and giving person, so it’s crazy they’re like that.
    I really needed to read this post. Thank you!!!!

    • June 12, 2010 at 7:53 pm

      I’m not sure if “amazing” is the right word, Lisa, since I did have my fair share of tears…most of them were angry tears mind you, and it was pretty frustrating at the beginning…now, 4 years later, it’s just a nuisance. Thank you to…for being here, sharing my thoughts.

  11. timethief said,

    June 12, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    @shesboxingclever
    I read all of your posts and I have hesitated to comment simply because it sounded like you were singing my song – no sh*t!

    My husband and I decided to move to the coast. iI was where we wanted to live and so we prepared to leave the prairies and told everyone we knew where to find us. We were astonished by the lack of well wishes we got. So many relatives and distant friends we rarely ever saw flipped right out. They said all the stuff you recounted above and acted as if we were abandoning them when we hadn’t ever been close, or hadn’t been close for years. All kinds of dire predictions about us starving to death and coming back with our tails between our legs circulated theorugh te rumor mill. OMG! you are choosing to toss away jobs and pensions to live your dream – you’re crazy!

    We moved to a very small island that’s neither convenient to reach nor cheap to get to. We love it! We will be here until we pass away. And yes we did realize our dream. We are living it.

    The first year after we moved to paradise we had 56 visitors during the summer months and the vast majority were not invited or expected. We came home from work and found them unexpected and univited in our driveway. Who has ever heard of a spontaneous visit from a 1/2 dozen people who live 4 provinces away, had to book 2 jets and float plane flights, rent a car, and take 2 then ferries to get to them? (Yes, we had a phone and snail mail too.)

    Well we had more of that kind of action in year two as well and I was hard pressed not to fly up their noses of my nosy manipulative relatives and his over and over gain. I had college “friends” look me up out of the blue and arrive on my doorstep expecting me to turn my cabin into a hotel. My husband had buddies from work 2 provinces away drop in out of the blue with wives, kids and dogs in tow.

    We won’t be a problem to you they always trilled. So when the first set arrived out of the blue my husband called in the backhoe and we built them a outhouse, an outdoor shower and sent them off to purchase water, water containers, food, coolers and ice. We also carefully explained all of the polluting products that they could not use or dispose of in our stream, creek or ponds and why.

    OMG! they shrieked we can’t use your toilet and bathtub and fridge and … while you are at work. OMG! we can’t use my fave soap and shampoo and … No. There are 11 of you. The well will not accommodate your demand on the water supply and the septic system will not accommodate your waste either. The products you indicate are poluting and we cannot allow you to use them as they will enter the water table that supplies us and all our neighbors miles away with fresh water in our wells.

    We told you we live in a cabin for two in the woods – what did you expect? The freaking Taj Mahal?

    You have these choices (1) rent a summer cabin on the big island (2) rent motel units or hotel rooms on the big island (3) rent a space at the campground on the big island (4) camp on our property free of charge for the weekend and then move on.

    Two of my uninvited aunts with my cousins got in their car and drove away when I would not allow them to sleep on the floor in the cabin. Of course they didn’t decide to leave until after we went through the hassle of pitching the tent for them, and cooking them a dinner on a two burner stove. I was ready to shout – ALLELUIA! at the top of my lungs as they drove away but my husband gave me “the please don’t look” so I didn’t.

    To make a long story short we sorted and separated wheat from chaff and severed unhealthy connections with relatives, acquaintances, work buddies, etc. within 2 years time. All of those who we were connected to on his side or on mine only out of a sense of duty or obligation were jettisoned. All of those who thought they could come to the coast for a lovely free holiday each and every year despite the fact we did not invite them and had nothing in common with them were re-educated and set packing by the end of year two.

    Thanks for the opportunity to get that off my chest. Now I feel like pouring a glass of wine and celebrating the freedom to be who you want to be, to live where you want to live, and to make a living the way you want to make it. Damn it! I wish you lived close to me.

    • June 12, 2010 at 8:24 pm

      Please don’t ever, ever hesitate to comment! I love reading how you can relate to my different situations, it’s always a pleasure, teaches me things, and renews my sense of comfort.

      We’ve had similar experiences with trying to explain water tables, septics and issues with soaps etc. The worst was trying to explain that no, everyone can not have showers while you’re doing laundry, because we haven’t had rain in a month. And then the time my father in law went to town to buy a bag of roadsalt because he slipped on the deck, and was seriously offended when we refused to use it.

      At first, we were eager to maintain some relationships that we had thought were solid, and repeatedly invited them up, for weekends, holidays etc. Boy, was that the wrong thing to do. It turned out really difficult. Because no one took us up on the offer. We lived *too* far away. We thought they would enjoy getting away from the city every now and then.

      And then my aforementioned father in law came up, and started an argument with my husband because my husband refused to build a bunch of cabins on the ridge to rent out to cottagers. The FIL thought it would be a good investment for himself, and figured it was a good way to “make the land pay for itself”. We could not convince him of the many ways the land was already handing out benefits without any building modifications from us.

      These days, we’re smarter on the offer. Bring a tent if you want to stay, and don’t bother with toiletries, we’re well stocked.

      I couldn’t imagine having to deal with a slew of uninvited visitors now. A free holiday spot we are not.

      And again, I find another similarity between you and I. There’s a small house, on an island, with boat access only that is calling our name. We slow down and daydream whenever we’re out that way. It’s where we’re going when the kids have grown and moved on….for now, I’m in my dream home, but for later, it’s something to look forward to.

      Thank you for spending the time to get that off your chest, I loved reading it.
      Today, we’ll share a glass of wine. And maybe someday, we’ll clink our glasses.

      (P.S. I fixed it)

  12. Diane said,

    June 14, 2010 at 1:40 am

    I can’t get this post off of my mind.

    We’re looking at a possible move in a couple of years but it’ll take us closer to those we left behind. Not right next door but within a short (6-8 hours) day’s drive. It’s incredibly frightening to me and the sole reason I’m not 100% behind this potential move.

    We, well, I cut those ties. I don’t want those cuts mended by my socially needy husband.

    Much to think over…

    • June 15, 2010 at 8:18 am

      I have one of those husbands. We settled here because it was familiar, and we had friends here, and he wanted to be in a town where he knew somebody. I would have been happier going much farther north. He’s the sort who stops at every farm on the way home from work, and loves when everyone stops in here. Ironically, he was extremely shy before we moved here, so shy that people used to get offended because he wouldn’t talk to them. These days, he’s a social butterfly. I cocooned, and he flew away.
      It IS a lot to consider moving back. Hell, I hate just visiting, in case I’m forced to be around the people we’ve cut ties with. Once you’ve seen someone’s true colours, it’s really difficult to imagine them any other way. (And if I hear “You raise chickens???? Why???? Can’t you buy eggs from a store up there???” one more time, I’ll resort to violence, for sure)

      If Paul suddenly decided he wanted to go back to the city, I’d be scared too.

  13. iquitelikethat said,

    June 14, 2010 at 11:12 am

    I’m so glad I read this, it couldn’t have come at a better time with relatives inviting themselves up into my house like they own the place (they’re not staying, if they turn up they can stay in a b&b)

    I hate family ‘obligations’ and feel that the phrase ‘you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family’ is so true.

    When it comes to cousins/ aunties and distant relatives… if they weren’t my relatives would I really be friends with them? no.

    I love your view that we should cherish meaningful relationships with people who we aren’t obliged to like and stay in contact with. When I get married I won’t invite cousins or uncles or aunties, just my close friends and parents (who I love dearly, and spend time with because I chose to, not because I feel obligated to).

    thankyou for your post, it’s lovely to see so many people, including yourself, don’t like the view often given in society that we should feel obligated to family, just because they are our family.

    sorry for the rant 🙂

    on another note, I saw your 101 things in 1001 days post and was inspired to create my own. I’ve just posted it and linked to your blog hope you don’t mind.

    best wishes
    chelsey

    • June 15, 2010 at 8:23 am

      Your rants are welcome here, anytime, Chelsey. Living without obligation can be a hard choice to make in the beginning, but there’s such a huge payoff after all is said and done. A very large sense of release, and a vast amount of freedom, it leaves you with a lot of room to fill your life with the things and people that you truly care about. I’m glad you enjoyed the post!


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