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Desire or Obligation?
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By Trish West

Almost a year ago — I started a challenge of taking a picture a day with my camera and posting them on Facebook. Before this, I found I wasn't taking pictures because 'something had caught my eye'…but instead only pulled the camera out for holidays, birthdays etc. This challenge was to remind me why I loved photography and to start seeing new ideas that inspired me to take a picture. Today I am on Day 339 and almost finished my challenge. During the year, I have had several people comment how much they are enjoying seeing a new daily picture and wonder what I will do after the year is up "you can't stop now — I enjoy seeing your pictures so much." Now I am faced with this odd sense of obligation…so many people enjoy and feel inspired by this challenge…I would disappoint them if I stopped. To tell you the truth, as much as I appreciate this feedback, I don't think I have the energy or desire to keep going and even the last few weeks feel daunting. I start to wonder — who is this for? Is it still a personal goal or is it now seen as an obligation? Maybe I could just re-post each photo over the next year… I wonder how many will remember a photo taken a year ago?

Christmas is closer than I am ready for and I'm running out of time to get cards out in the mail. Every year I gather the kids together for an up-to-date photo that is used as the cover of a homemade card. This year feels like I have no free time to 'pull something together' and the thought of recreating this tradition is giving me no joy. I know how much the family looks forward to getting a personal card each year and I hate to disappoint so I feel obligated to at least try. I guess I could always take use the 'first day of school' photo and send it away online to one of those photo labs at the grocery store. It would be an easy way to get my Christmas cards ready to mail… they might even get it before New Year's if I hurry.

I recently received an email regarding future changes to our church services and how it will affect volunteering Sunday mornings. The kids are getting older and some Sundays, coordinating everyone can be a challenge. Reading this email - I wondered how this change will affect our lives. I thought about the individuals who count on the time I volunteer and I realize there is that feeling of obligation again - to adapt my life, not wanting to disappoint. When did I start to volunteer out of an obligation instead of desire? Maybe I can remove one of the volunteer duties from my plate or have a Sunday we skip church altogether and sleep in.

Do I feel the desire to call up a friend because I want to know how they are doing… or do I feel obligated to phone them because it's been too long and really should make an effort to reconnect?

Does the idea of Christmas shopping come from the desire to bring some joy to my friend’s or family's faces… or is it obligation knowing they are also shopping for gifts to give in return?

Do I have the desire to pray to God or is it an obligation because someone has asked me to do so?

If a desire becomes an obligation - I notice that my efforts become labored and the joy I once felt is missing. And something is lost.

So — I've decided I won't be taking a photo a day for another year… instead I am inspired to try something different and l look forward to this new challenge.

I am not making homemade Christmas cards this year… but instead will do my best to call everyone personally to say hello — even if it takes me until New Years Eve.

I can shop for gifts but not feel obligated to have something for everyone who shows up at my door holding a colorful wrapped present.

I will be making the effort and taking the time to pray to God - not because I feel obligated…but because I desire to be closer to Him.

I need to… no wait - let me reword this. I want to discover opportunities in my life that give me joy. Knowing that when I do… I can enjoy the desire to do these things for me… for others — without the sense of obligation.