Duty is an old-fashioned word that many people no-longer use. It seems to have become the preserve of military families. But I remember conversations in my family when I was growing up about duty, our duty to our parents. It was a loaded word, drenched in meaning and nuance. It demanded certain behaviours from us.
Duty demanded that we did not question our parents' authority, even if their decisions were crazy, unhealthy, or simply not right for us. Many of us grew up completely unaware that we had choices. We grew up believing that even though it caused us pain we had to do what our parents dictated. For many, the easiest solution was to leave Ireland. Once abroad, people could make all sorts of choices that the parents at home could do nothing about.
But in truth, we always have choices. We may fear the consequences. We may not like the consequences. We may feel the price is too high. But we always have choices.
Really knowing that we have choices and exploring all the options open to us changes everything. I remember once meeting a mother whose child had a severe physical disability. Her life was demanding 24/7. Peace shone from her. I asked her how she came to be so peaceful and happy. She answered "I rarely forget that the life I live is of my own choosing. I choose to care for my child myself. Nobody is holding a gun to my head. This is my choice!"