One of my almost-22 year old daughters has been busy teaching me stuff about commitment. We’ve had a series of conversations about her life — precipitated by her dropping out of college (again), finding a job, looking for a second job, and navigating a relationship and life, generally, with her very busy boyfriend.
The conversations have led me to reflect on what commitment looks like in my life. In my definition, commitment is mixed up with faith; they’re the same in that you don’t worry about whether or not you should do it — you just do it. You know you’re committed to something when you don’t overthink it. You don’t agonize over what the outcome will be. You don’t take the time for agonizing. You just do it. I’ve always considered myself a fairly squeamish person, and I used to be a fearful person. But when my older daughters were little, I discovered that I didn’t flinch when they got hurt. Blood? No problem. Stitches? I was in the middle of whatever they needed, instantly. I don’t think I can call it bravery; it was just instinct. It helped me to discover a side of myself that was absolutely not fearful, and I stopped being squeamish entirely.
Understanding commitment saved my marriage. Back in the bad old days, when I was teaching full-time, trying mightily to be a good mom, and a writer (no small thing), I was angry at my husband — a lot. But I noticed that when I had a crisis, no matter how badly I had screwed up, my dh (which means either “dear husband” or “designated hitter”) was there 100% for me. He had my back. Noticing that helped me to stick with him (and noticing that having his back was my gut instinct) and, eventually, to come out the other side and back to the good marriage we had pre-children.
For a lighter example, when I realized about 10 years ago that I absolutely had to start flossing my teeth, daily, I decided that my goal was to create a habit so strong that I didn’t think about it. Of course now and then I do catch myself hesitating, or with the words “I don’t have time” running through my brain, but my response is, inflexibly: “Flossing doesn’t take time.” And it doesn’t. (30 seconds? 40?) What it takes is commitment.
If I could get to that level with exercise — that would be beautiful. (I’m committed to the goal!)
It’s so easy to be committed to the wrong things — never missing an episode of your favorite TV show, never turning down sweets, spending time with that toxic person who makes you feel like crap. C’mon — do you think about those things, or do you take them utterly for granted? (Why would you do them, if you were thinking?)
We can be committed to our writing in the same way. You don’t get up each morning and decide whether or not to write that day. You write. I don’t decide whether or not to be a mom, or a wife, or a daughter. And writing is already decided, too. It might be a crummy day for writing. Maybe it’s only going to get a few minutes of my time, at least for now (carrying a notebook and pens, I’m ready for later). But whenever the moment presents itself, I’m 100% there. That’s what commitment looks like.