Life’s curriculum is always making itself known, with lessons that repeat and build upon one another in beautiful ways. (And as someone trained in the art of delivering curriculum, it never ceases to amaze me how much better the Divine is at writing lesson plans than even the most gifted teachers.)
A lesson that has been repeating for me over the past 7 years – possibly longer – is commitment. I think commitment is hard for every one of us. Making promises and keeping those promises is not easy in the face of millions of excuses and distractions.
Although Commitment has asked me to learn some important lessons from it for many, many years, it really started screaming at me when I began dating Former Boyfriend, a major commitment-phobe. I was already working on another very difficult commitment, at the time we met – finishing my graduate degree, which required discipline I had never exercised before. But once I was done with that, I was so ready to move forward in my relationship and start building a life for the two of us.
He, on the other hand, quite literally had one foot out the door during the entire course of our relationship. The majority of our conflicts arose from this painful situation. Throughout it all, whenever I pointed that finger at him, pointing out that heartbreaking obstacle of his lack of commitment, I knew there were four fingers pointing back at me.
On the surface, I could see that I was scared to commit to him, too. As with any couple, we had our difficulties, and I often wondered if I could make it the rest of my life with him, trying to find softness between our rough edges. But ultimately, I came to realize that the commit issues I was experiencing were much deeper than that – like not committing to my own well-being, not committing to the declaration and pursuit of my needs and desires.
And as with most stories about a romantic relationship eroding under the inattention of commitment-phobia, the one who was most afraid to commit was the one who decided in just one month’s time, that he was ready to get married and have kids – with someone else. So in the end, it turned out he didn’t have commitment-phobia, at all. It wasn’t about his commitment issues, or even about our relationship. It was about me and my commitment lessons.
Since he has left, I feel like Commitment has been slapping me in the face, trying to get my attention. Sometimes, it is in little ways, like committing to attend a gathering of friends and sticking to my word no matter how tired or how busy I get. Sometimes, it is in much bigger ways, like working with the idea of committing to my writing practice. (Do you like the way I worded that? “Working with the idea.” Yeah, still a lot of resistance to that commitment!)
A few days ago, while on my lunch break, I was reading Jane Kirkpatrick’s Homestead and near the end of the book, she talks about making her own commitment to writing and includes this quote which was attributed to Goethe, but was, perhaps, actually said by W.H. Murray:
Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness, concerning all acts of initiative and creation. There is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.
Chills ran up my spine. Yep, this is it. This is some serious 4th chakra work (the center of commitment, choice, voice and will) asking to be done. I know without a doubt that until I can begin to make solid and consistent commitments to myself, nothing and no one else will be willing or able to commit to me. Providence won’t be visiting very often. And the hesitancy – oh, that horrible hesitancy. I lived side-by-side with that hesitancy for 7 years and it literally breaks the heart so slowly, so crookedly, shredding its rent edges, making it so much harder for it to heal cleanly.
But I did that to myself. That hesitancy is my burden of regret to bear.