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The "C" Word

Posted Mar 25 2013 12:51pm

Someone once told me I think too much. He meant it as a dis, but I took it as a compliment. “We are what we think,” said the Buddha. “All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.”

Something I’ve been thinking about and working to understand for quite a while now is “commitment.” How do I define it? How have I succeeded or failed, and why I’ve succeeded or failed? It’s been a difficult and yet, as best I can tell, an honest inquiry.

Commitment is not easy for me. I’ve known this for years. When my husband died, I subconsciously identified commitment with suffering, or more specifically, I believed if I committed to someone, they would leave me. Commitment became less of a promise and more of a tentative maybe, a “let’s wait and see” thing that offered an out if things got difficult, scary, tough…fill in the blank.

This isn’t to say I lack the ability to commit to something. It took a lot of commitment to lose 150+ pounds, and it’s taking even more commitment to maintain. But it’s easier to make a commitment to myself than to others. If I let myself down, I only hurt myself. Letting someone else down not only hurts myself and others, but it spawns guilt, and who wants to live with guilt, right? Ergo, don’t commit too much to someone else.

Since my divorce in 2010, it’s been crazy strange living alone, and at first it was very difficult. But I’ve come a long way since I wrote “ Let The Mauling Begin ” in May 2011. Living alone has helped me understand myself better and has taught me many things, from the simple (grocery shopping for one, cooking for one) to the more complex (changing the locks on the doors and turning off the main water valve to the house). I was in a relationship for a while, and have recently started dating again, but I’m not looking to commit to anyone, at least not in the long-term. Part of that is my still-exploratory look at my relationship to commitment, but it’s also become clear to me – through journaling and meditation and hours spent talking with friends and Julie T. Therapist – that there’s more of me for me to know. Alone.

However….just because I’m not looking to share a toothbrush holder with a two-legged creature doesn’t mean I don’t want to share space with a four-legged one. A dog seemed a better conduit to embracing relational commitment than the two-legged right now. And so I spent the last few months looking for Alice. I finally found her – through the help of a network of rescue organizations and their dedicated volunteers – at a shelter in Marietta, Ohio, where she’d been placed after being removed from a home with 28 dogs.

I introduced you to Alice last week after I sprained my knee and aggravated my arthritis (see “ A New Dog and an Old Knee ”). One of the hardest things to convince people with arthritis to do is to move, and I’m no exception. Over the last several months, unless I’m going to my volunteer job or babysit the grandkids, my morning routine is: get up, make tea, sit down, and sit. And sit some more. Then around 10 a.m. I decide…sigh…that I should work out. After all, exercise is something I’ve been committed to for nearly six years! But working out means standing up and…whaaaaa!! It’s easier to sit! Then Alice wakes up and snorts and paws at me, and so I bundle up and take her out, and darn it if walking her doesn’t loosen up the old knee! And because we walk more than once a day, I stay more limber throughout the day, which in turn, makes me more excited about working out.

Who’s a good dog?

I understand that commitment is a choice and a promise – not a tentative maybe – and it takes a conscious effort every day to stick to it, through thick and thin. Have I been happy with some of Alice’s choices? No. But that’s why god invented carpet cleaner. Has she been happy with some of my choices? Probably not, as evidenced by the vomit she left in the back seat of my car. But I’m committed to helping Al be the best dog she can be, and, while I can’t speak for her exactly, she seems pretty committed to making me a better human.
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