Thursday, February 27, 2020


NOTE: This is the second of a running series of daily bloglets for Lent. On each day, I will reflect on a word with spiritual implications, and place it in the context of my life as it's lived and as I aspire it to be lived.

Commitment is something I can find as easy as breathing, or as difficult as breathing underwater. I find it simple to commit to the people in my tribe, and I don't set aside commitments lightly. But it's extremely challenging for me to commit to a new routine, especially one that involves self-betterment. In a just world, a chocolate cake would have six calories and a leaf of lettuce six hundred.  And exercise is supposed to feel good, for values of "feel good" that include profuse sweating, shortness of breath, and cramps.
My problem (or one of them, I have many) is that I get bored. I wrote seventy pages of a grocery-themed memoir entitled "DO YOU WORK HERE?' before realizing I just didn't care that much, and abandoning the project. New habits take longer for me to acquire because I am a creature of routine. I'm trying to break out of this, in fact, by completing this Lenten exercise. I haven't written on forty consecutive days since 1990.

Back then, and in the two years previous, I wrote every day. Every day but one: I locked myself out of my house on a sweltering July night in 1988. I worked at McDonald's until midnight, came home, realized I forgot my keys, and spent a crazy amount of time trying to wake my parents up. I had no money for a payphone and they probably wouldn't hear the phone anyway thanks to giant fans in their room. I threw rocks off their window; that didn't work either. I got a long stick, ran it through the mail slot in in front door to the back wall of the townhome's tiny foyer, where I could see my keys winking at me. I actually managed to hook them and get them off the wall, only to have them drop to the ground unseen and definitely unheard over the fusillade of curse words I launched.

And then I "slept" (ha) in the backyard, on the picnic table, until the crack of dawn, whereupon I trudged back to work, got the guy working Close-Open to let me in, and crashed on a McDonald's plastic bench for an hour before bopping my way through another shift. ("Bop" is McD's slang for "Breakfast-OPen".) Two things; one, a McDonald's plastic bench is a feather bed compared to a picnic table, and two...don't try to sleep on a picnic table.

Anyway, I missed that day. But no others.

Writing in my diary was important. Or so I had convinced myself. Leafing through the thing thirty years later, it's mostly banal chit chat and puppy dog eyes over Darlene and whatever woman distracted me from Darlene on a given day. Cringe. But teenage me thought it was incredibly important not to miss a day, gods know why.

I lack commitments to "things" in my life. I talk a good game, but wilt when the rubber meets the penis road. Part of it is just incipient laziness. Doing nothing is easier than doing something. That goes triple if the something is supposed to be done over and over again -- which, this being life, most somethings are. Part of it is contentment: I generally like my life. Could it be better? Absolutely. Would a great deal of effort make it better? I honestly don't know, and tend to lean towards "possibly not".  I mean: I've been writing this blog for almost 16 years. That's a commitment. I could stop doing it -- I've been on the knife-edge of shutting this place down several times -- and commit to all my writing being for money. I don't really see a pathway towards monetizing this skill. Not an easy one, that's for sure. It would involve constant rejection, something I'm not psychologically adept at processing. Same thing goes for composing: I can write some halfway decent music, but what the hell do you do with it?

I have struggled with a lack of motivation and a fear of failure my whole life long. Now I'm edging up on 50, and I still feel like I have some growing up to do. The real adults, they're busy acquiring skills, right?

I had an interview for a quality coach position at work. I bombed it. It turns out Excel is rather critical in the role, something that was minimized in the advertisement, and I...have never worked with Excel. Excel is about numbers. I really prefer words, and comfort zones are...comfortable.

But I'm going to take this summer and commit to learning Excel. It's daunting as hell, but it's also something most people are at least nominally familiar with, and unlike, say, driving a car, I'm not afraid of spreading a sheet. I have resources, too: Eva is more than proficient. So I have no excuse other than, you know, that laziness and contentment.

Commitment is like mortal sins, at least according to George Carlin: "ya gotta WANNA". It's about focusing intent, repeatedly. You might even call it a kind of prayer.

People...well, I consider people important, and I do commit to them. For those of you unconvinced, I still maintain that sexual exclusivity has nothing to do with commitment--you don't have sex with your friends, after all, and if you're not committed to your friends, you're not much of a friend. No, when it comes to people, commitment is the traditional marriage vows, minus "forsaking all others". Nobody does that, by the way: all of us have others in our life who are not our partner. But the rest of it? "For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in heath, for as long as you both shall live"? That''s commitment, and I live it.

Tomorrow: RISK. Oh, joy, this will be fun.

No comments: