What Really Matters
After 7 months of diligently journaling, creating insights for myself, and sharing them in my weekly blog, I missed an entry. Yes, there was a good reason. I was incapacitated with pain. I couldn’t brush my teeth for 3 days, let alone pick up a pen or compose a coherent thought. But knowing I had no option didn’t help to curb the blow of breaking my commitment. It’s not that I felt guilty for my inaction, but that it seemed like a part of me went missing. And so it’s not surprising that it felt good to get back to it last week - but it also felt disconcertingly easy to neglect. I would have thought that my longing to write, or at least the habit I’ve built, would supersede such a relatively small glitch, but I can see that even a slight drift can lull us off course.
As with any commitment - in relationships, with diet, exercise, duties, chores, appointments - it becomes easier to shirk the more you skip it. It's as if that one first miss, that one failure to measure up, becomes the reason, the excuse, the opening to skip it again. The commitment morphs from a band of steel, from something seemingly unbreakable, to a rubber band, full of elasticity. And this is where our minds get wily. This new flexibility appears innocuous enough. It won’t matter just this once. And then once leads to once more and before we know it, we think it’s the commitment’s fault. That it doesn’t matter to us anymore. But this isn’t the case.
The problem is, there is not necessarily a calamitous event that happens when we break our word. But it does do something within us. In fact, it’s easier when there is something catastrophic. If you cheat on a spouse and he finds out, you have to deal with the consequences. But what if there are no obvious outcomes? You’re left having to deal with yourself. It’s easier to defend or apologize for something than having to reckon with the nothingness of breaking your word when no one knows or cares. Because then it becomes easier to break again. You’ve crossed over the once unthinkable barrier and it wasn’t that bad. Except that you no longer relate to your word as if it means anything. And if you gave that word to a heart-felt commitment, that ceases to mean anything either.
In the moment I came face to face with the idea that I wasn’t going to write my blog, something happened in my mind. A kind of dimmer switch materialized. The brightness of my commitment faded so I wouldn’t have to face the disappointment of not doing the thing I most want to do right now. As a means to protect us from the potential heartbreak of broken promises, our clever minds distance us from our dearest desires. Our commitment’s voice, still loud and clear, seems to lessen and silence as we mentally move further away. But while we avoid looking the truth in the eye, while we enjoy the reprieve from pain, we sacrifice what really matters - a life fully lived.
This is my second blog since my missed entry, and there is still a residual noise in my head, the fading whisper of that survival mechanism reminding me that I don’t need to do this. In its last-ditch effort to safeguard me, it raises heretofore unasked questions. Do you really want to do this? What’s the point? Does it make any difference? The truth is, regardless of whether or not I fulfill on this or any other commitment, I will survive. I have survived. But this is not the same as thriving. As someone who has had to put a career on hold, stop most physical activity, and greatly reduce social engagements and all other commitments, I am well aware that life goes on without me. There really is no point to honouring my word, except to me. The point is, I said it mattered. Regardless of external consequences (or lack thereof), honouring my commitments means that I can create the meaning, the point, the game, and the fulfillment of my life. Because I said so.