Monday, March 25, 2013

The "C" Word


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.

8 comments:

  1. I am committed to my family, my maintenance, and my dog. I didn't realize that my dog was now one of my commitments until I read your post....Lola makes me feel very guilty if I don't get out and walk her every day...she loves it so. Today she ran errands with me and waited patiently in the car at each and every stop. Lola is a 10-month old Bull Dog and can be very crazy, so her good behavior in the car is a bit of a surprise. She doesn't even bark at people walking by. When we got home, I let her out, and right away she went to the bathroom. LOVE this ugly old egg-sucking dog.

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  2. I'm a little bit taken with Alice. I'm also now a little confused, as I realize I can commit more easily to an adult than to a dog. (Who could walk away from a face like that?)

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  3. You are such a thoughtful writer. The way you capture the nuances of feelings is just wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with the world.

    My dog, Jack, is probably the only reason I get out and walk around the neighborhood. The joy he gets from sniffing every post and peeing on everything is just ridiculous! He is so happy when we're walking, that my mood can't help but be lifted, too. Cheers to woman's best friend!

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  4. What a precious face. She loves you already. Unconditional pet love really is such a boost, you know?

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  5. What a great post Lynn.

    And Alice is so adorable, who can resist that face that begs you for a walk :)

    I have committed myself to Bella (my dog) to take her for at least one walk a day of at least 30 minutes and I keep track of how many days we do that and how far we go. And it's not always easy because I don't want to go out when it's cold or raining but she does. So far it's a 2/3 success (over 50 days we walked, 28 days we didn't) but we keep on going. Besides the long walk she goes out on 2 (workdays) or 3 (weekend) other moments.

    My best friend has arthritis too and I have read a bit about it and the exercise part is important but I can't get her to understand this and so she hardly moves and when she does she's in pain for a couple of days. To be honest I stopped feeling sorry for her when that happens because she has only herself to blame for it.

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  6. Oh wow, I related to the 'standing up and waaaa' and also to the exercising several times a day because I feel better when I do that.

    Oh, and I related to the face staring at you--the love and the wanting all in one. One of God's best gifts to us.

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  7. Seems like dogs are much better at commitment than humans. Always ready for a walk, always ready for food, always ready for a car ride and always ready for some love.

    Yesterday I noticed my co-workers mug ... Dogs are just little kids dressed in fur. So true.

    And lastly, commitment isn't perfect but it leads us to some meaningful places - a honest account about weight-loss maintenance. You seem committed to your readers.

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  8. This was a very sweet post. I am happy for you that you are maintaining the exercise and that you have found Alice. Dogs can be real life savers.

    Commitment and intimacy to another brings great joy but also brings great pain because in the end you will always lose that person. It is sad, but it is a choice you make when you become intimate with another.

    Keep up the awesome work. I'm going to go take my dog for a walk right now.

    www.findingonespath.blogspot.com

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