On commitment

I am lazy and a commitment-phobe.  There, I said it.

You may find this hard to believe.  After all, I eat better than most, I work out hard 4-6 times most weeks, I work long hours in a demanding job, and I always go above and beyond in whatever projects I take on.  My last few boyfriends broke up with me.  I have a mortgage, an ex-husband, and a graduate degree.  I pay my bills on time, throw parties and remember my friends’ birthdays.

Blah blah blah.

I first began to suspect my laziness and commitment phobia in a weight training class.  I have long gotten an ego boost from looking — and being — fitter and stronger than most people much younger than me, even men.  However, in this class I have struggled with lunges, triceps, and chest presses.  Not only have I been unable to do much more than puny weight loads, the exercises have made me very sore the next couple days and contributed to a troubling pain in my right shoulder.  Never mind that I can do biceps, abs, squats, shoulders and back — especially back  — like the champ I believe myself to be; my wimpiness with regards to lunges, triceps and chest presses has been frustrating, almost humilliating.

I’ve found myself wanting to quit.  Maybe this weight thing isn’t for me.  Wait a minute — quit?  Why would some completely logical weaknesses in three muscle groups make me want to whine, pout and drop out?  Or here’s a better question from another angle — how is it that a petite over-40 woman can easily lift so much with her back and shoulder muscles?

The answer is boxing.  Almost 12 years of it, in fact.  As a child I had chronic bronchitis and couldn’t do a sit up in fourth grade to save my life and pass the Presidential Fitness test.  My classmates thought I was pretending. I wasn’t.  I was good at running, so I started doing that at age 10 — competing and earning medals fairly easily.  I loved dancing, which I discovered as a teen, but quit when it became more hard work than fun.  Despite being moderately talented, I was intimidated by all the turns I had to do (which I did poorly), by the sweaty rooms in big-city dance studios full of accomplished dancers twirling across the floor, and by the competition.  I gave up halfway through my last audition at age 20.  I was relieved when I was cut, but I suppose I maintained my dignity by not really giving it my best in the first place.

So I have strong back, shoulder, and bicep muscles because I worked at it.  For years.  Same with my flexibility.  I have my father’s genes, and because of this, I should not be able to touch my toes, let alone put my palms flat on the floor in front of me, with my legs straight.  I am able to do this because I worked at it, gradually over time.

I worked at it, and now I have this ability to rely on and enjoy.  I have set precedent.  So why am I a lazy commitment-phobe?  Why do I want to give up on chest presses and lunges?

I think it’s because they hurt.  They’re hard.  And I don’t see the benefit (yet).  I appear on the outside to be a non-lazy committed person because most of what I do in life is actually easy.  Maybe not easy for many people, but easy for me.  But isn’t the point to compare our current selves to our best possible selves, and not to others?  Is it perhaps that doing so would challenge my identity of being superior to others (ah ha!)?

Apparently one of the curses of the gifted is we don’t learn how to learn.  Things come so easy to us in so many ways that we get discouraged at the slightest challenge or perceived failure.  It threatens our identity.  For instance, even though I am a slim person, I have often been slightly jealous of people much heavier than me who are able to lose several pounds.  The reason is I don’t know if I could do what they did!

In fact, I haven’t yet lost the 8 pounds I gained this time last year.  And the truth is I haven’t tried very hard.  I am so unwilling to make the necessary sacrifices, to experience discomfort, to make the changes necessary to live a truly healthy life in a healthy body.  Nor do I seem to be able to do that which I know I must do to maintain a healthy mind and happy emotional life.  I know I need to get more sleep, to read more, to make music, to not self-abandon, to listen to my deeper knowing, and to not allow anyone — including me — to treat me poorly.

But I don’t always do these things.  I am a poor parent to my own Self, alternately neglectful and indulgent, punctuated by short bouts of inflexible tyranny.  Why? Is my laziness and commitment-phobia my rebelling against controlling parents who have not exerted actual control over me for 24 years?  Is it fear?  Is it lack of self-esteem and confidence?  Or am I unable to imagine the ultimate benefits of the hard work, or perceive their worth?

The New Year is always a time of deep reflection for me.  The Holy-days, my birthday, and the New Year all happen in quick succession, and during a dark, quiet time of year (at least in the natural world) which lends itself to going within.  I recently happened across some old writings and notes to myself.  I was surprised and a bit disturbed that some of the sentiments expressed were about commitments I have still not owned — to living my dreams, to being as healthy as possible, to putting my own needs first and taking a stand for my worthiness.

Am I not making progress?  Am I going in circles or staying in one place?  Is life the way my mother described it — “you spend your whole life polishing a brass faucet and the day after you die it’s green.”  Or am I experiencing natural macro cycles on a micro level; a more indigenous, non-linear way of seeing time and progress, in which el futuro es sólo un reflejo del pasado conocido (the future is only a reflection of the known past)?  I prefer to see it as the latter, and that I have reached a deeper layer of the onion that is my growth and development.

So now what?

A teacher I deeply resonate with once described the Religion of Radical Responsibility — at least that’s how I remember it…I figured that was a doctrine I could get on board with!  But easier said than done.  It means that I have to take responsibility for everything — for my choices, for my decisions, for my actions, for my part in co-creating the “bad things” that people “do to” me or that “happen” to me.  It means I have to recognize that no one — no one — will, or can, love and protect me the way I can.  This is quite a sobering realization for a woman especially, steeped in a culture rife with images of the knight on a steed coming to our rescue as we swoon in our distress and helplessness.

No one is coming indeed.  2012 is definitely a year of profound changes that are already in the works.  But as Tiokasin Ghosthorse says in the film “2012: A Time for Change” [highly recommended, by the way!], a messianic “salvation point mentality” is really a symptom of us shirking our personal responsibility and giving away our “personal sovereignty” (extra delicious that a Native American would word things this way!).  It’s us giving our power away to a person or system to take care of us or fix things, which is spiritually lazy, he says.

Amen Brother Ghosthorse.  But wait a minute — does this mean I need to stop waiting around for the aliens or Jesus or the apocalypse to arrive, to finally separate the wheat from the chaff, rapture us righteous folks away, or plunge the world into so much chaos hopefully folks will wake up?

Yes it does.  I make a difference.  I can help decide whether we have armaggedon or dharmaggedon.  Instead of waiting for permission to be myself at work, I can just be myself at work and run the risk of marginalization or painful consequences.  Maybe being the change I wish to be in the world means I need to find a way to be love, joy, humor, creativity, flexibility and compassion — by any means necessary — instead of walking around full of fear, anger, resentment, tension and overwhelm because I am not allowed to be love, joy, and compassion by someone else, or by the system.  Radical notion indeed!

Once again, I find that despite my many strengths, I created my own prison.  I have been lazy.  I went to sleep.

And speaking of work, perhaps it’s my commitment phobia that has contributed to my current misery.  Creating change in large institutions is not an instant process.  Learning to manage 20 people is not easy.  Building trust does not happen overnight.  I am trying to do chest presses here, getting frustrated and wanting to throw the weight bar across the room.  My fickle ego — “today I ROCK, I am The (Wo)Man and a BadASS” … “today I SUCK, I hate everyone, and peace out, lower lifeforms!” — is not a reliable compass for decision making or deep knowing.  It rejoices and doubts.  It is moody.

So part of the solution is growing up, taking responsibility and making commitments.  Of course, commitment to anything or anyone is not the answer, it must be entered into mindfully and with adequate clarity.  But what is commitment?  One of my favorite people, my sister, once described it as a daily decision.  It’s being able to negotiate the ups and downs with the knowledge that the long term result meets my goals and needs. It’s putting energy into what has pay off, not getting a brand new toy because I’m not getting what I want right now.   It is not blind faith, but a faith based on past experience. It’s a constant inquiry about whether something is a deal breaker or not.  It’s the ability to discern between what’s worth letting go and what’s not, through self knowledge which allows us to assess whether a problem or crisis is due to the situation, or me, or something external.

In short, commitment requires self-knowledge, clarity, presence, and discipline.  No small task.  But if we, our lives, each other, and our world, are relying on us to “be the change” and create dharmageddon, it is a worthy task with huge payoff.

After all, no one is coming.  We must be our own heroes and heroines and slay our dragons.  We are the ones we have been waiting for. Genius designer Buckminster Fuller, who was decades ahead of his time, said:

“I have to say, I think that we are in some kind of final examination as to whether human beings now, with this capability to acquire information and to communicate, whether we’re really qualified to take on the responsibility we’re designed to be entrusted with. And this is not a matter of an examination of the types of governments, nothing to do with politics, nothing to do with economic systems. It has to do with the individual. Does the individual have the courage to really go along with the truth?”

That, my friends, is the question, and in 2012 I am committed to further discovering my Truth and living in disciplined alignment with that as priority number one.

What about you?

Happy New Year!

Ometeotl … In Lak Ech…



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