December 21, 2014
ON REMAINING LOYAL TO ONE’S SELF
“Commitment means REMAINING LOYAL to what you said you were going to do long AFTER the MOOD you said it in has LEFT you.”
My friend shared this quote on a social media site I share with a Circle of women. It struck a chord in me that resonated for several days. Even now, returning to it, I feel the resonance sounding even deeper down.
We are rapidly approaching the close of the year, trailing its well-worn days behind us. A brand new year of days stretches out ahead like a new journal or a fresh canvas with no mark upon its pages or spill of paint upon its surface. Traditionally it is a time when, knowing it is one of those “fresh start” seasons–a time to change areas in our life that don’t serve us well–we make promises and resolutions and vows, mostly to ourselves. Typically, we soon lose sight of them, defaulting back into our comfortable ruts.
That’s where the quote at the beginning of this post comes in. What is it you wish to change in your life? What promises to yourself have you not kept? Why is it okay to break the vows we make to ourselves but not okay to break our promises to others–(even though we do that as well)? Is it indeed because the mood we were in when we made the promise is gone? Ugh, I don’t feel like taking my walk or getting up to meditate or eating vegetables instead of bread or cooking instead of eating junk food or spending 30 minutes making my art today. I don’t feel like choosing the path of love and to check out my assumptions because my emotions are in cahoots with my Ego and I’m boiling over with defensive rage. I don’t feel like telling myself something as ridiculous as “I’m happy!” and smiling like an idiot when it feels like the entire grey, drizzly sky is sitting on my head.
I made a commitment to myself three years ago: to keep my feet on the path of Love and Joy. It has not been an easy path. Especially when changing means I have to confront my own twisted beliefs about myself and others. Old stuff rooted in another time and place but still radioactive. Stuff I have to let go of if I really want to change. Sometimes I just don’t want to scrabble around on that rutted, rocky, slippery trail. But as I have kept bringing myself back, the easier it has become to remain. The more old stuff I’ve released the smoother the trail has become. Gradually I have begun to see others and life and myself differently than I once did. I’m looking more often through lenses of love, joy and gratitude. It is a little like when I got my first pair of glasses when I was ten. Evidently I had been quite nearsighted for a long time without anyone realizing it. I remember being amazed at all the things that I could see that I had never been able to see before.
Five years ago I made a commitment to myself that I would finally honor my gift and calling to be a writer. It is a commitment I have struggled with–in part because some part of me barely dares to believe that I should be so blessed–me, a “real writer”? The other part is because it is damn hard work and I get stuck and yes, lose the mood. Lose my confidence, forget that I really do have the guts to make it through. But I keep returning. Little by little it has become easier.
Recently I renewed my commitment to meditate, journal and walk every day, seven days a week. I need to do this for my mental, emotional and physical well-being. I also made a vow to myself that I would do a 15 minute writing exercise every day for a year working only on description. I so admire author Terry Pratchett’s superb command of metaphor and simile and just plain old description–I want to be able to write like that! One day I was thinking this when I “heard” the man in my head. “Do you think I could always do this?” he asked. “I had to practice–for years! It takes work, my dear.” So, I wondered to myself, how would my ability to describe things improve if I worked on it a little everyday for a year? So, I made this vow to myself.
A few days later I broke it. I was busy and then I was too tired. The next day I was traveling. Then I forgot.
But I regrouped. I decided to honor myself and keep my commitment. A year stretches out too far…but I can do it a day at a time. So far I’ve made it 20 out of 26 days. And going…
I wrote in my journal, “Stay loyal to your Self–even when you’re not in the mood. Especially when you’re not in the mood!” The Sun never stops shining–alive and brilliant, giving light and energy and warmth to the Planets in his care. The clouds in our world can pile up and try to block the Light. They never totally succeed as even the darkest of stormy days will still have more Light in it than the dead of night. But, eventually the clouds dissipate, or we have the special thrill of rising above them in an airplane to find the brilliant azure sky and the blinding yellow Sun up above–still there.
I’m still here, too. I’m always creating my experience of life with my thoughts and my attitudes. Will I be faithful to shine, faithful to my vows and commitments even when the clouds come with their grey blankets, their drizzle and their storms, pressing down on me until sometimes I can barely breathe? The Sun is not hiding or on vacation. The Truth is still shining inside me: I am Love and Light and Joy. The ability to be happy–still shining inside me. I can keep my vows and commitments and I will be the happier for it. Healthier. More peaceful. More comfortable in my skin. More accessible to others. And when I break my promises to myself, I can forgive myself and get back up and back on track; much better than just giving up on myself.
This Gift of Free Choice we’ve been given is at once the most precious and the most terrible of Gifts. It is a privilege and a curse. For as much as we love to shift the blame for all the misery in our lives and in the world to our mothers or our fathers or our exes or God or the devil or the liberals or the conservatives…the truth is that ultimately we are responsible for how we experience the world, and what we give to the world and what we take from Her. We alone are responsible for whether we remain loyal to ourselves long after the mood to do so has passed.