One of my favorite things, with writing, is freewriting to a prompt. A few years ago, a couple of my friends and I attempted to start a writing group. The idea was to take turns posting a prompt every day. The group was short-lived, as we failed to keep up with our commitment, and the group fizzled out. Ironically, the one and only prompt I remember us doing was on commitment. As I began writing, I began thinking about how many of our words mean completely different things. With that in mind, I committed to doing the assignment two ways. I offer to you now my treatment of the word commitment, done two ways from that time. I wrote them during the time I was struggling with writer’s block and stuck on how to move my novel forward.
Commitment is a word that can cause the strongest of men to tremble and many a good woman to run for their lives. It is our bond, pledge, agreement, contract and affirmation of fidelity, agreement to completing a job or project. It is the unit of dialog by which we measure our dedication to something or someone.
As I sit here thinking of what commitment means to me, I find on one hand it is a simple thing for me to say I have no problem making a commitment. I am blessed to be in a great relationship with my guy and the thought of ever breaking that bond is unheard of. I am also as dedicated to my family, friends, and my spiritual beliefs. Yet I am totally confounded by my lack of commitment to myself and what I keep telling all who listen that I want to do, I want to write. At least that is what I’ve been saying for years. But do I? NO! I talk, talk, talk but for the commitment of treating it like my life’s passion, I ALLOW everything under the sun to come between me and my ‘passion.’ I am a lazy writer. I expect words to come easy and when they don’t. Well, I give up and go on to other ventures. I’m good at beginnings, but I seem to lose interest in things over the long haul. Possibly that is why I have so many ‘new’ hobbies I juggle all the time. Not only am I a wannabe writer, but I’m also a wannabe in painting, crafting, and oh so many creative outlets.
I’m realizing that maybe I’m a faker, one who finds it easier to tell the world about my stories than to do the WORK to put words to paper, like this piece I’m writing here. I’ve known for over a week that I had dedicated myself to this deadline. But did I start a week ago to write? Heck no, I thought about what I wanted to say. I outlined lofty essays in my mind over and over, but to sit down and write? Nope, not me. I once again found other things to fill my time with. Oh, I have the best of excuses. You know, like housework, hobbies, keeping in contact with family, “I’m letting the thought percolate”, and napping. So here I am, at the last minute, throwing something together.
So, from what I see, I am lacking in commitment to writing for whatever reason and I’m hoping that by associating with others who struggle with their muse I might find that spark again to either sit down at the keyboard each day and WRITE something no matter how inane it might be or pick up a pen and paper to begin there.
I was reading an article in ‘The Writer’ the other day and something jumped off the page at me. It asked why we write, do we write because we must, because without writing we’re incomplete or for the hopes of the sale? I realize that something that blocks me is the fact every time I start n to write, my husband, in his attempt at being supportive, talks about how I could market it and I just shut down. I know they are doing it as encouragement, but I feel that what I love has become a job and right now I’m not looking for a job. Sure, I’d love to be published, but if I write with that in mind, I lose the freedom I feel when I’m just vomiting words on paper. That is something I need to work on, and the clock is ticking.
We have chosen the word commitment for our first ‘assignment’ and considering it I find our English language interesting. Commitment, the word that means we give our all to whatever or whomever we are committing to, can mean something different when talking about mental illness. With mental illness, it can become a word most threatening. If a person is not in control of their illness with medication, therapy, or a combination of those, they place themselves at risk of their lives spinning out of control. This can lead to being picked up and placed on a police hold and put in a psychiatric hospital where it will be determined if they are a danger to themselves or others. They may have to appear before a Judge where they will have a ‘commitment hearing’ to see whether they will be ‘committed’ to a state mental hospital to undergo psychiatric care. Even though all of this is for the good of the individual, I have seen it also used as a threat to keep people in line.
There was a time in my life I voluntarily presented at State Hospital South and requested admission. It was during a difficult time in my life when I had 5 small children, one with multiple medical problems and a cheating husband who was also verbally and physically abusive. I was attempting to break away from him and his girlfriend to not only save myself but my children from the craziness. He kept trying to convince me I had said things I knew I hadn’t said and when I asked him to leave, he would ‘explain’ to me ad nauseam, how I could not survive without him over and over until I would agree with him just to get him to shut up, and I would shut down. It was during one of these ‘discussions’ that, while cutting a loaf of freshly baked bread, I lost it and threw a knife at him. As it whizzed by his nose, I knew at that moment I wouldn’t have been too upset if it had hit him and it scared me to death, how in my frustration, knowing if I tried to walk away, I would be punished. Instead of raging, which I expected, he patiently explained how crazy I was, and if I didn’t believe him, I should talk to his girlfriend. He left and went to get her. Now let me tell you if you question your mental stability in the first place, you feel convinced when you sit there while your husband and his girlfriend tell you all they perceive are your most nutty moments. I realized that no matter what I said and meant they could twist it to make it look like I was losing my mind, which in turn made me question myself and wonder if they weren’t right.
It was during this same time I was dealing with or child, who needed heart surgery for congenital heart defects and it was questionable if he would live to be 6. I was working with the Health Department regarding our son’s care, so I met with the Nurse we were working with and discussed what was happening with her. She had observed the difference in me when in his presence and when I was on my own. She had also seen the bruises when I “made” him lose his temper. She had talked to me about it and shared her concerns for my safety. She asked me if I felt crazy and I told her “No, but isn’t that what people who are ill will also say?” She assured me she didn’t feel I was, overwhelmed maybe, frustrated, and abused, but not crazy. She suggested I call their bluff, as it would give me a time out, I’d be in a safe place, get some rest, and maybe then I’d be more able to make some decisions. It was with her encouragement that I finally, in self-defense and to get away from them that I agreed. I would go to the mental hospital for an evaluation with the agreement if they didn’t deem me to be crazy, he would do the same.
I made the arrangements, got dressed in my best dress, and he drove me to Blackfoot. I presented at the admissions desk, and it took me four hours to talk my way in. Now I can think of better places to take a vacation, but for that week, I had no kids, no responsibilities, and an opportunity to see more clearly. I took their tests, put puzzles together, volunteered to work in the beauty shop on-site, and gained emotional strength. About the third or fourth day, I finally met with the Psychiatrist. I walked in tall and proud. He asks me why I was there, and I tell him about my philandering husband and all he has done. The doctor lets me go on for a while, then says “Oh, poor baby, does the little girl want me to make the terrible husband treat her nice?” Before I knew it, I was on my feet with both hands planted firmly in the middle of his desk, leaning toward him saying, “Listen here you son of a bitch, you asked me what’s wrong and I’m trying to tell you. If that’s not good enough for you, I don’t know what to say.” By then I realized I was standing, leaning across his desk, with both hands planted on the desktop, and abruptly sat down. He leaned back in his chair and clapped his hands, smiling. “I just wanted to know if there was any fight left in there. Now we can get some work done.”
We talked about my options, and that I wasn’t mentally ill, just worn out and beaten down. He asked if I would come back with my husband and meet with him on a weekly basis. I agreed, and he said he would call my husband to set it up. After meeting with me a couple more times, he told me I couldn’t hide out there anymore, it was time to take control of my life. They discharged me the next day. My husband came to pick me up and threw a tizzy fit when I wasn’t ready to go immediately. You see, I had made a commitment to work in the beauty shop that morning and I was in the middle of giving a lady a perm when he arrived. Instead of scurrying like a frightened mouse and dropping everything to not keep him waiting, I completed it before I packed my bag to leave. Talk about dragging your feet, I drug that perm out as long as I could, I really didn’t want to return to the real world but knew I had no choice.
Making that trip was one of the best decisions I made during that time of my life. I didn’t get out of the marriage right away, but I learned how to survive and set things in motion to do so. Of course, he never went for his evaluation, and the one marriage counseling session went so badly the doctor kicked him out of it. To my husband, that just meant that I had slept with the doctor, or he wouldn’t be ‘siding’ with me. Over the next couple of years, whenever he would feel I was ‘getting free,’ he would tell me how lucky I was that he didn’t have me committed when he had the chance. What he didn’t know is I got a call from the hospital to tell me that my stay there had shown that I was okay, overstressed, but not mentally ill. But between his interview when I was being admitted, his little tantrum when he came to pick me up, and the meeting we had with the Psychiatrist they made a diagnosis of him and recommended I take my kids and get as far away from him as possible. They felt he may feel the need to destroy me, emotionally and/or physically. They felt he was ill but would probably not ever be formally diagnosed. I could not move away, but I had gained some tools to survive him. I began to formulate a plan, bided my time, learned to laugh, and finally got a divorce. The girlfriend ended up marrying him and having 3 sons with him before she finally got out after 17 years. I didn’t do it all cleanly, in fact, my foray into alcohol was, in part running at him, still allowing him to control me, as he stalked me, while he was trying to keep his new wife happy.
It was only after I made the commitment to myself to live truer to me and my values, that I quit reacting to him, thinking one day he would admit to his abuse and apologize. In being true to me I could let that all go. No matter how many times he told me he should have just had me committed. I learn to smile and remembered what I’d been told after my discharge. Knowing it was his illness that drove him, sadly until the day that he died. My revenge was learning to live my best life, committing to renew that vow daily so as not to repeat the patterns of the past. The insanity of our marriage wasn’t on one, but both of us. We both played a part, thankfully, I found a better way, sadly he didn’t and ended up drinking himself to death, never realizing he had a choice.
And that is some of my thoughts on two sides of the word commitment.