Friday, November 29, 2013

Committed, Strait - Jacketed

I’ve been accused of being commitment phobic by almost everyone I know. And the thing is – i don’t understand the basis of that statement. Looking back, I can’t imagine someone who is as committed as I am to so many things.

Let's look at the facts : I was the first among my peers to buy my apartment, thus setting down some serious roots in my adopted city. I work in the media – and God knows that needs a deep level of commitment because in the absence of immediate or substantial returns, there’s nothing to make you keep going on other than a commitment to your own vision. I'm taking care of a pet - and that's a 10-year plan atleast - in a time when people can't figure out what they're doing the next day. And finally, these days I’m working towards giving my family a financial future that few people have imagined. 14 months down the line, in the absence of familial or friend support, there’s nothing else but my commitment to my goals that keeps me going on, bit by bit, day after day, climbing that steep insane mountain that I can only imagine the view from.

But the truth is - I AM commitment phobic. I'm terrified of being irretrievably committed to my definition of myself.

(Cue song: "I'm a bitch, I'm a lover.." - Meredith Brooks)

This lack of rigid boundaries of the self has resulted in a series of different kinds of loosely defined and deeply analyticised romantic relationships that I've shared with some very interesting men. Well, boys. And the fact that several of them have not lasted beyond an average fruit-fly's lifespan has earned me the "commitment phobic" moniker.

That definition - and the basis of it - would be correct had there not been such a deluge of people proving it wrong.

Recently I met a friend who’s going through a divorce after 10 years of a rocky marriage. By no stretch of imagination can she be considered ‘flighty” or commitment phobic. And yet, a day after the papers are signed, her mother gives her the shpeel of ‘not having committed to the husband’ enough. 10 years and it’s still not enough. If you think about it, nothing will ever be enough because, in the narrative of our lives, until we get to the happily ever after with a significant other, our efforts have been incomplete.

The problem? There is no such thing as a happily ever after OR a single significant other. And yet, we spend so much of our time focused on achieving that mirage. And the sad part is - it's not even a unique mirage that we seek – just about anything that helps us feel not so alone.

These days I meet a lot of people. For someone who’s as anti-people as I, that in itself is a feat of discipline and commitment. But what is even more interesting is what i learn from all these people. Ask anyone to identify themselves in a single sentence and they will talk pretty much the same way:

 "I'm a (good / bad / interesting, etc)  (person / professional descriptor - artist, manager, etc)
who has a (house / family / job / other possessions)
that I (love, hate, enjoy, bitch and moan about, am working on, etc..)
and someday, hopefully in the next (time period)
I'll be (achieving a goal - holiday / charity / winning the burger eating competition.. etc)
that will make me (emotional payoff - happy / popular / loved / etc)

Before any of you jump to the comment form and write your unusual 'intros in a sentence' designed to prove me wrong - and I'll be interested to read them - I just want to say that if ever anyone has ever thought this phrase - "That is so not me" - it shows our deep and undying commitment to who we are, usually and often to the detriment of who we could be.

The truth is – as Baz Luhrman said so eloquently in his sunscreen ditty – the real things that will end up mattering in our lives are the things that will happen at 4 pm on a Tuesday afternoon. Your daughter will have her head bashed in and you’ll suddenly be facing the death sentence, an unwitnessed moment in a darkened room will have you splashed across the front pages of the daily rags, fighting for your honor; one casual traffic violation by a stranger will leave your family mired in hospital bills for the rest of your invalid life. And no amount of “being a good photographer with a loving (but now paralysed) husband…” will change those things.

So the big question isn’t if one is commitment phobic or not – a quick look at the long hours we spend at someone else’s beck and call is enough to answer that - but what is it worthwhile being committed to? That romantic spark that may flare up intermittently in a boy-meets-girl scenario? Or the immense possibilities of who we can be if we can give up our self-definitions?

A long time ago, a friend told me that he categorized people as those with imagination and those without. That was a good distinction but what is truer is not the imagination, but the gumption to follow through. And that shockingly is in very low supply. Why? Because while facing new challenges revs up the adrenaline and clears out the cobwebs, maintaining a status quo strangles every last piece of gumption out of us. The reason is simple – the instinct of change comes from hope and the drag of the status quo comes from fear.
But all that is okay. What is really interesting is that if you ask anyone to imagine a future with a Tuesday 4 pm scenario, you will see the walls come crashing down, revealing briefly the terrified children who we all were and continue to be.

And this is what I have come to believe. We are all children who didn’t realise when we became grown ups and had to take the responsibility of adult decisions. We clung to what we have been told of the birth – job – marriage – death well-trodden path, and took it to be gospel truth. We believed it when the adults told us that we had to give up on our dreams to make it in the ‘real’ world. And we believed them when they said that if we knew our place in the world and followed the 'rules', everything will be all right and we shall indeed get our happily ever after.

The lie wasn’t the one they told us. The lie was what they hid. And that is one simple fact – all that we ever know, we ever believed and we value has come from people no smarter or wiser than us. If we make mistakes, so did they. Their lessons come from their existence, and the beliefs and knowledge that was handed down to them from another set of flawed, average people. So looking back through the infinity mirrors of our lives, it becomes clear that we’re doing nothing different from what our great grandfathers did. One would think with so many volumes of history books crowding every empty library these days, we would see the patterns and understand the futility of that choice.

But no. We cling to our carefully constructed lives and choose not to believe that our personal tsunami could be around the corner and our shackles will only pull us down.

Now if that’s what we’re going to be committed to, it is indeed scary as hell.

1 comment:

DaViD said...

We cling to our carefully constructed lives and choose not to believe that our personal tsunami could be around the corner and our shackles will only pull us down.

The closing lines hit me. Hit me hard. Yes, this is exactly what i might be running from or choosing to ignore. My personal Tsunami and my oh my, the shackles i have... :-S

Always appreciated your style of delivering your thoughts. Hard-hitting and straight and true! :)