The 2012 Act Three Journey of an Actress/Coach/Writer.

Day 16 Commitments

Posted by themirrenlee on 16/01/2012

My beautiful kids, Sarah and David. 20 years apart in age doesn't affect their closeness with each other. I would gladly commit to anything for them, including a kidney each!


I’ve been thinking about them all day because of yesterday’s blog about pressure. Commitments of any kind can lead to pressure, often strongly enough to be followed by feeling stressed out about whatever the commitment is. After all, getting married is supposedly a happy commitment, and yet we all know about pre wedding jitters!

I had a pretty heavy day today, running around doing errands, which made my fibromyalgia pain flare up. The great news now is that for the first time in over 5 years (when the symptoms started going berserk with pre menopause and I stopped sleeping, which only made it worse), I have found a couple of health practitioners who are helping me control the pain. Just knowing that I can actually make it recede at will is a huge psychological boost. (For any of you out there suffering with a chronic condition, I’m thinking of having a whole separate section on my 30 year journey with fibromyalgia; for others it would just be boring, I think.)

Anyway, because I’m feeling tired and stiff now, I had to think about how I felt regarding this commitment I’ve undertaken, to blog every single day for the whole year. What level of pressure is it causing me? Am I getting stressed?

Thinking, feeling, pondering, thinking, pondering, feeling some more. I’m a great believer in REALLY talking to yourself (that might get you committed right there!), and examining your feelings about something from all angles. Too many people are afraid to go too deeply into how they feel in case they find things they want to keep buried. Which as I’ve said before, will just leave you with a festering sore that will eventually find a way out, maybe when it’s least expected or desired. Like an explosion of sudden anger with a “Whoa, where did THAT come from?!”

So after my in depth conversation with myself, I decided that I’m quite enjoying the commitment, the pressure is minimal, and it’s not causing me any stress. And the main reason for that is because of the WAY I’ve decided to do it.

There’s a saying in “Theater Games” that I love and live by: “Let’s just see what happens.” It’s meant to convince the players to stop trying to “script write” their improvisations and just let them happen through the structure of the Games, one of which is Focus. This means focus on whatever particular problem(s) has been set for the improv, and that’s all you have to Solve. If the Problem to Solve is simply to count the bricks in a wall, then don’t try to figure out HOW to count them, or what it MEANS to count them, just “see what happens”. What happens if the players follow that edict is they find that they have no stress about the task because they’re too busy counting to think of anything else. The Focus is Solved.

That’s what I’m doing with this blog. I might think a little bit during the day about things I’d like to write about, but once I sit in front of my computer I wait a minute to see what will happen, what feels like coming out. Then the writing flows. We all know that starting anything is the hardest part. Well, this takes care of that, too, because it starts by itself!

As far as I’m concerned, the same is true of commitments. If you FOCUS on the commitment, instead of just blithely making it without much thought, then the first thing that will happen is you won’t commit too quickly. How many times have you said “Yes” to something and then later said, “Oh, god, what was I thinking? I don’t really want to do that!”? If you’re like most people, probably frequently. One of the big things I learned from counselling was how to say that one little word with so much power, “NO”. If you can follow it without an excuse, real or made up, but just a simple, “I don’t want to do that,” (perhaps adding a thank you if you’re well brought up!), then you’ll really be looking after yourself. And probably finding a lot less pressure/stress when a commitment choice is placed in front of you.

The next thing that will happen if you’ve thought deeply enough about whether or not to take on the commitment is that you won’t feel pressured by outside forces; it will be a commitment that YOU chose. Oh, I can hear the many voices out there saying how I live in La La Land because there are so many commitments that you simply HAVE to undertake. All the events to start with: weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, funerals, going away parties, bridal/baby showers, hen’s/buck’s nights, graduation ceremonies, etc., ad nauseam; then we follow those with the holidays; then come the daily errands: chauffeuring the kids to school/their endless events, doing the shopping, cooking the meals, not to mention going to work, various appointments, and so on until my fingers start bleeding from typing them all out. You get the idea. They’re all commitments. The thing is, they’re not all of equal importance. Stop and think about that. You CAN prioritize and say, “No,” if the commitment(s) is going to stress you or, worse, affect your health. If people really care about you, they’ll understand your needs.

If they don’t, sorry, but I say fuck ’em!

I started learning this the very, very hard way with a chronic illness. I now tell people that I don’t want to let them down (or feel stressed myself) by making a commitment that I may not be able to keep because of my health. It took awhile, and I lost some people along the way who couldn’t empathize with my condition (I call them narcissists), but now the people in my life are very well trained! They know I don’t do mornings, I might have to cancel at the last minute, and I do the best I can, but I can’t always be counted on. As a result, I make any commitments with a lot of thought, and don’t feel guilty (a LOT of counselling for that one!) if I have to break one.

I don’t know the circumstances of your life and/or the commitments in it. I do know, from years of experience added to my teaching/people observing, that people don’t give their commitments enough thought before making them – and so usually end up believing that they’re more important than they really are. You may be giving away your personal power to a commitment that you don’t even have to make.

Actors are notorious for this. They’ll say they have to miss class because of another commitment. It will turn out to be a pop concert, their sister’s birthday, a friend visiting in town, whatever. I always ask them what they’ll do if they get a job in a TV show or a film and no one lets them off for any other commitment – they’d be lucky to be allowed to go to their mother’s funeral if the film’s running over schedule! Doctors know this when they’re interns, politicians know this all the time – the choice they’ve made is that all other commitments must revolve around their primary career one.

So when you’ve committed to make dinner, and feel stressed about it because you’ve had a hard day, order a pizza. If you’ve committed to go to that wedding with all the people there that make you feel bad about yourself, don’t go. (You’ll actually gain their respect for being so gutsy. I walked out of a wedding once because it was so awful personally for me. Afterwards my exit didn’t warrant even a single word from anyone. I think they thought if I was strong enough to do that, I might be strong enough to tear them apart if they mentioned it!) Just really deeply ask yourself if there’s another way around the commitment you’ve made that will cause you less pressure/stress.

Finally, I hope you realize I’m talking about commitments in general, and not the ones that are, maybe literally, life or death, or involve the happiness of someone you love. You push yourselves beyond boundaries you didn’t even know you had in those cases. I know that from when my 6 year old grandson got leukemia. (He’s a healthy 12 year old now, thank the Universe.) Those kinds of commitments you gladly undertake, no matter how much stress or pressure is involved, because there’s more love involved to counterbalance them. You WANT to undertake those commitments, you CHOOSE to undertake them – exactly what helps to make a commitment feel okay.

(Of course, narcissists never have a problem with commitments. They’re the ones who are “commitment phobic”; often referred to in the case of relationships, but actually their reach is everywhere. They can’t commit to anything because they always need to leave their options open in case something better comes along to satisfy their needs. REAL narcissists will make the commitments, but have no trouble breaking them because they’re missing the empathy lobe completely. Yet they will always expect YOU to keep your commitments to them, no matter what. I mention this in case you recognize such a person in your life. Run away! They WON’T change.)

So, to paraphrase that old saying, the only real commitments you can’t get out of that maybe you’d like to are death and taxes. Unless you’re rich enough – then you can get out of the taxes!

I’m just sayin’ …

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