This week I learn to commit. With a wedding.
I have a friend who, each week, around Thursday afternoon, sends a perfunctory email suggesting we catch up “some time” over the weekend. I attempt to narrow the parameters: “Sunday brunch?” She’ll then reply, not with a concrete time and place, but again loosely: “Cool. Will buzz you Sun AM.”
Invariably, Sunday comes, she doesn’t call and around lunchtime shoots a text, “Sorry hon, can’t make it. Next week?” And so it goes.
The whole flaccid caper drives me rather mental. Her invite is as flimsy as a philanderer’s promise; she wants options to be available for the weekend, but she won’t damn well commit!
To be fair, nor do I (you’ll note I also failed to pin down a time and place). Nor do most people these days. We avoid commitment proper. Instead, we say loose yeses to 2-3 engagements on a Saturday night (movies, wig party, dinner with partner) and decide on the night which one we feel like attending. We reply “maybe” to Facebook event invites. And tell work colleagues we’ll “just drop in for a drink on the way home”. We work to a web of exit clauses and dip-in-dip-out strategies to avoid saying, “Yes, I’ll be there”. With bells on.
When we do commit, we feel at liberty to pull out at the last minute, usually by text. Text enables such cowardice. I think if we had to pick up the phone and provide a viable excuse with notice (like in the olden days), we’d keep the commitment, mostly because it takes less commitment than calling to cancel!
Oh dear, we’re a generation of flakes. But since when did we become so commitment-lite? Yep, technology plays a part – it makes flaking easy. And yes, we often shirk social commitments because we’re so over-committed in general. As my mate Sonja argued in defense of her own flabby plan making, “I wriggle out of commitments on a Sunday; I just want one day without meetings and having to be somewhere.” I get that. But if we want a “no plan day”, then we need to commit to that, and not make demi-arrangements we probably won’t keep.
I’ve previously called it Social Green Grassing. We want to keep our options open in case something better comes along. Or – and this is the crux of it for me – because we don’t actually know what we want. I don’t commit to joining my friend at yoga on Wednesday because I don’t know if that’s what I’ll feel like. So I invite more options in, to see if they grab me (“shall we go for Japanese instead?”). We believe more choices produce a better result. But to paraphrase Barry Schwartz in The Paradox of Choice, options make us miserable. And leaving them open, not anchored by a firm commitment, can make us catatonic.
When we avoid committing we avoid working out what matters to us and we’re left languishing in a swirling pool of ever-shifting sands, unsettled and unhappy.
Which is why I say, thank heavens for weddings. I love a wedding. I love the tears, the pashmina wraps (do they only come out for weddings?), the father-of-the-bride’s sentimental speeches.
But mostly I love that wedding get us committed. On Friday I committed to my gorgeous friends Kate and Adam’s wedding. They’d sent out a proper invite, with ample notice. They committed to us being there. We’d RSVP’d, in writing (with a stamp!) and booked flights to Byron Bay. We committed, and we went to effort to do so. This is important. Mindful investment makes commitment more rewarding. Then we committed to eight hours in the one room with no distractions to witness two people, yes, commit to each other.
There’s no piking on a wedding, either. We were locked in months ago and it felt good. Why? It felt sturdy. When we commit we solidify those shifting sands and we feel certain about ourselves. And then everything else – all other engagements and pressures – slot in around us, like a river that flows gracefully around a bolder.
So how to achieve the same sure-footedness after the confetti has settled? Well, from now on I’m committing to sending out rock-solid invites only (email meeting requests are great – it locks everyone into a reply), RSVPing firmly (with enthusiasm – it cements commitment further) and limiting my choices.
Because, as my meditation teacher says, to be rendered choiceless is freedom.