From Relationship Roadkill to Recommitment

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commitmentAs a woman for whom the relationship “r-word” had been “roadkill” more often than “recommitment,” it is surprising that I leapt to the assumption that “May is National Recommitment Month” was for lovers. A Google search, however, led in a different direction:

Apparently Recommitment Month originated as a time to look back on New Year’s resolutions and reenergize (recommit to) goals set and vows made with a champagne glass in one hand and a blowout noisemaker stuck between pursed lips.  Recommitment Month is also an over-used leitmotif commandeered by addiction facilities to hawk their pricey rehab gigs.

Since my only New Year’s resolution is never to make NYRs — because I already know my commitment will be lip-service deep; and since, fortunately, I’m not in need of a dry-out, I’m going to stick with what I, multi-divorced but now blissfully hitched, finally figured out about both commitment … and its scary twin, “re.”

My mating practices in years past had followed the basic animal kingdom model. I have:

  • Been attracted to the peacock version of the species—tall, dark, handsome. Who could resist a nice tail?
  • Gone for the all-too-common, unambitious, suburban songbird: he sits atop the feeder, happily chirping at the bright blue sky, waiting for Santa Claus to show up with the seed bag.
  • Tried out a white-rumped sandpiper. It could be said that I was attracted to his breeding territory (San Francisco). It could be said I didn’t realize his breed was not monogamous.

Recommitment? Ha. More than once I sprinted down the aisle — in reverse — to Peggy Lee crooning, Is that all there is? Not that any of my paramours had grim character flaws — they were perfectly acceptable husband material. Just not for me.

At some point I poked an accusatory finger at the mirror and confided, “With your track record maybe it’s time to consider that you … might be the problem.”  So I went to an astrologer/psychic to ask if Peggy Lee nailed it: that’s all there was?  The psychic said:

Oh no, you are destined for great love — the kind about which stories are written … But not until you’re ready.

Seriously? I had a workout regimen, a classic sense of style and I waxed routinely … What more did a woman have to do to be “ready?” Ashton Kutcher came along with his tidbit of wisdom — Vulnerability is the essence of romance — a couple decades too late for me: I had to figure it out for myself.  Even more scary, it became obvious that I had to be willing to be vulnerable with myself before I could be vulnerable with anyone else.

Over the next years, I spent time on the therapy-couch.  Held my nose and, reluctantly, dived headfirst into my emotional dumpster.  Dug to the back of the withheld-feelings closet—the one I had never dared peek inside because, yes, I had in fact stuffed it with an army of destructive memories and their full-dress uniforms: shame, sorrow and self-denigration.

I did not stop diving and digging until that dumpster and that closet were emptied out, spit-shined and springtime fresh.  That was my first big step in making myself “ready.”

The second step — and perhaps my most important insight — was to realize the one person to whom I had never even considered committing — much less recommitting — was … ta-da. Me!  Of course, not—that would be selfish! I was committed to mothering and wife-ing and bread winner-ing. ME-ing would have taken time from the ones I loved.

My therapist asked if I included myself on that Ones-I-Love list.  The question didn’t even make sense. Wasn’t it someone else’s job to love me? The someone I hadn’t yet met?  The therapist’s answer came in the form of a question:

If you don’t love yourself — believe yourself worthy of love, deserving to be cared about and cared for —then why would that elusive “someone else” love and care about you?

Whoa! That was like a pistol-whip to the head: Left me stunned and reeling.  Was she saying it wouldn’t be selfish to expect from others what I was so willing to give? Respect? Nurturing? Security? To feel I had the right to the same “love-entitlement” that I accorded the Ones-I-Loved?

The psychic had been right when she said I wasn’t ready: I had always hidden my vulnerability, never believed in my own self-worth. I worked hard to change.  Soon after, the love — that someone for whom I had yearned for so long — slid right into my life. For more than a decade he has colored my world with a rainbow of happiness and contentment.

Never again have I found myself asking, “Is that all there is?” Recommitment — to him and to myself — is, at last, something I do most willingly, joyfully, and often.

Written By Elaine Taylor (Edited by Cherese Jackson)

Elaine Taylor teaches Story Structure through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Duke University and is the author of the new book, “Karma, Deception and a Pair of Red Ferraris.”


Karma Deception

Photo Credits:

Top Image Courtesy of Elaine Taylor
Featured Image Courtesy of Khánh Hmoong – Creativecommons Flickr License