Commitment Is (Not) For The Birds, Or, Show Up and See What Happens

Sometimes, it’s all too much!

I’m going to tell you a secret: I don’t always feel like showing up to write posts every week.

Much as I love to write, sometimes, I just don’t feel the love. My mind kicks in with complaints: “Again? Can’t I skip it?!”

Often, I feel resistance because I’m scared to write about what’s most alive in me, but other times, I just want to play hooky from the written word. And I have a feeling that it’s true for you, too. It can be hard to summon the dedication it takes to do certain tasks regularly.

Much as you love your kids, sometimes you want to fall asleep instead of getting them ready for bed.

Much as you love your sport, sometimes you want to go out with friends instead of practicing.

Much as I love to write, sometimes I’d rather watch Parenthood and eat almond butter straight from the jar.

But here’s the crazy thing: we show up anyway.

You get them ready each night and tuck them in tenderly.

You lace up your running shoes and move through your workout.

I compose, keeping to my posting schedule.

And we deserve credit for that.

Yes, everyone needs a break now and then. (I allow myself to miss a post or two when I’m on vacation.) There is value in leaving tasks undone. And yet there’s also tremendous value in commitment.

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An ‘ordinary’ caregiving moment that captured my heart.

When I was a direct-care assistant at L’Arche, I noticed something remarkable: assistants showed up for routines. Day in and day out, we the caregivers dragged ourselves out of bed in the morning. Yes, it was hard, but it was made easier by the absence of choice. We didn’t give ourselves the option of not doing our routines (and, come to think of it, neither did Medicaid).

If we didn’t show up, beloved people didn’t get care … and that simply wasn’t a possibility. When an assistant did miss a routine, we could be fairly certain that they were either sick in bed or stuck in traffic, that they physically couldn’t be there. We were committed to the core members and to one another, and we proved that by showing up … even if it meant coming downstairs in pajamas.

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L’Arche showed me how much consistency matters in caregiving. In fact, consistency makes a crucial difference in everything we do. For example, I have a commitment to work on my forthcoming book first thing each workday. I don’t give myself the option of working on other projects or checking email until I’ve spent an absolute minimum of one hour on that book.

But even though writing books is what I have always done and always wanted to do, I still have to coax myself at times. I say, gently, “I know you’d rather be checking Facebook, but that’s just not an option right now. You promised to put in one hour, and it will go by so fast once you start.” Starting is always half the battle.

Some days, I’ll put in the minimum and move on. Other times, I’ll look at the clock to find that two hours have flown by. And that’s the beautiful secret of commitment: when you show up, magic can happen.

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Sign on a church, Alabama.

There’s a mysterious correlation between the difficulty in showing up and the likelihood of magic happening. Days when I have to push myself to work on my book often yield the greatest progress in my writing. And some of the L’Arche routines that I would have rather skipped gave me the best surprises. Showing up regularly can be hard, but it brings its own rewards. When you show up for what really matters, you get … what really matters.

When you show up for your kids, you get to be present to the people you love the most.

When you show up for your sport, you get to give the best of what you have and become better.

When I show up for posts, I get to do what I love and connect with amazing people (you!)

And when you keep showing up, you start to see how it all fits together … even the pieces you thought weren’t a part of the puzzle at all. As it turns out, even my Parenthood habit isn’t separate from my writing life. (This week’s edition of my Leaving Normal column will reflect on Parenthood‘s portrayal of a special needs family.)

If you show up, you’re available for alchemy … ready to see ‘ordinary’ days transformed into extraordinary ones.

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What are some of your most important commitments?

Join the conversation in the comments!

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“Enthusiasm is more important to mastery than innate ability, it turns out, because the single most important element in developing an expertise is your willingness to practice.” – Gretchen Rubin

18 thoughts on “Commitment Is (Not) For The Birds, Or, Show Up and See What Happens

    • I’m so glad! Thank you, Carolyn – hope you have a beautiful day!
      PS – Your faithful commitment to Taize has been a blessing to me and many others; thank you for ‘showing up’ there!

  1. Metod says:

    Caroline, what inspiring words! Your posts always remind me that we are all beautiful souls in this world with some imperfections and that we should celebrate our uniqueness and help each other along the way.

    Oh, it’s so true – the magic favours those who make the effort. For example, as someone who loves photography, I can recall of so many weekends when I set up the alarm clock for 5 a.m. wanting to explore the world with my camera at dawn and was so close just going back to bed. But I was always so happy to overcame the easier option and in the end being endued with some magical scenes I would otherwise miss and never regretted it.

    I want to really thank you for ‘showing up’ today…in past weeks and in weeks to follow 🙂

    • “The magic favours those who make the effort.” I love it! Thank you, Metod – you are one of the people who makes it that much easier for me to stay committed to AWCC!

  2. Donna says:

    So well done, my dear! I am making special dinners for your brother and doing a sink full of pots every day, but I am showing up and waiting for the magic to happen! Love you!

  3. Cindy says:

    A famous psychiatrist Dr. Abraham Low (the father of cognitive behavioral therapy) said that how we function is more important than how we feel. I have found that striving to function effectively and appropriately does more to improve feelings than any other therapy or medication. Amazing, isn’t it? The cure to our lack of motivation is right below our noses . . . simply DO IT! Your efforts to share with us bear fruit that is much appreciated-thank you!

  4. Hi Caroline

    Love the post…ESPECIALLY love the photo with the life preserver 🙂

    I’m on an island (Madeline) on Lake Superior. It’s the most beautiful spot I’ve ever been (after 30 countries) and a spiritual home I’ve been coming to since I was 6. Mom and Dad live here now and Jeff and I were going to renew our vows here for more family and my folks friends, but …Mom is dealing with dementia and Dad has his own on-going aches. We’ll be making some big decisions….and Celebrating Everyone’s Life and love on Saturday (with a much smaller group).

    As beautiful as it is here, it’s been challenging to “show up”. And it’s taking raw courage to stay–waaaaay beyond what I “planned”. They say “one day at a time”…but I am learning one hour, one meal, one clear reply, one laugh, one stifled cry, one song, one deep breath at a time.

    Thanks for ALL your IN-courage-ing words dear Caroline. Thanks for showing up (in so many, many ways).

    • 🙂 Thanks Mary! I thought that would be a fun addition. And what a beautiful sharing – I’d imagine it’s taking great courage to continue ‘showing up’ moment-by-moment. Sending love and prayers your way.

  5. Rachel says:

    Thank you…after having almost 2 weeks off of caregiving, I’m still not ready to return to duty tomorrow morning. I needed to read this just now.

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