Friday, June 02, 2006

Doing what you say you're going to do.

This week has been almost entirely occupied with lying in bed. I sat down to do my Yiddish homework last Sunday morning, and when I stood up again I was crooked, and after a very busy day (Yiddish class, rehearsal, singing student, painting practice, a nice shmues with Rudy) I could no longer sustain the upright position.

(I discovered, though, that I can write Yiddish homework lying down, as long as I use a mechanical pencil. I'm trying to cram as much as I can, so I will truly be an "Intermediate" student when I get to the Medem Immersion program in July.)

All this resting must end at 4:30 today, when I leave with Bob to do a gig in Winston-Salem.

In the mean time, I type in a reclining position...

Here is the fundamental tenet of my life. To be a good person, do what you say you're going to do.

It sounds so easy and yet so few people care enough to come up to the mark.

Some people barely notice when they make commitments. For them, a commitment is a casual expression indicating that, at that particular moment, the person who makes the vow (1) would LIKE to do the promised thing, or (2) is acknowledging that it SHOULD be done.

Or (3) perhaps the promiser simply wants to make the promisee happy. Make the promise - then, well, when the time comes, maybe, maybe not, whatever.

Promises made idly only postpone pain. Yes, you disappoint the promisee now if you say "I can't do this" - but you disappoint the promisee later if you say you you'll do it and then don't. How is that better?

I know a guy who's spent decades hiding behind telephone poles as he walks down the street to avoid the people he passes - he lives in a small town where he's failed to deliver on a promise to almost everyone he knows.

If you make casual promises, you weaken your "vow muscle." It's like going on a diet every other week. How can you be taken seriously?

I writhe in discomfort when a movie character solemnly swears: "I'll never let anything happen to you." How can a person keep a promise like that?

This is what I told Zed yesterday, when he was feeling overwhelmed by the gap between what he plans for each day and what actually takes place: promise yourself less, but deliver.

I got an astrological reading once from Stephen Forrest, whom I had never met previously. He said: "you have a medieval attitude toward vows." Is that bad?


At 2:39 PM, Blogger miatagirl said...

I hope it's not bad because I'm the same way -- always have been. If I say I'll do something or be somewhere and I don't show up, you'd better start calling the hospitals and the morgue because something really bad has happened.

At 3:26 PM, Blogger miatagirl said...

I had an afterthought on this topic. I suppose keeping promises to myself and others, and expecting others to keep their promises to me, can make me somewhat difficult to live with. I am more relaxed now than when I was younger concerning the promises others make. I no longer expect other people to keep all their promises -- not because I think people should be allowed to make promises and then break them, but because I've learned that for some reason, other people just don't function that way.

At the same time, I may decide that I'm going to do something like, say, mow the lawn on a certain day, and I'll tell my partner that I'm going to mow the lawn that afternoon. Then something comes up that she wants to do that involves me, and I tell her, "No, I'm not doing that today because I'm mowing the lawn today." She doesn't understand why I can't just wait and mow the lawn tomorrow. And I don't get why, when I've told her that I'm going to mow the lawn, she comes up with something else that she wants me to participate in. After all, I've told her I'm mowing the lawn and she should understand that I won't be available for other activities, right? Does this make me hard to live with?

At 4:58 PM, Blogger novelera said...

Very interesting post. I am also a person known for always keeping her promises. Unfortunately this side of my personality does battle with another prominent side - a tendency to get bored with repetition. I have to very carefully monitor my instinct to agree to help out: political campaign work, neighborhood association volunteer, above and beyond the call of duty stuff at work. Commitments that go on and on begin to seem unendurable, but I can't bear to let people down. So I try to think, and then think again, before promising to do more.

At 5:51 AM, Blogger melinama said...

Miatagirl, since you are predictable (you will always do what you said you were going to do) you can only be called difficult to live with on this score IF the person you are with thinks we should be able to change each other. That never works so well.

Novelera, I am with you in making fewer commitments to things which will be onerous and overwhelming!

At 4:08 PM, Blogger Mirty said...

Well, here's a word from the other side, speaking for the bad people of which I am one. I am known for NOT keeping commitments. I am unreliable. I am over-committed and something always gets dropped.

I've found it impossible to keep all my promises, since my promises to one person or group inevitably conflict with promises made to another.

For instance, tomorrow: I solemnly did promise my husband that I would go with him to an event his organization is hosting, from noon to five on Sunday.

Also tomorrow: A board meeting for my synagogue, originally scheduled for 10-12, has been moved to 12-2.

Can't do both. Going to the husband event. Promise to husband trumps promise to synagogue board.

This sort of time conflict happens a lot, and I miss a lot of meetings. In the future, I'm not joining ANY boards, ever again. But there will still be time conflicts. I don't know how the always there, always on time folks manage it. I find it impossible.

At 9:31 PM, Blogger Lizzie said...

I love you. You are absolutely my favorite blogger.

At 9:44 PM, Blogger melinama said...

Wow, thanks! and just when I was wondering if it's worth it...


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