Tuesday, February 24, 2009


I think I may be a closet commitmentphobe. Closet mostly to me, because it's something I don't want to recognize, even though everyone else in my life is probably rolling their eyes over the idea that this is a revelation.

I think it must have happened sometimes in college, or shortly after. Middle school, high school - man you couldn't get me out of committing. I did it all. Including lots of things I wasn't good at. And not only did I jump in to participate, I usually led it. Gads, that just gives me the heebie-jeebies now. I am sweating just writing that, which I think is clear indication times have changed.

Now I say, "Maybe" A LOT! To my kids: "Can we watch this program tonight?" "Can we play this game after dinner?" "Can I have a piglet birthday party?" "Can I invite so and so over to play?"


As I get requests to help out in choir and church and the kids' school and local community groups, I look at the emails and then just file them. Under maybe. Because I can't say no, but I am afraid of saying yes. Afraid that I already have too much on my plate. Afraid that I will get into a position where I'm not comfortable. Afraid I will be over my head on time and ability. Afraid I will be stuck doing something I don't like for a long time with no way of getting out except to break a promise. And once I really commit, I dig in like a pit bull and can't let go.


Maybe the problem is that I don't know how deep I want to get into something until I am at that deep point. I don't know I'm over my head until I can't breathe and I can't see any way out, and won't let myself out.

I had two commitments I started here this year. One, to run ten miles. Another, to write a new book.

The ten miler thing is going great. I'm already up to eight and a half, which is about three times more than any other time in my life, and for which I'm pretty proud. It takes a lot of commitment too. I run almost everyday. Whether I am tired or not. Whether my schedule is otherwise filled or not. And I am never ever sorry I did it.

The writing thing is harder. Because after waffling back and forth on several book ideas, I committed to one in particular. One which resonated with me, which I felt an emotional attachment to. One that I plotted and semi-outlined and developed the characters for. One which I wrote pages and pages on. Until I just couldn't anymore. Because it depressed me.

The book came out of the murder of one of my good friends. It wasn't about her, but it did deal with many of the issues that came from her death: random evil, forgiveness, ways in which people grieve, and how they heal. Seriously, I think it was a really good idea, with a great plot and tremendous depth of character.

But I just couldn't do it. Day after day, my own emotions still a bit raw, coming to that place where I was back in the darkness. And finally, I had to let go.

I had a dream last night that my friend came back - that she had 24 hours to spend with her family and friends again. And when she left, it felt as though she died a second time.

My dreams cling to me when I am awake. What I feel in my dreams is what I wake with, what I carry with me all day until something more powerful can shake it off. And today I felt the loss again, and the emptiness of saying goodbye.

And I realized that while the book might have been good, it was good to let it go. Maybe just for now; maybe forever. But I really don't want to go to that place everyday right now.

I think it was a smart decision, albeit a hard one. But now I am even more fearful of committing. What if my new books ends the same? And the next one? And the next one? I am afraid of saying, "This one is it." I've got a new book I've started. One I look forward to visiting every day. A character that is fun, and complicated, and a setting to die for. I am excited about it. But will that last?

I'm hating that the only answer I can give to that is: Maybe.


  1. Ya know, I'm the same way, but I find the reason I maybe a lot is b/c I have so many other responsibilities, I don't want to add more. I don't want more have to's. I have to feel like it's my choice or I get real cranky and resentful. I write when I choose to, exercise when I choose to, do stuff with friends when I choose to. It's an illusion b/c I know I feel better when I do those things, so in some sense it's a have to, but by giving myself a choice, it makes me feel better.

  2. so sorry for your loss. mayeb when it is not so raw - youll will breeze thru it until then - take care of yourself

  3. I feel you, Heidi. Maybe is a fav word of mine, too. And it might very well be that once the grieving process breaks down a little more, this book will be the thing to help you heal.

    Don't rush it. I haev faith in you.

  4. You know that I started a book - one that had so much potential and could have been so good - but had to set it aside indefinitely. It was emotional hell to go in there and write it. I know what that feels like. And I think it's probably good to set it aside. You're not necessarily giving it up. You can go back to it when you're damn good and ready.

    I have a terrible time making commitments, which is kind of funny, because getting married and having children were a total no-brainer for me. Sign me up! But man, my big writers group held the elections the other night and I was asked, in the group, on the spot, if I wanted to take VP. I knew it was coming. I fiddled with my pen and said no, saying I'm too flaky and forgetful and unreliable. Really the wrong person for the job. Love the group, committed to it, but can't take on one more responsibility.

    It didn't feel good. However. Taking on one more damn thing and knowing that it'll cause more stress is worse.

    Also- "Maybe" doesn't solve it, it just defers it. Drags it on. Arrrgh. I know.

  5. You're into so many deep things here. I think you are smart to say "maybe." That leaves your options totally open because you may find one of those things that's been offered to you is exactly what you want to do and at least you've left yourself open to doing it.

    You know I'm grieving too. Strangely enough, after not really focusing on my brother much for awhile I came across his obituary last night and like you--it all came back and it was agonizing. I too have a book in mind. Just snatches of it come. I may do something with it at some time. I want to leave my options open so I too say maybe.

    I hope you will keep that novel idea about your friend where you can find it again. Sometime will be the right time to write it. You want to keep your options open.

  6. I've been thinking about this post a lot. I say "maybe" too often. But I think that I usually do it as a way of trying to avoid saying "no." There may be a lot of reasons for that - to avoid hurting someone's feelings; to avoid making a promise that I am not sure that I can keep; to avoid facing the reality that I am not going to be able to do something that I would like to do. Often, it would be better if I just came out and said no, rather than agonizing over how I am going to possibly get something done. In fact, after reading your post and thinking about it, I responded to two emails that I had been saving. People were asking me to do things that I was very interested in doing, but I was not sure that I could pull it off, or I was not sure that I could do a good job. So, I told them no. And, it feels good to not have them out there unresolved.

    At the same time, though, sometimes "maybe" is a way to give us time to get to a place where we can say yes. Sometimes I say maybe because I am afraid - afraid of stepping out and taking a risk, afraid of failing, afraid that I do not have what it takes to deal with an issue, afraid of trusting in God or myself or someone else. In those cases saying maybe is a good thing. It gives me an opportunity to get to yes.

    While I generally spend a lot of my day writing, it is not the same type of writing. It does not call on me to put part of myself into what I write. Jean's death raises so many issues and so many questions and so much pain. Frankly, I think most of us deal with that by trying to avoid as much of it as possible. Then we get surprised when it sneaks up on us and hits us from out of nowhere. The fact that you even began to try to write out of that place is incredibly brave and strong. I believe that when it is time for you to finish, it will be time for you to finish. Until then, don't beat yourself up for joining all the rest of us and trying to set that pain aside for a while rather than confronting it head on.