Out on a Limb
A Monthly Newsletter from Martha Clark Scala
Invest in bringing joy back to your life.
February 2009
Welcome to Out on a Limb, a monthly newsletter from Martha Clark Scala. This free e-zine is meant to invite and inspire you to maximize the joy in your life. To Subscribe, click here.

February 2009

This month’s belated message is about commitment. I can’t prove it, scientifically, but I believe there is a strong correlation between keeping your commitments and joy. For example, if you are an ice cream addict who eats a pint of your favorite flavor every single day, you might at some point feel the need to curtail this habit. If you make a commitment to yourself, or to others, that you will stop eating ice cream altogether, can you pull it off? If you can, I sing praises to you, and I bet that by keeping that commitment, you feel better about yourself. For most people, this commitment is too tall an order. Geneen Roth, who has authored a few books on how to change your relationship to food, (most notably When Food Is Love), believes that dietary deprivation is a set-up for failure because it creates cravings that are hard to withstand. If you make a commitment to reduce your ice cream intake, by eating only a half-pint each night, or a full pint every third day, and adhere to that plan, you may be better off than the person who repeatedly tries, and fails, to keep the commitment of ice cream abstinence! So before you make sweeping statements to declare a commitment, ask yourself if this is something you can truly pull off? If the answer comes back “No,” then your best bet is to re-consider what you want to commit to before you do so. Even if it seems like a less ambitious commitment, you can build on your success much more than repeated failures.


Watch Out For This

Some believe that if they only make the commitment to themselves, then no one will know if they break their commitment. Not so. The one who knows is you, and this could wreak havoc with your experience of joy, never mind such desirables as feelings of self-esteem or competence.

In reaction, you may say to yourself, “then I’m just going to be someone who never makes commitments.” You do have this choice but, is this going to bring more joy into your life? You’re going to have to convince me!

By the way, it’s okay to commit to pleasurable things, too -- like naps, actually taking a vacation, or getting a massage. Smarty Jones, my cat pictured above, is quite committed to sleeping in warm places.


Why Now?

This topic has relevance because I committed to send Out on a Limb monthly. It’s February 20th, so my days are numbered! I went back-and-forth with myself while I was sick with a sinus infection … should I just skip February’s newsletter, or what? I kept coming back to my intention. I could break my commitment, and maybe no one else would even notice, or care, but it had an insidious hold on me. So now that I’m writing these words for you, I not only feel better, physically, but I feel better, emotionally. I may change my commitment at some point (i.e. just take Monthly out of that heading above!) but for now, I’m showing up and reaping the rewards.

I can’t tell you how many people I know who are miserable because they haven’t kept a commitment to themselves, or someone else.


Commitment isn’t Imprisonment

It would be so easy to feel like a victim to your own commitment. To go back to the example above, that would sound something like, “poor me, I’m not allowed to have any ice cream.” If you see it this way, you are choosing to see yourself as a prisoner. If you work with that a little bit, and remind yourself that you always have choice, you might end up saying something like this instead: “I chose to abstain from ice cream. This is incredibly hard. I can re-consider my choice at any time but I need to not lose sight of what I’m trying to accomplish.” This is why the slogan, One Day at a Time, is so popular in the 12-step fellowships. For a chronic alcoholic, the prospect of committing to abstain from taking that first drink for the rest of one’s life is way too much. To commit to this One Day at a Time, is much more achievable, and much less daunting.


Joy-Gram for February 2009

Think of one commitment that you have recently declared, and not kept. Don’t throw yourself into a shame attack about it, but just take note of the effect this broken commitment has on your overall sense of joy and well-being. Ask yourself how you might re-commit to the original goal or expectation, or if it makes sense to modify. And then see what happens …



The website, www.Caring.com is dedicated to “Helping You Help Your Parents,” and it has a wealth of resources. At this website, I respond to questions posted by readers on the topics of grief and loss, substance abuse, and caregiver self-care. If you’d like to locate my responses easily, type “Martha Clark Scala” in the Find box at the Home page of this website.


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By no means do I have joy “figured out.” Please do not assume that I do! I write Out On a Limb as much as a meditation for myself in the ongoing pursuit of joy, as for you. I think this pursuit is a lifelong journey and that the full experience of joy is, at best, episodic. May we all have more episodes!


Martha Clark Scala, MFT 721 Colorado Ave., Suite 201, Palo Alto, CA 94303

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