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
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.
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!
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.
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
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.
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
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 …
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.
re-read or share past Out On A Limb newsletters, click
here, or type the following url into your browser: http://www.mcscala.com/html/EZineArchives.html.
If you look below, you’ll see a
link that says Forward e-mail. Please feel free to share
this or any other issue of Out On A Limb with anyone
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 •