These things are sent to try us, the old adage goes. But when you have voluntarily committed to give up ‘these things’ for 40 days and 40 nights, ‘these things’ seem to be more and more frequently in abundance, trying you. Lent was particularly hard this year, I know Christine and my colleagues (suffering through a calorie suicide pact to ditch chocolate) all felt the same – which is of course the point. I mainly kept my annual promise to give up chocolate but after a slip or two, in an effort to be playing by some version of the rules, I did continue to at least resist those things which I wanted to indulge in the most: Crème Eggs and the two Toffee Crisps I hid from myself before Lent began.
In the last week of Lent, I took to carrying them around in my handbag just to prove to myself that I could get through this last push. Every time the orange paper peeped out at me from among the other debris in my sizeable handbag I had a moment of triumph that I had STILL not stripped the eye grating orange paper off and eaten that delicious chocolate bar. It’s a split personality of healthy catholic guilt and force of habit that pushes me on. A lot of things come from habit, from habitually being late to your decade long cigarette habit, you have made the choice and committed to being the person defined by those things. Everyone has their own reasons to abstain or give in.
In the past, the choices we live by now were seen less as commitment and more as facts of life. You stayed in the City you grew up in, you lived in a flat and upgraded to a house once you could, you got married and had children, and you had a job for life. Now, the terminology is as different as we are: you commit to a job for 18 months at a time before you expect a promotion, you commit to moving for work because there just aren’t the jobs, you commit yourself to being with your husband but compromise on double barrelling your surname and you commit to being there for your friends when they need you. Our grandmothers were just there for their friends, it was what you did. There was no need to express it.
So we commit to a job, a location a flat, and friends, and of course now social media, in its multiple forms and the sharing which is a must there; there is no observation deck. But then we find that we must commit to so many things that we commit on a shorter and shorter basis: can I have 5 minutes of your time, a quick meeting, I’ll come for a couple, not enough hours in the day. With the exception of phone contracts, our limits for commitment have been through a wool wash, and are shrinking. Cheating ourselves, living only a sliver of life as we bounce from one thing to the next.
I can barely commit to a set train departure time nowadays. Panic sweeps over me at 25 minute intervals throughout the day. Convinced that I’ve read the 24 hour clock time on the ticket wrong and I attempt to back plan my journey from doors close right back to my current position at my desk, wishing I had just booked an open outbound ticket instead.
Much like our friends who have committed to competing the London Marathon today – last year it was me – 26.2 miles in most likely, inclement weather, for great causes, showing great moral fortitude and sacrificing the ability to walk down stairs for several days, everyone has their reasons for committing to things, whether they make sense to anyone else, or even ourselves. But how do you decide where to commit yourself for the bigger things, for a job; for a boy; for a life!?
A fixed point scares me. I know that one day I will have to commit to more than giving up chocolate or dragging myself around for 26.2 miles for charity. With a new baby in our family, my best friends wedding around the corner and the next career step-up a few rungs away yet, commitment still eludes me. How do you choose what to commit to? Ultimately whether it is running a marathon, choosing a career, starting a family; we are the first generation to take for granted the opportunity we have to make these choices. What else can we do but accept that whatever the reason – be it love, life, family, jobs or even the promise of those things – that we have never had it so good, or do I mean bad? I’m just glad the chocolate is back.