Freedom and commitment – are these binary opposites, or can they be reconciled? An old question, certainly, and intrinsic to the human condition – and no less complex and intractable for being so familiar.
I have a few things to say on the subject of freedom – or, more accurately, the lack of it. In fact, I have a pile of epithets, adjectives and metaphors to draw upon, when I think of the past five bitter and contested years leading up to my divorce. I make no claim to originality – but there may be some recognition out there, I suspect, for these sentiments: I have an absolute horror, from my experience, of ever putting my head again in the noose; of living again in chains; of having my life-blood sucked out of me; of having my human dignity and autonomy rigidly and bitterly denied and thwarted.
Oh dear! This doesn’t sound good, does it?!
Well, there is another side to the story, too. After five largely wasted years, of contestation, the breaking down into ashes of fundamental relationships, I am ready – no, eager – to move on, to get going: let me waste no further time, I tell myself, now is the time to make my choices, to decide, to commit. Don’t wait; start today!
But commitment, I feel in my bones, must be freely given, or else it is slavery. And if it is freely given, it must be possible for it to be freely withdrawn, if necessary – not lightly, cruelly, or irresponsibly withdrawn, but withdrawn freely, nonetheless. Commitment in this sense is the daily and moment-by-moment choice, of a path, a relationship, a love, a trust: it is not the slamming shut of a pair of handcuffs.
Rob wrote, in her blog, that the fact that she was so happy, back home alone in Toronto, had caused her to question her relationship; but that she had realised, in doing so, that she was doing what she needed to do: facing up to the transition in her life, from a life alone, to a life together with me, of commitment. And I agree, she is doing the right thing: she is exercising her freedom; as an autonomous being, she has choices to make, decisions to consider and ultimately abide by. I feel the same way.
I want to create a new and committed life together. And I want – must have – my freedom and my autonomy. I am in the moment – the long, rich, thoughtful moment – of decision: freedom includes the freedom to commit, and real commitment, to my mind, is something to be renewed, each day, by choice, not compulsion or obligation. Commitment, it seems, must contain its opposite – the right to un-commit – if it is to be free. The joy that comes from commitment, comes from the choosing.
Am I wishing for too much? Watch this space.