commitment, guilt, fear, and brain crack

I had Hatman's copy of John Dies at the End for about two years.  I told him I'd read it, but the book never really grabbed me and I only got around 75% of the way through.  It sat on my nightstand perpetually waiting for me to finish, even though I didn't want to.  I'd committed to reading it, and I didn't want Hatman to think poorly of me for not finishing it.  Rationally, I realize Hatman probably wouldn't have had anything against me for not liking the book (except perhaps hanging onto it for two years), but it's that feeling of letting down or failing to follow-through with a commitment that haunted me.  I was stuck between a book I didn't want to read, and a friend I didn't want to disappoint.  Finally, Angelbiscuit took it into her own hands and returned the book for me.  I don't know what she said, and I don't know what Hatman said, but I can finally treat the whole thing like it never happened and be done with it.

When I lived in Washington, I found a D&D group comprised of soldiers stationed at nearby Fort Lewis.  I joined eagerly and they accepted me into their group easily.  However, after a few months, it gnawed at me that they were altogether much more serious about playing than I was.  I also didn't have the best grasp of the basic mechanics still and kept having to ask for clarification or explanation of things they expected I should have known.  I tried to make up for my newbishness by buying things (root beer, pizza, snacks, etc), but I only became more and more dissatisfied playing with them.  Yet, I felt I'd made a commitment to this group, and I felt as though I were inextricably tied to this commitment.  Without an Angelbuscuit handy to do it for me, I had to break it off myself and did so very poorly: I sent the group leader an email detailing that I was very sorry but I was quitting the group.  I then blocked his email so I wouldn't see any replies, and could treat the whole thing like it never happened and be done with it.

I have many more examples actually, but I'm getting more embarrassed the more I write, so I'm quitting at two.

I commit to obligations with a ferocity I cannot manage.  I treat each one like a promise made, a duty sworn to uphold.  It doesn't matter whether the obligation is light or heavy, crucial or fun.  I treat them all seriously.  Frustratingly seriously.  A key component of these commitments is the guilt I feel for failing at them.  I've come to know that guilt well.  So well, in fact, that I've learned to preemptively avoid situations where I might have to make a commitment.  (I almost didn't restart blogging because of fear that I would let people down by not blogging often enough.  How'm I doing?)  I can see this fear threading through my life, influencing decisions and actions without me even realizing it.  The fear is paralyzing; I'm afraid of letting people down, and I'm afraid of drama, and between the two it keeps me alone in my own little shell.  I'm even afraid of letting myself down, which makes the Venn diagram of things I cannot do a veritable circle.

I want to do lots of things.  My mind flits from possibility to possibility daily, but they just stay there—in my mind—like brain crack.

If you don’t wanna run out of ideas the best thing to do is not to execute them. You can tell yourself that you don’t have the time or resources to do ‘em right. Then they stay around in your head like brain crack. No matter how bad things get, at least you have those good ideas that you’ll get to later.

Some people get addicted to that brain crack. And the longer they wait, the more they convince themselves of how perfectly that idea should be executed. And they imagine it on a beautiful platter with glitter and rose petals. And everyone’s clapping for them.

But the […] bummer is: most ideas kinda suck when you do ‘em. And no matter how much you plan you still have to do something for the first time. And you’re almost guaranteed the first time you do something it’ll blow. But somebody who does something bad three times still has three times the experience of that other person who’s still dreaming of all the applause.
— Ze Frank, "Brain Crack"

I'm at the 'dreaming of applause' stage, and my fear of failure keeps me there.  I don't want to be addicted to brain crack, so what do I do?  I think first I should make a list of what I want to do, those daily possibilities my mind flits to.  Then, decide how much commitment each would require of me, and how many of them I really have the time, energy, and money to do.  Conferring with Angelbiscuit would be next.  Then, I think, the final step is to actually start doing something.

Wish me luck.

thumbnail credit: © 1986, Partnership for a Drug-Free America

Daniel C. Hodges