Upon my death no truth-telling person will say of me "she was light on her feet". Nor will they describe me as "happy-go-lucky". And they'd be an outright liar were they to call me a "songbird".
It's regretful, of course. These are all things it would be nice to be remembered for. But I'm okay with that. I'm at peace with where my talents lie, where my weaknesses fall. I should, though, like to be known for being steadfast. As I age it is a trait I am increasingly glad of in myself, appreciative of in others. Sticking to a diet. Making good on your offer to help a friend move house. Remaining faithful to your partner. All these things add up to commitment.
It was Jen who got me thinking about it.
Jen, who fears for her credibility because, she wrote, she originally came across the following quote on a Starbucks cup: "The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating - in work, in play, in love.
The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around like rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life."
Jen said it rings true for her. Has proved inspirational. And I get why. For is it not one of life's great paradoxes that what we perceive as liberating can sometimes be the most limiting of all? The open road! An open marriage! These things symbolise freedom in the weird folklore of modern life. As for children, a mortgage, a 9-to-5 job; why, you may as well lock yourself in a cell and throw away the key. Of course it is only normal to shun these binds when we are young. To sow our wild oats. To flit from one thing to the next. Provided, that is, you recognise when the time is ripe to stop running.
I once lived with a man who maintained it was his prerogative to see other women. If you love him, said his crazy mother, set him free. And so I tried to be less petite bourgeoisie, more bohemian. Told myself great art is born of such romantic misery. For two years I rubbed myself raw against the emery board of my anxiety. I rang him incessantly to ascertain his whereabouts, achieving little else in that time other than a massive phone bill. Eventually, I ran. And when I slowed down I found myself with a man so solid, so secure, I feared the even keel of our relationship rendered our love untrue.
Commitment is terrifying. It means giving up the notion there is a better, different, more valid path, and keeping instead to the one you are on. It means making a decision that the person you are with, the job you are in, is enough. It might sound like giving up on your dreams. But it isn't. While angst and doubt can give you an edge, they will also crowd your mind and impede your productivity. They will hijack your imagination and gnaw at your stomach lining. Given the chance, contentment can be surprisingly fertile ground.
Arda emigrated here from the Netherlands, and is thrilled her teenage children are studying te reo. "I am personally fascinated about the make-up of New Zealand now, and loving the new mix, embracing it. We are all from somewhere." Eddie, who describes himself as, "a mid-60s, retired Pakeha", recently decided to enrol in te reo night classes. It's been, he says, "fantastic". He thinks we would all be better off if more of us learnt te reo. "I look forward to living in the society we should and will become." Michael pointed out several errors in last week's column. "I think that writing English is as important as speaking Maori correctly." He also took umbrage at my use of the historical example of women being burnt at the stake as an illustration of why tradition shouldn't always be upheld. John did too. Although he was more irked by what he considered my inaccuracy. "Execution by burning was never a fate reserved for women. Society has long been an equal-opportunity offender."