I have never really celebrated Independence Day with parties, parades, and patriotism. I was raised in Germany and studied history and - well, let’s just say patriotism makes me deeply uncomfortable. For many years I fled into the woods and celebrated InterdepenDance Day at rainbow gatherings, far away from drunken revelry and fireworks.


Last year I forgot about Fourth of July altogether and didn’t realize I had missed it until several days later. I was too busy being a tree. It was my first California Witchcamp, a weeklongReclaiming event in the redwoods and I spent the evening of July 4th prostrated on the grass, aspecting the Green God (I wrote about this here).   


But this year I am sitting at home, listening to rogue fireworks, blaring stereos, and the revelry of picnic parties down by the lake, all too audible from my bedroom window. I have enjoyed a lazy day on my swinging bed, watching the German women’s team come in 4th in the world cup (just like last year, I occasionally turn from someone who can’t tell the difference between a baseball and an American football into a sports fan. Because, you know, Fussball!) And I spent hours snuggling with the cats, enjoying the rarity of alone time in my community household, and becoming introspective.


I thought about the meaning of independence. Not political independence of colonies and what would have happened had there not been an American Revolution, but personal independence and individual freedom. At Witchcamp last year I was challenged to make a choice, to understand what it meant to be my own spiritual authority, and to make a commitment. Commitment is a loaded word. I thought that making a commitment would limit my independence and render me once again vulnerable to abuse and control. I remember thinking I should just leave Witchcamp and become a solitary practitioner.


My fear ran deep. For the first years after my divorce and departure from fundamentalism, I loathed the idea of commitment. I mistook it for the antithesis to independence and personal freedom. Commitment was what kept me in an abusive marriage. Commitment to my faith almost caused me to commit suicide. And yet I chose to step into the magic circle, bare my skin and soul to the heat of the fire, and proclaim for all to hear: "I commit to this path and to this community".


My perspective on commitment changed when I was introduced to the polyamory community. People who practice polyamory are often accused of lacking in commitment, but I had the opposite experience. While there are some who avoid making commitments, just as there are in monogamous circles, most of the poly people I meet are big on making commitments. However, unlike in monogamy, these are not commitments of exclusivity, nor do they always regard the longevity of a particular relationship. Commitments are made to mutual agreements as well as to the well-being of all involved.  

Sometimes this is done in hopes that those committing will stay together indefinitely and support each other in their paths and passions, through joyous times and through suffering. But we know that it doesn’t always work out that way. Sometimes individuals are pulled in different directions and their relationships become a hindrance to their paths. Sometimes a relationship makes those involved in it miserable. A commitment made to one another then requires a shift in the relationship. Maybe it means taking a step back. Maybe it means moving into separate living spaces. Maybe it means ending the capital-“R”-Relationship and continuing a relationship as friends rather than partners. Sometimes it means going completely separate ways. But it always means striving to do what is healthy and supportive for those involved, including oneself.


In my marriage, my husband and I committed first and foremost to the endurance of our monogamous relationship. For us that meant sticking it out, no matter how miserable we made each other. Sometimes he’d tell me that he loved me and all I could think was that he had to, since he had no choice, he had committed to staying with me. I didn’t feel chosen. And even after he told me he didn’t love me anymore, he still stuck to his commitment of being married to me. Our commitment to the relationship form, our marriage, trumped his commitment to treating me with love and respect, and erased any concern I may have had for my own well-being. We were neither independent nor interdependent, we had become codependent.


Commitment is so much richer when it is a choice, when it grows out of abundance, not lack. It thrives when it is freely given, as a choice, from a place of wholeness, after putting that airplane oxygen mask on oneself first. From a commitment to self-care can grow a commitment to partners, lovers, friends, and communities.


Last year I finally understood that a commitment to this path was a commitment to myself. I love this path and I love this community. I love them even more after the last year of hardships. I envision myself on this path for the rest of my life and I expect to journey beyond the veil as a beloved dead of this community. And yet I know that my commitment is a daily choice, and should I ever find that this path no longer serves me, I will thank it for all it has given me and part ways. And should this community ever grow toxic for me or I for this community, I will forever be grateful for the love I received and move on.


Commitment no longer means bulldozing through obstacles no matter the cost to myself and others. It means doing my best to stay centered and strong, independent and yet interdependent, to support those to whom I am committed. It means looking at obstacles together, and, if the path to overcoming is a change in our relationship, bearing the pain in love and daring to shift what needs to be shifted.