Most of us struggle with control and attachment to some degree, thinking if we just try hard enough, we can get life to bend to our will. We start dating someone and want this to be “it” before we even know the other person, before they know us. We’re ready to have a baby, and expect to get pregnant on the first try, or the second. If it hasn’t happened by the third month, we start to get upset. We have our plan, and life needs to get with it, right? Or we want our kids to do well, but maybe our idea of well, and theirs, is different. We want to be promoted, we deserve it, but our boss is a fill-in-the-blank.
I’ve given this a lot of thought. When it comes to human beings and to life, force is a sure recipe for suffering. It’s fine when you want to open jars of almond butter, or remove a tiny Lego piece for your kid, but you can’t force another person to love you or do what you want them to do, or to want what you want them to want, or feel what you want them to feel. Setting intentions is great. It clarifies what it is you’d like, and can inspire your actions every day. That’s a lot different than gripping to an outcome. Things have to go this way or I’ll be miserable. Nothing clouds the vision like attachment. You’re going to be attached to people, that’s part of the human condition; one of the more beautiful parts, actually. Anyone who says differently is fooling themselves or you. We want to be able to hear the voices or the laughs of the people we love most in this world. We want to be able to hug them and kiss them, and if they’re taken from us, we are going to suffer. If you have children, you will be attached to wanting the best for them, wanting them to be healthy and happy and strong. If they are not any of these things, you will suffer.
So some attachment is just part of the gig, unless you want to move to a cave, but as much as possible, open hands, open heart, open mind. Attachment to people comes after love, not before. Loving an idea of a person is not the same as loving a person. Sometimes we meet someone and want them to be this magical person we’ve been waiting for because we’re thirty and the plan was to be married sometime around now, with kids on the way by 32. That’s the kind of attachment that you want to nip in the bud: attachment to our idea of “How Things Should Be,” to that picture in our heads. Life is how it is. It’s not obligated to go along with your plans, and it probably won’t. Maybe something more amazing than anything you’ve planned will unfold.
Sometimes we’re attached to how things were, to a relationship that’s come to an end, for example. We long for the way we felt. We think maybe there’s some way we can get back there, but if a person doesn’t love you for who you are, if they can’t see you anymore, if everything has become dark and no one is shining, allow yourself to be released, even though it hurts like hell. There are some things you’ll never understand. The more you can face reality as it is and work with that, the less you’ll suffer. Be attached to your own discernment. Be attached to working with the truth of a thing even if it breaks your heart. Be attached to the people in your life whom you love beyond words, and understand it makes you vulnerable, and do it anyway. Try to let go of the rest. Life is an adventure. Sometimes it breaks your heart, and sometimes it hits you in the face with so much love it knocks you off your feet and fills your heart with yes. You can’t force that stuff.
You can treat yourself well, though. You can be kind and patient with yourself, and you can do that for other people, too. You can explore what it means to really love someone. Practice on your parents or your friends or your nieces and nephews or a person you’re just getting to know. Practice on yourself. Be curious about acceptance, about looking clearly at someone and listening without allowing your own opinions to block you from hearing them, without allowing your own defenses or wants or needs to prevent you from seeing theirs. Most of the stuff we become fixated on is so meaningless. I think we just lose the thread. Life is to be experienced and examined and explored. Trying to control it is like trying to control the weather.
Sending you love and a giant hug,
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