Thursday, September 11, 2008

Thoughts about Letting Go

Our reading last night after meditation focused on cultivating an ability to be on your own, without clinging to someone or something for support and emotional sustenance. It made me think back over my life and look ahead, not such Buddhist traits but so be it.

I distinctly remember when I was 4 years old lying on an old (yellow plaid) glider on our screened porch and listening to the rain fall. I was worrying about how I was going to survive when my parents finally died. I suppose that might have been an appropriate worry for a 4-year-old only child. Forty-six years later when I buried my father I realized that I could do it.

There have been several instances in my life when I was far too dependent on another person, subjugating my will to that person’s. As secure and wonderful as you might feel when you have the other person’s company and attention, there is an all-encompassing loneliness when the person is no longer in your life, as sometimes happens.

I think Pema Chodron’s point was not to tell us to forsake all relationships, but rather to examine them to make sure they are emotionally healthy. So I started going through my inventory, one by one.

Husband: One of the reasons why we have managed to stay together for so long has been our ability to live easily with each other, while still allowing a tremendous amount of freedom of choice and will. I am somewhat dependent on him for financial bookkeeping, but I could manage if I had to.

Children: I love them dearly, but our lives are already so separate. There is no longer a financial dependence. Our times together are as adult friends.

Friend that went missing: I still think about her every day, but with each passing day I realize I’m perfectly capable of creating unique and interesting things to do with other people.

Other friends: One by one, I value their presence, but feel no dependence.

My dog Jake: I am quite attached to feeling that cold nose every morning as I wake up. I will miss it terribly when he is no longer.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m quite comfortable and attached to my world as it currently is. But I’m convinced that I have the inner strength to deal with loss, to let go of any “hands” that I might be clinging to. I love the feeling of knowing I could be independent, but also knowing that I don’t have to be, not right now in this present moment.


Blogger Cyndy said...

That's cool. Sometimes when you lose something before you've decided to let it go, it causes you to cling harder to everything else. Or it makes you want to feel unattached to everything else in case it happens again. Eventually it simply makes you grateful for everything that you have right now. What does all this mean? Okay I'll shut up now.

12:37 PM  
Blogger Adrianne said...

Barbara, this is a beautiful post. Thank you. And thanks also to Cyndy for a lovely comment.

12:44 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

It's great to examine the nature of your relationships. I think we all could do that a bit more! It's possible to treasure and enjoy people without clinging in an unhealthy way, though the line can be pretty fine. I'd say it all depends on the relationship's effect on you -- whether it makes you feel healthier, empowered, stronger, or unhappy and neglected.

1:12 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Cyndy -- You know me better than you could ever imagine. Yes.

Adrianne -- You are welcome.

Steve -- I'm convinced that it's security in a relationship that allows us not to cling. It's when we're afraid it might not last that we hang on tighter. I guess that's just human nature.

1:39 PM  
Blogger Kellyann Brown said...

I am doing some thinking these days on the nature of monkey traps. To trap a monkey, some farmers put a handful of rice in the middle of container that is just large enough for the monkey to put his hand through. Once he grasps the rice, he cannot pull his hand out. It would be simple to just drop the rice and remove the hand, but the monkey insists on holding onto the rice, even at the cost of his own freedom. I know, we've heard this again and again, but it takes on new meaning as I start to pack what I will take from my old house to my new one.

9:39 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Kelly -- Very interesting story about the monkey traps. Many of us are trying hard to hang onto that rice.

10:12 PM  
Blogger Pauline said...

I agree, Barbara, when you say, "it's security in a relationship that allows us not to cling." We may be reluctant to let go of such a connection but the platform of trust we build in a healthy relationship allows us to step confidently into a future of independence and/or another bond.

6:48 AM  
Blogger Kristin said...

I'm not sure I'll ever master the art of letting go, but I'm going to keep working on it.

1:55 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Pauline -- The more I think about this, I know it is right. From here on out I will be super-suspicious of any relationship that I cling to.

Kristin -- You epitomize the word INDEPENDENCE!

3:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

umm...what about operating the "entertainment center" and solving your computer problems? guess there's always the geek squad..:-)

10:47 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Anon -- At first I thought this was some creep leaving a comment, but then I realized it was just you. I don't need the entertainment center EVER and I could even live without a computer, but admittedly it would be difficult to live without you, even though you ask so little of me.

6:56 AM  

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