Tag Archive | thoughts

Love, attachment, detachment, and letting go

I have been enjoying a day of silence and solitude today, which has not been as silent as I had hoped, but without the distractions of music, or movies, or too much talk, I have succeeded in being able to listen and hear what I have been needing to hear.  I have needed clarity on the topics of love, attachment, detachment, and letting go.  These thoughts began as a tangled ball of hurt feelings and slowly I have been untangling the ball.  As the knots loosened, I saw that the feelings had to be sorted into different piles, and each pile needed to be named and understood before I could make any true progress towards my goal, which was letting go and forgiving and loving fully.

When we think of love, most of us would be quick to agree that in order to love someone there has to be an attachment to that person.  I am very attached to my children, and I love them deeply.  Siblings, friends, spouses–those people closest to us–we generally feel that in order to love them fully we need to have an attachment to them.  I certainly thought that, and yet I have been forced to realize that the notion of attachment and love may be leaving something very important and valuable out of the mix.  This became especially clear to me as I struggled to come to terms with the Biblical command to love everyone.  Most religions and spiritual disciplines teach something similar.  We are all in this together, and love is the goal we strive to reach.

Love and attachment do coexist in many good and healthy relationships, such as the parent-child relationship, ideally anyway.  The same is true with friends, spouses, siblings, and parents.  There has to be balance in the attachment.  If we become overly attached in unhealthy ways we might become clingy, or domineering, or unable to see and appreciate the person separate from ourselves.  There are those darned boundaries again that tell us where we end and another person begins.  Boundaries are unique within each close relationship, and they shift over time.  If the relationship is a healthy one, this adjusting of boundaries happens fairly easily, as we parents adjust and step back as our children grow older.

We learn to let go and trust and have faith that we have taught our children well enough that they will flourish as adults.  The attachment to the child remains secure, but a certain detachment must come into play if we are going to be able to love them for who they are, and allow them to grow into who they are meant to become.  It is not an uncaring detachment at all, and it is not easy at the start, but it is necessary to maintain healthy boundaries and love in the relationship.  It is respect at the very core of it.  Certainly, this form of healthy attachment-detachment adjusting is far easier with those we are close to, or maybe not…

What happens when someone you love hurts you?  What happens when a marriage fails, and the divorce is nasty, and love is replaced with more undesirable emotions like anger, resentment, and even hatred. The base of all of these emotions is hurt.  How do you love a perfect stranger who has repeatedly attacked you, or someone that you love deeply but who does not show you the same respect that you show them without some overlay of hurt or bitterness to muck up each attempt at forgiveness?  How do I love someone who has wounded me in ways I never dreamed imaginable?  How do I love these people fully, like the Bible tells me to, and do it with purity and compassion.  Here is where the tangled ball unravels, and the three separate piles become more clear.  Detachment is the key to loving someone who has betrayed you, abused you, or hurt you in any form.  Detachment is not an easy place to get to, though.

When I was at the height of my cyber-bullying experience I read a lot of articles on the topic so that I could better understand it, and in order to write an article myself.  One of the best things that I read told me that, while documenting everything, to take a giant step back and to become an observer of the person harassing me.  To be an effective observer, I had to detach from my own hurt.  Once I was able to do that, I saw that the woman harassing me treated everyone the same.  She lashed out easily at anyone who had the slightest disagreement with her point of view.  She often perceived that certain comments were “calling me stupid,” when nothing even close was said.  She had a hair-trigger when it came to feeling slighted, and becoming angry and aggressive.  In short, I learned that her behavior towards me truly was nothing personal.  It was just how she viewed and attacked the world.  This information was liberating is a rather smug, “Well, she is just a miserable person…” sort of way.  I stopped observing and documenting, but I had not reached compassion, love, and forgiveness yet.

To get to that place, I had to detach even further.  I had to step so far back that I was in her shoes.  I had to look at what her life must be like, and feel like.  I had to look at who she was in a relationship with, and what she was going through with her children, and grandchild.  When I looked at her life from inside her shoes my heart hurt.  I am a mother, and I know what it feels like when there are serious issues with a child.  It is scary and it hurts like hell and you blame yourself in some way or another.  I had to look at the grandchild and his behavior that so troubles my son—such anger and aggressiveness at a very young age.  Grandma has to cope with that, and that sort of behavior doesn’t happen in a vacuum.  I felt sad for her in a profound way and I finally reached a place of compassion for her, and the entire household.  With compassion comes the ability to love–the kind of love that the Bible teaches.  It does not mean I want to play in the same sandbox with her, but I no longer harbor any ill will towards her.  I love her for the hurting person that she is and that feels a lot better than anger and lack of forgiveness.

Unfortunately, I have had to use the same process recently with someone infinitely closer to me–someone who I love dearly and always will.  I had to step back and observe a lifetime of behavior on both of our parts.  I had to step back even further to get into her shoes, and feel the anger she feels, and the fear, and the sadness.  I know why she hurts, whether intentional, or not, and I know that her pain is deeper than the wounds she inflicts on me.  I have great compassion for her, and I have forgiven her.  At the same time, I have compassion for myself in a new way, and suddenly a fourth pile comes out of the mix, and into that pile goes expectations.

I would, and have, moved mountains out of love for this person.  Because I would, and have done that, I expected the same from her.  Not everyone loves like I do.  Not everyone is willing to move mountains, or feels that they even can.  I had to release my expectations–detach from them–in order to let go of the hurt and love her fully.  She can only love as well as she is doing, like my mother could only love as well as she did.  I cannot expect more.  I can expect respect, and if that is absent, I will let go with love.

Throughout this process of detaching, and observing, and stepping into another person’s shoes, I was certain that what I was doing was detaching from each individual.  To be sure, there is some truth to that.  However, today I realized that what I had really had to do in order to get to the place of love, compassion, forgiveness, and letting go was to detach myself from my own ego and pride.  I had to tie each piece from each one of the four piles together, roll the ball up neatly, and name it what it truly was–pride and ego.  If I had not detached myself from my own hurt ego, I never would have been able to step into their shoes, find compassion for them, and finally love and forgive them for who they are.

My pride and my mouth have been two of my biggest defense mechanisms when hurt.  I have been chipping away at both bit by bit, but these experiences have taken me forward with a huge leap.  I can step away from my ego and my pride and I can love and forgive as God wants me to do.  I have not given up myself in the process.  Quite the opposite, like the Grinch, I feel as if my heart has grown three sizes today.  It is a wonderful, peaceful, gentle feeling.  The silence has truly been golden. The sun will be setting soon, and I will be lighting my candles.  I am full of homemade bread and soup.  I have nothing to defend tonight.  I am free to love fully from whatever distance I choose.  I thank God for that freedom.

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Living in the moment–a harsh reminder.

Monday on my Facebook page my theme was living in the moment.  Living in the moment is something we should all aspire to be better at, but every day life can be so distracting.  I try my best to live in the moment and fail often, and some days it is just plain easier to be in the moment throughout the day than others.  Yet I keep on trying to get to a place where I live in the moment every day, and cherish each moment in a day without labeling them good or bad, but instead precious and a gift.

On Monday morning I had said that we should cherish each moment because this one single moment is all we are guaranteed.  I meant that sincerely and I believed it fully.  However it was said and meant from a purely intellectual standpoint.  Intellectually, I believe that being fully present for each moment and being thankful for every moment in each day is the most fruitful way to live.  I do believe that with all of my brain.

It wasn’t until that evening that I understood what it meant to believe it and feel it with all of my heart and soul.  The feeling was extremely poignant and painful and very necessary to get the concept of living fully in the moment from my head down into my heart.  On Monday night I learned that a dear friend from high school and college had been killed instantly that morning when the car she was driving was struck head on by another vehicle when the other driver entered a roundabout going the wrong way.

One moment she was alive and well with so much to look forward to and one single moment later she was gone from life here on earth, and from the world’s of all of those of us who cared about her.  I don’t believe that she had even a split second to know what was coming, and for that I am extremely grateful.  She was a lovely woman who married her high school sweetheart and stayed married to him.  I sang at their wedding.  She had two daughters, one expecting her first baby and the other just having graduated from high school.  She loved the Lord so she is safe in God’s arms now and that is what brings so many of us comfort in spite of the pain.  We all are praying her family.

It is human nature to wish away painful or unpleasant moments.  Often we wish away entire days and weeks.  “I cannot wait for this day to end!” or “Is this week ever going to end”?  Don’t ever wish away a single minute, because we just do not know how many minutes we get in this life.  I know that it is hard to be thankful for each moment and day when times are tough, but there is always something to be grateful for, even on days that feel miserable.

The people in my life know how much I love them.  I tell them a lot–every time I see them or talk to them– because I’ve had that intellectual knowing of lack of permanence for a long time and I never wanted one single “I love you” left unsaid.  I dislike unresolved conflicts for the same reason.  But there have been times in my life when I have though, “I’d be so happy if I never had to see that person again.”  At the time I meant that also, but time does have its way of healing and now I’d be devastated to see those people gone.  It’s unfortunate that there are one or two people now that I often feel that way about now, because at one point I cared very deeply for one of them.  I am working on that with efforts redoubled now towards forgiveness and letting go fully.

My sister has a friend who is a very caring man and when you are around him you feel that.  On one occasion he told me that his motto was, “Wherever you are, be all there.”  I think he succeeds at that, and it is truly excellent advice.  In the midst of this week that has felt like one giant roller coaster ride I am working very hard to take his advice and be all there wherever I am, and with whomever I am around.  I am so much better living in the moment now than I was in my youth, but I have a long way to go.   I am committed to cherishing every moment in my heart and my head because those moments become memories for everyone involved and at some point memories are all that we are left with.  Go make some good memories today.

Some thoughts on judging others…

“Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Judging others is something we all do in the course of a day, and if we say we don’t we are big, fat, liars.  Much of it is somewhat unconsciously done.  As we walk through the grocery store thoughts run through our heads.  “Wow, that shirt is awful.”  “Boy, that’s one big person.”  “She sure looks like a grump.” On it goes right up to the check out line, where we begin to judge the contents of the shopping cart of the person in front of us, as well as their payment method.  This goes on all day long, little and big judgements made about people, what they do, what they say, how they act, and what the look like.  Maybe you are not that bad.  Maybe you are more inclined to see the people who smile at you, or notice those who look especially pretty, or maybe you are like me, off in my own little world of “get it done and get out of here.”  Whatever the case, we all judge to varying degrees, and it is rarely beneficial to us, or to the person we are judging.

However, it is hard to even begin to enter into the topic of judging without becoming judgmental.  “That person said a hateful thing.  That is wrong.  That person is nasty.”  I said that just last night, in my head.  A person who doesn’t know me made some insulting comments, judged me based on information she is being spoon fed, some of it true enough, much of it not.  Because the comments hurt, I judged her as a bad person, and I do not know her personally. Is she a bad person?  I don’t know.  How could I?  Do I like, or condone, her behavior?  No, I do not.  The behavior and the actions go completely against my personal beliefs of what is right, and her actions are less than attractive, in my opinion.  But, that is just my opinion.  I do not get to be the judge.  I must answer to a higher authority, God, who tells me that I do not know her past, or her hurts, or her insecurities, and even if I did, I would still have no right to judge her.  God tells me to turn the other cheek, stop looking, forgive, and move on.  Easier said than done, of course, but doable.

Dorothy Parker said, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, come sit by me.”  That’s not how I roll.  I do not enjoy disliking others, bad mouthing others, or diminishing others so I can feel better about myself.  Does that mean I have never done any of those thing?  Heck no!  I am guilty as charged.  I am very human, too.  The greater portion of my life is filled with wonderful, kind, caring, loving individuals who roll like I do.  Yet, human nature, flawed as it is, will generally cause me focus on the one or two meanies in my life, and forget all about the lovely people and things all around me.  That is a backwards way of living, and changing that is something I work on every day.

That work requires taking a thought, or feeling—a judgement—and turning it around to something positive.  It changes, “That person is just plain nasty,” to “That person must really be hurting/be insecure/feel threatened.”  Those thought changes opens the mind to compassion.  We do not need to like the comments, behaviors, or even the person, but viewing them with compassion rather than judging and attacking right back is the healthier, kinder choice, for ourselves, and for them.  It is saying to yourself, and the world, “I may disagree with you, but I am pretty sure you’re not Hitler,” to borrow a line from Jon Stewart.  If you cannot change your thoughts from ones of judgement and condemnation, then the least you can do is turn and walk away in kindness.

We do reap what we sow.  The law of attraction is real.  The more we judge harshly, respond to judgments with revenge, or insult and degrade people to elevate ourselves, the more of that same sort of thing we will get coming back at us in our own lives.  As people say these days, “Haters are gonna hate.”  I suppose that is true enough, but I have a choice to make for myself, and that is not to be a hater.   The Bible says we can sow blessings or curses with our words.  In this age of the internet, we can do the same with our fingers, faceless behind a computer screen.  This also allows us the convenience of judging people we do not even know.  Do not get sucked into it all.  It is a trap that will effectively take your eyes off of yourself, and your own areas that need attention, while you focus on someone else and their flaws. Go find the goodness inside of you, and in others, instead.

What if someone is judging you right now–hurting you, insulting you, demeaning you right now?  Turn away, walk away, calm yourself and reframe your thoughts, if you can.  Count your blessings. Ask yourself if the person’s judgment is truly hurting you, or just hurting your pride, with no real damage done to how the important people in your life perceive you.  Step outside and look at the splendor all around you.  Release, relax, forgive, and remember that, in the end, you are not the final authority on anyone, or anything, but yourself.  In the end, it is all between you and God.  Do all you can to maintain your integrity.  It is okay to hate evil, but the evil and the person are usually two separate things.

This one, too, this topic of judging, or stopping the judging, take a lot of work, yet again.  I know, I know…;-)  I am working at it right along with you.  I am working at the judging, and forgiving, and moving on.  Today, turn towards the beauty in the world.  Right outside my front door is the most gorgeous day. The sun is shining.  The trees are the most vibrant spring green, and about ten steps from my front door is a breath taking patch of wild violets.  That is where I am going now.  I am stepping towards the things that can truly be judged as beautiful.