Monday, December 22, 2014

Letting Go Of Attachment

Attachment. We are so good at it. It's the stuff that makes up everything from a "best" friend to a "favorite" shirt. It is human flaw at its sneakiest because friends can move on in life and shirts can rip or be out grown. We are taught to attach from the get go and it feels good. But then we take that notion and apply it to things and places and ideas and people that we have no right to tie down as "ours". We try to possess the intangible and then suffer from the negative feelings when we find out that our plan isn't going to work out the way we thought. Imagine that, a whole wide world in which we are a tiny, insignificant part and that world doesn't write out the exact story we wanted it to. It's a very likely scenario. And man, does it suck when things fall through after you've got you heart set on them. That job you wanted, that trip that didn't pan out like you wanted it to, that person who let you down because its turns out they are their own person, with their own thoughts and hopes and decisions to be made.

We take it hard. We pour ourselves into these things and then have a void within us when it doesn't work out. We even take it hard when it does work out, just not quite the same way we pictured it would. If I hadn't of completed a thru hike of the Appalachian Trail, I would have been devastated. All that I put into it. All the preparation, all the physical labor, all for naught. I can't even imagine what I would have felt. Thankfully, I finished. Still, I didn't do it in the way I had planned. At the end, as we all walked through the 100 Mile Wilderness, a great sadness came about me. Somewhere in the boring stretches of the Mid-Atlantic states, there was a pine tree covered part of trail that I hadn't walked. It was eating away at me. I had walked over 2,000+ miles and I was worried about 80 I had't walked. My trail family had totally forgotten all about this. All they remembered was that I had made my way back to them. When I voiced this sadness, they didn't understand. It was so minute. It was trivial in comparison to all of the miles I had walked. But to me, these little miles of flat land and corn fields mattered. I finished, but even though I did, I was attached to the way I thought I should have finished. It took me weeks to feel proud. Weeks wasted feeling negatively towards myself.

Even worse than beating ourselves up over things not going our way, is when we live our present lives in fear of it not working out. Our attachment can foster negative feelings of insecurity and fear and worry before anything has even happened! We know something is coming down the pipeline and we sit there and fret about it instead of enjoying the moment we are in. How stupid of us! But we are so good at it and we all do it so much that it doesn't even seem like a silly thing. It's normal. I know I am a professional at doing this and I have seen the destruction of it in my own life. (I have recently spent a staggering amount of money on my car and it has all come straight from my PCT thru hike fund making me realize that I have to accept the potential possibility that I may not have the money to hike once April comes.)

But how do we engage in completing a goal or following a dream or building a relationship without becoming attached to it? How do we pour all we have into these things without it becoming unhealthy? Practice. Constantly reminding ourselves that attachment is unfair to all and bad for us will help us avoid it. Its something we have to practice in our lives on a daily basis. I have been struggling on many fronts of attachment lately but I think I am gaining a bit of control over it, just by recognizing it and remembering that I cannot control these things. So there is no use in letting them squaller my positivity in life.

Life has a way of working things out for us. We may not get what we want but often times we get what we need. We just have to take a close look and get a clear view of where the line denoting selfishness is drawn. Our plans are often fantastical to an extent. I mean think about it. Who really ever factors in road blocks to their grand plan of things? No one! You just deal with them as they come. You accept the task in front of you and trudge on. With time, we begin to see that the way we wanted things to be, the way we thought that person should have acted, are not as crucial as we believed they were. What is important is how we reacted or responded to what was presented to us and a healthy response is one that is devoid to excessive attachment.