Unlike other blog posts, I don’t have a clear definition/citation for the Buddhist concept of non-attachment. Instead, what I’m going to share is what I’ve gathered from reading articles, having conversation with my husband, and living life. What follows is literally my interpretation:
Non-attachment seems to be one’s ability to simultaneously care and let go.
Here’s what I mean.
When I began my job as a community college professor, I took a twenty-thousand dollar decrease in salary. This pissed me off the entire first two years. I couldn’t believe I had a doctorate and decades of experience yet made far less than my peers and far less than I did my first year of teaching high school in 1996. How little my paychecks were clouded my vision.
Unlike at a university, I couldn’t negotiate my salary. My choice was to either find a new job or accept what I was bringing home, so I chose the latter. It wasn’t until I released worry about how much money I was making that I was able to develop a creative solution that didn’t involve quitting. Two years later, I began a small editing business. While my salary affords me basics, like food and shelter, my editing business helps me to afford the lifestyle I desire.
Do I care about making money? Of course, that’s how we live in this capitalistic society that commodifies people and their talents. However, letting go of the worry that comes with being low paid in my field is what led to the lifestyle I currently have, which I’m still not attached to because I know it could cease to exist tomorrow.
Dwight and I have been together for nearly three decades. I’ve written before about how attached I was to him when we first met. There was an inherent fear that if I lost him and our relationship, then somehow, I would be nothing. Our relationship was attached to my self-worth.
After healing unresolved trauma, I was able to see the flaw in my perception. If Dwight and I separate, I will not die. I will be fine. Don’t worry. He feels the same. I once asked him if he needed me. His response was no, and so was mine. I mean, think about it. It sounds a bit desperate to say that you need someone, like in a life-or-death way. In our relationship, we’re happy because we both want to be with each other; we’re not together out of obligation or desperation.
Do I care about Dwight? Of course, care is a part of love. However, I know at any moment, this relationship could end for any reason, and I’m at peace with that. This not only applies to my romantic relationship, but also familial and friendship ones.
Like many bloggers, when I first began, I was concerned about gaining readership. I participated in WordPress’s Blogging 101 and Blogging 201. I religiously followed Janice Wald’s advice. I begged family and friends to subscribe to my blog and felt bad when people didn’t. You know where all of that got me? Worried with a side of hurt feelings. I was so attached to what it meant to have five, ten, eighteen more followers that I was ignoring the creative part.
I had to stop worrying about who was following my blog and who wasn’t. I had to become unattached to the outcome of blogging. One day, I received one of those WP automated announcements about having 500 followers or something like that. I was surprised because I’d been focusing on just creating meaningful content, not gaining readers.
Do I care about blogging? I think most of you know the answer to that. However, I am not attached to how many likes or comments I receive. I rarely look at statistics, because I’m happy to engage with whoever happens to stop by.
Ultimately, what I’ve learned is that worry is a type of fear and it is linked to an attachment of some sort: I was attached to my pay because I feared being broke; I was attached to my husband because I was afraid to be alone; and I was attached to accumulating likes and comments because I was scared of not being a “good” blogger.
But in each example, when I released worry, and subsequently the fear associated with it, then that’s when the magic happened. I still cared, but I was also able to let go, and eventually, reach some level of non-attachment. Let me know what you think. Can you be non-attached to people, things, and circumstances?
Postscript: Non-attachment is not detachment. Detachment is not a healthy coping mechanism. Non-attachment is not a lack of care and concern. Not caring and being concerned with people is another form of detachment, which is not a healthy coping mechanism.
On Friday, May the 13th, Dwight and I ventured off to breakfast. I checked my workout pants pocket: phone, ID, no debit card.
“I left my card at home,” I said.
But when I returned home, my debit card wasn’t inside the deep pocket of my travel backpack where I’ve kept it since we’d left the States. I’d lost it.
I checked my bank account:
$-52.67 (Spar City Witte)
$-52.67 (Spar City Witte)
$-39.60 (Spar City Witte)
Someone found my card and had repeatedly used it at a corner store (where I probably dropped it). It had only been an hour.
This incident describes part of how I’d felt while vacationing in the Netherlands for four weeks.
It was an explicit balance of stress and relaxation.
The stress began week one when I found out there was no clothes dryer. I would have to hang clothes on a five-foot clothes rack. This may not sound stressful to you, but for someone like me, who successfully washes, dries, folds, and puts clothes away every Sunday, this immediately interrupted my carefully organized routine that I maintain to avoid stress. By week two, I realized it would take three days to use a small European washer and several clothes hangers to achieve what I usually did in one day.
Stress compounded week two when we didn’t grocery shop for the week. No groceries meant no food, and no food meant buying food at restaurants for breakfast, lunch, and dinner or multiple runs to the grocery store. Consequently, because Dwight worked from one to ten at night, if I wanted groceries, I’d have to do it alone. Shopping by myself wasn’t an issue; fitting this into my existing schedule was.
These new stressors occurred in between finishing Spring semester, starting Summer semester, agreeing to be on a work committee, and taking on an editing client—all manageable tasks when I’m completing household tasks under normal structured circumstances.
But these weren’t normal or structured circumstances.
I needed to rely on strategies so the stress wouldn’t build up in my body and turn into uncontrollable anxiety. I immediately scheduled a virtual yoga class with a studio in Jacksonville. Unlike being in Costa Rica, where the serenity of the mountains calmed me, in Rotterdam, I needed an organized practice once a week.
Because I’d been working hard on balancing my microbiome in relation to my digestion system, I noticed when I was eating too much sugar or too little fiber. Unlike in Panamá, I didn’t have to wait until my belly was bloated to know when I’d gone too far. Instead, I began no-weight workouts with an exercise app; I had to meditate to stay calm; I had to journal. I had to work hard to be balanced in this new environment.
Without these practices already in place, it would have been easy to spiral when I lost my debit card, and I almost did. I was angry at myself for being careless in another country. But you know what? I first settled something in my mind, and then, out loud:
“I am not about to let this f**k up my day!” I said to Dwight but more so to myself. “I’m going to get my nails done.”
Did I choke back tears when the bank representative asked me where I was located and then the country and then my zip code—twice? Yep. Did I wallow? Nope.
Instead of spiraling into an abyss of anger after playing twenty-one questions with customer service, I thought rationally. I am not without. I have another bank account to transfer and use money. I am not lacking because of a mistake, and I’m not some sort of dolt because I made an error.
The reality is in between dealing with the stress of unexpected events, I’ve done the following:
- eaten authentic Belgian waffles in Brussels, the way Belgians intended,
- tried premier chocolate from a chocolatier in Brussels,
- visited Gieethorn, a wealthy town built around a canal,
- watched sex workers solicit clients in Amsterdam,
- drank shots at the nine degree below Ice Bar,
- viewed Jesus’s (alleged) blood captured in a capsule,
- toured the city where In Bruges was filmed,
- eaten at a myriad of outdoor cafes,
- photographed tulips on the last day of tulip season, and
- walked an average of six miles per day.
It’s super easy to get caught up in one or two bad events, right? But we can’t let a few negative encounters dictate our entire experience. Overall, I’ve enjoyed living in the Netherlands. Sure, there were unexpected cultural shifts for living our lives; however, there were more “good” days than “bad” days. Was washing clothes half the week a pain? YEP! Was eating an authentic Belgian waffle worth it? ABSOLUTELY!
I’ll check back in once we leave our next destination: Croatia. Until then, I hope you enjoy these photos.
Dwight enjoys watching Marvel movies. Me? Not so much. I’ve written before about how as I learned what I liked and disliked, sitting through the same superhero trope was one of the first things to go. However, Dwight values these movies and sees them as a way to introduce me to something he used to enjoy as a child—reading comic books and seeing them come to life in film. Because I recognized this, I told him I would watch one a year with him.
This, according to Collins dictionary, is a compromise, a situation in which people accept something slightly different from what they really want, because of circumstances or because they are considering the wishes of other people.
For the past eight years or so, I’ve been declaring that I no longer compromise in relationships, but this isn’t true*. A compromise implies that both parties get something out of an agreement. In this case, I watch fewer Marvel movies with my husband, but he knows I’m fully devoted to at least one per year. We’ve both compromised what we want to happen.
Here’s what I actually no longer do:
Collins dictionary says if you acquiesce in something, you agree to do what someone wants or accept what they do even though you may not agree with it. In my Marvel example, acquiescing would mean I say, “Alriiiight. I’ll go,” and not only watch Spider-man: No Way Home, but also Shanghai and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Eternals, and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. That’s not a compromise; that’s giving in, and in this scenario, only Dwight would get what he wants.
Prioritize Others’ Desires over My Own
If I prioritized Dwight’s wants over my own, then I would continue watching Marvel movies even when I’d rather be reading a book or writing a new blog post. That wouldn’t be a compromise because I would be either ignoring my needs or putting my desires last (and also sending a message that what I want doesn’t matter as much as what my husband wants). Again, only Dwight would be benefitting in this situation.
ONLY Prioritize My Wants
Doing what you want, regardless of what others want implies a type of selfishness. I care about my husband, his values, and desires. If I didn’t, then I would’ve told him I’m bowing out of all Marvel movies, at the theater and at home. But sometimes he’ll say, “Hey Bay! I really think you’ll like this one,” and I’ll listen to his reason and make a decision. That’s how I ended up watching Doctor Strange in 2016. And he was right. I did like the movie and its concept.
A Final Word
A lot of us think we’re compromising, when really we’re acquiescing to someone else’s desires or asking someone to give in to ours. Although I’ve based my example on a romantic relationship, these ideas also apply to familial relationships and friendships. For example, family members seem to think you’re supposed to prioritize their needs over your own a disproportionate number of times and innumerable ways (i.e., calling, visiting, spending time), simply because they’re family. And friends oftentimes have selfish requests where one person’s wants end up frequently prioritized with no regard for the other person’s time or circumstances.
True compromise, however, is a win-win for all parties involved. It shouldn’t involve manipulation, selfishness, or crossing of boundaries. It should feel as if you and the other person have met in the middle. So, what do you think? Do your relationships include compromise or something else?
*Thanks to Rob over at Friends without Borders for prompting me to think about this a little deeper.
“Christmas and birthdays are for kids.”
I hear this a lot, and whenever someone says it, I feel as if I’m being childish or something. I love celebrating Christmas and my birthday!
For Christmas, I go to the nail salon and have my toes painted full on Christmas colors: red on one foot, white, silver, gold, or green on the other. Sometimes, I alternate toes.
For my birthday, I love it when restaurant workers have some spectacular situation where singing and clapping are involved. When we were in Panamá, someone sang happy birthday to me in Spanish! Do you know how dope that was to be in Panamá while a Spanish-speaking singer sang Feliz Cumpleaños?
I also wonder if Christmas and birthdays are for kids, then what’s for adults? Paying bills, watching TV until you fall asleep, and getting colonoscopies? Yeah. No. That’s sounds awful.
But then I read Julia Cameron’s, The Artist’s Way. Her book helped me to see that playing—an activity also viewed as only for kids—is something that adults can and should do more of. Cameron associates play with opening up your creativity, but since finishing The Artist’s Way, I’ve recognized playing as a natural human activity that can simply get you out of your head.
Ways I’ve Played
Dwight and I went to a vegan fest at a park. As soon as I saw the swings, I suggested we swing, and of course, take photos and videos.
“You look so happy,” he said watching and re-watching me gliding higher.
“I was,” I confirmed. I felt free.
The day after Christmas, we drove to Myrtle Beach. That night we went to The Great Christmas Light Show. I saw a million little kids walking around with these lighted sword-looking things that shot out bubbles. As soon as I saw the kiosk, I bought one. If anything, being an adult is great in these situations because you don’t have to ask permission or have someone tell you no because you just got Christmas gifts. I shot bubbles out all the way to the car.
The next day, we went to Ripley’s Aquarium of Myrtle Beach. There was an exhibit called Penguin’s Playhouse. I don’t know if it was for little kids or not, but Dwight and I were able to crawl through a little tunnel, which led to a bubble where you could stand in the middle of the penguin habitat. Again, I felt so exhilarated. Crawling was fun and looking at the penguins from an insider’s perspective was, too.
So, I’ve added a new directive for myself and others. Go play! Celebrate holidays and birthdays, and all of the things. You’re not too old. I mean, pay your bills and go get your colon checked, too, but don’t let that be the only concept of adulthood that leads your life. It’s okay to “act like a kid.”
If you have other ideas for playing, feel free to drop them below.
Introductions are important. Just think about your favorite song. Whether it’s the way the first note comes in or it’s the way an artist says the first word, the introduction to a song determines if you’ll continue listening or fast forward to something else.
Writing is no different.
A good first line or paragraph lets me know if I’ll be reading more of what the author has to say.
Let’s look at this intro to My Dead Parents:
My mother, Anita, died in her sleep in 2010, when she was sixty-four and I was thirty-two. The official cause of death was heart failure, but what she really died from was unabashed alcoholism, the kind where you drink whatever you can get your hands on, use your bed as a toilet when you can’t make it to the bathroom, and cause so much brain damage you lose the ability to walk unsupported. The case of her death was herself, and her many problems. (Anya Yurchyshyn)
As someone who spends a lot of time reading and studying the writer’s craft, I loved this introduction. As soon as I read these eighty-four words, I thought man, if this is how the story begins, then I can’t wait to read the rest of this book!
Therefore, I focus for several minutes (sometimes days) on how I will begin any piece of writing. Let’s take “Monday Notes: Seeking Perfection” as an example. Because this was a blog post, I knew I couldn’t waste time getting folks engaged. Initially, I wrote this:
I awoke in a Northwestern Memorial Hospital bed with two women staring at me, one was the nurse and the other, my mother. They told me I’d been hit by a car.
This wasn’t the most engaging introduction for a few reasons:
- Readers need to know why I was in the hospital sooner.
- Narrative is important. People prefer stories, even if they’re brief. So, I opted for an anecdote.
- Beginning in medias res (in the middle of things) is a strategy, but I’d begun too far in the middle. I needed to pull it back to provide a bit of context.
Ultimately, the introduction became this:
I was hit by a car when I was fourteen years old. It was a Saturday. Because my father was the youth pastor, we were going to church to pick up teens for an activity. When we arrived, my then best friend stood across the street in front of the building. She yelled out my name, and without a second thought, I darted into traffic.
This first sentence may be a bit of a shocker. Most people (friends, family, or bloggers) don’t know I was hit by a car. So, I’d argue that a reader would want to read more about this. The next few sentences rewind the story a bit so that you can understand how I was hit in the first place. Then, the remainder of the blog delves deeper into the actual topic: A small imperfection, such as chipping my tooth has bothered me since I was a teenager.
There are many ways you can begin your writing. I’ve just described one: beginning with a narrative. You can also ask a question, begin with a quote, provide a statistic, or give a description.
Have you ever thought about how to begin your writing? Do you just start writing? Do you have a favorite first line from a song or book? Let me know in the comments.