Healthy detachment is freeing. Of course, some level of attachment is required for true love and relationship and community. But not the kind of attachment that says, “I need this…I cannot live without this…I must have this…without this I will not be okay…”
A healthy combination of detachment and attachment means: “This thing/person is good…I hope for more…I am grateful for what I have…but with or without it, I will be okay…I am okay…”
We cannot spend our years always wanting, needing, or hoping for what we do not yet have. The next thing never fulfills if we are not already full with what we have. If we are empty with what we have, we’ll be empty with what comes next. If we are full with what we have, what comes next (if it comes) will just be additional to the goodness we already possess.
Let’s get personal. I am 32 and single. Prior to being 30, I was basically unconcerned as to whether I was with someone or not, single or dating. I didn’t think all that much about dating or marriage or kids or a family or a house or a career or a bigger income. Then, in my 30’s, it began to change. I was (and still am) essentially independent and self-sufficient in almost every area of my life, content to be alone and do my own thing and okay with or without many people or close friends around. Then I began to feel more of an urgent desire for companionship—a relationship, a wife, a family. This became my attachment (add dating apps to the mix and it becomes all the more messy). The more attached I became to this, the more suffering it produced (Buddhism has something to say here). If overly-attached, we begin to attempt control over people and situations to produce the outcome we desire, because our desire is dominant (a driving force or sole focus) and we’re not content with what is. We’re not detached from the outcome. We’re not surrendered to the possibility of “no” or “not yet.”
It’s different for all of us, but it’s something (or someone) for all of us. We all have something or someone we’re desperately attached to, we unwaveringly (or obsessively) desire. “If only I get here, have this, reach there, receive that, I’ll finally be okay, I’ll have arrived, I’ll know peace, I’ll find fulfillment, I’ll know contentment…” But somehow, deep within, we all know this isn’t true.
For me, it’s being completely content and fulfilled and grateful for what is, as a 32 year old single male. When I take a few steps back for perspective, I can love the life I have. For you, it’s something else. So let’s start with a healthy detachment and surrender. Not fatalism or hopelessness, but gratitude and contentment with what is. How much sweeter fulfilled desire and longing will be—if it comes—when we’re already okay, with who we are and what we have.
Do not live in what is not. Only what is. This is not denial of pain or disappointment. It is just acceptance of our reality without hopelessness, anger, bitterness, resentment, victimhood.
I love the life God has given me. How can I wish for otherwise when it is so very good? How can I keep looking at what is not (yet) when what is is so beautiful?
Life often turns out other than we hope for or expect. Does this make our lives any less than they should be? Not at all. Merely different, which may be neither better nor worse.
There is so much freedom in detachment from outcome, surrender of the future, and letting go of what is not (yet). There is so much peace in accepting what is, and making the best of what we have.
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