Last week we explored how out memories are attached to things we hold dear. Or perhaps we hold dear to them precisely because of the memories.
This week we will explore how things we hang on to might might have a shelf life. Some items are still good to keep. Others maybe not so much.
This post began organically as a dear friend, Katerina, and I were talking about her current move from a four-bedroom house to a much smaller apartment. Not everything could tag along. Some things had to be left behind. But what?
What to keep? What to leave?
How does one go about deciding these things? we wondered.
One line of thought gave birth to another and we were soon proud parents of a conversation that had traveled miles away from, Hey, I am moving into my new place this weekend.
Katerina: Yep, but it’s much smaller.
Me: Is that good or bad?
Katerina: Good. I get to clean out some stuff. And Bad. There’s some stuff I’d like to keep but there’s not going to be room. And there’s some stuff I feel like I should keep, but don’t really want to.
And there it was! Stuff!
We all have stuff! Some of it we want to keep but can’t hang on to. And some of it don’t want to keep but can’t seem to let go off. Sometimes it’s a bit of both. We kinda don’t want it, but at the same time, we kinda do. And as long as that’s true, that thing tags along until we invite it in or kick it out.
Like I said, we all have stuff! Or perhaps, more accurately, stuff has us. And not just house stuff, but life stuff; emotional and relational stuff, physical and social stuff. Happy stuff. Sad stuff. Sentimental stuff. Laughter and joy stuff. Wounds and scars stuff. Smiles and memories stuff.
And when we have stuff, there’s the potential for attachment, which is exactly where our conversation took us.
Was attachment good? Was it bad? Sometimes good and sometimes bad? Was attachment circumstantial?
This was intriguing so, we quickly exited the ‘road to her new apartment’, and meandered down the path of attachment.
We took the path less traveled.
We took the path more traveled.
We walked, we ran. We followed robins around the next bend and rabbits down the veritable rabbit hole. We sidetracked, and we backtracked. We stood and pondered, and we sat and wondered . . .
What do you let go of?
What do you keep?
Why do you keep it?
Why are some things harder to get rid of than others, even if we never use them?
Even if they have no value.
While we often found agreement, we never found resolution. It was not for not trying. So, we finally stopped trying.
We cried uncle! and called it a day. We put our social intercourse on hold, and since we both are writers we agreed to give ourselves some time to put our separate thoughts, well, in writing.
Here am I. This is my take on attachment.
Attachment is when we hold on to something and have difficulty letting it go. It can be something that holds onto us. But this is a distinction without a difference. Whether we are the subject or the object, we still have difficulty letting it go. That is attachment.
Attachment is different from attraction. With attraction, you are drawn. With attachment, you are connected. However, attraction is still an important concept in this conversation: We are more likely to become attached to something we are drawn to, than something that repulses us. Paradoxically, if we focus on the repulsion, it becomes an attraction, to which we can also become attached.
I have learned to discern the difference in my life between attraction and attachment. From being drawn towards or being connected with.
If attachment lifts us, frees us, gives us energy, it is presently good for us. We should appreciate it for what it is. Its time with us may not be permanent. While it is good we should smile with it, dance with it, and hold it dearly in our hearts, but loosely in our grip. When it begins to encumber us—if we have held it loosely—we are then in a better position to let it go.
As such, I have found that I am attracted to those things in my life that serve me well, whether material, emotional, or habitual. For example, I choose the car I drive, the friends I keep, and habits of hygiene and health because they serve me well. I look to things I can turn to for utility, for understanding, for wisdom, for growth. But these are attractions, not attachments.
On the flip side of attraction, I have found that I am best served when I attach to things of love. No matter the promise, no matter the allure, nothing short of love serves me.
For example, what began as an attraction years ago, became an attachment. I am attached to my wife, Marcella, because, among other reasons, by her love she brings out the good in me. I can then double down and return loving goodness to her. We are as one. (Read about that in The Nature of Love).
However, outside of Marcella, I am not attached to anyone. Rather, I am attracted to them. I am attracted to them either because they exude love and positive life-giving energy, or because they can lean on my life experiences and wisdom and be drawn toward love and positive life-giving energy. I am attracted to people who actively live out love because I am attached to love. I am attracted to caring for those who don’t yet love, who don’t yet understand the power of weakness, the power of choosing vulnerability over maintaining walls because I am attached to love. Lest this sounds pretentious, I am fully aware that there is always someone on either side of us, and a whole bunch right where we are. One side drawing us toward greater love. The other side needing our love to guide them to their own greater love. And so many others who are just plain delightful to be around. Who enjoy each other.
Outside of people, I am attracted, not attached, to books and literature about active love and active kindness and concepts that move things forward. I am attracted to the thoughts and stories of active love and active kindness found within this literature because I am attached to love.
Katerina: But I have this thing my grandma gave it to me, but she’s long gone and it’s down in the basement. I never use it, but I am kind of attached to it.
Me: What is it?
Katerina: It’s a teddy bear, an angel bear . . . something she held when she left this world. Do you have anything? Me: I have this hat.