|Not as Attached to Things|
There was a time when choosing the word “attachments” as the title of a piece of writing would not involve any second guessing about possible misinterpretation of my subject. Let’s be clear at the outset – this is not about the computer files most of us connect to our emailed correspondence as part of our regular work and personal lives, although I’m sure the part of my private and professional life that involves staring at two buttons that read “attach” and “detach” every time I attempt to connect with someone and share information with them, certainly had a part in inspiring this piece. So too did someone at my last job who one day profoundly and casually declared “as I get older, I am not as attached to things.” It got me thinking about both the wisdom and sadness of this statement, and whether I considered it in general a good move.
When we are young, we often hear our elders warn us “don’t get too attached!” They witness our eagerness to define ourselves and our lives through our private and public connections with a mixture of hope and cynicism, wanting us to do better than they did at establishing a harmonious coexistence of the world outside and the world within, but knowing that not one of us has an easy time getting there, and in fact, most of us fall short. Still, I think attachments to persons, places and things can bring us more joy than misery in the long run, as long as they don’t take precedence over our primary attachment to ourselves.
|Other People’s Energy Is Not My Energy|
This is how getting older can at least in one way be a liberating not an inhibiting phenomenon. Most of us arrive at middle age having survived the consequences of becoming too attached to a variety of things – jobs, relationships, dreams, plans, expectations, standards of living that have outlived their usefulness but continued to structure our lives and self-images, or fallen apart and left us suddenly lost. We’ve let other people’s needs and feelings define who we are and what we do. We’ve given precious time dwelling on losses when we could have been rebuilding and renewing. Somehow, achieving a half century of living makes it okay to take care of ourselves for once, do what we really want, and not feel guilty anymore.
In spite of the more reckless and messy versions of what has earned the infelicitous phrase “mid-life crisis,” I think this release from guilt, which often leads to release from all sorts of living and working situations way past their expiration date, and a second chance at some situations way overdue to be experienced and enjoyed, is a good thing. I think it is not just a function of rebellion, exhaustion, or even an entitled assertion of pride, but the fact that the older you get, the larger a picture your life becomes, and when you hit fifty, most likely more than half that picture is in the past, and less than half is still to be created, so being held back by any person, place or thing is no longer an option, and that includes being held back by your own fear, doubt or guilt.
Which doesn’t mean being completely selfish and disconnected, just a little, just enough to do what’s right for yourself, which does require hitting the “detach” button occasionally. I’ve found it actually makes you a better person and more useful in the end to everyone and everything you are connected with, maybe because it clears the way to make new attachments or renew old ones in better ways. As someone in the middle ground between a period of detachments that have taught me to be perhaps a little wiser, but no less willing, in my future attachments, this is my story, and I’m sticking to it.