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Today I’m very happy to present a guest post by Barbara Gregor. This is the second time I have hosted a post by Barbara – her first one is When You Learn Abuse You Live Abuse. Just like her first post this one is vivid and deals with an important issue in a very personal way. I think it is a very fine piece of writing too.
I wrote to Evan this past week, upset about someone else’s writings on the subject of non-attachment. I was appalled at some of what was presented. How does someone do this I asked? Isn’t that non-caring, completely detached attitude what we call psychopathology? How, if something/someone has interacted with and then affected one’s life, does one somehow become completely immune to it, no reaction? This sometimes slightly emotional person, she says facetiously, had more than her ire up.
What I was reading, I wasn’t really understanding. I needed help. Evan guided me, just enough, so I could look harder.
Evan then suggested I write about what I felt might be my own experience of non-attachment. I countered with an, I don’t know. I was not sure about two things. One, if I actually knew what non-attachment meant. Two, if I had ever had an experience of non-attachment. I promised to think about it.
This is what I came up with. In the end, I think it will be called a work in progress.
I have a pen pal. He’s the modern version of a pen pal, I guess better stated, an email pal. We correspond once a month or so. Sometimes our letters have been rather intense. Others just casual. We’ve discussed all kinds of things. Taking myself back to our first meeting tells the story of my own pattern getting acquainted with someone.
I do begin each relationship with the no holds barred attitude, without really knowing I do that. I’ve come to realize it is the only position that I believe is fair. If I can’t show up to the best of my ability, then how can I expect the same, attract the same? Apparently it is also my natural inclination. It is not until the relationship progresses, that various abilities, to keep walking toward, to not resist, show me more truths about me. You know, walking the walk
My ability and my desire do not match currently. Like I said, I begin with being out there, open. Everything at that moment really is wrapped in love. At least what I define and experience love as. I know that sounds corny, even unrealistic, but maybe I can give it better definition with this friend’s story.
My friend is a personal development blog writer, among other things. I was a sometimes reader of articles on his site. The sometimes reading led to our virtual meeting. He wrote something that I felt overwhelming gratitude for, a feeling I think that everyone needs to remember to feel. It’s nice when the reminder is handed to you. This writer had reached out and touched me, given the reminder, whether he realized it or not.
I’m not even sure where my words came from, as I responded to him, a short comment on the blog, a note I know now was infused with that gratitude. My impression is I can’t really have true gratitude without it stemming from love. They are not just hand in hand, they seem inextricable. I then assumed what he had written was infused with love, too. His intent to touch others. He succeeded that day as far as I was concerned.
He wrote back to me, again touching a place inside me that really meant something. He asked if I were a writer of some sort. I was too ashamed to write out publicly that, no, I wasn’t a writer. I guess that sounds strange. If I’m not a writer, I’m not. What happened as he asked the question, he hit unfulfilled longing, desire, maybe even knowledge I had and had never done anything about. I had to tell him the truth and I had to feel the pain of the truth. Our friendship began right then, with heartfelt gratitude and heart wrenching truth, in just a few lines of type.
As we got to know one another better, the relationship took a bunch of turns. I’d watch and listen to his progression, his personal goals to better himself, his investigation into what worked and what didn’t. At times I could keep up with him, enthused by his excitement and encouragement. Other times, I looked on with sadness and probably some anger. Not at him necessarily, at my own ability. I wasn’t able to stay with him. I was depressed, lackadaisical, unmotivated. At times, I just couldn’t make myself see the point of all this personal work, I wasn’t getting where my friend was getting and oftentimes less than that, I’d slipped backwards. All those attitudes undoubtedly affected how I would or could relate. My abilities were just not the same as his, or at least that was what I was telling myself.
The openness we started with was slipping away, or perhaps just moving into the background. I’d be embarrassed to tell him I hadn’t been doing enough self work. I’d hide behind general pleasantries, as I avoided direct questions. I didn’t want to say I screwed up again. I’d be hesitant to write, having nothing good to report. Who wants to hear the same thing over and over? Especially the I’m stuck, I haven’t done it, nothing is new. I thought it mattered, all these things I was or was not accomplishing.
My friend wrote today, just a casual hello, a short report of how he was feeling, what he was up to. The email included questions, some of which I knew I didn’t want to answer. I took the safe route. I could be pleasant, answer in socially acceptable, but not quite committal ways. Avoid the questions I didn’t want to address. And then turn the tables, ask him to elaborate on things he had said. He was kind enough to oblige.
As I read his response, I had the briefest moment of quiet and then I cried uncontrollably. It was much like that first day we met. I saw not what he said, but his brilliance, his ability to comprehend, his humility, his being, his heart, all shining right through the words. I think the correct word is awe, or at least the most correct word I know. When I feel that, have those particular tears and reach that particular heart space, I maybe ever so briefly reached a moment of non-attachment. I didn’t have to be those things, nor did I desire those things, I could see them, appreciate them, even hold them and be glad simply to have been witness. There was nothing non-caring about that moment. But is this non-attachment? How do I know?
The moment really stood on it’s own, until of course I let my mind insert stuff. I hadn’t answered his questions for fear of reprisal or some other consequence. I wasn’t keeping up my end of the friendship, look what he brought to the table. In a split second the change from one place to another occurred. I hadn’t planned it that way, but that’s the way it went. My appreciation for what I had seen hadn’t altered, but I attached strings to this lovely moment, things that probably did not belong. After all, how could it be, this same man, with this display of incredible self-generosity, be the one judging me for not having kept up with him? Most likely that was nonexistent.
The moment of non-attachment appeared to float in and out, around and around. It seems all I need do is remain in its stillness. Maybe this isn’t what non-attachment is at all. Will I ever know? Apparently I’m still working on these ideas and abilities.
Whatever the answer to my questions, it is with profound thanks, to both my online friends, Evan and my pen pal, for this story today.
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