Everything is Temporary (aka: Non-Attachment)

I know it’s ironic, but I’m rather attached to the Buddhist principle of non-attachment. The basic idea is that our attachments – to people, to things, to ambitions – lead to inevitable suffering. How to avoid suffering? Remain detached.


I don’t think this means that we should not bond with others, as bonding is necessary for healthy relationships with other human beings. Non-attachment is more like living in acceptance of the constant flux of life. People change. Children grow. Relationships change. Nothing stays exactly the same no matter how much we fight it. Instead of allowing ourselves to become too attached to how we think people should be, or how we want things to be, we can choose to remain open to the possibility that nothing is permanent.

Everything is temporary.

A few months ago, I made a foray into the strange and scary world of online dating. (Yes, I know. About time!) I bought a subscription to a well-known paid dating site, which presented me with a lot of nothing, a little meh, one maybe that turned quickly into a maybe-not, and then…POW! Just when I was ready to give up, I met my dream guy. Not kidding. This man was my ideal match in every possible way. So much so, that My coworkers, kids, and I jokingly referred to him as Mr. TGTBT (To Good to Be True). And as our online and cell phone encounters advanced to real-life get-togethers, I became more and more enamored with him. Aside from our incredibly long list of similarities, Mr. TGTBT was also kind, funny, attractive, and intelligent. And he was into me, too – wow! Needless to say, we both had a wonderful time whenever we were together.

Until we broke up this week.

So what happened? He was also dating another women he’d met on the same dating site, and chose her instead of me. Yeah. Ouch.

I cried, of course. It was painful to be rejected (again). But more than that, it was painful to realize that I will never get to spend time with him again. Painful to lose someone after finally letting down my walls and sharing so much of myself. Painful to say goodbye to someone who had quickly become a very important person to me.

But then, the tears subsided. Because I remembered. Remembered all I’ve been through, and all I’ve learned from past years of suffering. Remembered that the pain does not have to equal suffering. Remembered that I now know the secret to letting go is to never hold on in the first place.

And there it was – acceptance. It was not like I had ended a very real and meaningful, if short, relationship. It felt more like I had awoken from a very pleasant dream. One which I would be happy to return to, with him. But still, no more than a dream. Mr. TGTBT was just that. No person in real life can be that perfect for you. No real-life romance could be that sweet. And maybe in that dream world I had to let go of, he will go on to find happiness with the other woman, and the idea of him being happy makes me feel happy, even if he is not with me.

Well, mostly happy. I do have this constant knot in my stomach that makes it hard to eat. But like dreams, like friendships, like romance, like everything in life, that, too, is temporary.

So now, the Best Dream Ever has ended, and I return to real life, here in the Cave. Real life of challenging myself in my career, and raising teens, and discovering great new books to read, and eating healthy (once my appetite returns), and exercising, and writing stories, and learning, and growing. It is a peaceful kind of life, and content. None of the drama, insecurity, or angst that seem to go hand-in-hand with relationships. I’ve canceled my dating site membership and have no plans to ever date again. No, not due to bitterness, or the hurt of rejection. That’s not it at all. It’s this: after Mr. TGTBT, I know that it’s all downhill. No real life man will ever be able to measure up. And I have no desire to challenge that theory. Period.

Maybe I have managed to figure out the art of non-attachment, but I have not managed to figure out people. How is it that so many people can allow themselves to be vulnerable, to share so much with another human being, knowing that it will all be temporary? To know that an important person will fade away, still clutching the treasures you gave them, and then to go out and do it all over again with another person? And another? Doesn’t it seem pointless? Doesn’t it seem as fruitless as a wonderful dream, which too, will fade away like it never happened? Isn’t the pain unbearable, especially for those of you who choose to love deeply, to hold on tightly? What is the prize you win for suffering?

Advertisements

Crayons (a poem)

“Use the whole box of crayons,” he said.

So I spilled the box

and began to paint my life

Orange: cheerful days that glow

Green: for fragile things that grow

Silver: hard work, dollars earned

Blue: for love that’s not returned

Purple’s passion paves the road

Yellow’s laughter shares the load

Bright red flames for bridges burned

Blue is love that’s not returned.

Gray the silence lasts so long

White the empty, sterile song

Black the endings, lessons learned

Blue, the love that’s not returned.

Winner! (aka: My Parenting Trophy)

I did it! I won a trophy!

Not just any trophy, either. The Best Trophy Ever.

Finally, after years of driving my three kids around to their events and watching them earn gymnastics medals, soccer trophies, science team trophies, and scouting awards, I finally had my turn.

Okay fine. It’s not like I’ve never earned awards before. After all, I grew up at the beginning of the High-Self-Esteem-Trophies-For-Just-Showing-Up era, when every kid was a winner. Of course, the moment the coaches’ backs were turned, the “real” winners stole the conch and Piggy’s glasses, then danced around a bonfire. And those trophies? Their fate was to be crammed away in some cardboard box in the garage until Mom tried to push them off on her grown kids. (No thanks, Mom. I’d rather keep the memories).

But today was different. Today, on the day before the last day of school, I opened an envelope that my 11 year-old son handed me. Every sixth grader heading off to middle school next year wrote thank you letters to their parents — a tradition carried on through the years at his school. My kid, who isn’t usually the mushy, sentimental type, wrote a love note that brought tears to my eyes. My heart cartwheeled in happiness.

This was not just a letter. This was proof. Proof that my children think I’m pretty special. Proof that I haven’t been screwing up this parenting thing. Proof that the experiment is working. Hooray! Yahoo! This letter from my kid is my trophy. The only trophy I need. And I don’t know, maybe I will frame it and hang it in my closet. So anytime I feel like I’m failing in the mom role, I can read my son’s honest, loving words and be reminded.

Hey Mom. You’re doing just fine.
LoveLetter FromConnor

Onward! (aka: Your Amazing Journey)

lifes journey

Life is not just a journey.

It can be like a journey though. It starts when at last we leave the nest, empty-handed, fluttering our barely-tested wings. Life is not so new anymore, and yet, everything is fresh. Like babies, we toddle into the vast unknown, swiveling our heads to take in everything around us. Our hearts are open to love. We blaze with light, high on new ideas.

Onward!

journey toward sun

It doesn’t take long, though. Somewhere in those ten years, we forget the steps. Our wings droop, weary. Our lights burn lower now, a candle’s flicker, shocked by the splash of sudden responsibilities. In our hands, we carry sacks, heavy with disappointment. Sometimes, we stop in our tracks, compass spinning wildly. Maybe we retrace our steps, searching for the safety of the nest we left behind.

But there is no nest. Not anymore.

So on we continue. When we are lucky, we find others journeying in our direction. We take turns carrying the load for one another, emptying sacks with laughter, with words. Candles together, we shine, lighting the path ahead. We remember our wings. We soar.

candlelight people lights

But luck does not always last. Those moments will come. Our paths may split, companions scattered. What was once you is no longer you, but an empty hole that fills with salty rain and empties again. The light is snuffed, the darkness overwhelms. We want to stop, to curl into the darkness, wrap our wings around us and forget.

But there is this wonderful thing called time. You will hate that word, but you must trust it. Time will gently unfurl your wings, lift you from the darkness. Time will open your eyes to the good ways to be you once again. Time will reveal a great truth to you: life is not just a journey.

Life can be your very own novel. You are the protagonist, fresh ink on each new page. You can begin the dialogue, write the verse, and when you aren’t happy, you can change the plot.

Life can be your canvas. Sketch your plan. Add your own splashes of color where you can. Or better, make yourself the canvas. Trade your jeans for polka-dot skirts and wild, artsy jewelry. Grow the longest beard you’ve ever seen. Sculpt your form like clay, love your softness.

Some say that life is a spiral. You move onward and upward, but the climb brings you around to where you began. But now, you have grown, learned, hovering above the steps you once climbed.

No matter how you see it, there is one thing that remains unchanged. This is your one and only life. No matter where you are in the journey, no matter which page you’ve reached in your book, you have the power to choose what happens next. Who will you be when the sun rises next? Where will your next steps take you?
remember your wings and fly

I hope that your baggage will grow lighter as you travel. I hope that you remember your wings and fly.

I hope that time and love will seep into your cracks and heal your hurts. I hope that when you wander from your path, you will find your way back. I will be here, waiting for you, my fellow traveler. My candle is lit, ready to share my light when you need it.

May your journey be long and filled with great love.

Life (and Other Games)

board game pawns dice“Hey mom, can we play a board game?”

Groan. I looked at the eager, shining eyes of my 10yo and pasted on a cheery smile. “Oh boy, a board game! There’s nothing I’d like better.”

“Hooray!” My son bounced off to search for a board game. “Blokus?” he called. “Chutes and Ladders? The Game of Life? Ooh, I know, how about Dogopoly?”

Nooooooo! I wanted to scream. Anything but Dogopoly, which takes the world’s longest, most boring board game and makes it more boring by selling dogs instead of luxury properties. Luckily, our Dogopoly game had mysteriously disappeared, so our family (minus the older teen, who was superglued to the computer, lost in the World of Warcraft) settled down on the living room floor to play Scrabble Slam!

dogopoly_boardYes, it is necessary to write Scrabble Slam! with an exclamation point, to emphasize how fun! And exciting! And fast! This game is. For about three minutes. Then, of course, Mom wins while everyone else is still holding a fistful of cards. Because we all forgot rule number one of Family Game Night in our house – never play word games of any kind with Mom. Or strategy games. Or pretty much any game besides Life or Chutes and Ladders.

 

The strangest thing is that I used to be crazy about board games. When I was a kid, my brother, sister and I played them all the time, whenever we weren’t playing Atari games or little league sports. Pay Day, Clue, Connect Four, and yes, even the dreaded Monopoly used to seem so fun (even though my older sister used to alter the rules in her favor). But somewhere within the past several years, I lost my enthusiasm for board games. Especially games of chance, where it doesn’t matter how talented you are at anything, because any player can win or lose just by getting a lucky spin or landing on the wrong space. Maybe it feels too much like the real Game of Life.

But here’s the thing – even though I am no longer crazy about board games, I am super crazy about my kids. They are like a cup of awesome-sauce with sugar on top. And so, any trace of distaste I may feel for board games is overshadowed by my love for them. For them, I would happily roll dice and dole out fake money. I would pretend to suck at checkers and accidentally-on-purpose forget that I am holding a +4 Wild Card in my Uno deck. I would even – gulp! – play Dogopoly for a few hours, if that’s what they really wanted to do.

family_games_words

Because that’s what you do when you love someone. You jump into their world with them and play the game with your sunniest attitude, even if it’s not your thing. Game on!

classic board games

Love, Chocolate, and Lupercalia (aka: Valentine’s Day)

Love love love 

You guessed it – I am a Valentine’s Day hater. Okay, not really.  Because deep beneath the surface, I am a hopeless romantic who grows weak-kneed at tales of true love, candlelit dinners, and moonlit walks. But on the outside, I look at holidays like Valentine’s day through a scornful and cynical eye. When I scan through the Facebook posts and Tweets of other people, I am amazed and somewhat disgusted by some of the posts I read. “I swear, he’d better have roses and chocolate for me when he comes home…”  For reals? Since when was it a romantic gesture to receive a gift which you demanded? Isn’t it really just a fulfillment of your shopping list?

meh

 

Ugh. Well, instead of turning this into a full-blown rant against commercialism and narcissism, I decided to try taking a different turn this year, by sharing some of the positive aspects of St. Valentine’s Day from history. You see, there was this Christian guy named Valentinus who was martyred in Rome in the 3rd century. Apparently, he wrote a note to the blind daughter of his jailer just before he was executed, and signed it, Your Valentine. Hence, at some point down the line, it became popular to give love notes signed Your Valentine. Because apparently, we’re all going to be executed on February 15th. How romantic.

Of course, before this, the Roman festival of Lupercalia was celebrated around Valentine’s Day. And – well, those crazy Romans – they celebrated by sacrificing goats and a dog, then stripping their hides. Then they ran around smacking women with the hides, in order to make them fertile.

The heck?

Stephen Colbert Discusses Lupercalia

I give up. There are so many ridiculous traditions, both in modern times as well as ancient. But through the ages, with the possible exception of Lupercalia, there is one common thread that is the saving grace of St. Valentine’s Day. Love. Yes, the main focus is usually on romantic or erotic love, but I tell my kids that it’s also a great day to focus on loving your friends and family, too.
Charlie Brown Snoopy Valentines

And so today, instead of passing on my bitter cynicism to the next generation, I am celebrating Valentine’s Day by loving my kids. Here is what they will find when they return home from school today:
Strawberry Cake and Candy

They will also learn that I have already done their chores for them, so that they may begin the weekend free. Now that is love. No martyrdom required.

 

 

Defying the Stars (aka The New Romeo and Juliet Film)

“But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief
That thou, her maid, art far more fair than she.”

It is true. It is sadly true. Deep inside, where almost no one can see, I am a sappy, daydream-y, hopeless romantic. My heart melted when Jim finally revealed his feelings to Pam. I cried silent, happy tears when Mr. Darcy finally proposed to Elizabeth. Profound love songs and poetry make my heart flutter like the wings of a hummingbird. And I still get weak in the knees whenever I read the most famous love story in the world, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

I recently learned that there is a new Romeo and Juliet screenplay, scheduled to be released in U.S. theatres this September. My initial reaction was to leap in the air and shout with glee, “Hoorayyy!” After all, Romeo and Juliet is my absolute favorite Shakespeare play, filled with such romance and passion and frustration as the star-crossed lovers are thwarted by life and cheated by death. The Starcrossed Lovers Romeo and Juliet 1968

Then I quickly sobered as I remembered the unfortunate modern interpretation of the play released in 1996, which made use of guns instead of swords and Leonardo DiCaprio instead of a real actor. (Okay, fine, maybe DiCaprio has improved remarkably since then). I was filled with trepidation until I saw the trailer for the new film, and breathed a sigh of relief. The actors are quoting the actual lines of the play, and wearing period costumes, and performing on sets that appear true to Shakespeare’s Verona.  Of course, I would feel much better if the director, Carlo Carlei, were known for more than just television movies and dramas. I would also feel better if they had chosen a slightly older actress in order that they could film a steamy nude lovemaking scene like in the 1968 film.

Still, I am looking forward to the new film’s release this September. If it turns out to be a flop, I can at least enjoy sitting in a dark auditorium, mouthing the beautiful, romantic lines along with the actors. “For never was there a story of more woe, than this of Juliet and her Romeo.”