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?

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Deep Questions (aka: One-Sided Conversations)

deepquestions

It’s been a very long time since I’ve had a good, deep conversation with another human being over the age of 18. Conversations in the workplace tend to stay on the shallow side, which is normal, I suppose, but unfulfilling at times, like snacking on fruit when what you really crave is a thick, juicy steak and a buttery baked potato.

foxtrot-too-deep

While browsing blogs on WordPress, I came across a post by Wendy, at Brilliance Within, which posed ten great questions that can help you to dig deeper, to get to know other people at a deeper level. Since I lack the social opportunities to use these questions in actual conversations, I thought I’d answer them here, should any other wandering souls want to get to know me a little better:

 

  • What are you enjoying most about your life at the moment?

 

At this exact moment, I am enjoying a Netflix Show, called The OA. It is a strange and mysterious program about a young woman who has near-death experiences, and through them is able to reach out and change the lives of other hurting people. But overall, I am enjoying the peace and stability of my life; of raising my children in a decent neighborhood, of working at a job I enjoy, of having good health, and of finding ways to keep learning, keep growing, keep becoming a better version of myself.

 

  • What’s your biggest fear?

 

I have two. One is the obvious and unspeakable fear of something bad happening to one of my children.

The other fear was already realized. My best friend, around six years ago, decided that she no longer wanted to be my friend. Before we parted ways, she confessed to me that our friendship had been uneven. I wanted a best friend, and she did not. She had felt for a while that I was like a dog, following her around. Just writing those words – even thinking them, unleashes such a flood of raw emotions that I am still unable to keep myself from crying, and I am a person who rarely cries. I thought that I had been a good friend, and kind, and generous, and loving, and that our friendship was reciprocal. I never knew that I was being too clingy, or that she had perceived me that way. Her words have haunted me so much, that I feel them any time I start to get to know an acquaintance. I am fearful of calling, fearful of texting first, fearful of reaching out to invite anyone to spend time together, because I don’t know how to keep from crossing that invisible boundary that makes people feel as though I am chasing them. When I sense that someone’s interest in me is waning, I run away, because I don’t want to hear those words again. Because of my greatest fear, I have become skilled at remaining cold and aloof, and skilled at letting people go. I have learned how to be content with loneliness instead of trying to build relationships.

 

  • What do you regret most?

 

This is related to #2, and cannot be expressed here.

 

  • What did you dream about doing when you were a child?

 

I dreamt of being a children’s book author (still working on that one) and a tap dancer (no thanks, haha). I also resolved around the age of ten that I would never get married, and would adopt a bunch of kids and drive a bike instead of a car (which I did until I finally got a driver’s license at the age of 26).

 

  • How do you feel about your job? What would be your ‘dream job?

 

I’m crazy about my job. It covers my favorite aspects of IT (creating, building, and administering computer systems and supporting users of those systems). I also hope to have my young adult novels published someday in the not-too-distant future, but my day job is perfect for me, and I look forward to doing it each day. The only thing that would make it even better is to be in a position where I can use my leadership talent and skills at my job, which I intend to work my way toward.

 

  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?

 

Hopefully in that position of leadership (see #4). I also see myself as a soon-to-be single empty-nester, as my youngest kid will be on the verge of graduating high school and heading off to university. That is a pretty lonely vision. It is hard to imagine life without my children.

 

  • If you could choose 1 place in the world to travel to – where would it be?

 

Only one? Seriously? My list is sooo long! Okay, then, I will have to choose England, so that I can travel to the places in the Harry Potter and Jane Austen and Charles Dickens and Shakespeare stories that I love so fondly.

diving_deeper

 

  • What is your ‘vision’ for your life?

 

I don’t have one all-encompassing vision. Just a series of smaller goals. Raise my children to be kind, caring, educated adults who contribute to society in positive ways and are content with their lives. See my future grandchildren grow up. Keep working hard at and enjoying my career. Keep finding ways to learn and grow and experience the good things in life. Share my stories with the world. Travel a lot.

 

  • How could you enhance your relationships/life?

 

I don’t know. Unless #2 magically fades away, I don’t believe that I will ever develop any close relationships beyond those with my children.

 

  • When do you feel you’re happiest/saddest/most in love?

 

I suppose I am happiest when everything feels at peace, like when reading a good book while lying on a warm, sunny beach while my children play nearby. Saddest when the darkness is too dark and the night lasts far too long.

better-conversations

Please feel free to answer questions in the comments below. After all, the point of asking deep questions is to start an authentic conversation, and to get to know other human beings.

 

A Hot Not-Date (aka: Spring Cleaning)

I have a hot date this weekend.

But first, let me explain. You see, spring is about to spring. And spring, with its warm, sweet weather and flower-tipped trees, has a way of turning one’s thoughts toward love, and frolicking in meadows, and sunshiny fresh air.

And so, I have a date this weekend, with this tall, well-built, bald man. You’ve probably heard his name before: Mr. Clean.

Irresitible Mr Clean

That’s right. What can I say? Thanks to a super-busy schedule of work and college classes and kids’ activities and sports, I have had very little time or energy to devote to cleaning house. And so, my not-quite-Martha-Stewart but still passable housekeeping levels have slipped to a not-quite-reality-TV-hoarder but still-needs-major-improvement levels.  When I saw Mr. Clean in the store, I fell hard. I couldn’t resist his twinkling eyes, or his promise to turn our messy house into a shining, spotless home. Mr. Clean is just the guy to turn my spring-cleaning dreams into reality.

Wait –you thought I was talking about going out on an actual date? What, me, leave behind my cozy cave of Netflix and books and computers? Me, venture out alone into the real world and try to make sense of human relationships? Very funny. It’s nice to know that my readers have a sense of humor.

Okay, I get it. No one expects a smart, talented, and fairly attractive 40 year-old woman to stay single for very long. The world expects me to get out there, place an advertisement the way one sells a used car. Join a dating site! Flirt with real, live men who are not cartoon models for cleaning products! Start a romantic relationship that doesn’t happen only in your imagination!

zodiac killersBut here’s the big problem: that whole world of mean and dating and relationships is frightening. Like, scarier than Children of the Corn frightening (and let me tell you – those were some creepy little kids). I’m more the type of woman who avoids eye contact or conversation with strange men than the type who looks forward to going out on dates with total strangers, all of whom are probably the Zodiac Killer (no offense to Ted Cruz).

How ridiculous! You say. Cleaning house is far more nerve-wracking than dating. Just think of what fuzzy blue horrors await you at the back of the refrigerator!

Ahh, this is true. Cleaning out my fridge is a frightening challenge. It’s…um…been a while. And yes, the food in the back has probably become an entire new species of living things. But hey – I have Mr. Clean to tackle the dirty work, and even cleaning out my icky fridge seems far less daunting and much more fun than dating.

online-dating no way

See, here’s another big problem: I am bad at romantic relationships. After a failed 17-year marriage and one attachment-free post-divorce fling, I am convinced that I was not made for relationships. Men apparently have these expectations of what a woman should be like, or how we should perform or behave or respond, and I tend to do everything the opposite. Blame it on my alien roots, I guess. But there was nothing rewarding to me about any of it, and a lot of messy emotions and expectations and drama that don’t mesh well with my INTJ personality.

Ugh.

And so, I am spending one of my kid-free weekends cleaning my house, because scrubbing toilets is a lot less confusing than dating. Vacuuming floors is a lot less stressful than the reality of romantic relationships. Organizing my closet is a lot more gratifying than sex ever was. And teaming up with Mr. Clean is far more rewarding than searching for Mr. Probably-Doesn’t-Exist-Single-Guy-Who’s-Right-for-Me. Because after all my effort, my kids and I will get to enjoy a cozy, clean home that smells like fresh, sunshiny air.

Happy (Almost) Spring!

Pulizie di primavera - Spring Cleaning

 

Sometimes You Have to Be Your Own Hero

I have wanted to write about the subject of domestic abuse for a very long time. But it is hard to do. I am mostly a humor writer, or writer of stories, poems, and lighthearted topics. However, there are some subjects that I feel need to be brought out of the darkness and into the light. Domestic abuse — physical, emotional, financial, and sexual, can happen to anyone. It happened to me. I do not have the courage to share my story in this very public way. But I would like to say to any women out there who are now where I once was, and feeling trapped and helpless, that:

You are not alone.

There is always a way out.

Sometimes you have to save yourself (and your children).

Don’t buy the lies — it is not your fault!

You are stronger than you think.

You have the right to feel safe in your relationship.

The Five Forms of Domestic Violence

Physical

Inflicting or attempting to inflict physical injury
example: grabbing, pinching, shoving, slapping, hitting, biting, arm-twisting, kicking, punching, hitting with blunt objects, stabbing, shooting

Withholding access to resources necessary to maintain health example: medication, medical care, wheelchair, food or fluids, sleep, hygienic assistance Forcing alcohol or other drug use

Sexual

Coercing or attempting to coerce any sexual contact without consent
example: marital rape, acquaintance rape, forced sex after physical beating, attacks on the sexual parts of the body, forced prostitution, fondling, sodomy, sex with others

Attempting to undermine the victim’ sexuality
example: treating him/her in a sexually derogatory manner, criticizing sexual performance and desirability, accusations of infidelity, withholding sex

Psychological

Instilling or attempting to instill fear
example: intimidation, threatening physical harm to self, victim, and/or others, threatening to harm and/or kidnap children, menacing, blackmail, harassment, destruction of pets and property, mind games, stalking

Isolating or attempting to isolate victim from friends, family, school, and/or work example: withholding access to phone and/or transportation, undermining victim’s personal relationships, harassing others, constant “checking up,” constant accompaniment, use of unfounded accusations, forced imprisonment

Emotional

Undermining or attempting to undermine victim sense of worth
example: constant criticism, belittling victim’s abilities and competency, name-calling, insults, put-downs, silent treatment, manipulating victim’s feelings and emotions to induce guilt, subverting a partner’s relationship with the children, repeatedly making and breaking promises

Economic

Making or attempting to make the victim financially dependent
example: maintaining total control over financial resources including victim’s earned income or resources received through public assistance or social security, withholding money and/or access to money, forbidding attendance at school, forbidding employment, on-the-job harassment, requiring accountability and justification for all money spent, forced welfare fraud, withholding information about family running up bills for which the victim is responsible for payment

Marital Rape | Psych Central.

Types of Domestic Abuse

Guidelines for Leaving an Abusive Relationship

Health Central: Warning Signs

Why Do Abuse Victims Stay?  (Understanding is the key to being supportive)

 

 

The Loner Life (aka: Reflexions on Solitude vs. Relationships)

 

Lately, I have been giving a lot of thought to life in exile, and what it means to live a solitary life.  It is a state in which I have lived for so long now, that it is almost beginning to feel comfortable – the way a person who loses his limbs may eventually learn to accept the loss of his limbs. He would give anything to get them back and return to life as it once was, but he knows that it is impossible. The best that he can do is find a positive way to live without. That has been my challenge.

Time-Alone-Quote

This is true. I spend a lot of my alone time reading, watching good films or TV shows, disconnectcleaning house, baking, doing crafts, writing, and gardening. Fewer relationship commitments means more time for hobbies.

Just for kicks, I have been exploring a myriad of internet quotes to gain inspiration. It is both amusing and frustrating, as the world is filled with so many conflicting philosophies and values about relationships, solitude, and serving the self or serving others. After days of poring over popular quotes online, I came up with several clashing conclusions: Letting go and moving on makes us stronger, but we should never, ever give up on anything or anyone. Having fewer friends means that we have fewer problems, but having friends means more people to support you through those problems. Friends help us to become who we should be, but it is by being alone that we discover who we are.

have no friends

These words would be much more inspiring if not for her problems with drug abuse and eventual narcotic-induced early death.

Oscar Wilde

I agree that it is healthy to spend time alone. But how much is too much?

 

So which is it? Do we stay committed to people, even when times are tough, or do we move on and leave people behind when they no longer serve us? Is it through friendships and relationships that we find ourselves and become the best versions of ourselves, or is that achieved best through solitude and self-reflection?I think that perhaps, those are two different things. In solitude, we discover who we are in a self-centered way. In the context of relationships with our peers, we discover who we are within the context of a relationship. We only discover different facets of the same person.

The question that I keep coming back to, the one which the world only seems to answer in paradoxes and opposing opinions, is this: Is it better to actively pursue connections and attachments with other people, despite the risks of disappointment and heartbreak, or is it better to live the detached life, observing the world from a safe distance where neither good nor bad can touch us? Is it better to seek happiness and identity within the context of relationships, or better to know deeply and please the self, thus avoiding the drama and pain and expectations of others? Does one offer more reward than the other? Does one result in more suffering than the other?

nobody

…and vice versa No risk, no pain. No risk, no gain.

Friendship gives value to survival