Not Holding on
What if I learned to never hold on to anything? I know it sounds like a strange question, but let me explain.
I am sitting at a red light. I am in the right turn lane. The green arrow is lit, allowing the car in front of me to turn. The pickup behind me honks. I do not care. It was a little annoying the car in front of me was so oblivious, but not a big deal. Perhaps he was so far under the light he could not see it. I doubt he was aware the pickup was honking at him. He may have thought it was me honking. I am not participating in this exchange, and neither is he. The only one doing anything is the guy in the pickup, and he may have been thinking he was honking at me. I am an onlooker, nothing but an indifferent witness.
Perhaps being the indifferent witness is the only sane way to go. Even if the honking was directed at me, so what? I could not turn. Even if I had been able to go, I would not have done so had I deemed it unsafe. So the honking was irrelevant. Period. If the pickup driver had confronted me, would being upset have helped? I doubt it.
Letting go is not exactly a new spiritual concept. So what is my problem? I am over-responsible. It feels irresponsible to just not make the emotional investment in various situations. As a teenager, my brothers did not take responsibility for their actions. I actually remember deciding that I would be “the good one.”
I watch and listen to everything closely. I think in systemic terms. I often can see what will occur next. When I have spoken up in the past, I have been accused of creating the negative events that have subsequently occurred. (I wish I had that kind of power!) People do not want to hear what I have to say. However, when others reach the exact same conclusion at a later date, suddenly their opinions need to be respected and taken seriously. Really? This has created problems for me regarding my family of origin, various employers, and, at various times, churches.
The reality is that it hurts a lot to not be taken seriously in virtually every environment. It is painful to watch people I care for a great deal do things I know can only end badly. And then, to add insult to injury, to be blamed for the inevitable bad consequences is enough to make me question committing to anything or anyone ever again. “You were never really committed,” my priest told me when I had had enough BS to last a lifetime and warned him of some of the things now happening in the church (a couple years later). I thought to myself, “I guess I’m not committed now.” I am sure there is no memory of my forewarnings now that my presence is no longer there irritating them. If I were still there, somehow I would be seen as responsible. I may as well have never even attended.
Emotional investment seems to accomplish nothing. It complicates things and makes solutions less likely. It short-circuits rationality. I have not found an upside yet. Is there one?
Part of what I find profoundly disturbing is how authority figures will tell me what I should care about. I remember being a teenager and being informed how I should feel about a family member. I wanted to feel that way and was unable to do so. I learned at an early age that even I do not have the power to make myself feel something I did not feel or make myself not feel something I did. Manufacturing emotions has always felt fake. I have seen the same attitudes in religious writers recently. Of course, it works no better today than it did 25 years ago. It is disrespectful on a very basic level to tell another human being how to feel and it violates their free will. If I can’t make myself feel a particular way about something, how exactly do you plan on accomplishing that mission? Such attitudes miss the point of being human somehow.
I can let go of anything eventually. It may take a while, but feelings come and go. I have let go of many things already. Life offers daily opportunities for me to forsake emotional attachments. Every day I get better at it.
Are any battles mine? Even if some are, would I (and the world) be better off with or without an emotional investment from me? I would like to add value to the world and help individuals and organizations to function more compassionately and efficiently. I just don’t know what would work best.