Investment and Clinging
I had an epiphany yesterday. It was odd and yet obvious.
I have been meditating more lately. I have been letting go, out of sheer necessity, because holding on to things has been horrendously painful and impossible. Events in my life have been out of my control. An old Zen saying puts it best: “Let go or be dragged.” Letting go, letting go, letting go, all the time. I have also been intentionally changing my relationship with Barry because of his cognitive decline and my feeling like I need to start preparing for the next phase of my life more aggressively. I have been feeling awfully guilty about consciously withdrawing my attention and, to some degree, my affection from him by changing my routines, even though I feel it is best for both of us in the long run. Can he ever let go of me if I am clinging to him almost as hard as he has been clinging to me? As we all know, Buddhism emphasizes not clinging to things simply because all things are impermanent.
Seemingly randomly, it hit me. What is the difference between an emotional investment in something versus clinging to that thing? Is there a difference? Am I playing semantic games with myself? I have always assumed emotional investments in relationships to be a good thing, part of the give-and-take of having relationships. Now that assumption seems increasingly absurd and simply a recipe for unnecessary pain.
The problem is that anything I cling to will ultimately have to be let go of. Given the amount of time and energy I’ve been spending lately letting go of things, I really do not want to create more stuff I will eventually have to let go of later. I have been working at allowing things from my past to rise to the surface so that I can release their pain and move forward. I have been making progress, albeit awkwardly and unevenly. So the last thing I want to do is to create more drama for myself to have to untangle at a later date.
This all raises questions. Is it ever wise to emotionally invest in relationships? I’ve never found a huge upside to it. As I meditate and let go of layers of emotional crud, will I become extremely emotionally detached in the process? Who and what am I becoming?
Part of what prompts these questions is the realization that self-control is far more important than facts, reality, or even sanity in any social situation. I have been watching the political weirdness lately. What I see are politicians behaving badly. What is worse is that they seem to be trying to out-stupid and out-crazy each other in order to gain attention. However, the shining lights as of late have been the calmer, more deliberate speakers. The problem is that sometimes the crazier ones have more facts at their disposal, but who wants someone out of control as their president? We don’t need a hot head as president, no matter how well-informed he or she may be.
I’ve also seen the exact same thing regarding the workplace. Companies seldom hire the most qualified candidates. No, they hire the people that interview the best. A good interview is all about selling oneself and exuding confidence. The problem is that the people that interview the best are often extremely narcissistic. No one radiates confidence as well as a pure narcissist. They can lie on their resume and have zero integrity, but they will get the job and by the time they are found out as having been deceptive on their resume, they have already been on the job for a few months and are often good at it. How do companies hire so many narcissists and incompetent people? It’s because narcissists interview phenomenally. Truth is not the issue; keeping one’s cool under fire is.
These layers of emotional crud that I’ve been having to sort through lately have shown me how not resolving issues reduces one’s self-control. I am controlled by issues I didn’t even know I had. I’ve been having strange reactions to things and feeling like, “Damn. Where the hell did that come from?” I am talking about over-reactions in conversations with people and even more random things like hearing a song almost bringing me to tears. Given that I was never a fan of Guns and Roses back in the ‘80s, there is no reason that “Sweet Child ‘O mine” should make me want to cry. Yet it does.
Self-control is easy when one does not have an emotional dog in the fight. Letting go is about reducing one’s resistance to the events and realities of life. That’s where I want to be. And all of this goes against everything I was raised to believe and be. Isn’t mutual dependency what relationships are about, at least to some degree?Yet, I have tasted the rewards of serenity and detachment and am willing to do whatever it takes to get there and stay there.
For some reason, it all seems very, uh, strategic. Is that the right word? I don’t know. And it all started in earnest when and because life was giving me more than I could handle or hang on to. This feels ironic.