Tag Archive | Attachment

My Needs, Then and Now

The holiday season is coming up and, with it, so will be encounters with some of my older, more conservative friends. I love them, but no longer want to be like them.

I am in a place of re-evaluating the place of everything in my life. What worked in my twenties does not necessarily fit where I am now or want to be in the future.

If I just never learned or grew after I became a Christian, I would have had no issue. My problems always begin when I start to outgrow my friends, congregations, pastors, etc. As long as I accept their assumptions (such as, “Fox News has actual journalism”), we get along fine. When I no longer accept their assumptions as true (such as, “Why would Fox News consistently predict a Romney victory? Weird.”), the very foundation of our relationships crumbles. As long as I never question their version of reality, we are best buds.

It was 1992. I was attending a Wednesday night Bible study. An older gentleman stood up and declared, “If we conservative Christians would just vote together, we could rule this country! We are the silent majority.” I almost started to laugh, until I realized that he was dead serious. I was also attending a local community college. I knew that nobody I knew from school (students, teachers, or faculty) felt the way he felt. Fast forward 23 years. I am watching some news program and see a conservative political rally. Behind the speaker, a guy holds a card saying, “We are the silent majority.” Is this what an LSD flashback is like? If it wasn’t true almost a quarter century ago, I know it is not true in 2015.

The problem is that I have consistently sought out these super-conservative groups to join. I grew up in a conservative, but secular and slightly chaotic home. I watched my brothers do drugs and alcohol and get their girlfriends pregnant. There weren’t a lot of boundaries. Being a little bit Asperger-y, I desperately need structure. I need predictability. I want sanity. I almost became a Mormon because of their clean lifestyle. Seriously. I ended up becoming evangelical Protestant. When I saw that they had Veggie Tale answers to soul-shattering questions, I sought the “original” church and became Greek Orthodox, partly to learn the New Testament in the original language. Learning actual Greek only showed me how terribly subjective and artful (not scientific) translation really is.

Meanwhile, I continued going to school. Got my MBA. I met wonderful people of every and no religion. I started losing arguments with atheists and agnostics. I realized that I wasn’t questioning the foundations of my faith. I felt set up, duped, and misled by my religious leaders. The only way these churches function is for their members to never encounter outsiders in any context. If social isolation is the hallmark of domestic abusers and cults, then most of the churches I have encountered are abusive cults.

Now it is 2015 and the social isolation I saw 23 years ago in the Christian world has become the norm in the conservative universe. As a Christian, I found TBN, Family Life Radio, Focus on the Family, Chuck Colson, and that group of people. Before I was a Christian, I did not know of the world of Christian media. I was shocked and thrilled to find an entire realm of publishers and networks that I had never heard of. Today, that would send up red flags; back then, I was jubilant. Now there is Faux News. No conservative today need ever to listen to liberals or scientific facts.

I feel like I have barely escaped that world. But I have left friends and loved ones behind. I feel like I escaped from Jonestown. I never drank the Kool Aid because I had always had one foot in academia. I knew from day one how non-Christians thought and felt because I felt the culture shock upon joining the uber-conservative world and had been raised by non-religious folks. I have always known that conservative Christians are neither silent nor a majority.

But I still have to see some of these people during the holidays and, oh yeah, I love them.

And I am now in a situation where I am accepting help from anyone and everyone: my conservative parents, my New Age-y friends, and even a witch (not a derogatory term, a true earth-based Wiccan).

I just don’t know what I want to retain in the long haul anymore. What fit me in my twenties is worse than awkward now. Integrity is tough to maintain. To me, integrity is saying and living the same thing. The problem is maintaining relationships with people I no longer have anything in common with and that I no longer admire. If they truly understood what I currently think and feel, they would rightfully reject me. I am no longer one of them. Do I pretend I am just because the holidays are upon us?

Expanding My Time Horizon

Nothing traumatic happened this past week! Yea!

This lack of drama has enabled me to get more done in an orderly, equanimous fashion. I suspect this is how Zen is supposed to be or feel. I do things, I rest, and I contemplate what to do next, as opposed to numbly going forward.

Three weeks ago, I could barely think ten minutes ahead. Now I am wondering what I will do after I have the house ready to sell. Huge difference.

I am sorting out what to keep and what not to keep, in regard to possessions and relationships. What is worthy of my resource investment? What isn’t are the things/relationships that were not helpful in my hour of greatest need. Going through the crap in the basement has been truly eye-opening. I can’t believe the stuff I mindlessly saved over the years: papers, knick-knacks, pictures, even a coat crammed in a box! It is all so random.

I have been so stunned that I give myself a lot of credit for functioning at all.

Now I am fishing within myself to see if I have any desires left. Can a person really live without any desires? Even Shunryu Suzuki moved to San Francisco from Japan due to some intuition/desire. My old dreams are gone. Trying to resurrect them would feel fake. I’m not that person anymore. I’ve thrown away most of her stuff in an effort to travel lightly and function in an entirely different way. How do I have goals when the old “I” is gone? I don’t know what road I am on, so how do I make plans now that I’m no longer so frozen in trauma?

Life Making My Point for Me

Life is making my point for me. Words do not (and have never) cut it.

Yesterday, I was having a guy put in the air conditioners because it is getting to be that time of year. One of the windows has that BB hole in it. When the guy raised the window, the little hole cracked into various directions. Barry saw this and was dismayed. To me, it was just so sad/comical. I looked at Barry and said, “Do you get it now? Do you see why we need to not own a house?” Replacing the window went from “eventually” to “get it done before next winter.” No amount of convincing could ever have the impact of watching the house fall apart before our very eyes.

Now that I am clear about what I need (to get rid of the house), I have been looking for help. All those people that have been telling me, “If you ever need anything, feel free to call me. I’ll help,” now I’m calling them to take them up on their “offer.” I’m finding out fast who was sincere versus who just wanted to be polite and get out of a difficult conversation as quickly as possible. I will never forget who was there for me—and who wasn’t.

Soothing words are the problem, not the solution.

I am in the process of shedding everything and everyone that does not help me get to the next stage of my life. Life demands flexibility. That’s why we are to not get attached to things. Life makes demands and the only way to be able to move forward is to not cling to anything. Anything you own, owns you right back. You look at something and say, “I own you now.” Its response? “Back at you.”

Under Seige and Walking Away

I am pushing in different directions now.

I am in the process of getting rid of Barry’s modeling stuff, about three trash bags a week. I’m not touching the kits because my friend Tamara is going to take some kits and books off my hands. I’m talking about the random supplies that go into making models, frou-frou accessories. I simply cannot move forward with this quantity of material. Letting go is not optional; what’s worse is that Barry hasn’t touched these things in probably five or even seven years, making holding onto them pointless.

Speaking of letting go, I saw my best friend of twenty-some years Friday at the grocery store. I told her about the something/someone shooting some projectile through my living room window within six inches of my head. I said, “This thing is evil.” Her response? “It’s not evil.” When your best friend tells you that something shot at her head, the proper response is, “Omigod. Are you okay?” not “It’s not evil.” I am letting go of her and our friendship. I need friends that take me seriously, not dismiss threats to my very life. I simply don’t have the time and energy to fight whatever-the-hell-this-is and maintain a relationship with her. She has the one with the multiple traumatic brain injuries. She expects me to call her and remind her to do this and that, basically maintaining the relationship. She threw the relationship ball into my court, expecting me to call her to set up a time to see each other. I am dropping the ball and walking away permanently, or at least until I am completely satisfied that she takes the threat to my life seriously. Goodbye, Sherri.

Earlier that day, I went to the cemetery and made an extra payment on our grave marker and services. It is very creepy to stand on your own future grave. It puts every imaginable issue into perspective. How can you ever take prestige seriously again once you know where your body will be interred forever? Life is short. I’m dealing with real issues, doing the best I can with what I have. A little help would be greatly appreciated right about now.

Attachment as a Spiritual Obstacle

A  funny thing has been happening: nothing.

I have made herculean efforts to get change to occur and then…nothing. People are not responding to my struggles.

I have come to believe there are spiritual obstacles to what I am attempting to do (get the house ready for sale, check out Medicaid eligibility, etc.). I have never put forth so much energy and achieved so little. I am accustomed to getting things DONE.

So I have started to get rid of Barry’s things. I just threw away most of his VHS tapes, many of which I purchased for him before we moved to the house. He has never watched them while we have lived here (for over a decade), so it is not as if I pitched stuff he uses regularly. And, due to the Huntington’s, his awareness of what he even owns is minimal.

What has genuinely surprised me is how viscerally I have reacted. Even though he never watched them, I felt ill getting rid of them. It was like getting punched in the gut. The videos had sentimental value to me that I was clearly unaware of. I bought these videos when he enjoyed them and some of these sets (like “Crusade in Europe” and “World at War”) costs hundreds of dollars.

I am spiritually attached to Barry and his possessions more than I ever knew. I believe everything we touch has our energy attached to it. I have been trying to do things in the least traumatic way possible, and that means gradually. Part of the reason I am trying to simplify everything is because, when the shift does finally occur, things could accelerate quickly and develop a life of their own. I am doing what I can now because I can. Things, for this moment, are still in my hands. That will not remain so forever.

The Buddhists are right. Attachment is the source of suffering. If I am having this deep a reaction just getting rid of old videos, what kind of mess will I be when Barry actually dies?

Lesson: Don’t let yourself get attached to stuff–ever.

Interconnectedness in Buddhism

“The quandary of the human condition is not that we are connected to too small an object and need to connect instead to a larger object. Rather it is that the very mechanism of connectivity—attachment—is inherently a cause of suffering.” Andrew Olendzki, Unlimiting Mind, p. 107

I am reading this book and am fascinated by it. This guy has thought things through to a level I have seldom encountered.

As a former Christian, I know what it is like to attach myself to larger and larger objects, in a sense “trading up.” The object isn’t the issue, the emotional dependency is. To let go of the object is to let go of all it represents and all of its systems, hierarchies, and necessary emotional regressions. Can I ever be a Christian again? I have no idea. What I do know is that church is this big ball of unhealthy interconnections that I have no possibility of ever untangling while still in Michigan. I will have to move to make progress on this issue.

Much of Buddhism is process-thinking oriented, as he says in the same chapter. I love that. He doesn’t like the term “interconnected.” He proposes “internonattachedness.” He says, “I think the Buddha was pointing a way out of all of this, but it is not through getting further connected. It has more to do with getting less connected, less entangled, and less attached.”

I totally agree with him about becoming less entangled and attached. I don’t see interconnectedness as a good or bad thing, just as reality. You push a button here and something pops up over there. We are all interconnected with each other and everything else, whether we want to be or not. I see the Buddhist emphasis on letting go of everything, including and especially thoughts, to be the necessary action of all those who wish to be sane today. Meditation helps one to stop the process of “A leads to B leads to C leads to…” of thought.

People are held captive by their never-ending desires for one thing and then another. Meditation examines the process of desire itself. By letting go of that thought stream, we are free to deliberately pick and choose what we think about. We can choose the processes that lead to outcomes we would rather have. And abandon those processes that give us results that we don’t want.


That urge to do something I have been resisting is called “shenpa.” It is that basic addictive feeling of needing to something, anything, to get rid of that feeling of “unsatisfactoriness” known as dukkha. Pema Chodron says,

“The Tibetan word for this is shenpa. It is usually translated “attachment,” but a more descriptive translation might be “hooked.” When shenpa hooks us, we’re likely to get stuck. We could call shenpa “that sticky feeling.” It’s an everyday experience. Even a spot on your new sweater can take you there. At the subtlest level, we feel a tightening, a tensing, a sense of closing down. Then we feel a sense of withdrawing, not wanting to be where we are. That’s the hooked quality. That tight feeling has the power to hook us into self-denigration, blame, anger, jealousy and other emotions which lead to words and actions that end up poisoning us.” (“How We Get Hooked and How We Get Unhooked”, Shambhala Sun online)


Here is a subtlety of understanding that I haven’t found in the Christian world. “When shenpa hooks us, we are likely to get stuck.” I’m sure some of the disgraced preachers would give a hearty amen to that. I have spent most of my life feeling stuck and not knowing what to do about it. Now I know what the problem is: attachment. Attachment to pleasure, objects, avoiding pain, relationships, organizations, and all else. It is so clear now. Whatever I hold onto keeps me stuck with it. Life is about flow and change. To hold onto anything not moving is a form of death.

Signs of life are movement and response. If you see an animal lying on the ground and you want to know if it’s alive, what do you do? Perhaps poke it with a stick to see if it moves or reacts. If that doesn’t succeed, then you check for a pulse. I’ve belonged to many organizations that weren’t going anywhere. Regardless of how the world around it changed, it kept doing the same things that no longer worked. Most of those organizations haven’t survived to this day. They did not change in a changing world and got left behind.

Sometimes the challenge is to not react, to feel the feeling and let it go. Let people think you are dead while you feel the habitual feelings and choose deliberately not to react to them (the people or the feelings). They will know something is up. They haven’t manipulated you again. Once you stop playing along with their denial, beware. The next stage of the acceptance process is anger and you will likely get their full wrath. They might get ugly, but that is on them, not you.

Responding peacefully to wrath is the beginning of peacemaking, but be prepared to get crucified on the Internet or in public. Whoever is trying to manipulate you likely has a following and you will lose those friendships as well. Of course, their friendship with you was only based on being mutually manipulated by the same person. To let go of the manipulator’s schemes is to let go of all the manipulator’s allies simultaneously. Once you reclaim your human dignity, everyone that had something to gain from manipulating you will let you go. It can be painful to lose one’s friends and social circle, but if it was only based on manipulation, having it vanish can be immensely freeing.

This is where meditation comes in. Pema continues:

“Without meditation practice, this is almost impossible to do. Generally speaking, we don’t catch the tightening until we’ve indulged the urge to scratch our itch in some habitual way. And unless we equate refraining with loving-kindness and friendliness towards ourselves, refraining feels like putting on a straitjacket. We struggle against it. The Tibetan word for renunciation is shenlok, which means turning shenpa upside-down, shaking it up.”

 There is no need to berate anyone, including ourselves. The whole idea is to be kind to all, including ourselves. Are we ready for a life of that?