I’ve said before, and I’ll say again, that much of our suffering in this life is due to our attachment to how we thought it was going to be. Put another way, I believe that one of the tasks of our lives is letting go of how we thought it would be. What did you think, that isn’t so? I’ll go first.
I thought my father would live to be in his nineties
I thought my daughter would go to my alma mater for high school
I thought I’d have published a book or two by now
I could keep going. For a long time. That’s not really news to me. What’s news is that when I think about it, I realize that I don’t dwell on these things. Well, maybe my dad. That one I still rue daily. But maybe I’m growing into maturity, because at this point I can recognize these truths I thought would describe my life without pain. How did that happen? I’m not sure. I wish I could pinpoint when the “what…ifs” stopped, but I can’t. I do know that it’s releasing them that’s allowed a whole-hearted embrace of the reality of my life.
By letting go of our attachment to what might have been, we can embrace what is. I know that is true. There’s no question that there’s a list equally as long as the things I thought would be true, and that’s the list of things that I didn’t expect. Some of those surprises have been pleasant, some dazzling, and some heartbreaking. But they represent the reality of life right now, and there’s room for them because of all the things that aren’t as I hoped, planned, or imagined. So the task, I’m quite sure, is to let go of the latter so that we might let in the former. It feels like this is all going to happen anyway – what isn’t as we thought it would be isn’t, and what is, is – so the only question is how gracefully we can allow these things to be.
Easier said than done, but I seem to be moving in that direction. Maybe the letting go comes with circumstances out of my control showing me how little the fretting and holding on helps me. Maybe it’s just an inevitable development with middle age. I don’t know. I’m pretty sure it’s nothing I’ve done, and no comment on me in particular. But I’m grateful for it.
What did you think would be, that isn’t? And do you have any lessons about letting go of those things?