And everybody else
It’s great when we attach in healthy ways to our partners, families, friends, and co-workers. We’re hard-wired to be herd-animals. We do our best and most easily thrive within a supportive community.
But attachments can turn on us. Unhealthy attachments are the offspring of ideas that we need to kick to the curb. Getting out from under the weight of unhealthy attachments can improve every relationship we have, especially our relationships with ourselves.
I guarantee that your life will improve when you drop the following attachments:
Drop the idea that you have one grand purpose for your life.
If you’re always looking for what you’re missing, the people who matter most won’t get the best of you.
Before it occurred to me to go back to school to become a psychotherapist, I had done everything from working in a factory sewing bar tacks on men’s levis to a stint as a Director of Human Resources at an advertising agency. At one time or another I’ve been a clerk typist, flight attendant, meeting planner, and Operations Manager. I’ve re-purposed over and over, depending on who and what has shown up in my life.
Sometimes my purpose was to learn life’s basic rules, or that I could live through the hard stuff, or that I could enjoy the unexpected. Sometimes it was to be there for others. And sometimes it was merely to show up as, and for, myself.
If there isn’t one grand purpose, the door is open for many of them. “Does the path have heart?” That is what matters, and what creates a beautiful life.
Think of your life as a quilt made up of unique patches that only show the beauty of the overall design once you’ve completed it.
Drop the idea that you should be enjoying incessant happiness.
If you never experience anything to push against, you will die of boredom. Life is messy and wildly unpredictable. You will experience pain and suffering.
But you can increase your joy and decrease your suffering because your body makes a chemical called oxytocin. It’s sometimes called the love chemical. Your day can be crap, everything going wrong, but the moment you hug somebody or even imagine hugging somebody, your body will release oxytocin, and you will feel great. You can get the same result when you hold hands, laugh, give something to someone with no strings, or get a massage. But it doesn’t last forever. Your input is required again and again.
So get hooked on releasing oxytocin, the drug-free epitome of happiness, and forget about living in a bubble of perennial bliss. Honestly, it wouldn’t satisfy!
Drop the idea of giving everything 110%.
What a crock! Exhausting!
Instead, invest massive amounts of energy in the things that play to your strengths, stimulate, and interest you. Here’s the oxytocin thing again! Doing anything you enjoy — unless it’s illegal and has potentially dire consequences — will get the love hormone going.
Whether you want to be a physicist, pitcher, race car driver, frog trainer, dancer, or astronomer, if it sounds interesting, try it! If you haven’t begun, start now. The quilt won’t care how old you are when you start.
Give anything that interests you enough energy to see if you like it. If it leaves you cold, then only give it enough attention to pass the test. When you have your degree, most employers won’t ask if you got all A’s. (And your friends will find all A’s annoying.)
Drop the idea of being the best at what you do.
Few reach the top in any field. Being the best at what you do requires an inherent talent, and then an often obsessive commitment of time and energy, which may not be conducive to creating satisfying relationships. Sometimes during the rise, the ones at the top have killed any joy they had in the beginning.
When you get ready for bed, give your subconscious a task. Ask it to come up with ideas to make the most of the next day. Awaken with the idea that you will actively participate in your life for the next 16 or 17 waking hours.
On the days when you come up a little short, remind yourself that you don’t need to be the best at everything. You need to show up and join in, period.
Drop the idea of finding the right partner.
Make your peace with the one you’ve got, or work on yourself, or agree to part ways.
You will not change your frog into a prince or princess charming! As often as you’ve heard it, I can almost guarantee you’re still trying! This one is a work in progress for all of us.
We all have our crazies. I smile when clients are surprised by my stories about my neurotic tendencies, and their idea that maybe they are the exception to the rule. We all have neuroses. Every one of us — there are no exceptions! And if you’re interested, your partner or best friend is familiar with yours and may be happy to share.
Drop the idea of having the right children.
When my son was in his late teens, he got sick of hearing me pick at him for his trashed room and hollered, “What do you want from me?! I’m a good kid. I don’t smoke, don’t drink, and don’t do drugs!”
I realized, OMG, the son I got is the one I wanted. I said, “You’re right Bucko — keep up the good work!”
Drop the idea of being the right person.
I can’t begin to count all the ways we all pretend to be who we are not. If you have to put on a front, go ahead and pretend to everybody else. But please, please stop pretending to yourself! That’s the crime, the time-waster, the energy suck. That, in and of itself, will make your quilt bland and lifeless. Make friends with your shadow side. It’s hiding from it that does the damage.
Life is not wasted on the young. The young are living it like crazy, in spite of not having a clue what they’re doing. Life is wasted on the grown-ups who are still pretending to be someone they’re not.