I once had a love affair with a house. She was both lovely and tattered, well-worn with the soul and spirit that comes with time. We put that house on the market and quickly moved on. In the flurry of activity that followed, I thought I was over her but soon realized that those four walls had a long-term hold on me, much like the memory of a first love. In truth, it still had my heart. I was profoundly “attached.”
Attached – Who, Me?
Charles A. Francis, Director of the Mindfulness Meditation Institute explains attachment as “Mental and emotional fixation on something we think we need or want. We get attached to things like people, views, outcomes, or material possessions. The reason we get attached to them is that we’re afraid we’ll lose them, and therefore, we’ll be unhappy, or we may even think we won’t survive.” I loved that house, yes, but on a deeper level, I loved who I was when I was there. Maybe I was afraid of losing a sense of myself that I couldn’t recreate.
It’s Hard to Let Go
That thinking didn’t help me to get over her. There are many reasons why we hold on for dear life when letting go is the healthier response. There is the fear of loss and of the unknown, especially when it comes to our relationships. Or, we think that holding on is a sign of strength or an integral part of our identity. Or, maybe we hold on out of force of habit. Mr. Francis reminds us that, “We often believe that if we get all the material things and circumstances just right, then we’ll be happy. So, we try to manipulate people and circumstances in order to get them the way we want.” That was certainly true of my attachment to that house.
Learning How to Let Go
- Accept and be grateful. Life is filled with endings. Resisting them and clinging to the past or to what can no longer be only prolongs stress and unhappiness. I eventually accepted that my love affair with that house needed to end. I learned to cherish the memories instead of longing to go backwards in time. I became grateful for the experience as well as for reminding me in a profound way that all things are subject to change. All things.
- Own your decision to let go. I used to think that I left a part of myself there, in that house. But when I finally committed to letting go, my thinking shifted. I replaced that sad thought with the idea that I brought a part of that house with me, forever. I transformed that loss into a personal gain.
- Focus on what you control. We humans spend a lot of time lamenting what isn’t or what can no longer be. We want things to stay the same – our relationships, our job, our neighborhood, our physical bodies – you name it. We don’t take kindly to change that is outside of our control. By shifting all of that energy to our own thoughts and actions, we have a much better chance at contentment!
- Have a little faith. Call it what you will, but it’s the belief that on the other side of letting go, you will be just fine.
I’ve lived in three houses since moving on from that first love. And while I may occasionally look back wistfully, I focus on how that house blessed me, and trust that I did the same for her.