Can I Be Without It?

An elderly client asked me to ‘wait just a minute’ because she couldn’t go out without her lipstick.  I chuckled at her vanity.  The very next day, after an early morning workout at the gym, I discovered that I’d forgotten my toiletry bag and had to go to work sans makeup and moisturizer.  Mortified.

I wasted a lot of energy that day on self-consciousness, half expecting people to gasp at the sight of me or politely look away in horror.  On the contrary.  I was alarmed that no one seemed to notice.

The experience had me thinking about all the silly things we’re attached to:  beauty products, habits, routines, opinions, feelings….So I posed a question to myself, ‘Can I be without it?’ and decided to experiment with letting go.

  • Husband kicked off my experiment by backing into something with my brand new car.  Can  I be without anger?
  • I rushed through my day, inner metronome beating faster than a clock.  Can I be without hurried steps and racing thoughts?
  • A Sudoku puzzle got the best of me.  Can I be without success?
  • The smartphone battery died.  Can I be without my Lifeline of communication?
  • I shared a fitting room with my teen daughter at the mall and noticed my aging form.  Can I be without self-criticism?

It might have been easier to leap a tall building in a single bound than drop the things I grasp onto for dear life.

Ekhart Tolle points out that, “Sometimes letting go is an act of far greater power than defending or hanging on.”  It doesn’t make logical sense, yet it’s true.

Peach agrees.  In one week she lost her beloved piano teacher to retirement, dear friends to a move, and a run for class president.  A whole lot of loss for a tween.  I offered the ‘everything works out for the best’ phrase and other unhelpful clichés, but given my own struggle with releasing, I was less than convincing.

Recently I’ve been watching my father, who appears older than his 78 years, fade away.  He is confronting a rapid loss of control over his mind and body.  Can he be without the persona of strength and resilience that provided the scaffolding for his family?  Can I?

Our attachments tether us and keep us from living unencumbered lives.  The degree to which we feel the pain of loss is the degree to which we have bound ourselves.  Perhaps the purpose is not to learn to be without the things we’ve adopted, but rather to be free of them, so that when they do pull away from us, it doesn’t hurt so much.  We could notice, without resistance, the point of attachment – the place where we’ve welded ourselves to an idea of who we are and what makes us whole – and not let it tear us apart.

The simple wisdom that states, ‘You can’t take it with you when you die.’ is universally applicable.  We can’t take our hopes and sorrows any more than we can take the material goods we’ve amassed.  So why hold on at all?  Why not prepare for the Big Letting Go right now so that when the time comes we can breathe our final breath with peace?

The truth is, I cannot stop loss.  But I can enjoy freedom if I remember that I can be, and someday will be, without whatever ‘it’ is.

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