Apr 4, 2011

Attachment

Attachment is a good thing. I'm deeply attached to this 5 acre piece of land, and it makes me a better steward of it. My attachment to my family lets me handle wet pajamas and snotty noses and snotty attitudes (mine and theirs). My attachment to my friends is what makes them trust me, and our mutual attachment creates this loving web we call community.

But I've also been exploring the drawbacks of attachment. It can make us clingy, dependent, resistant to change. The more deeply I become invested in this land, the harder it will be to ever leave it. Even the dream of living overseas for a year becomes harder (though still a plan) knowing that we have to leave all this behind. I've come to associate happiness with this particular land, routine, set of friends, way of life. They're all good, and they are all contributing to my happiness at this time. But surely there are other homes and people and professions that could bring a different but deep meaning to life.

All 3 Quaker meetings I've belonged to have owned a meeting house (church) for a long time, and all have questioned whether it would be best to move or renovate. In Austin, we had grown so much that people were literally sitting out in the hallway, up the stairs, and in the kitchen for a Sunday meeting, yet there was still a strong resistance to buying a bigger house. People had been raised there, married there, died there. It's so ironic that a religious movement founded on the rejection of idols and ritual and symbols would come to hold that particular set of concrete and wood as irreplaceable. The house had trumped the spirit.

Last month as I was balancing "out on a limb" to finish pruning the apple trees, I reflected that the day will come that i can no longer do that. That many of the tasks needed to make this farm function will be beyond my capabilities. Will I have become so entrenched that I'm unable to move on and let someone else steward and love this particular piece of earth?

I cherish my current set of friends and community, just as I had done in Texas and Zambia and Vancouver and high school. But each time I've had to take a deep breath when it was time to leave, trusting that some of those friendships would live on in an active form and some would be honoured with the occasional sweet memory smile or facebook update. And trust that new community would arise in the new home. And to let that new community take its new natural form, not try to carry what we had before and impose it on a new situation.

Come to think of it, this may be the secret to aging gracefully. Accepting that each age brings its own thrills and opportunities and challenges that must be lived and learned from with our whole being, then let go to make room for what the next stage has to offer. I loved being an active teen and exploring 20-year-old, a striving 30-something. Sometimes I long to still be that person, but now in my 40's I've got new doors opening (farm gates, it turns out). I'll resist labelling this decade for now, but do understand that to fully live this time in my life I have to relinquish attachment to earlier times.

Attachment, I reckon, needs to be deep and real and whole-hearted. We need to be fully devoted to the life and people and path we're currently on. But it also needs to be temporal and flexible, ready to let some pieces naturally fall away as we grow and move. I'm deeply invested and committed to my current friends, school, land, profession, Quaker meeting, community and way of life. But they are not happiness or the meaning of life; they are the means and the expression of it.

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