This isn’t one of those gooey diatribes on “if you love something, set it free”. This is about what is possible when you let go of your attachment to an outcome… when you detach yourself from the picture you painted of the way it ‘should’ be and let the way it is – right now, in this moment – be exactly just right! This is about letting go of the if onlys and what ifs and embracing the IS… with all the joy and gratitude you can muster up!
Let me share a story with you…
The 92-year-old, petite, well-poised and proud lady, who is fully dressed each morning by eight o’clock, with her hair fashionably coifed and makeup perfectly applied, even though she is legally blind, moved to a nursing home today.
Her husband of 70 years recently passed away, making the move necessary. After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, she smiled sweetly when told her room was ready.
As she maneuvered her walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of her tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on her window.
“I love it,” she exclaimed, with the enthusiasm of an 8-year-old hugging her new puppy.
“Mrs. Jones, you haven’t seen the room – just wait.”
“That doesn’t have anything to do with it,” she replied. “Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn’t depend on how the furniture is arranged… it’s how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it.
It’s a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do.
I’m practicing to be her when I grow up! Her level of non-attachment is inspiring. Her joy and satisfaction is not about the circumstances of her life, it is about what she makes those circumstances mean… and she makes it ‘all good’. When life gives her lemons, she celebrates ‘the shipment arriving at her lemonade stand’!
I have a client who has been pretty much estranged from his semi-adult son for years. On a coaching call with him – about a year ago – I could hear that something was ‘off’, so I asked him what was going on… His son, he told me, had called (a rare occurrence) and, using language that would embarrass a truck driver (apologies to all truck drivers) told him to fornicate himself to death and never never never even attempt to make contact again. “It’s my son. My only child and he hates me. What can I do?”
My advice was simple: Keep loving him. Expect nothing from him. Send him a short, simple and very clear text. Tell him that you love him… you always have and you always will – no matter what. Let him know that you will sadly honor his request. And let him know that you will always be his father and be there for him – if and when he’s ready.
It took a while, but my client relaxed into the role of ‘absentee father’. He continued to send simple cards at holidays and birthdays (just signed love, your father who will always love you) – no emails, no letters and no calls.
He chose to love his son no matter what the circumstances of that relationship looked like… and relaxed into the way it was. Letting go of the way he ‘wanted it to be’ and detaching from his ‘story’ about the way it was ‘supposed to be’, my client had literally opened up the space for a miracle. Then, last week – after almost14 months of silence, the prodigal son called.
There was no mention of the previous call. No arguing. No anger. The conversation ended with: “I’ll call you next week on your birthday, Dad.”
Here’s one of my favorite aphorisms from Werner Erhard: “Life is a rip off when you expect to get what you want. Life works when you choose what you got.“