“Don’t be attached to anything. When you die, that becomes your Hell.” John F. Barnes
I sat in class and squirmed as I listened to these words, feeling them work their way around my heart and gut, slowly finding a place to land. It’s true, I’ve let myself be attached to things. Worse, I’ve allowed myself to be attached to a person. There might not be any worse Hell, for me, unless I can move my way through this journey and come out on the other side with the belief that I alone am enough. That I truly don’t need anyone to feel joy.
The talk our group was having at the time flirted with the idea of past lives; so we dabbled with the possibility we’d come back and have to learn a lesson over again; if we don’t learn it in this lifetime. Whether or not you believe in such things doesn’t matter. It’s truly the feeling and energy of attachment that’s the important piece. It’s about how you deal with your addictions and attachments, and how you find your worth, confidence and self-love.
I squirmed. Why? Because I knew I’d been attached. In fact, I remembered back as far as I could and I couldn’t remember a time I didn’t need someone else to tell me I was good enough. From a father who was dealing with his own self-esteem issues, to coaches, teachers, and boyfriends who never made me feel like I was the most important person in their lives – I struggled with a desperate need for approval. I wasn’t going to be good enough until the right person told me so.
This behavior was unconscious at first. I spend a lot of time reminding myself of this and attempting to cut myself some slack. Now that I know better and am fiercely awake to the dysfunctions of my youth that have infected my adult years, I can think, believe and do better. I’ve made my recent relationships about learning this lesson. Jury’s out on my impending Hell, but I aim to learn the lesson that seems to be constantly in my face these days; you’re enough, all by your badass self.
“This doesn’t mean you weren’t meant to be with and love others,” a wise friend replies when I tell him I’m worried I’ve been looking for love outside of me and craving that touch and connection. I think I need too much from others, a familiar feeling soaked in unworthiness. And there’s something about my current situation, some new lack of tolerance that prevents me from saying or doing things that make me feel unworthy. I find myself constantly doubting, double checking and uber-reflecting, in an effort to make sure I’m not falling into that pit again.
This time, the attachment comes with some new wisdom and I find myself treading more cautiously even in the middle of the wild, chaotic, and overwhelming feelings. That pull to find someone to be with who makes me feel good, makes me feel worthy and makes me feel wanted is a pull into myself more than a desperate need for approval. The pull is into my own soul, and this person is drawing me closer and closer to the fire.
The attachment became something that felt like breathing. When I was in this person’s presence I could breathe, plain and simple. I not only wanted more air, I found myself suffocating more as I imagined not being with them. Yikes, is this me being attached to a person? A feeling? Is it wrong to want to breathe? Am I supposed to figure out how to breathe by myself? They always tell you to put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others…
I could feel myself losing control. My mind was a mixed bag of stew and was throwing chunks at me constantly, some days just to see what I’d do. Breathe or die? Breathe or die? Breathe or die? It really did feel that clear to me. I did what I needed to do to breathe. I called. I texted. I begged. I invited. I tested. I might have even lied. I did what I needed to do to not die. And I say “not die” on purpose, because surviving would have felt better.
“Don’t be attached to anything…” I let the words repeat in my head. Don’t be attached to anything, or anyone, I assumed he meant. “That will be your Hell.” What if it already feels like Hell? Can we learn the lesson sooner and do something productive about it? Can we find our answers, our salvation, in the middle of our current, conscious, fiercely alive moment? Or will we die and have to live the lesson again?
Ultimately I decided not to judge myself.
Not any of it. Just like my desire to reduce judgment in general about others, I figured out I had to be at the top of that list. So what I was feeling, no matter how gross, how pitiful, how stupid or insane; I loved me anyhow. Who knew this one thing would be the ticket to an incredible feeling of freedom?
I had practiced letting the opinions of others rule my worthy-meter all my life. I was used to, even counting on, what other people thought to give me some measure of myself and my worth in the world. I had, for decades, believed that I was good enough, only when someone else loved me and told me I was good enough. I hadn’t ever granted myself that love. I didn’t believe it was possible to give it to myself. External validation was the only way; until I learned otherwise.
Long story short? I’m attached to the feelings of love, worth, and confidence. I believe I deserve them because I was born. I crave the touch, love, and connection with others, as we all do, but when I’m not experiencing those things, it doesn’t mean I’m not good enough, it only means I have to connect to it by myself. Wanting another person to love and love me isn’t bad or weak. In fact, any feeling in any moment only has the meaning I give it. And feelings are just feelings unless we infect them as mental baggage.
Give yourself permission to explore your attachments, addictions, feelings, and emotions. Don’t believe everything you think. Remember the feeling of love, in every situation; it exists the moment you connect with it. Let that feeling fill the void. If something or someone feels like air to you, by all means, breathe deeply. Enjoy the feeling when your heart and lungs expand and you realize the energy of love is who you are.
Laura Di Franco, MPT is an intuitive writing strategist, holistic physical therapist, published author, poet and third-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do with over two decades of experience in healing. She teaches transformational tools and powerful strategy for nourishing and inspiring your fiercely alive whole self. Learn more about Laura on her website.