The Buddha said that attachment is the source of all suffering.
I used to think that meant that people should not love people or things, or have feelings, like the image of some naked ascetic on a mountain top. I have come to realize that, at least for me, this “ideal” is impossible. I love people wholeheartedly; I appreciate beautiful things. I definitely have some feelings, and strong ones.
Perhaps the “ideal” isn’t realistic, and we need to step away from it. To me, “unattachment” is not the same as “detachment” (and I think even some Buddhists will agree with me on this one.) Detachment connotes isolation, not caring, not feeling, not needing anything or anyone, while unattachment connotes something very different: not being attached to outcomes. It’s love without strings attached.
They say “If you love something, set it free.” (Or, if you’re Sting, it’s “someone“) and some people, in their attachment, will say “Oh, they set me free? That means they don’t love me anymore,” when it’s exactly the opposite. When I set someone free, I set them free *because* I love them, they now have the freedom to love me, or not, as they see fit.
To be honest, I royally suck at unattachment. I love people, and I want them to love me back. I want them to like me, and understand me, and think I’m funny, and cool, and smart, and to appreciate how much I love them. I want them to be honest with me. I want them to forgive me when I fuck up, just as I forgive them when they do.
However, I suffer.
I suffer from loneliness. From social anxiety. From feelings of rejection and loss. From thinking that people don’t like me because I’m awkward and weird. From self-hatred and self doubt. All because I am overly attached, not to people, but to what they think of me.
In other words, I’m attached to outcomes. Instead of just loving people (including myself) regardless, I put all this weight on whether they love me back, or think I’m awesome, or whether they choose to forgive me.
It’s not that I don’t care or that I don’t want to put effort into relationships, or to right wrongs (because I’m wrong as often as I’m right), but what can I do about it, other than be me and take steps to be better? I can’t make people think I’m amazing or to fall in love with me platonically, or forgive my awkwardness. So, why act as if my life depends on it?
All I can do is try. It’s damned hard. When you love someone, it’s natural to want that love returned. But honestly, do you want coerced love, or do you want it given freely? In the future, I will continue to love, but I am renouncing the expectation that you will love me in return. (Although I hope you will, because this detachment thing is hard.)
I set you free.