This week I have been a bit lost. Not in a bad way, but I lost a lot of focus at work and in my meditation. I let myself be distracted by things such as my iPhone and being social. My mind has been drifting to anywhere, but to the present moment.
While, I've been distracted during meditation, I've been thinking about my practice a great deal. I can't put down When Things Fall Apart and I have caught myself a few times stopping in the middle of the page to mull over what I just read. The book has been a great compliment to the main teacher I read; Geshe Kelsang. I've been questioning attachment and romantic love a lot because I'm not sure how to interpret it in a Buddhist sense and I have no idea how a person can truly love someone, but be unattached. As I typed that last sentence the technical answer came to me from a reading - paraphrasing here, but I read that the western societal view of love is not actual love, it is attachment and self-cherishing disguised as love, which makes sense in my head, but not so much in my gut. Damn you, pop culture!
I've had the thought that love should be something that is purely unselfish and I've questioned my true feelings for people I've dated when I have strong urges to be with them based simply off of how they make me feel. How can that be love when I'm essentially using them as a drug? Again, self-medicating
Sex and relationships can be huge distractions, Pema Chodron points this out in When Things Fall Apart. For me they definitely are. When they are going well, I'm addicted to that hopeful feeling and completely terrified it's going to end. Even better, when they're going badly, I feed from the drama and the pain and the beautiful tragic hazards of love (I watch too many movies). Of course all of this is an exaggeration, but probably less of one than I'd care to admit. Long story shortened, I don't want to do this anymore. I want my relationships to be more productive than two people sucking entertainment out of each other until the novelty wears off. Question is, how do I do that?
Well, first thing I thought of is love them in a loving-kindness way, i.e. wish them health and safety and try to help them have that. Sounds easy enough, but what I often notice happening (not just with me, I've seen others do this as well) is when people are very giving they are expecting something in return. Maybe not at first, but after a while, people start to think, "what about me?". That self-cherishing thing will get you every time.
But seriously, should you be in the relationship with someone who you continually give to and they give nothing to you? When I first thought about this, it seemed that Buddhism's answer was yes. but then I remembered something I always have to remind myself of which is: while Buddhism does promote putting others before yourself it also acknowledges that you need to take care of yourself to take care of others.
So where was I? Love, ok, be giving, have an open heart, but it's ok to walk away from a situation where you find yourself giving so much that you can't function/thrive. I don't have to be a martyr, phew! I need to tell myself that more often. With the last guy I dated I found myself hanging out with him because I knew it would make him happy to see me. Meanwhile I was totally zoning out, becoming borderline passive aggressive, and in actuality being kind to neither of us.
I think I can learn to love in this way. I feel like I make progress with this in non-romantic situations everyday. Attachment is what is really getting me. It seems no matter what I do romantically, I end up completely attached and helpless or detached and thinking. "what the hell is wrong with me?" Where is the happy median? How am I to interpret this? Can I have a lasting marriage (one I like) with no attachment? Is the answer to not worry about the attachment part and just focus on loving-kindness? I think that may be part of it for sure. Where does worrying get us anyway? It just stops us from enjoying anything. The other end of it may be learning to let go if it doesn't work out. I analyze for months, no YEARS after the end of a relationship and for what? To understand why it didn't work out? Maybe, but I feel like it's more to go on living in the past, to continue hanging on. OMG, I'm an emotional hoarder.
If I can keep all of these things in mind and continue to observe my behavior maybe I can start to see some changes in the way I view and handle romantic relationships.