When attachment dies formalities begin..

She knew it .

She knew that she had to move in to the new house at certain point from the house that  she had been living in for the last 50 years . She knew that she was going to get all the  modern, brand new things and gadgets in her new house .  Yet it was not going to be an easy process for her to discard her old things and move in to the new place. For her, each object in the house carried a story behind it, a story of struggle and effort spend on obtaining  it .  For her, raising  four children on her own with very minimal income has not been a cake walk. She showed me a big round copper wok. Her eyes filled with tears while explaining the struggle and years of saving which it took to buy it. Her eyes sparkled with pride, recalling the first time she used it to make some deep fried banana. Each object regardless of how old it was, had a deep emotional connection which made it all pricelessly precious to her.

In contrast to this , the other day  I conducted a home visit.  The house was filled with junk and  random things, boxes were piled everywhere. Even brand new things were in unopened boxes.  Bed rooms overflowed with things and it was difficult to walk inside the house as there was not enough space. Yet all this junk was very precious to my client.  He enjoyed the company of all the mess around him. He felt he is not lonely anymore. He didn’t want anyone to clean his house. He was very much attached to this stuff as it provided him a reason for a meaningful existence.

It seems we do develop attachment in various degrees.  When we feel an intense emotion towards something, we find time to be  with the things that we are attached to, take good care of it , marvel at it often and talk about it . We momentarily forget the difficulties in life that we face, and feel a belongingness and sense of pride when we see the things that we are attached to. Whatever it is that people are attached to, the reason must be that these objects must be supporting a meaning to their existence, a feeling of accomplishment and sense of happiness.

Then what happens to these attachments once the circumstances changes.  If we look at the first story, now it has been months since she moved in to the new place. Most of her “soo much” attached things in the old house are a distant memory to her now . Many were given away. She is enjoying new things , better things which life has given  her and she is not missing her old things anymore.  And in the second story, while he was at the hospital we organised a cleaning of his house. He doesn’t miss his junk any more.

I guess this is what happens in human relationships too, particularly in relation to our own parents and siblings once the circumstances changes in our lives.

From early on in life, we develop an attachment to our primary caregivers that tends to remain constant. This attachment style has a profound effect not only on our emotional development, but also upon the health of our relationships. Regardless of how we are now,   most of us must have been very much attached to our parents at one stage in our lives. But are we still having the same attachment in the way we felt before? When I read the news of the son who had abandoned his elderly mother on the highway in Kerala, I thought to myself, when was the moment that he had lost all his attachment towards his mother and his mother had become “just a thing” to him. When might be that moment in his life that that his attachment had become a formality.

So it seems when attachment dies formalities slowly begin to set in.  Things start getting dusty, discarded or get moved to the attic. The once daily phone calls become once a month, the once one hour conversation becomes a 10 minute one. The once  long conversation with parents and others back at home becomes a simple matter of fact phone call to just one person. The once “children-willing-to-look-after-parents” started fighting to avoid the responsibility to look after his/her parents. YES, an attachment has become a formality, a responsibility.

On the other hand, I do agree that instead of clutching too hard and struggling to let go, it is good that we  possess  “adjustment and acceptance”  in our life, or life would have been too difficult to navigate through. But where should the boundary be, the boundary which determines that the attachment towards our loved ones remains as a healthy attachment and not as a mundane formality.

Between obsession and disdain, there is that “oasis” which promises genuine love and sustenance, like a cool oasis in the middle of a desert. Like everything else in life this oasis too needs careful tending or before we know it, our oasis may blend in with the desert leaving only a mirage,  a mirage which only promises false hopes and  formalities. Once in that mirage, it may not be long before that the person begins to view someone as “a thing” thus choose to abandon that thing, who once played a very crucial role in his/her life.

 

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