***Originally posted 1/29/15***
One of the things I love about Jesuit theology is the idea of detachment. Detachment can sound like a cold word, but it really just means being “less fixated on the stuff that doesn’t truly matter- like money, possessions, or even technology” This does not mean that there is a carelessness or a lack of responsibility about those things. Budgeting and using tools and being a good care taker of what you have are all wonderful things. But this is how I’ve come to think about detachment, and how having a baby has fast tracked my practice of this spiritual discipline.
In my own experience, the opposite of detachment tends to be anxiety. When I’m too attached to something, I worry about it so much that I stop enjoying it. Sometimes, the anxiety is understandable- like when we just don’t have the income to meet medical emergencies. But the anxiety is NEVER helpful. Here’s a clear example: We were given a gorgeous pair of crystal champagne flutes for our wedding. They are so beautiful and they are from a dear friend and I know the thought behind it was even more beautiful than the flutes themselves. In her card to us, she said that we should use them to celebrate the everyday, not just special occasions. It took me a while before I could fulfill that. I was so obsessed with how beautiful they were that I was afraid to use them. I worried we might break them either while using them or washing them. It took my husband reminding me of the instructions in the card to ever use them.
Another example: About five years ago I had a single, clear, favorite pair of shoes. I didn’t want them to wear out… so I never wore them. DO YOU REALIZE HOW CRAZY THAT SOUNDS?! The point of shoes is to be worn!
(Pictured: My wedding shoes were sparkly and perfect. Photos from Katherine Miles Jones. Not pictured, the shoes I’m referencing. Because I couldn’t find a picture because I would not wear them!)
You would think that with the struggle I was already having with detachment, having a baby come along would only magnify that fear. Babies (and toddlers and children in general) are kind of known for getting into things, making messes, breaking things. But amazingly, it’s been the opposite. For the most part, knowing there’s a good chance that even if I put something away or up high and never use it, odds are that someday my child will break something special has allowed me to enjoy them for however long they last! It’s amazing how much we’ve started using special objects to celebrate the everyday since our child was born. I’m talking pizza on china, drinking out of my favorite coffee cup, wearing clothes that make me happy even though they will probably end up drooled on or spit up on, and yes, using those champagne flutes.
But I’ve changed my attitude towards more than just material things: Let’s give a nonmaterial example that was not mentioned above: plans. I definitely lean toward a type A personality. I was also praised a lot growing up for doing ALL THE THINGS. This was kind of the environment of the schools I went to and programs I was involved in.
I was used to scheduling out every day to the minute sometimes. If someone was late my anxiety levels would go through the roof because it meant my whole day might be thrown off. It was crazymaking (Rather, it IS crazymaking). I still struggle with this tendency sometimes, especially of overcommitting. Or making to-do lists for myself and then feeling they HAVE to get done. Completely. Today. When I am the only one expecting that! It’s important to respect the time of yourself and others. But meeting a friend for coffee should not be a stressful experience., even if they end up 30 minutes late. And sometimes now, with trying to get the baby ready and having unexpected needs to change him last minute or feed him before we go to avoid crying the whole way there etc. etc. I’m the one who ends up late. This used to seem like the end of the world. I would drive like a crazy person to assure I was somewhere on time if not ten minutes early. Now it’s something I do my best to avoid, but in the end… what is all this in light of eternity? I am trying every single day to look at my baby, look how fast he is growing up, and to SLOW MYSELF DOWN.
This is not to say that I’ve achieved some zen state of total detachment. NOT EVEN CLOSE. In fact, do you know why I wrote this post? Because we used a really beautiful baby gift for the first time recently, and I found it totally stained with bright orange carrot/squash baby food that I’m wasn’t sure would ever come out. I wanted to cry and tell my husband “this is why we can’t have nice things!” I had a terrible attitude for about 20 minutes as I finished sorting laundry and folding the load that had just come out of the dryer, and then I walked into the next room and found my husband rocking our sleeping baby, just like he did when our son was a newborn.
(Pictured: newborn status. Nothing like sleeping in dad’s arms!)
And I started to laugh at how WONDERFUL our life is and how thankful I was that I didn’t wreck this perfect moment by screaming about a stained baby blanket. God is continually trying to remind us of the things that matter. But sometimes it takes a little practice with detachment to see it.