We Have To Learn To Leave The Things We Love Alone

Alexander Lam
Alexander Lam

A few months ago, I found the perfect pair of earrings.

I was really obsessed with them, because, you know, it’s hard to find a pair that’s just right. I loved the way these earrings looked and made me feel. I showed them off to everybody, finding a way to incorporate them into every conversation. “Oh, Betty–I love hearing about your earrings, but I just got a new pair, too! Look!”

I started to grow really attached to these earrings.

After a while, my attachment turned into fear.

I was constantly anxious about losing them, always checking to make sure they were still there. As time passed, I started to noticed they weren’t actually perfect earrings. I realized that there is no such thing, because perfection is subjective, and our minds are constantly changing.

I used focusing on these imperfections as leverage to loosen my attachment. There were always negative thoughts swirling simultaneously in my mind—my obsession with my earrings, my anxiety about losing them, my fixation on and magnification of the imperfections. Competing thoughts that toyed with my emotions and therefore affected my physical body.

I couldn’t handle this mindfuck paranoia rollercoaster any longer.

So I got off.

It’s just because I didn’t have a lot of experience with earrings that when I finally got my hands on what I thought were an irreplaceable pair, I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to just let them be. Eventually my paranoia grew to an unmanageable height that I just had to be done. I wanted to throw the damn things away so I wouldn’t have to deal with my feelings about them anymore.

Even though I still very much liked them—you could even venture to say loved, though I won’t take it that far—I had to let them go.

At first, I felt so free. No more earrings, no more anxiety. Uncertainty is the cause of stress and now that my decision is made, I’m good. I decided to let go and I did and I’m good.

For a minute.

Until doubt creeped in my mind and I wondered if perhaps I ended this too soon. If perhaps I should have let the earrings get stale, fully run its course, before giving them away.

It’s only now, looking back, that I realize perhaps I didn’t need to let them go. Now I realize that my decision had nothing to do with the earrings at all and all to do with me. My insecurity. My idealism. My lack of control.

And now I fear I may never find as quality a pair again.

Which I know is not true, but it’s just a thought that visits me once in a while.

Alas, no need to dwell on what might have been. These days, I mostly have forgotten about the earrings and I’ve moved on, but sometimes I’m reminded. Sometimes I wonder what would it have been like to just let the earrings be what they are, and explore that for a little while longer, without the need to set expectations or pressure or labels.

I was reminded the other night when I was at yoga. At the end of class I was laying in savasana, emptying my breath completely, and then filling it back up, while a singing bowl rang. You know how magical that moments is. And then, lying in that position, the instructor read a poem that so deeply resonated with me.

I wouldn’t coax the plant if I were you.
Such watchful nurturing may do it harm.
Let the soil rest from so much digging
And wait until it’s dry before you water it.
The leaf’s inclined to find its own direction;
Give it a chance to seek the sunlight
  for itself.
Much growth is stunted by too careful
Too eager tenderness.
The things we love we have to learn to
  leave alone.

That’s a poem by Naomi Long Madgett. Obviously, she’s not talking about flowers. And I’m not talking about earrings.  TC mark


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