There’s a Bible passage impressing itself upon my gray matter today.
It’s from the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 16, verses 25-26, and it goes like this: “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”
In an attempt to rescue the passage from fundamentalism (and with sincere apologies to any fundamentalists who believe I’m being sacrilegious in translating the Word of God) I’d like to propose that it means the following:
“Cling to appearances desperately, and you’re bound to lose your soul. If you want to find the true You that you are meant to be, lose your attachment to everything that isn’t really You, but that defines you in this world: money, job, looks, etc. Don’t you realize that grasping at possessions and status can never bring peace? And, by the way, exactly how much crap are you willing to take in exchange for really living?”
Okay, I may be pushing it to suggest that Jesus would use the word “crap”. But anyway.
I’ve been turning over in my mind the concept of releasing my attachment to things because of all the highly instructive, albeit hard-won, lessons the Universe has been tossing my way.
Take my living situation. Last spring I moved into a lovely home near the ocean. I had lived in an apartment for three years, my son was starting kindergarten, and for some reason I had my brain twisted around the idea that we needed to live in a house.
I knew I couldn’t afford to buy a house at the time. But I was determined that we would at least rent an actual house, with a backyard, and a sidewalk on which he would ride his bike while I tripped alongside happily.
When I saw the home I’m now leasing, I fell in love.
It was an immaculate 2200-square-foot, four-bedroom, two-story home in an idyllic neighborhood only a few blocks from the beach.
I imagined how my entire life would change when I moved in: I’d throw fabulous dinner parties, schedule playdates for my son in his Pottery-Barn-Kids-style playroom, start the business I’d been dreaming of, and trip off to the beach regularly to watch the waves lap upon the shore and write in my journal.
A year later, the house hasn’t changed my life at all (well, duh).
I’m still the same Helen who sat in her apartment night after night fiercely consuming the movies in her Netflix queue.
I still wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat worrying about finances, my job, whether my son will be in therapy at 35.
I still haven’t gotten that side business off the ground, and I’ve walked down to the beach maybe five or six times.
My son’s playroom looks like a giant pay loader scooped up its contents and threw them back out in an angry heap on the floor.
I’ve never bothered to unpack all my books or organize my home office, because I’ve been busy working, helping my son with homework, eating, sleeping, and, well…you know, showering and going to the bathroom and stuff.
I have stacks of laundry piled so high that my son has outgrown some of the pants on the bottom of the pile. (Okay, so I’m exaggerating on that one.)
The point is, my life is messy and complicated and wonderful and mysterious, just like it was a year ago.
My son is as heart-wrenchingly cute and entertaining and challenging and frustrating as he was last April.
It doesn’t really matter where we live, how beautiful the home or how ideal the location. We are the same “I”s that we were a year ago. We just live twenty miles farther from my office. And we occupy enough space to keep me knee-deep in housecleaning all weekend, every weekend. Not to mention that our new place is about thirty percent more expensive than our old one.
The fact is, I hate sitting on Interstate 5 every morning alongside five gazillion other drivers who are stressed out, zoned out, spaced out, and sometimes just plain stupid.
I hate writing that astronomical check to my landlady each month.
I hate that I’ve disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle of household chores.
A part of me longs for the simpler days when I lived in my little ol’ apartment. At least then my door-to-door commute to the office was only about 20 minutes each way. At least we had more disposable income to do fun stuff on the weekends. At least back then I didn’t have to clean 2200 square-friggin’-feet of space!
The phrase, “Be careful what you wish for – it just might come true,” couldn’t be (less poetic or) more accurate here, folks.
This summer, due to a variety of circumstances, I’ll have to move out of this lovely home. Though I was initially disappointed about that, I now see it as a gift from the Universe, a second chance at using my inner Me to select a cozy, affordable place to live rather than following my ego-driven desire to live in a house and a neighborhood that I feel matches my income and desires.
Actually, Paula Cole already put this idea to music several years ago. Her song “Me” describes perfectly my point:
I am not the person who is singing
I am the silent one inside
I am not the one who laughs at people’s jokes
I just pacify their egos
I am not my house, my car, my songs
They are only stops along my way…
In other words, who I am today – how I make a living, how rich or poor I am, how beautiful or ugly the world believes me to be, how much I owe the bank, what I ate today or said to my best friend yesterday – is not really who I am.
I am the infinite source of energy, the source from which we all arise, the source that will carry on long after we’ve left our physical bodies. You are, too.
So, just lose it.
Lose your attachment to things – to yourself, even.
Want stuff, but don’t need it.
Love yourself, but don’t confuse your “image” for who You really are.
Let yourself be at peace, no matter your present circumstances.
Enjoy and appreciate material comforts, sure, but don’t cling to them as if they were your last hope.
You are bigger than anything by which you can be defined on the physical plane. You are star stuff, the fabric of the cosmos.
Look to the sky, look within yourself, and decide that today is the day you will lose everything.
And then sit back and watch the Universe deliver what You really wanted all along.