The Heroics of Detachment
I recently met a friend for a cup of coffee- she had just lost her job, was dealing with some serious challenges with aging parents, and like much of the world was wrestling with the loneliness that comes from COVID life. I was deeply impressed by her resolve to try to step back from a very raw situation and examine it as if she were not hurt by these very hurtful events, but rather to see what could be learned. She resolved to not make it “about her” or a pity party, even though that would be indeed completely understandable under the circumstances.
I was very impressed to hear her consider the positives of her situation — gratitude about having her parents still in her life even with the heartache that comes from physical and mental decline in the ones we love. She was thoughtful about the career experiences that she has had and how that positioned her for a next role- without being polyanna-ish about the real challenges of getting work while the world is upside down, or being a person of a “certain age”. There is a bravery — a stoicism- that comes from having a stiff upper lip and resolving to get on with it, put one foot in front of the other, and try to make progress on the task at hand- in this case getting a new job as the top priority. This friend networks like nobodies business and she knows that being positive and moving forward is more likely to get her where she wants to be than feeling sorry for herself. I felt like she was a metaphor for what the world today needs.
I am not suggesting that being aware of, and addressing, real feelings is bad — quite the contrary. There is most certainly a necessary time and place to work through real challenges and to not turn feelings into problems by pushing them away. However, with every decision we make, and every interaction we have, we make a decision to make it “about me” — or to “die to self” and try to examine the encounter dispassionately, as if we were not the impacted party.
In the land of social media- and often in real life as well (much of which is being lived virtually, by necessity), the mantra of today is that there is nothing of greater importance than “my feelings”. I would posit that this obsession with “me” that our culture celebrates, hurts everyone- in particular the person who is self-obsessed. My friend, who by all accounts is having a legitimately hard time, is my hero- for forging ahead, for caring about her parents more than herself, and for making a way, when no way is clear. It is hard- but it is a spirit worthy of admiration, and somehow, we all just need to get on with it.