I had a miserable week in the hospital, and most of it was self-inflicted. The week leading up to going in, I routinely told people that I was going into the hospital for 4 nights. If she was around, Moe in her quiet wisdom would add, “…although it may be longer”. Moe understood something I did not: that the treatment I was receiving was full of unknowns, most especially the unknowable facts of how my body would react to the chemo they were giving me. I was attached to 4 nights, as if stating it to everyone would somehow make it so.
Attachment is a Buddhist concept; at least that is how I know about it. The origin of suffering is attachment to three kinds of desire: desire for pleasure, desire to become and desire to get rid of. I have mentioned this flaw in my thinking before in my first blog on this site. The idea that “I’ll be happy when…” is all about attachment.
By Thursday night, it was becoming apparent that my kidneys were going to need a few more days of being flushed before I could be sent home. By Friday morning, Saturday was the earliest any of the doctors saw me leaving. By Saturday night, I was starting to try to wrap my head around how I was going to maintain my sanity if I had to send a second week in the hospital. For good measure, my attachment problems included being attached to being out and able to support Moe on Saturday as she emcee’d TEDx Bend.
What practicing Buddhists know that I clearly do not, is that everything is connected; people to people, people to circumstance, circumstance to coincidence, and coincidence to intention. Since everything is connected, the notion of attachment is a fantasy because we are already attached. The goal is non-attachment, but that expression doesn’t really do the concept justice. Non attachment means accepting the connection we already have with everything else, and knowing, for example, that when I was to get out of the hospital depended on a variety of interconnected things that were to variable and interconnected to actually predict.
The result for me was that by Thursday night I started to get depressed because what I had attached to as an outcome was not going to happen. By Sunday, when I actually did get home, I was defeated, depressed and feeling very sorry for myself. I spent the day feeling like a failure. I failed by not meeting my goal of getting out on Friday. I failed by having a goal and an attachment in the first place, and I failed by being so disconnected from the world for so long. Looking back, of course I felt disconnected, I had unconsciously done everything necessary to feel that way!
I am humbled (again) at my own hubris, and desire to exert some control on the uncontrollable. My uber-white guy goal orientation serves me most of the time, but I have some work to do on knowing when to turn something over to the interconnectedness of everything and when something is actually appropriate as a goal. I believe deep in my bones that we are all connected to everything and that attachment is a source of suffering. But I also have taught myself that will and goals help make the world manageable. I have not learned the balance between the two.
BTW, my kidneys are fine. My treatment schedule has been pushed out a week to give them more time to recover. I have updated the schedule, and I am doing my best to not become attached to it.