Holding and Releasing

This painting by Julia T. (via Smart Girls at the Party) has nothing to do with the post. I just really liked it. Why does everything have to mean something?

I seek things to hold onto — ideas, ways of thinking, ways of looking.  I like having a plan and adhering to it.  It’s not so much specific plans that I like, but having a plan at all.  It comforting. When I find a path or a way of living, I enjoy following it and measuring my success based upon how closely I keep to that path. I’ve been seeking a way since my late teens and I’ve held on tightly to each way until they stopped helping. Then I sought another way.  No, I desperately clung to another way.  Seeking, holding and clinging helps me deal with my discomfort with uncertainty, suffering, and meaninglessness.

I can’t stand meaninglessness.  Just the idea of putting a piece of artwork in a post that is lovely but doesn’t connect with the ideas I’m writing about unsettles me.  Everything must have meaning.   Why? Because I get off on it and it feels like I’m anchorless, ungrounded and lost without meaning, without grasping to meaning.

I read this last night in David Keirsey’s book Please Understand Me and it describes me perfectly:  “(my) truest self is the self in search of itself, or in other words, (my) purpose in life is to have a purpose in life.” I feel most alive when I’m seeking a meaningful way to live.  The operative word there is seeking.  I must constantly seek and hold, in order to feel like myself.  If I find myself, I’ll no longer feel like myself.  “One becomes oneself if and only if one does not”.  So I keep on seeking a way, holding onto it, seeking and holding.  Never finding.

I have a feeling that The Way involves not holding tightly, not seeking, but releasing.  Not letting go, but letting everything be. Because holding onto things with clenched fists doesn’t make uncertainty go away. It is not the cure for suffering.  In an interview in The Paris Review, psychoanalyst and author Adam Philips suggests people look at psychoanalysis as an art, as something that does not cure, and provides no guarantee of alleviating your suffering.  Looking at psychoanalysis in that light, patients

in the process of doing the analysis…might find their suffering is alleviated or modified, but also they might discover there are more important things than to alleviate one’s suffering.

Maybe life works in the same way.  There are some things you hold onto and that may temporarily alleviate your discomfort and suffering and provide some joy but maybe there are more important things in life than alleviating your discomfort and suffering.  To always seek new things to hold gets in the way of finding those important things.  Maybe you find your way by not trying to find your way.

The idea of not holding and the idea of releasing any desire to grasp is slightly terrifying.  I think this feeling is called being alive.  Maybe the answer is grasping or holding on to things and knowing when to release those things in just the right way and at just the right time.

How?  I have no idea.  I think part of releasing is realizing you don’t have all the answers and admitting that you don’t know.

Again — terrifying.




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