Lately, I’ve been dealing with this concept of attachment, which was triggered by my youngest daughter’s departure to university in the United Kingdom. I dropped her off, returned home to an empty house, and promptly fell apart.
I was super excited to be an empty nester, and if you know me or if we’re friends on Instagram, you know I talked about empty nesting for almost a year before my daughter’s departure to university. What I didn’t see coming was my visceral reaction and meltdown to her leaving.
Of course, there were tears and pain when my first daughter went off to university thirteen years ago. But the house wasn’t empty when she left. I still had Zoë. This time there was no one, and my response was more heart-wrenching. I think I began to grieve for them both.
The familiarity/attachment I’d formed and become accustomed to since I was nineteen – when I had my first child – was no more. And for the first time in my life, I began to feel a bit lost. To manage all this newness, I allowed myself to feel all the feelings and reached out for support from my tribe and therapist. And then the idea of impermanence began to surface.
As I move through this liminal stage, impermanence is top of my mind as I navigate the many changes that include death, empty nesting, my changing body (due to some of the emotional and physical sensations and changes from menopause), relationship changes, and career shifts.
My angst about change/loss reached new heights in January, starting with the death of my husband’s cousin, my brother-in-law in January, my aunt in March, and a few other passings in February and March. Frankly, it’s been a whirlwind of sadness.
I can tell you that time combined with openness and allowing is a recipe for healing. I’m in a much better place than I was last October. Thanks to self-reflection and examining the idea of impermanence.
What is impermanence?
Thich Nhat Hanh was a Vietnamese Zen Master, writer, and peace activist who wrote extensively about the Buddhist concept of impermanence, which is the idea that everything is constantly changing. He reminds us that Impermanence does not necessarily lead to suffering. What makes us suffer is wanting things to be permanent when they are not.
Four Things Impermanence Can Teach Us:
It’s a natural part of life
Impermanence is not something to be feared or avoided but rather, a natural part of life. Everything is constantly changing and evolving, from the cells in our bodies to the world around us to how we look and feel. Yes. Menopause is a natural part of life and so are children leaving home.
To appreciate the present moment
When we recognize the impermanence of things, we can appreciate the present moment more fully. We are less likely to take things for granted and more likely to savor the beauty and richness of life. This ah-ha moment brought me back to my life and reality.
To recognize the consequence of attachments
According to Buddhist teachings, one of the causes of suffering is attachment to impermanent things. By recognizing the impermanence of things, we can learn to let go of attachment and find peace. This, of course, is easier said than done. In my opinion, Eckhart Tolle says it best. Don’t even try to let go of attachment to things; they drop away by themselves when you no longer seek to find yourself in them.
To create and embrace joy and creativity
Impermanence can be a source of joy and creativity. Accepting that things are constantly changing makes us more open to new experiences and ideas. We can embrace the unknown and find beauty in the moment. This has created a shift in my outlook on life as an empty nester. My intention is to maintain a joyful and creative future.
The big picture
Thich Nhat Hanh teaches that impermanence is a natural and necessary part of life and that we can find peace, joy, and creativity in the present moment by accepting it.
It is my desire to accept impermanence as a part of my life so I can live and appreciate each moment and amplify the peace, love, joy, and creativity I deserve.
What are your thoughts about impermanence?