Thursday, June 15, 2017

Detaching or Letting Go?

Many of us talk about letting go and detachment. But, what is the difference? Or, is there one?

I believe there is.

Neither is ever easy. I’m finding it very hard to learn how to detach or let go, whichever it is, and more so in certain areas of my life.

But, one particular area has taught me the difference and one strategy that can help. 

And that is my classroom.

I often have a very difficult student who loves to push buttons, test limits, etc. and in most cases I can remain calm and not escalate the situation. Later, that student may need help and I need to be there for him or her all the while forgetting what had transpired earlier. I am detached. I am not letting the past influence the present moment. Have I forgotten what transpired? No, because I often need to write down anecdotal records for parent/teacher/student conferences.

At the end of a school year, I dismiss the class for the last time and we all head to a nice summer break. I let them go into their future like balloons into the air. Gone, but not necessarily forgotten. Well, I can't actually remember any particular balloon I've lost, but I can recall certain students I've taught.

In terms of letting go of a situation or a person, it no longer affects us. It is gone. 

Yet, detaching and letting go is often harder in other situations. Take families/friends and politics/religion. In some instances, I can sometimes detach when a friend expresses a different point of view on a political or religious matter. In other areas, it's not so easy. Yes, we are all entitled to our opinion and the right to express it. But, when it comes down to my civil rights, my safety or possibly my life, I feel I must speak up. I find it difficult to accept a point of view which subjects or subjugates others to a lesser state. Aren't we all human? Don’t we all deserve the same rights? Doesn't "We the People" mean everyone?

The current political situation is unlike any other in my lifetime.

Tensions are high and beliefs are deep. Things have been said which have stirred long-held yet, submerged feelings. Friends, colleagues and even family members have found themselves even more divided across a political chasm. How do we move on from here?

I tried expressing my points of view over various aspects of this political circus. If I felt the person listened to me, I felt successful even if they didn’t agree with me, and still chose to vote against what I believed. Yes, it was harder when it involved something like same-sex marriage or LGBTQ rights because it did affect me directly. 

But, I learned one important thing which also stems from my career as a teacher. 

I can do everything to make a lesson relevant, interesting, focused, engaging, and fun. If the student isn’t ready to “get it,” the student won’t. If I express my point of view, and the listener isn’t ready to understand my side, they won’t.

I once taught a student in fifth grade who was a good kid. He was bright, articulate and enjoyed language arts. He struggled in math, but was still determined to try. I tried my best with him, but he never managed to get better than average grades. I later ran into him at the middle school where he came running up to me with a recent math test (Algebra, no less) shouting, "Mr. Ballam, I got a 96%!" I may not have been the best teacher for him for math, but he did get it later on.

And I have to be okay with that, and with the fact I, at least, tried. 

So, maybe I’m not the right messenger for that particular recipient. Or, the time is not right for the recipient to "get it."

And sometimes it still hurts. Especially when the topic is important to me.

A colleague was very supportive of me after my divorce and openly expressed her desire for me to find a new partner, but she drew the line at the 'sacred rite of marriage.' The 1,100+ Federal Benefits that accompany those two words, "I Do," didn't seem to faze her. I knew my argument would go nowhere. You can only hammer a nail into a fence so far before the nail can go no further and any further hammering would be fruitless. I had to detach from her as we still needed to work together. 

So, I tried to focus on where I felt I could be more successful.

And that helps me detach from other difficult moments.

Like these:

I've recently had many people tell me that I should get a dog. Or how much I need a cat. Or perhaps a roommate. Or that I shouldn’t eat this or that. I simply thank them for their concern and go about my business.

Because only I know my life, my path, my situation, myself.

Yet, I know where they are coming from.

I am truly grateful that they care.