If my creativity were a real man, people would think I was in an abusive relationship. They’d conduct an intervention and ask me why he won’t let me out more often or why I tolerate his controlling nature. I would say the same tired shit people in abusive relationships always say, You just don’t understand. I can’t live without him. Or When things are good, they’re really good, but when things are bad, they’re miserable. The mere fact that I personify writing/ creativity as my lover demonstrates an unhealthy attachment.
Kadampa Buddhism defines attachment as a deluded mental factor that observes a contaminated object, regards it as a cause of happiness and wishes for it. Non-attachment is the opposite of this. It is a clear mental factor that observes an object as a mere object and regards it as nothing more or less. The 14th Dalai Lama states that, Attachment is the origin, the root, of suffering; hence it is the cause of suffering. Non-attachment is sort of a Buddhist take on the adage, If you love someone, let him go.
I love my husband. I love talking to him. I love his touch, his kisses, his body, his intelligence, and his sense of humor, but I’ve learned that the sky will not fall if we are apart. When I go away on a writing retreat or he goes away for a dudes-only vacay, I know we’ll be a’ight. Someday (hopefully in the far, distant future) one of us will die and leave the other behind, and life for the survivor will not end. It may be painful, but it will continue.
I do not feel this serene non-attachment toward writing.
I am gluttonous and obsessive about writing. I overdose on him one minute and reject him the next, but there is never moment when I am not thinking about him, not desperate for him. I truly believe I am nothing without him. I often tell God I’d rather die than not be the writer I want to be. Note the conditional nature of that prayer. All the power and potential contained within me, and I pray for death in lieu of perceived failure. How insane is that?!
For the last few months, I’ve been pretending that I do not know something that I do know: writing is my secondary purpose. (As I type these words, my eyes fill with water. It hurts to write those words. Writing makes things more real for me. It hurts to put writing second.) My primary purpose is not unique. I believe it is the same primary purpose for everyone: to know God—or if you don’t like that word/concept/being—to know divinity, to know the universe, to know the connectedness of all that exists. I believe our secondary purpose is a path that allows us to attain our primary purpose. For some people, their children are their secondary purpose, or a significant other or their careers. They/He/She/It have/has the power to fill us with joy and the power to break us. In the course of these relationships, we will inevitably feel joy and be broken. We are so attached to our secondary purpose that we feel certain we will die without them/he/she/it, but we won’t because the secondary purpose is still secondary. It is contingent on the primary purpose. It cannot exist without the primary purpose.
I am so immensely flawed. I’m egotistical. I curse too much. I’m capricious and aloof. There are also wonderful things about me—I’m kind, loyal, giving, sacrificial and empathetic. My creativity doesn’t give a damn about my attributes or foibles. It accepts me as I am. It’s there for me on my best days and my shittiest days…then again all of this is true about my relationship with God.
I keep notes in the QuickMemo app on my phone. I had the following Bible verses listed together: Luke 9:23, Matthew 16:24 and Mark 8:34. I looked these verses up, and they all stated the same quote from Jesus: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”
So this is what I must do in the next phase of my life:
- Deny myself. Or as Buddhists say, burn the ego. And, Lord knows, my creativity is so contaminated with my ego it ain’t even funny.
- Carry the cross of my trauma and accept that sometimes it will be a back-breaking wooden cross and other times it will be an iridescent dragonfly resting on my shoulder.
- Release all attachment to creativity (i.e., the gluttony and the obsession). Learn to love it and let it go. It is secondary.
- Be clear on my primary purpose. Put God (i.e., divinity, the universe, all that exists) first.