A Lesson in Detachment


My family has been planning Christmas Day for well over a month. For the first time in a couple of years, we are all planning to be together at my mom’s – my siblings, in-laws, and my niece and nephews. My plan was to leave Missoula on Sunday and arrive home at my mom’s by Monday or Tuesday. I had meticulously planned the last days before my departure: last day of work Friday, get laundry done and everything packed, load the car on Saturday with all my belongings and my bike, then leave on Sunday morning and take two days, three at the most to arrive in Naperville. I would enjoy the days leading up to Christmas with my mom and spend Christmas Day with my entire family.

But sometimes my plan is not the Universe’s plan.

Last week it started to snow. All day Monday and Tuesday. It kept snowing. Thursday the snow was predicted to end by 11am…but it kept snowing and was then predicted through Friday at 11am…but it kept snowing throughout the day. The temperatures dropped dramatically below zero, and all the snow that had fallen became packed on the roads. Saturday I forged ahead with my plan and packed up my car, but as the day progressed, my anxiety increased as road conditions deteriorated to the point that I-90 shut down in central Montana and a Sunday departure became impossible.

I wasted that day consumed with worry. Worried about when I could leave. Worried about which route home I should take. Worried about the road conditions that would be along the drive.

Totally miserable and at my breaking point, I decided to sit and meditate on why I was worrying and what was at the source of my worry. I worry the most when I feel powerless and a loss of control. Worrying makes me feel like I have some kind of control, as if catastrophizing prepares me or helps me in some way. But it doesn’t. Next I realized that the source of the worry was the attachment I’d placed on getting to my mom’s by a certain day. I had become so attached to that outcome that I’d developed huge expectations. But the reality of the current situation dashed those expectations and caused me incredible disappointment. It’s risky to place so much attachment on a certain outcome, and it’s wiser to practice detachment and surrender instead. Marianne Williamson says in A Return to Love that we surrender more easily those things that aren’t important to us, but things that are REALLY important to us, that we are most attached to, are the most difficult to surrender. The attachment I have to my family and even more so FAMILY AT CHRISTMAS makes surrendering this difficult for me. But I am choosing to place this in the hands of the Universe and have faith that everything is working out for the best (even if it’s difficult to see it in the moment).

Saturday night I allowed myself feel all my emotions and I cried and cried, disappointed that my trip was not going to happen as I planned. But as I cried, I suddenly felt all the resistance melt away, and at once I felt at peace.

Yesterday, I woke with an entirely different mood and mindset. I talked to Kat and she asked me “what can you do to make today great?” So, I made a conscious choice to enjoy the day. I had a couple of cups of coffee at my favorite coffeehouse, I talked to my mom twice, I watched a great Bears game, I started this blog, and I watched BOTH The Sound of Music and Oliver. I kept smiling through the entire day, relieved to feel peace instead of anxiety.

At this point, I’m not sure when road conditions will improve enough for me to head East. Hopefully I’ll make it home by the end of the week. But I have come to a place of acceptance. In fact, I’ve even faced the possibility that I’ll spend Christmas here in Missoula and actually…I’m ok with that!
I’m lucky to be learning that it’s ok to have a plan, but then surrender the results to the Universe. And that, my friends, is the difference between feeling powerFUL, and powerLESS.