Chasing the Gerbil: Detachment


I’ve been around quite a few surly, angry people in the last couple of days. The holidays bring out the best in us, don’t they? Yesterday I walked into a room, and, if looks could kill, I’d be dead as a doornail now and probably beaten to a pulp, too. It was so over the top and unwarranted that I wanted to repeat my Mother’s favorite phrase, “Your face is going to freeze like that, honey.” But all I could do is laugh inside. I don’t even know this person’s name and really didn’t recognize her face. What could I have done to make her so angry?

I was so thrilled to open my “Language of Letting Go” and see that my favorite reading of all time was slated for today. Melody Beattie has a way of talking to me in her writing that gets to me on a deep level, but I remember how this particular reading resonated with me when I was in my second marriage. I was insistent that my ex had to stop treating me like he was. (Take a break and read the reading here.)


The synopsis – for those who don’t want to read it – is that the Beattie family had a gerbil. The little critter got loose one day, and they couldn’t catch it. It lived for months on the loose in the house. The whole family – and Melody, the codependent, in particular – was adamant that this couldn’t happen. They could not live with a gerbil on the loose in the house. Every time it ran by, they screamed at it, lunged at it, chased it and tried to catch it. The gerbil would run and hide. Finally, Melody saw it one day and started to lunge at it. She just let go. She decided if that critter wanted to live on the loose then so be it. She was tired of being obsessed by it. Ironically, when she stopped chasing it, the gerbil walked by, sat down right in front of her and waited for her to pick it up. Detachment works.

Detachment, for me, is the greatest form of sanity. Sometimes I’m not able to detach, and I wring my hands, get irritated, obsessively worry and rant about whatever situation “should not happen”. If something happens, it can absolutely happen. It did. That woman had no right to look at me that way, and she shouldn’t be doing it. Well, she did. It happened. My ex should not talk to me the way he did. Why not? That’s who he was. And it happened. The only choice I have is to get myself out of the way of that behavior so it doesn’t bother me. Was it harder to detach from a surly husband than that woman I hardly knew? Yes, of course. But the principle is the same. They are who they are. I can be in their space and be affected or just let them be who they are without obsessing about how to change their behavior.

This week I committed to practicing yoga and meditation before I go to work. I feel much more grounded. The after effects of my practice give me a few more seconds between an event and my reaction. In that few seconds, I have a chance to decide if I need to be bothered about something and react. I can’t explain it. That’s just what yoga and meditation do for me. And today, I’m reminded about that gerbil. I don’t have to make someone stop behaving the way they are. I just have to detach.

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What are you chasing relentlessly thinking it should not be happening? What would happen if you just decided that if it’s happening, it must be okay for it to happen? How much saner would you feel if you accepted that it was “not ideal” but in the realm of normal? Would YOU feel better?

I have a feeling I will be dealing with some gerbils running loose in the house today. I think I’ll just let them run – or scowl or rant. They can do whatever they want to do – and probably will. Eventually they’ll get hungry or tire themselves out, right? I’ll just try to focus on how cute they are. We’ll see how it goes.

Talk to me, please...

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