In Buddhism, the Four Noble Truths state that desire and attachment are the cause of all suffering — and the only way to end suffering is to overcome desire and attachment. When I first learned that concept, it really spoke to me. For years, I’d craved a way to end suffering – specifically, my own. I was intrigued by the idea that the Buddha had been able to disconnect himself from relationships and earthly desires and had found a way to Enlightenment. That peace sounded really nice.
But the lifestyle that the Buddha prescribed was not for me. I just couldn’t commit. Although I was drawn to the idea of disconnecting, I had too much of a tendency to engage. Once I had children, as most of you can relate to, my attachments became less about me and more about them and their wants and needs.
My children are my world. And, because of my deep love for – and attachment to – them, I often feel filled with fear. Sometimes that fear is fairly irrational: I can no longer enjoy roller coasters with my daughter because, the whole time, I’m just imagining her flying out of the car. And, sometimes, the fear is *too* rational – like their being terrified by school shootings and intruder drills.
Sometimes, it feels like I have less and less control. And, I mean, I guess that’s actually true. My babies (my older ones, at least) are no longer babies. They’re becoming more and more independent. They will stop wanting to hang out at home and, probably pretty soon, they’ll choose friends over family for New Year’s Eve celebrations. They’ll start dating; they’ll have heartbreak. They’ll have difficult decisions to make – and they’ll have to make them for themselves.
My dream would be that my kids would never know suffering – that none of us would ever know suffering. But I also know that that’s not realistic. There is suffering in the world and I don’t believe it’s solely because of attachment and desire. I’m not sure I believe that all suffering can really be controlled. And I think it’s important for me to teach my kids that a life of attachment and desire and relationships actually make it a life worth living.