Not my house.


In an effort to keep my 4 year old son from freaking out when one of his toys breaks, we’ve started saying things like “that’s too bad, honey, but good thing you have lots of other toys!” or “that’s too bad, but it’s just a toy.”  He learned his lesson so well that now, when he breaks something of mine, he will cheerfully say, “That’s okay, Mama!  Good thing you have plenty of other stuff” or “remember, Mama, flowers don’t last forever.”  Aargh.

For the last month or so I’ve been thinking a lot about detachment–detachment from unrealistic ideals, from expectations for the future, from the way I want things to be.  As petty as it sounds, my problem with detachment from worldly things probably surfaces the most when it comes to the kids breaking my possessions.  I’ve always considered myself fairly detached from material things already; it’s not like I cry when they chip my special china or something, and most of our stuff is from thrift stores anyway.  But when the very few things I do care about get broken too–my only nice artwork, a gift from my father, that the kids poked holes in with a pen, and my special icon triptych from my mother, which they ripped off its hinges–I lose it.  I discovered both these precious gifts while I was cleaning last week, and started ranting about how I was just fine at being detached from MOST things, but couldn’t I just have one thing that was clean and new and stylish and unbroken and modern and the right size and in the right place?  Just ONE?  Just how detached does God expect me to be?

File:Willard Leroy Metcalf - The White Veil (1909).jpg

The White Veil, by Willard Metcalf.


As soon as I said that, of course, God responded by sending me lots and lots of readings about detachment.  Every book I picked up, every meditation or quote in my daily Magnificat reading, was telling me how I would never get closer to God unless I learned detachment.  And I really, really didn’t want to hear this.  I have no idea what this means in my own state of life.  I think part of my problem is that I think detachment means not caring about anything but God, but that’s not true.  I’m starting to realize that what we’re really called to do (I think) is to love and enjoy the things of this world, without getting too attached.  It’s more of a balancing act than I realized.  After all, I need to appreciate the things that God has given me–material things, gifts, relationships, talents, and so on–and not despise them.  It’s not a black-and-white choice between (a) giving everything away and sitting in a cell praying all day and (b) caring about the things I have.  Instead, I think it’s a choice between appreciating the things I have as they are, broken or unbroken, and being attached to the things I have as I want them to be.  If I appreciate my house only when everything’s clean and unbroken, and lose my peace when things get messed up, I’m too attached to my house.  If I appreciate only the parts of my body that are to my liking, rather than appreciating the marvel that my body is right now, I’m too attached to my body.  God doesn’t want me to obsess over how awful my stretch marks are, but I don’t think he wants me to say “who cares about bodies?” either.  To have the proper distance from the gift that is my body, I can’t be too close (either by loving its perfections or loving its imaginary ideal) or too far (“a body is just a tool for living; who cares how it’s made or how it works or how it looks?”).  (I actually did know someone like that once; he thought it was unfortunate that we had to eat.  All this time we spend shoveling food into our bodies, we could be devoting to higher things, like philosophy!  He was a not a healthy person.)

Thanks for listening to me think out loud.  I’m obviously not sure about any of this; what do you think?  All I know is that God seems to be telling me to do something that I’m terribly uncomfortable with.  For the most part, I’m at peace with my stretch marks; but I’ve always been annoyed when people tell me to “embrace” them.  Why can’t I just tolerate them, or ignore them?  But I’m starting to get the feeling that God wants me to embrace quite a bit more.


image of monk’s cell



  1. Over the years, by observing my interactions with my children (now grown), I learned that I personally instinctively react strongly to ‘almost’ emergencies, but handle real emergencies in a fairly straightforward manner. The kids would get a real (sometimes hysterical) lecture if they _might_ have broken something, but a reasonable query as to whether or not they were injured if something did smash. If it turned out that they were unhurt, but something (precious or otherwise) was damaged/ruined, they were given some discipline or other which seemed to suit the situation, and we moved on. I never planned this, it just worked out that way. So now, if I see myself reacting strongly, I can sometimes take a step back and ask myself just how important the event/thing is. Is this learning detachment?


  2. ooo i just thought of something…& let me first say that i’m the first to be annoyed at the ’embrace your curves’ i.e. ‘get as fat as you want, they make cute clothes for fat girls now!’ movement. but. i did just think,

    ‘what if Berea, when she’s 36, has a body like mine (size 10ish, 5’3″ ish…not my fav version) and loathes herself for it as much as I do?’ I would be so. sad. I love her so hard that it would be heart breaking to see her completely oblivious to all the wonder that she is. thankfully, considering her current confidence, i think she’s safe. but it was an eye opener as to how God, who Jesus described as our Daddy, must feel when we are harsher/more focused on only the parts we don’t want for us. It must just hurt his feelings. “Why are you not seeing how FABULOUS you are??! And maybe, just maybe if you did, you’d not make choices that make you feel worse, baby doll.”

    anyway, you’re prob size 4 (like me once!) and just have stretch marks to deal with…and for that, I only have Chrissy Teagan’s Instagram making me feel better: “Stretchies say hi!”

    also, i totally lose my mind when the FEW things I’ve kept around because they’re pretty (and most are from Thrift Stores, too, making them no less wonderful in my (our) eyes–pretty is pretty!) are grabbed by the 6 year old for her purposes … for some reason the 7 year old (male) doesn’t mess much w my stuff. SHE, tho, seems to feel that what’s mommy’s should be hers…I think it’s that I pride myself on being such a minimalist, and that coupled with the few things I’ve said yes to keeping…oh i don’t have the time to complete any of these thoughts, but mostly just saying ‘thanks for taking the time to articulate and start an interesting conversation!’ xo


  3. I really like how you articulated this.

    We obviously can’t love anything more than God, so in that sense we need to be detached. Or at least more attached to God than things / bodies, so there would be relative detachment to things / bodies.

    But on the other hand, things / bodies are gifts and it is good to enjoy them. I agree it is a delicate balance.

    I think I’m at a point where I don’t hate my body. I work out and take (mostly) good care of it, so I’m teaching myself that how I look NOW is a good thing and I really need to let go of my hopes of looking 19 again.

    But the thing that always bothered me – stretch marks. Not the fact that they exist and not the fact that I have them; what I hate is everyone assuming that I hated my body because of stretch marks. I don’t care one whit about my stretch marks. What I ACTUALLY didn’t like was all the loose, leftover, sagging, wrinkly skin where my taut belly used to be. No matter what I do or how much weight I lose I will never get that excess skin gone (short of surgery which I refuse to pay for). But, of course, any time it comes up in conversation with a friend or relative, it’s “Oh you just have to learn to embrace your stretch marks” as if I hadn’t just explained that my negative feelings have nothing to do with the stretch marks!


    Thanks for letting me vent – I feel better now. 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s