How Clinging Happens

And never sacrifice; for if you sacrifice you cannot forgive and you cannot forget.


Freedom makes even love beautiful.


I am not talking here about the natural clinging of the infant to its mother; primate babies, including humans, have a powerful grip designed to enable them to grasp their mother’s fur. I think most human babies/mothers (there might always be exceptions) would benefit by doing what the gorillas, chimpanzees, and bonobos do: baby stays physically connected with Mom for the first year of its life, cradled in her arms or clinging efficiently for dear life (humans can use those nice pouches.) Happy, happy! I am going to suppose that such felicitous clinging would give the child such a basis for himself that in later life he would naturally range farther and farther afield with courage and impunity, leaving Mom behind.

No, I am talking about romantic clinging. You know the kind:  can’t-bear-to-see-him-leave clinging, phone-him-several-times-a-day clinging, mourn-horribly-if-he-is-gone clinging. The sort that drives the other away and makes one’s own self weep disconsolately night and day.

Now, I am quite sure that this sort of painful syndrome has roots in a feeling of inadequate nurturing in childhood/infancy; either by mother or father or both. But suppose that you have been doing your homework; you have had therapy and more therapy (lovely, lovely stuff – it becomes by and by as delicious as honeydew melon, that delving,) and yet still you mourn and cling to your lover. And the lover is inevitably beginning to resist you. And the panic mounts.

Now, love is like breathing. There is an ingoing and then an outgoing breath; it is natural to be together and then to be alone. When one is alone one returns to the purity of one’s being; one empties of influence, one rests. And then to see the other is a delight again. (Marriage kills this by and by unless much space is somehow built into the arrangement.) Chakras too have an opening-and-closing life; they breathe. Sometimes the heart is open; sometimes not. Quarreling with this natural rhythm is futile.

I know whereof I speak. I spent decades as a clinger. I drove away many perfectly nice lovers. I got stalkery, I followed them about, I rushed in on them while they were under their mosquito net with another woman and threw water on them as if they were yowling cats (and actually I would not do that to a cat.) I scratched my own face in despair while they stood by horrified. I lurked outside their doors examining the small shoes and the large that lay there.

Now, this was all quite long ago, and by and by I met a man who was also feeling bruised and we made a good match of it: our aesthetics chimed, our hugs were warm and smelly in the best way, our solidity together emerged and flowed about us in benevolent healing of our pasts. Mostly. But there was a small, common scene that would happen between us and one day it led to an epiphany for me that I have never forgotten….

We would go out to dinner on his Enfield (this was of course in Poona, India, where we lived each in his/her own place) and afterwards he would drive back to my apartment, I  riding in splendor on the back. And he would pause outside the gate and I would hop off and turn to him for the goodbye kiss. Now, I would be in the mood to be alone. We would have spent two rich nights in a row together by that time and I would naturally want space to breathe, empty out, relax. My own precious company, doing my own small things. And he would put out his full lower lip a bit, like a six-year-old, this six-foot-four guy (we will call him Aksel;) and say, “Aksel wants you to stay the night with him! He would really, really like that! ” And there would seem to me to be a doleful bit of threat in his words.

So: here was my moment of choice, of opportunity. Something had come towards me and I had to decide what to do. These moments are sooo important – for if we rush and ride over ourselves the important thing is lost forever! This moment, waiting: truth or untruth? I did not know then that all I had to do was close my eyes and watch what my body did inside: did my stomach feel a sense of closing? Did my heart seem to fall? Or did energy rise in welcome?….For that is my way to know things. It might or might not be yours.

Society teaches us untruth. Be polite/acquiescent/don’t hurt anyone. But what are we here on earth for…to continue being faithful to a third-grade teacher’s chiding, or to be faithful to our own mysterious moment’s knowing? That teacher is no doubt dead!

I would often say that now I needed to be alone, sorry. I could feel my yearning for that space….But he would persist. “Aksel would really like it….” And then I would cave in and hop back on the bike and go with him to his beautiful dwelling among the trees and flowering shrubs…but that place wasn’t mine.

Now, what exactly happens inside a person who has just gone against her truth? (And it would be easy to blame him and say “He did it” – and it would also be untrue, and a huge waste of energy. He did what he did, the reasons were none of my business; I was there responsible for me.) For the whole of that night I would be in a warped state, really; my knowing was that I should be alone; my situation was, I was relating. And in the stillness of one of those nights I watched carefully inside myself and saw this: for some weird reason I can’t quite describe, going against oneself creates clinging. I became weakened by my ‘No’ to myself. I was no longer in myself properly. I was then prey to neurosis. I then began to cling to him: for if I cannot trust myself, I will have to grab onto the nearest person! And the clinging escalated from that point, and I was weakened further still. Eventually we broke up…he rejected me, and I mourned – but in the breakup I saw another hugely valuable thing: if I tell my truth, that truth is more powerful than any six-foot-four man, no matter how in awe I am of his seeming power. My small-person ‘No’ would have, had I stuck to it, given me back my dignity and beaten back the overwhelm of the big-person “I want you” that I had succumbed to.

And when I saw that, I mourned no more – I had gotten what I came for. And we even became friends.

I think all addiction is like that – we think we are addicted to something because we love that thing and it makes us feel good. But in fact allergy research shows that we become addicted to something that is toxic to us; the toxin creates a strange buzz, a high; but it is perverse. The rejection of what is natural gives rise, inevitably, to perversity. “I am with you when I want to be alone -” I am in a state of perversity. I am uneasy in my skin, and the skewing-sideways will make me kiss you harder, say more sweetish things, just to cover it up….I eat six pastries, and the knowing in my body that this is weird and sick will make me eat more, because I will not stop. I am beguiled by poison. If I stop I will  have to feel the pain of my original refusal of what I really wanted. I don’t want to feel that layer.

Love breathes. Food beckons truthfully. The body knows. But if I don’t listen – who can help me?

And if I do listen…a revolution is accomplished, inside me. I am strengthened, I can breathe, I am made staunchly at home in myself. I can stand firmly on my own two feet and say, “No” or “Yes, ” genially enough; and mean it. This is truth, this is beauty. This is freedom. And I am still working with this lesson, day by day. It is a challenge utterly, and it is the best!

1 comment to How Clinging Happens

  • ayesha sandra lee

    from the outside, clinging looks so pitiful, but in its throes, it is hard to free oneself. I have been thinking lately, in these retrograde times, about times I was caught up in it.

    P seemed a handsome, successful young man with very soulful eyes. He pursued me for about two years and I really wondered why I always said no and tried to avoid him, which was hard in the small northern California town, where we lived.
    If a relationship disaster hadn’t weakened my mind, I probably never would have wavered. after many mistaken relationships, I slowly fell in love with B, in just the right way, from working together, getting to know each other as friends first. at 33, he was ten years older than me, accomplished, well respected and financially solvent. He was enamoured with me also, and we had a wonderful time together. He introduced me to his friends, older, established people who were very supportive and welcoming to me and approved openly of us as a couple. I felt secure and respected by him, a first for me, and I thought we might have a very good future together.
    I knew he had had a prior relationship with a woman, N, had moved away to New York to pursue her career as a clown. He said he had been hurt but was over it. Affter some happy months, all at once something was wrong.
    He didn’t call for many days and when he did, I knew something was wrong. We met and he told me the Clown had returned and wanted him back and he was going back to her, not because he wanted to or they had fun, but because they had been together a long time and they were both Jewish. I was shocked and confused, and to this day, do not understand it. I felt like I was at a picnic on the beach in Hawaii and a sudden ice storm came along and destroyed everything. I imagined her to be a gorgeous charismatic acrobat, but when I saw them together, which I could not avoid, she was chubby, short and grumpy looking. He looked miserable and I was even more confused.
    I did not want to always be alone places, while he was with her. I was in a bad way and when P asked me out one day, I said yes. after all, I thought, where had following my heart and instincts led me. P’s apparent adoration was a balm to my ego and I did not have to be alone. I thought it would be good to be with someone who liked me more than I liked him. at first he was very attentive, and I tried to be loving, but quickly something wierd happened. He seemed to be losing interest, now that he had won my affections, very quickly. He turned from an adoring puppy to an aloof wolf. I thought, no way can this guy I didn’t really want reject me. I became clingy and began to pursue him. I became self destructive and joined him in unhealthy partying and my friends warned me off him. I couldn’t let go and he dumped me for another girl. He would pick me up hitchhiking and tell me about her. I began to detest him and could not believe I had ever fooled myself into being with him.
    anyway, I relate to what you said about denying oneselfs true knowing and the unfortunate repercussions of that denial. Ayesha

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