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Ignatian Indifference: A Manifesto for People Who Suck at Letting Go

By Ally Fritsch

Hi, my name is Ally Fritsch ...and I have severe attachment issues.

And while this blog will be reflecting on the idea of detachment ...I have huge attachment issues. And these issues manifest themselves in a lot of ways. I create bonds with people so incredibly fast and never want to let them go. I constantly need to be around the people I love or I feel debilitatingly lonely and purposeless. I love being in physical contact with people and if you even try to sit on the other side of the room from me instead of next to me I’ll think about it for 3 days. 

I am so very needy and clingy. I need to be everyone’s first choice, everyone’s go-to, everyone’s best friend.

I need to insert myself into every activity possible so people will come to love me as much as possible. I am terrified of people leaving me, abandoning me, or moving on. I hate change with every fiber of my being and avoid it as much as humanly possible. With all of these things going on inside me at once, I guess you could say I’m pretty anxious most of the time.

Now I never really thought through these things or gave them a name.

I knew I had a hard time letting go of people, but why? It wasn’t until spring semester of my sophomore year at Carroll that I really sat down and thought about it. It was the last month of school, and my boyfriend had just broken up with me, ending my very first real relationship. As horrible as this experience was, it helped me learn a lot about myself and why I react to things the way I do. And in looking at many aspects of my life, I realized some sources of my issues.

You could say my life has been a little turbulent, or as others have described it for me--"heavy." If you hang out with me or my family enough you will notice that dark jokes about our past are ways that we cope. From the youngest age I can remember, my oldest brother struggled with an alcohol and drug addiction that wore my family down in many ways--weaving stress, uncomfort, sadness, anxiety, and betrayal into the thread of my home. My mother suffered with various mental health problems, which frequently kept her out of work and at worst times, in the hospital. When I was in 7th grade, another of my older brothers was suddenly killed in a car accident, which we later found out was no accident at all, but my brother intentionally taking his own life. You could say that there was a lot weighing down on my family and a lot we were left to figure out how to navigate.

And my life felt constantly unpredictable. I never knew what was going to come next or what tragedy was going to inflict my family sooner or later.

As I moved on to high school, I noticed I had developed a lot of social anxiety. I felt like I was constantly keeping so many secrets, keeping such big parts of my life that had happened away from everybody. I didn’t know who I could trust with all of this, and more than that, I did not want to make anyone uncomfortable, and I did not want anybody’s pity. I always felt, and still do, that I have a very hard time connecting with people and creating close, mutual friendships. And perhaps this is because I keep so much of my life hidden from everybody.

But through all of this, through never knowing what in my life I could lose next, one thing always seemed to remain constant. And that was God. I did not, do not, and never will, have a perfect faith life. But for much of my life, God has been my best friend, by closest confidant, and my rock in all things. When I could not depend on anything else, God was there to hold me and tell me that somehow everything was going to be ok. I had made it this far, and there was nothing that we could not do together.

I absolutely hate the saying that everything happens for a reason. Because that’s crap.

God does not cause horrible things to happen for a reason. But, it does seem that God is powerful enough to bring something good out of the terrible. Every situation in life has the potential of a deeper response in our life in God--a God that only wants good for us.

I was always able to see that despite everything, I was blessed with an incredibly loving and tight-knit family. I had gained important perspectives on the dangers of substance abuse that have helped me stand with others struggling with these problems. I have an eternal passion for mental health awareness and services and a powerful empathy for people enduring such struggles. I have somehow always been able to see the blessings in my life despite the crap. Not that the crap wasn’t there and that it wasn’t completely unfair and that it didn’t hurt like hell. But that it wasn’t the end and that God still had more in store for me.

But nothing in my life has hit me harder than what occurred in December of 2018.

It all goes back to my freshman year at Carroll. Not even two months in to my first year of college, my family found out that my mom had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Oh well, you know--just another thing my family would get through together. I was hopeful, as was she. It honestly didn’t look very good. But I depended on God; I tried to give it all to Him. I tried trusting Him and His will. Knowing that even if the worst happened, it would be ok. But secretly, I was hoping and begging that my mom wouldn’t be taken from me too.

Treatment was horrible, and my mom was going through so much. I felt very detached from the situation being far from home, but every time I saw her I was hit with reality. I was reminded of the severity when I had to wear a surgical mask around her so I wouldn’t get her sick. One of the worst days of my life was watching my mom shave all of her hair off before chemo could take it from her. I will never forget the way she cried. But I will also never forget how she took selfies with me afterwards and went shopping for scarves and head wraps with me. She was taking everything like a champ.

She is undoubtedly the #1 strongest person I have ever known.

Things seemed to be looking up--until they weren’t. It all happened so fast. She went from doing pretty well all things considered, to finding out that the cancer had spread everywhere in her body, to passing away just 3 weeks after our family Thanksgiving vacation to South Carolina--only a little over a year after her diagnosis.

I cannot quite describe what this experience has been for me. The variety of emotions is wide--from immense guilt and regret for not being the daughter I should have been, to missing her with my entire being, to my heart breaking for my father, to wishing she could see the person I am growing into. I am finding new ways to grieve her everyday.

Losing my mom along with breaking up with my boyfriend spring semester sophomore year left me in a place where I could no longer force myself to be okay.

I could no longer hide what was happening in my life. I was forced to be vulnerable. I couldn’t pretend that I was fine anymore. I wasn’t doing homework; I wasn’t eating; I was having frequent anxiety attacks; I was crying all of the time. I was crumbling.

And I finally understood why I was so attached to everything and everyone and why change was my worst nightmare. I have come to know that anyone can be taken at any time, anyone can leave at anytime and life can be forever altered. And you can never get it back.

So I cling to everything. I try to form every attachment I can and not let go. I have gripped everyone in my life so tightly and if they even moved an inch away from me I would panic.

It wasn’t until this semester that I was finally shaken awake. I found myself so tired and so anxious all of the time. I constantly felt like I had no real friends, that the friends I did have actually did not care about me at all. I found myself trying to force myself into friend groups with people I didn’t even feel comfortable around or valued with. I was trying to force something to happen with any guy that I could find and lowering my standards to do so. I found myself dying to be a part of activities and programs because I had to in order to finally feel accepted or like I was a part of something.

Until I finally broke again. I couldn’t do it anymore. I was exhausted. And I was smacked in the face with a line from one of my favorite poems: You are wearing yourself out with all of this searching. Come home and rest. How much longer can you live like this?”

I could not live like this any longer--feeling like nothing was ever good enough, trying to force everything into my life, and clinging so much to everything. And I finally heard God’s call to come home and rest.

Just be.

Let go.

Because while God was always so present and constant in my struggle, I never allowed him to help me let go of all that was hurting me.

So I took a step back, started valuing the people in my life who truly cared and were there for me, put more effort into being present in every moment with every person; I did things because I was truly passionate about them and because they were energy and life-giving rather than because I felt obligated to. I embraced the idea that I did not have to force or cling because those things that are supposed to be in my life will not pass me by.

And I became a new person.

I felt so much happier; I was so much more confident; I felt more like myself and more proud of who I was becoming; I felt closer to God. In letting go, through detachment, I found so much freedom.

Because the reality is that the things that are supposed to be in our life will be there and the things that are not supposed to be there will be gone.

And that is ok.

That is a blessing.

I still struggle with this so much. I still have attachment issues. I still feel left out or inadequate. I am still tempted to force things into my life because I think I need them to make me feel better. But I have a better perspective now. And I am able to take a step back and know that I can let go and that God will continue to be the one who stands with me, gives me strength, carries me through, and creates beautiful things out of my life.

And that is what Ignatian Indifference is to me--healthy detachment. Letting go of the things that are hurting you, keeping you away from God, and preventing you from being the person you are meant to be. It doesn’t mean being ok with all that I have lost. It doesn’t mean that I am ok with my brother or my mom being gone because “God is good.”

It doesn’t mean stifling that pain or letting them go.

But it does mean that I do not compensate by being constantly afraid of every person leaving me and becoming overly attached to everything and everyone in my life. It means that I don’t force things or people into my life because I think they will make me feel less empty. It means that my joy is not dependent on outside circumstances and superficial things but in trusting that God loves me and that He will bring the things and people into my life that are exactly what I need.

Because all God wants of us is for us to let go

of all we are helplessly clinging to so that we can give him the space to show us just how much he loves us and all of the beautiful things he wants to give us. 

I encourage everyone to reflect on those things you are holding on to that are keeping you from seeing all God wants to give to you.

And when you are ready, let those things go so that you can finally find peace and freedom.

REFLECTION QUESTIONS 

  • Are you "mad at God"?
  • How do you make sense of the suffering in your life?
  • Christians don't believe that God causes suffering but rather that God suffers with us. Is this something you struggle with or something that brings you peace?
  • What do you need to let go of?

NEXT STEPS

  • Prayerfully listen to Ally's reflection song below 
  • Slowly reflect on Ally's prayers, also below 
  • Reach out to someone to let them know you are struggling.
  • If you have no one to call, please text SHARE to Crisis Text Line 741741 (USA) 686868 (CA) 85258 (UK). We've actually used this line before and know that it helps. 
  • Spend some quiet time in the chapel asking God how to move forward. 
  • Make a list of 10 things you are grateful for. When things are going wrong this might be the hardest thing but might also be the best remedy for the moment.
  • Take it one step at a time.

REFLECTION SONG

PRAYERS

“Lord God, May nothing ever distract me from your love. Neither Health nor sickness, Wealth nor poverty, Honor nor dishonor, Long life or short life.”

“In everyday life, then, we must hold ourselves in balance before all of these created gifts insofar as we have a choice and are not bound by some obligation. We should not fix our desires on health or sickness, wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or a short one. For everything has the potential of calling forth in us a deeper response to our life in God.”

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