x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Sitting on the fence sometimes has much to recommend it

I found healthy detachment is not the opposite of commitment. It simply creates space for me to choose what to commit myself to.

So it's the new year and we are told to celebrate with new resolutions, bigger goals and commitment to decisions and actions.

If you are on that express train, good luck to you; my sole aim for this year is to learn to check out for a while.

As much as it is derided by the media and politics, I have learnt there is much to be gained by sometimes sitting on the fence and witnessing life's passing traffic.

Through sheer observation, I have learnt to avoid the unnecessary pain of throwing myself blindly into an erroneous cause.

Since I can remember I have always been one to attach too easily. As a boy - probably to the contentment of my parents - I would play with my toys until the wear and tear became irreparable.

Same thing with videotapes of favourite cartoons or watching television shows. With the latter, I remember going into mourning when a much-loved show began its final episodes.

Of course, it was more apparent when it came to my human relationships. Living my early years as part of a refugee community, you might think I would have mastered the goodbye. Instead, each one carried its own distinct distress.

As I grew older and more emotionally developed, I managed to tame my attachment streak and partly transform it to sentimentality; hence my collection of birthday cards stretching back 15 years and my frustrating knack of losing expensive items personally obtained while jealously guarding tacky mugs friends brought back from overseas jaunts.

But as a teenager, I was taught by parents and institutions such as schools, sports clubs and community groups simply to commit, the understanding being that it fosters momentum and concludes with success.

Stepping back is derided as lacking character, as disloyalty or even as unmanly.

In hindsight - and after licking my wounds a few times - I found healthy detachment is not the opposite of commitment. It simply creates the space allowing me to choose what to commit myself to.

It helps me develop and guard the personal space to make astute judgements and could be the only real antidote to the dangers of peer pressure; something just as damaging whether in school halls or trade floors.

Commitment and detachment should be taught as being complementary instead of polar opposites.

This new regime has already made me live more in the moment and appreciate each task at hand. While it cannot totally protect me from future disappointments, I am confident it will help me to bounce back quicker.

It is helping me live a more dynamic existence, allowing me the freedom both to charge forward and to step back strategically; engaging fully while simply observing life for a while.

 

sasaeed@thenational.ae