Hold on Loosely

Written by Chelsea Francis

Just hold on loosely
But don't let go
If you cling to tightly
You're gonna lose control

- 38 Special “Hold On Loosely”

You know, I didn’t expect to be taking advice concerning non-attachment from an arena rock band, but here we are.

As some of you may know, every year I pick a word of the year. And while I totally think you should do it if it feels right, this year I ended up skipping it. Every word I seemed to come up with felt forced, and every explanation seemed fraught. Eventually I let go of the requirement that I needed to pick a word to focus on in order to have a good year of self growth, and just tried to trust myself.

It’s no secret that I am a fan of self work. This morning I read a fantastic newsletter that started a paragraph with, “Luckily for everyone, I started going to therapy…” and I said WOW out loud in my car, voicing my total agreement to no one. I started working on myself during a period of time where I felt like I was good enough, and then realized that I didn’t believe a single word of that statement. In the course of the few years, I’ve learned a ton about myself and now that I see it all spelled out, not choosing a word this year seems logical. Choosing a word, for me, gave me a single building block of working on myself for an entire year and probably led me to starting therapy and trying to figure out who I was at my core. Now I’ve sort of taken that up as a habit. I like digging in and seeing whats there now, even when it’s hard.

I was discussing all of this with some friends and the concept of non-attachment came up. This podcast is really good primer on the concept. Non-attachment for me in my life has meant that who I am as a person isn’t tied to any outcome of success or otherwise. The Buddhist principal of non-attachment suggests a much deeper concept that I’m still in the process of grasping. Practically speaking it’s manifested itself into something really simple: My joy doesn’t hinge on whatever it is that I’m so worried about.

This job that I really really want but feel like I don’t deserve (even though I do?)
My joy doesn’t hinge on it.

This community I have here that I’m so proud of, but I’m still navigating?
My joy doesn’t hinge on it.

All of the little tasks that try and overwhelm me in a day?
My joy doesn’t hinge on it.

This has been really meaningful to me in what’s been a very busy season full of what normally would have been labeled as expectation for me. And when you build and build and build on expectation of yourself, it’s really easy to land yourself in a seat of disappointment even if things are going well.

Non-attachment in this season has suggested that my joy comes from somewhere else, that I am in control and that I can access it even in the times that I am worried, or scared, or deeply sad. I just need to find it with all the decision making autonomy I have at my disposal. In this light, it’s more of a treasure map than a philosophical problem of my human existence and that makes navigating the world seem a little bit easier.


Chelsea Francis is a photographer, editor, connector, and all around people person out of Austin, TX. She's most passionate about helping others see the beauty in their own lives, a good cup of coffee, and a great slice of pizza. When she's not answering emails, she's editing pieces for Pass/Fail, hosting networking events, and shooting and editing photographs for incredible companies both in Austin and elsewhere.

Chelsea Francis