I’ve been thinking a great deal about loss lately. And when I say “loss,” you’re conjuring up a negative connotation, aren’t you? Yeah, me, too.
But I don’t necessarily think that’s always the case.
Over the past year and a half, I’ve lost nearly 70 pounds. On my way to 100, I’m morphing into a new human form. I’ve lost lots of jiggly fat, 6 dress sizes, and a Suburban full of clothes that no longer fit. I’ve lost physical discomfort, excessive sweating, painful red marks around my belly from too-tight waistbands, late-night bingeing urges, and granny panties.
But I’ve gained so much more. Self-confidence, self-awareness, strength, stamina, some hot new clothes, energy, and enthusiasm. The funny thing, though? I’m still exactly the same person — I just look different. And by looking different, I feel different. I’m thinking about myself differently. I’m projecting myself differently. But I’m still the same old me.
We’re in the process of “losing” the hometown we’ve known for 10 years — the only home our kids truly remember. We’re selling our house and we’re going to lose our financial asses. Originally priced below what we paid, we’ve already dropped the ask by $20,000. The market has changed, our country is in a financial crisis. Our house is just one tiny piece of sand on a shore of financial instability. And before, this situation would have made me weepy and afraid. Now, I realize it is simply what it is. We lose money, we make money. We buy homes, we sell homes, we lose our asses on homes. We get the opportunity to follow some pretty big dreams. If those come at a cost, we’re willing to pay it.
Life is too short to cling so tightly to the things that don’t really matter in the long run.
This past year, we lost an integral piece of our lives — friends we’ve had for many, many years. Friends who know us best, have seen us at our worst, and who decided they no longer trusted in us or wanted to be a part of our lives. It’s a grand loss in so many ways. In fact, there is a friend-sized hole in my heart that may heal someday, but will always leave a scar. In this loss, I gained some perspective. I realized that I no longer wanted to walk on eggshells, to be accused of being wrong all the time, to wonder when the next explosion was going to occur, to be judged. I will always love my friend dearly, but we were no longer serving each other. It’s been evident for some time now that we were heading down a one-way path… and that going back would not be easy. That it might, in fact, be impossible. Losing a beloved friendship is painful, searing, often times agonizing. But the good news is that we’re both still alive, we’re both still breathing, we’re both still functioning, thriving, moving forward. She has a beautiful family and abundant blessings. Perhaps she’ll find a friend who better meets her needs. Maybe she already has. We were good for each other once. She taught me many things — is a critical piece of the 40-year-old that I am today. That history can never be relinquished. It will, in fact, be the basis for many of my tomorrows. Ultimately, that can’t be considered a loss, even if it looks that way from the outside.
It’s just an unexpected turn in the road.
Kahlil Gibran makes me smile and nod when he says, “When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.” I have been weeping for my friend. There was much happiness and laughter and joy and delight in our friendship. For that, I will always be grateful.
A few days ago, I finished “An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination.” Highly recommended by my dear friend, Mary, I was reluctant to read the account of a stillborn child. And now I can’t get Elizabeth McCracken and Pudding out of my head. As the grieving author moves through the first few days after her infant son’s death, she quotes, “You see, I’d thought he was a sure thing.”
“I’d thought he was a sure thing.”
So much of my life has been believing in the “sure thing,” searching for the “big truth,” the assurance that nothing will change. But everything changes. And it can happen in the blink of an eye. Elizabeth McCracken’s loss is — in my estimation — the worst kind of loss possible. To outlive a child, I think, is the most devastating of tricks that can befall us on this earth. Inevitably, there are lessons to learn from that kind of loss. And they are lessons I never want to learn.
My children are home for the next four days. (Although they’ve only been back in school for two weeks, some higher power decided that now was a good time for a long weekend.) Yes, they’ll drive me nuts. Yes, we’ll laugh with crazy abandon. Yes, we’ll run the gamut of emotions.
My fourteen-year-old will get sent to Planet Mean. That’s where he goes when his jackass attitude goes over the top. Planet Mean is a place that looks shockingly similar to his bedroom, but there are no phones, no electronics, no Xbox Live. On Planet Mean, he gets to engage in some self-reflection — he gets to think about why he is choosing to be a jerk and what might constitute a better choice. For hours at a time.
Gus will loiter around me aimlessly. I’ll ask if there’s something he needs, and he’ll shake his head “no.” He’ll sidle off to the kitchen and grab a quick snack from the pantry. Then another. Then another. Then he might share a long-winded story with me about an iPhone app that is so relentlessly uninteresting I’d just as soon chew my own arm off than engage with it. Then he’ll complain about his siblings being nasty to him and leaving him out of their reindeer games.
Mary Claire will inevitably have a high-drama moment. At some point in the next four days, she’ll cry like the world is coming to an end because she’s had to “break up” with a friend or because we won’t let her have a sleepover with 15 other hormonal 10 and 11-year-old girls.
And George. George will be loud. George will be obnoxious. George will burp and say inappropriate things at the dinner table. He will argue with his siblings, he will “forget” to flush the toilet, and he will annoy his teenage brother so much that eventually, something will be thrown at his head.
But I’ll take those moments. Every single one of them. Chris and I will revel in them. We’ll sit together with our respective Kindles and Nooks ordering certain children to Planet Mean and talking others off the emotional ledge. Because losing any of that? That would be True Loss. The kind of loss that could only be measured in empty, endless days and an aching, gut-wrenching journey through a life void of what truly matters.
Money, houses, neighborhoods? Those are losses that can be replaced. Friendships? Never replaced, but always treasured.
I am celebrating my wins today. Chris, Sam, Mary Claire, Gus, and George… I am celebrating you.
One thing I have discovered in my many years, my truest friends drift in and out. We may not be a perfect fit for each other all of the time, but we come together when we need each other most.