I was four years old, and it was a cold day. The sun reflected off the shiny plain of the Salt Flats; I squinted my eyes it was so bright, and there, with the engine running in his old truck, “You know I love you, Stacy.” My face beamed, for a moment, short-lived as the canvas of anxiety draped over us, muffling my voice, his words, cooling the sun’s warmth. Even though I was not privy to the divorce discussions between them, I knew I was about to lose something so precious to me. I could feel it. Shortly thereafter, my sister and I were on our way to Texas with our mom.
That same feeling occurred again, and again through the childhood, school, college, work, love, friends, life. I fought it. I didn’t want to feel that undeniable pit, sickly lump of anxiety in my gut. It’s not comfortable. Feels rather like food poisoning. Avoid it. Hold on for dear life. Don’t let it go. Don’t feel sick. Those thoughts and resulting actions created a suspended life, a life that lived in parallel to my real one, wherein I could replay every scenario, every line, to prevent the potential loss from affecting me. That second life, lived in my head, the scenes of perfection, if I just did this differently, that differently - like a yoked, ruminate ox in an infinite loop - hijacked the energy and focus from what really mattered: now.
Somewhere along 40 something clicked. I began to see loss as, while certainly uncomfortable, something to expect – like a nagging mother-in-law .
Yes, of course, your life is your own. Sort of. “Live each day to the fullest!” “Carpe diem!” Muster all the bullshit motivational posters. But truth is, your life is subject to variables around you that you cannot control, like how other people feel, where they spend their time, who they spend it with, if they love you, if they don’t, if they cheat on you, if they die, if they live, ad infinitum. And while you can affect it, you cannot even control your own health, or your own mortality, or even your own thoughts! So you have a choice: hang onto the coattails of your imaginary perfect life and waste time worrying, feeling sick, tired, and anxious. Or accept loss and unpredictability as something you can count on: you just don’t know when, or how, or why it will strike. Loosen the grip, because you aren’t really holding on to anything in the first place. Keep on moving. Go for that hike. Buy that horse. Write that book. Sit on your couch and do nothing. The only thing you can control is what you are doing. Right now.
Loss makes us question ourselves, our actions, our feelings. It hurts, if we let it. And we should let it. Because it’s only in feeling it that we can pass to the other side to improvement. Nobody likes the feeling of an eviscerated heart, but if we never go there, we will never change. Loss’s blessing is that we come out stronger, more insightful, more intuitive, more welcoming of the next loss, more expecting of the unexpected.
Loss’s gift to us is adaptation and peace. Let go. Into the hurt.