I recently lost something I cherished. But really things are always accidentally slipping away. Especially when you are rather absent-minded, or also caring for a small child who is very slowly learning what “flinging” and “throwing” and well “losing” something might mean.
Sometimes it’s something very important, a piece of a person or place that is essential to your sense of yourself, is just simply lost. It may have followed you around for ages, it may be something you never look at or something you use every day. It’s just a thing. It’s not just a thing. It’s gone. Pinched by a stranger or left under the hotel bed or moth-eaten. Tossed out with a wad of old receipts. No help from St. Anthony, even for the deepest believer.
In any event you just can’t have it anymore, and suddenly the world presents you with a thing-shaped hole.
The Lover takes ten steps forward. The Beloved takes fifty back. Sanskrit
poems sing of how the rose trembles whenever the bee hovers near.
Listen, I have sobbed from pleasure. And I’ve cackled
over my own tombstone, carved with: Understanding.
Losing little things is obviously not what Robin Coste Lewis is talking about, but the message is nonetheless a relevant one - namely, that embedded in each full-hearted feeling is its utter opposite. The deeper and closer a love the more firmly fixed in it is bereavement. Similarly, Elizabeth Bishop’s One Art chokes me (inveterate lose-er) every time. Little things, disaster:
Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.
Really the initial sting of - let’s face it - grief must wear off: it isn’t that big of a deal. It was a sweater, a pair of earrings, a white linen dress, a two dollar bill, a houseplant. It isn’t anyone’s fault, because blaming the one who lost it if it wasn’t you would be unfair or unreasonable or both; blaming yourself is unthinkable, because how can you live like that?
But what is to be done. First, tears. Perhaps a moment of speechlessness is in order, which will coincide with denial. A stomach in knots will last at least a whole day.
A recipe for recovery might be to re-read a book, sip a cup of tea, eyes closed, doll yourself up in bright red lipstick and go for a martini or two (which, to be honest, is just a decadent prescription for forgetting rather than one for moving on). Listen to a record all the way through.
Or perhaps the thing to do is to commemorate the loss with a ceremony in honor of the lost person, not the thing - because I’m almost positive that this is what your heart is after. Celebrate yourself at nine or 18 or 25; a long lost job; a person you love or loved; a life in another place. If the memorial lasts long enough it will exhaust you, and return you happily to the present moment. This is obviously a best case scenario.
Whatever feels a little good and a little unreal, I think that’s the ticket. Because this is not to say any loss will ever really end: even if a celebration lightens the weight of things we have lost the pang of hurt will return every now and then.