Loss changes who we are
I’ve been thinking a lot about loss lately. It’s been on my mind at some level for years but it seems to be the prevalent theme of my 2014. Loss, in my opinion, is the hardest thing we have to deal with throughout our lives. Whether that’s loss of a loved one due to death or a breakup or life circumstances, or loss of a beloved pet, or a job, or a friend, or even faith and hope. There are many degrees of loss and it’s measured by amount of pain, physical and emotional, as well as intensity and how much affect it has on your life, short or long term. The unfair truth that has taken me many years to fully understand and accept is that loss changes you. The level of affect is dependent on what is lost, how it’s lost, and how integrated what you lost is in the life you’ve built. The shaking of your life’s foundation can leave anything from mild displacement to broken windows to structural damage all the way up to complete demolition.
My earliest memory of loss was when I was around 4 or 5 years old on a trip with my family. My favorite toy was this tiny motorcycle, anatomically somewhere between the small plastic size G.I. Joe (not the weird Barbie size) and Lego. Now, before write this loss off as petty or juvenile, do me a favor. Close your eyes and take a moment to think back to ages 4-10 and try to remember your absolute favorite toy in the whole world. Try to remember not only how much it meant to you but also why it meant that much. Well, for me that was a cheap toy motorcycle. I took that thing everywhere with me, which proved its fate, unfortunately. Along this long drive, we stopped at a rest stop for a bathroom break and to stretch our legs, as you do. Somewhere between removing my winter coat in the stall and getting back in the Suburban, this little friend of mine had vacated my pocket and I had the misfortune of not discovery its absence until we were at least 10+ miles down the road. I pleaded with my whole soul for my dad turn the truck around and rescue my fallen comrade but it’s $2 value versus the price of gas and time warranted a unfavorable verdict. I had nothing left but to collapse to the floor in tears and suffer.
The long term affect of this seemingly insignificant loss was that I kept excellent track and care of every important toy I ever owned. I practically became OCD about it. Everything must have its place and if it’s not in the place I had designated it to go, it’s either be stolen or my memory has failed me. The latter has yet to happen. I look at my life now and realize it’s built on the strongest and most effective safe guards I could find. Of course, it’s not all because of that motorcycle. I’ve been cheated on. I’ve been dumped more times that I can even remember. I’ve been used. I’ve used others. I’ve had loved ones die or disappear. I’ve been betrayed. I’ve been abandoned. I’ve been mocked and humiliated. I’ve been disheartened. I’ve lost love. I’ve lost faith. I’ve lost the ability to trust. And I’ve lost hope. I don’t list these to complain or invoke pity. I fully understand the majority of the world has had it much harder than me. This is just why I am who I am. I no longer date. I take excellent care of all my most important “stuff”; my guitars, my movie collection, my electronic devices and computers, my car, my new bed, etc. Everything in my world has a place; a home. I am tired of being hurt so I’ve removed myself from the line of fire and I’ve turned off the stove.
All the platitudes we hand out like gum when someone we care about experiences loss, “It’ll be ok”, “You’ll get better”, “Give it time”, etc. are nothing more than words. Loss changes us, changes who we are as people. What we as a society are generally too afraid to say is “I’m sorry. Yes, you’ll never be the same. You will have to rebuild your life, possibly from scratch. This rebuild will not come easy or quick.” and most importantly, “I’m here and I’m not going anyway. How can I help?”