I woke up at 1:50am, feeling an overwhelming sense of loss.
And, loss is hard.
And I don’t mean the loss of someone who dies. That shit is the worst — the exquisite, bottomless aching of a person whose arms will never again wrap around you, whose laughter will never again peal into your ears, whose light will never again spark from their eyes directly into your soul — and there are truly no words that can describe its enduring, personal, and exquisite pain. So many of us, right now in particular, are panicking about the health of our loved ones; frankly, it’s terrifying (see above: 1:50am hobgoblins).
And, yet, what about the pain of those who don’t die? What of the ones who simply left your life? What of the ones who just aren’t there anymore? I’ve been on Facebook more than usual lately and everyday Facebook suggests “People You May Know.” It’s usually someone I don’t know at all, connected to me by some random series of mutual acquaintances but, then, sometimes, it’s someone who I realize has unfriended me. (P.S. Facebook, you gotta work on that insult bomb of an algorithm glitch. Surely, you know that they’ve dropped my ass long before I do.) Ouch, right?
That’s the loss I’m used to knowing. That’s fine, I’ve learned to cope with that. I’m not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. I swear a lot. And I talk about politics a lot. And I swear when I talk about politics a lot. I know how to manage that loss, to put it in its place, to move forward.
But what about the loss of life as we know it. Sure, it might be temporary, but I also believe that it will reshape us, mutate us, reform us like the way my mother was shaped by her sister contracting polio, a day she describes as “the end of childhood as [she] knew it.” I look at my children, 15 & 17 years old, and I yearn for a lost innocence where the threat was always “over there” and not “here.” It’s oh-so-very here now.
They have friends who are losing their last semesters in school, losing their team captaincies which they’ve worked so hard to earn, losing their proms while their dresses hang longingly in the closets, their graduations, their banquets, the awards they’ve pursued for so many years. It’s a loss they can’t comprehend because they don’t even fully know what they are missing. But it’s still a loss that will root deep inside of them, manifesting in obvious and not-so-obvious ways.
And, then, there are the grown-ups. Loss of freedom, loss of travel, loss of joys large and small, and loss of income. For me, it’s a loss of a business that I’ve worked for years to build. I hope it comes back, I will work my ass off to bring it back. But the loss of control, of how and when my work will result in that achievement, that is the hardest loss of all.
The loss of control is the hardest loss of all.
When I was in college, I became bulimic. I was young, I was scared, I was alone. It wasn’t that I felt like I was overweight; most eating disorders have nothing to do with body image. It was that I felt like I was out of control. I’m older, wiser, and have far more personal agency now than then; I have no worry about relapse. But I recognize the symptoms of the mania that, for me at least, accompanies the loss of control.
In this phase — and I know it’s just a phase — of quarantine, I’m more productive than I’ve ever been. My workouts have been more intense. My writing has been prolific. My creativity is off the charts. I’m cooking, cleaning, organizing, cheerleading like never before.
And, yet, loss is hard. I’m trying to fill mine with stuff that feeds my soul, and allows me the perspective to know that there are some things I can control, and the grace to know that it is going to have to be okay that there many more I can’t.
But for now, for today, I’m taking heart in knowing that I can sit with the loss with you.
I take heart in knowing that, this time, I am not alone.
I take heart in knowing that each day is a new day.
I take heart in knowing science is good.
I take heart in knowing that first responders and medical practitioners are selfless.
I take heart in knowing that when called upon to serve our better angels, the rest of us will do the right thing.
I take heart in knowing that when shown a list of weekly chores, I have teenagers who will volunteer to pick up dog poop and clean people toilets.
I take heart in knowing that technology can be used to connect us and not just divide us.
I take heart in knowing that there is more than unites us than separates us.
I take heart in knowing that even though we are apart, we are together.
I take heart in you.
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