Type your e-mail address here for daily updates in your inbox

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Necessary Losses/Homework Assignment

I think I will be writing about this theme a lot in this blog.  Kaveh introduced me to a book, Necessary Losses by Judith Viorst. The full name is Necessary Losses  The Loves, Illusions, Dependencies and Impossible Expectations That All of Us Have to Give Up in Order to Grow.   Jeesh - that's a mouthful!  I read this book a few years ago and it's time to read it again - it got under my skin.   Don't you hate the title? - Necessary Losses?   It sounds medicinal, like having to take castor oil - I almost didn't read it for that reason. One Amazon reader describes the book -  "Ms. Viorst normalizes the inevitability of loss and rightly observes how our growing capacity to hold ourselves open to these losses deepens our human experience...Buddhists meditate on the vase already broken.  In truth everyone we love will be lost to us...it is not morbid to recognize that....opening one's heart to loss is a sure way to open to love." 

And it's not just the loss of loved ones - there is the loss of the oneness of the mother-child connection when a child realizes with horror that they and their mother are not the same person - we spend the rest of our lives trying to recapture that infant sense of oneness, the biggest loss of all.   There is the loss of innocence, of childhood, of youth, of beauty, of dreams - the list goes on and on.  And of course the final loss that is death.  Another reviewer points out that, "life is full of losses from the moment we are born. It is how we are taught to deal with them that enables us to become well adjusted adults."

I struggle with all of this.  Kaveh asks me what I'm running away from...then postulates that it is myself I am running from.  There is the age panic and the fact that the childbearing married years were the dead years. I had a stock phrase I said back then.....that I was happy with my life and accomplishments and as far as aging and dying, everything after forty was a gift...that "if I had been born a Pilgrim, I'd be dead by now".   Easy to say when you're already dead inside.   And then the renaissance...the rebirth and can I remind you that birthing is ugly and painful?  A too big head forcing its way through a tiny aperture, a commitment to the future because to be stuck during birth is certain death - pain, blood, tears, shrieking, slime, incisions, sutures, hemmorhoids, violence. And once you're born, everything is too "too".   Too bright, too cold, too hot, too noisy, too difficult.   A newborn baby spends the first three months of his life just trying to be comfortable, fighting discomfort and misery - fighting for equilibrium and balance.   And if that resonates, then you are where I am. Maybe you are James starting a new life.  Maybe you are Tom, starting to date again.   Maybe you are Dinah having just undergone surgery for breast cancer and feeling like you dodged a bullet and finally accepting your mortality and vowing to make healthy life changes. Maybe you are Pam reinventing herself, determined to get a good job.  Or maybe you are me, Sarah who is in the vortex of love lost, a financial meltdown, career ennui, and divorce.

I told most of you I am going to start working on a one woman show called, what else, Necessary Losses.   I am counting on all of you to be in the audience.   I've never done a show before but I think I can do this successfully.   If I am successful, I will take my audience through the arc of their lives and highlight the losses and joys of moving from one stage of life to another - that without the good-byes, you don't get to pass go and collect $200 - you don't get to graduate to the next step.  I will enjoy scripting this show and picking songs to sing that will support the script.   I'm thinking by this time next year I will be ready for prime time!

And let's face it - everything comes down to aging and dying and how we handle it. And this whole aging thing?   I've seen the enemy and they ain't pretty.    The enemy shuffles, creaks, has big noses, is blotchy, has big ears that don't hear very well, smells bad, eats soft food, has only two talking topics - the weather and their health, clips coupons and goes out of their way to save a buck, drinks too much, wears loud clothes, wears outlandish jewelry,  takes too long at the checkout line, forgets their own birth year.  And the bad part is that the battle is already decided - we will lose to the enemy.   We will become them.

So, hmmmm....what to do?   There is another book for us to read.....Dorothy gave it to me years ago and it is ever present in my mind.   It's called, Younger Next Year.   If you and I are going to take on the enemy then we have to study him and learn his ways.   We need to evaluate our options..are there things we can do today to stave him off?   The answer is yes.   The concept behind this book is that, on average, people live for a good long time.  The unhealthy ones wish they were dead for the last 10+ years of their life - like an analog watch, they wind down slowly and their quality of life worsens and worsens.   But...there is a way to be like a digital watch which runs perfectly and reliably until one day it just stops.   We can give our bodies a constant springtime message of growth (versus decay) and enjoy living like we're fifty for the rest of our days.   It's really possible - takes a big commitment though (plan on doing an hour of cardio six days a week).   Get the book and read for yourself!

Let's talk more about this aging thing again....let's decide -  When should we fight and when should we accept the necessary losses that come with getting old?   Should we congratulate ourselves for living life fully, cramming the most into the time we have left or should we accept our aging gracefully and not push so hard?    What is the right balance here?  There is something appealing about just giving in - no worries about pudgy tummies, wrinkles, thinning graying hair, loss of libido, staying technology hip, embracing the grandmother and grandfather in us - being age appropriate.  Saying "yes" to a rocking chair!   Seductive, huh?   But I am starting to suspect that before you're OK with all of that, you have to feel satisfied with your life up to that point - you have to feel like you weren't short changed.  And what do you do if you feel short changed - if you still have too much to experience?   Hell if I know.

So the challenge today is getting those two books and reading them.  I hope you do.



  1. It seems that all phases, restarting, reliving, dating, ennui, surgery (I've survived cancer surgery as well), and day to day survival, is filled with pitfalls, successes, and lessons. It isn't realistic, or fun, to celebrate any successes without putting them in context without the failures to relate to (seems to be true in dating at least). I try to remember that the day to day failures and the ups and downs ARE live, not the final result at the end, and to enjoy what I learn along the way.


  2. There are times when I have an unexpected ache or take longer to recover from a physical strain. And then there are times when something which would have knocked me on my ass in my twenties bounces off me almost unnoticed.

    Ain't a terrible trade.

    As for "losses"... sometimes life will snatch from us that which we refuse to surrender, or that which wasn't so good from us. I have come to view "losses" at times not only necessary, but welcome.

    Put another way, sometimes in the losing of something, we find something else so much better. It's a way of making space for other possibilities.