Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Loss/Paint Your Own Coffin
Tuesday today. Sang really well at Petterino's last night. Not a Day Goes By and a fun upbeat song (for a change!) - Them There Eyes. Here at the office with Joey at my feet. Tonight a rare night home and I'll be anting my way through the piles of laundry. I say "anting" because when I'm faced with a monumental task that seems undo-able I derive inspiration by visualizing my efforts like an ant tunneling and carrying sand out of a hole, one grain at a time. The effort seems so puny but over time the ant gets the job done - persistence. So this pile of laundry that was amassed by finding every single stitch of kid clothing in my house, is so large it would make you gasp. I'm talking something like 15' long by 5' feet high! How did she get that many clothes!? Astonishing. My goal is for her to have a manageable amount of clothing that actually fits in her dresser and closet. The clean clothes are being arranged in my dining room by type and when I'm done, I will allow her to go "shopping" with restrictions, i.e. "you can pick five pairs of jeans, ten tee shirts, four hoodies, etc. Keep in mind the kid has somehow amassed about 200 hooded sweatshirts. Picking her favorite four is going to be traumatic. Expect fireworks.
It's a loss, right? But a necessary one. No one can live under an avalanche of clothing. And loss is what I want to talk about today. God, I hate the feeling of losing something or someone I hold dear, don't you? It just sucks to use a sophisticated word. I'm here at the office which will soon be someone else's office. In negotiations as we speak (offer, counter-offers, etc) with a potential buyer of the space. And really I'm mostly OK with it all. It's been silly for a long time to have this space. Most days it's just me in 2400 SF - the folks that work for me work in their homes. Time to move on. And yet, I've loved it here. Lately I'm remembering the excitement of purchasing the storefront in 2000, flying in Steve's decorator friend, buying all the Herman Miller furniture, selecting artwork, picking out an art rug, installing a beautiful hanging sculpture, feeling so successful and accomplished to be the owner of a brick and mortar business. Now, I'm divesting it - getting rid of most of the contents. Slimming down. It feels right but it still hurts.
Not all losses are bad. This week lost 5.4 lbs on Weight Watchers. You know I've lost over 100 lbs, right? I stalled in the past few years and actually put some back on over the holidays and in sad January, but I've found my way again and it feels SOOOOO good to have that part of my life humming. Between the eating well, the cutting way back on booze (just the occasional glass of wine) and the 10,000 steps a day, I'm taking great care of myself. I am proud of me.
It's the loss of relationships that is the hardest to bear. I'm just not good at it. Maybe I've told this story before. When Elizabeth was in middle and early high school she had a boyfriend named Skyler. She expected me to hate him because he had a green Mohawk a foot high and skin-tight studded clothing. He also rarely smiled (turns out he was pretty shy). I adored him almost immediately and he became like a son to me. He, in turn, came to trust and need me (and love me too, I think). They dated for years and predictably the relationship ran its course and they broke up. I told Elizabeth she could break up with Skyler but I wasn't going to. For about a year, he stayed in touch with Steve and me and came to dinner when he knew Elizabeth wasn't there - she understood. I still miss him. These days my Skyler substitute is Madeleine's old boyfriend, Shay. They haven't been together for a long time, but he still comes over for my cooking and to help around the house. Couldn't let him go either.
I think I didn't walk the walk yesterday. By writing about the rift with my friend, it was a "fuck you". True, I didn't mention her by name, but just writing about our falling out publicly was an act of aggression, especially knowing how much she hates the blog and fears being mentioned in it. So my final act of the friendship was to 'dis her in a public way which, if I were really cool, I wouldn't have done. Fuck, this being mature thing is really hard! I went against my mission statement which includes phrases like, living with integrity and honesty (did I exhibit integrity yesterday? - probably not), treating people with fairness, patience and compassion (failed on that one), accepting sadness and loss (if I had accepted the end of the friendship with grace, I wouldn't have lashed out publicly). Losses are really hard. They stir up all kinds of stuff: anger, fear, sadness, disappointment, confusion. Thinking most of us aren't really very talented in managing our emotions when faced with loss.
Loss. It is inevitable. Can't run from it. People come in and and out of our lives. Fortunes rise and fall. Health blooms and fades. People die. Dreams fade. And yet, we act surprised when we're faced with a loss and reel from it as if it's so unexpected and unfair. I'm toying with an idea. What if we listed our sure-to-be losses and spent time getting comfortable with each of them? I'll start. I'm going to die. I ask myself, "Are you sure?" "Yes, you will die - it's a certainty." "No way around it?" "Nope." So what to do with that inevitable loss - the big one? How about planning for it? Not in a morbid way or anything, but in a way that takes the fear out of it. Things like making sure my affairs are in order so anyone trying to make sense of my papers would have an easy time of it. I can decide whether I want to be cremated or buried and what kind of funeral ceremony I would like to have. I can write notes to my loved ones to be opened when I die. I can even write a eulogy for myself to be read at my death ceremony. I'm thinking that, by doing these things, I would feel less anxious about dying. Accept the concept and invest myself in the outcome. My mother's friend, Leilani, died years ago from cancer - an artist living in Woodstock, New York. In the last months of her life, she joyfully painted her own coffin and planned a party for her friends. On the flip side, a dear friend of my Aunt Jeanne died this past winter and she never accepted the end, never admitted death was around the corner. She had about a year to plan and wrap things up and she failed to prepare herself or her family for the loss. It made the inevitable end painful and confusing for all.
We can take this concept - facing the fear of loss - and expand on it. What if it were easy to acquire an aged photograph of ourselves - a computer generated picture of ourselves as an old person? We could take that picture, frame it, put in on the wall and get to know that person, love that person. Wouldn't that be better than fearing the mirror, scanning anxiously for new signs of aging? In the same vein, we could make a list of our friends and realize that friendships have an arc and an end. We could mentally write an end story to each of the friendships. James fell in love with the woman who waxed his back and moved to Wyoming with her and her three small children. Each year I receive a form Christmas letter from him and each year I swear to visit him but never do. Liza moves to The Netherlands to start a new school for the deaf. She and I talk as often as international phone rates allow but soon she is embroiled in a new life with a new Dutch husband and a new baby named Thijmen . Etc.
Sarah=sad today. I'm working on being philosophical about the losses I'm experiencing. Wishing I were a Buddhist and had mastered the concept of relinquishing attachment. Your challenge today could be thinking about inevitable losses. If you're a head-in-the-sand type of person who lives with an undercurrent of anxiety - waiting for the next shoe to drop, then how about you seek some mastery over the inevitable losses? I'm not saying be a control freak - you can't manage your destiny. But maybe if we worked on getting comfortable with the inevitability of loss, itemized what our likely losses will be, maybe even put some thought and planning around the losses we know are coming - maybe, just maybe, we could enjoy today more.