Wednesday, January 2, 2013


Freshly landed in the new year, I want to talk about losing and finding. I'm thinking about this because of something that happened today.

It's an important subject to explore, always relevant I think, because of the difficulty I usually have letting go when I lose something that I treasure (a scarf, an earring); the difficulty I have accepting the death of a friend or the loss of a friendship; the difficulty - and this will perhaps seem extremely trivial to you - of changing plans or ideas in midstream when things go awry or other people change their minds.

All these situations, some trivially small and others huge and very painful, demand a suppleness and some equilibrium. It takes work to navigate them or digest them. And it's an ongoing life-pursuit for many of us, I think. For it often feels as if just as I get reconciled to one loss, another comes and crashes in.

But I've come to realise that there are equally surprising and unexpected "finds" or positive gifts or bonuses that turn up in our lives. Don't you think so? It's just that we don't often look at them in the same way. We're happy to have the good luck to meet someone special who becomes a close friend. Or we catch a break somehow, an unexpected break and then say briefly, oh that was lucky, or thank heavens ..x..  happened when we didn't deserve that good luck. Then we move on.

With losses, on the other hand, we linger, the pain goes on, we carry the resentment or unquiet spirit of loss with us for hours and days and sometimes years.

In the superficial loss situation, where I struggle to accept that I truly did leave that precious shawl behind in the car lot and that it's gone forever, there's a nausea. It takes a real effort to push it back down and to really just let go. I've found though that if I remember to mark, or remark on, the occasions where a "find" or a good luck thing happens, then I am forced to acknowledge that things often do balance out, that sometimes the unexpected works in my favour. And this acknowledgement helps me accept the harshness of loss.

This is all a rather clunky introduction to a simple story: Today I hustled up to Yorkville to meet a friend for coffee (I had left the house a little late and so had to walk-run for much of the way). The paths across Queen's Park and across the university playing fields were snowy, hard packed, and uneven, which made the rushing along a little precarious. It was a beautiful cold clear day, with sharp shadows of bare tree skeletons cast on the white white snowy expanses I was hurrying across.  

Some time later as we sat chatting and drinking our coffee, my friend and I, I realised that somewhere in my rushing I had lost an earring. Ah...the perils of winter, and of long hair that catches earrings, and of chilly air that seems to encourage them to slide out.  Too bad. And so I managed to shrug off the loss, more or less, with a slight lingering nagging feeling of nausea.

On my way back home nearly two hours later, walking at a more thoughtful pace along a well-shovelled university pathway I saw a small gleam. It was my lost earring. A miracle? Not really. But a lucky find...the fates smiling and giving me a chance to remember to feel grateful for finds and good fortune, instead of clinging only to the remembrance of losses.

I guess in life we end up with more loss than gain, if we're being literal, for death awaits us all. But just as it does no good to dwell on that fact, it is useless and often harmful to focus on what's broken and can't be fixed or what's lost and can't be retrieved. (I know, easy to say and hard to do...for sure.)

But that's life: an ongoing changing and evolving tapestry, with gains and losses, unexpected treats and shocking and disturbing catastrophes. It's up to us to navigate all this, like a skiier on a steep mogul-filled hill, with grace and, with practice and luck, some elan too.

Happy new year to all...


Anonymous said...

What timing as I just found money on a walk today. It does make you think that good can come your way and not just bad. Gives hope and a positive outlook at times when it is needed.

Jen said...

What an apt, and thoughtful post. I was notified last night that I did not receive a research grant that I was really hoping for, and have spent the day in my kitchen, cooking to cheer myself up. Just after making a batch of your Shan Tofu, I took a peek at your blog. Sometimes, other people's thoughts are a bit like earrings in the snow. Thanks!