“Get that foot out of your mouth. That’s no way to dance.” Dancing is fun – and an excellent opportunity to put feet in the wrong place. Socializing while dancing provides more targets. Oops. Hopefully, there’s only a bit of embarrassment, and no great loss. Keep dancing and maybe no one will notice, or they’ll think you just made up a new move.
For the last few months, I’ve rented an office over a restaurant and within shouting distance of two coffeeshops. We’ve been in the middle of our summer drought, which means a lot of customers sitting outside enjoying the sunshine. I’m treated to hearing some of their orders and their responses. “But, I wanted the dressing on the side. Take it back and get it right.” A lot of emotion can be tied to some oil and vinegar.
For the last few years, I’ve been entering that phase of life when loss of life becomes sadly more common. Deep loves are lost. There is no chance to take it back and get it right. The healthiest response seems to be celebrate the best of what was, and continue on with proper respect. Within the space of a moment I can think of at least four people who have done that. Some losses were stretched out over months. Some happened in less than a second.
For the last couple of years, you faithful readers have witnessed my losses. We’ll set aside the relationship ones. Those stories are only told in person to the right people and over the right drink. Almost all of my public losses have been financial. Yes, those losses do provide an opportunity for emotions; and yes, I have had my share of dismay and frustration – but, I keep in mind that those losses are probably temporary. They are more significant than getting the wrong salad. They are far easier to recover from than true loss.
I’m told that I look like I am doing fine. Thanks folks. It might have something to do with optimism, or maybe just habit. I actually feel better than I have in years. I’ve lost hundreds of thousands of dollars – measured by the stock and real estate markets. I’ve traded away lots of stuff to make money to pay bills. (By the way, does anyone want to buy a Folbot that has a tiny leak?) I’ve delayed repairs and maintenance on me and almost everything I own. I’ve even a lost a bit of faith in our basic institutions.
One reason I am doing fine is because of my optimism. One source of my optimism is my awareness that my losses, while real, may also be temporary. I continue to trust in the value of my house, my portfolio, my skills, my community, my friends, my philosophy, and my self. That is a lot of value and most those losses are based more on misperceptions or misunderstandings, not on anything irrecoverable.
Sometimes you have to give it up to get it back. Giving it up, or even just being aware of the possibility of loss, heightens the awareness of value. As I have given up comforts, most socializing, most of my plans and projects, I’ve become more aware of which ones matter most, and which ones existed by habit.
My losses are revealing opportunities.
Without this, can I now do that? If my house sells, I can work from anywhere on the planet that has a good internet connection. But, I probably won’t because I keep finding more reasons to stay on the island. Without so much stuff to tend, I have more space and more time. If my kayak lost its parking space, I’d have room for another garden plot. (And another exercise in loss, or another opportunity to find a way to guard against slugs, bunnies, and deer.)
When financial comfort returns, I know that I’ll dance more, hike more, socialize more, read more, enjoy the arts more, enjoy my friends more. I also know the work I’d enjoy even if I wasn’t being paid; and if I got paid, I have a better idea of what I’d use the money for. Philanthropy happens.
Losses are painful. Opportunities are healing. And reality seems to bundle them in packages that we must receive, open, and deal with.
To those with irrecoverable loss, my sympathies. To those who have lost money, my hopes. To those whose salads aren’t exactly what they expected, my pity.
And to dancers whose feet didn’t end up where they expected, maybe that was a small mistake that was actually a good move. Now, with a bit more practice, and the right partner . . . what an opportunity.