Sunday, January 17, 2010


Writing about loss opens the floodgates of nuance and discovery.

You not only discover the extent to which the grief of the particular loss persists, you learn to process it through writing about it, sparing yourself, your friends and readers the equivalent of a trip to Chuck E. Cheese for a pity party.

Loss is as much a part of life as daily meals, the desire for exercise, and the equally pleasurable shower after the exercise. It comes visiting early on, most often in the form of death--a relative to whom you felt particularly close or one to whom your feelings at the time felt confusing. Sometimes the deathly visitor has come to claim a beloved pet, which could in its particular way, evoke your first argumentative dialectic with God. Sometimes the loss is quite literal, the separation of yourself from some treasured object, a loss that makes you consider the possibilities that you'd taken the object for granted or, contrary wise, had relied too heavily on it. Alas, sometimes the loss is of a friendship, either through a change of residence in one or both parties, a transfer to another school, or worse yet, some argument or betrayal.

As the years progress, loss becomes like visiting friends or relatives who just happen to be in the neighborhood, metaphorically looking to you for entertainment. Loss causes you to consider potential defensive options such as asceticism or the painful awareness that you are bush league in the world of ascetics, friend as you are to things, to books, fountain pens, gadgets you might put to profitable use were you to live in the Alaskan tundra but not in Santa Barbara.

With further progressions of loss in your life you learn the process of accommodation, recognizing there are contributions you may make with significant cheer. Self-pity, self-importance, adverbs, some adjectives, pomposity. Our truck will be in your neighborhood.

In some families, the need arises to take in a parent or aunt or uncle, much as at one time they may have had to take you in until you were back on your feet (whatever that might have meant at the time). In your case, the decision was not to take in a relative, although in one wild moment, you stood forth and offered to bring your mother to live with you and she. to her everlasting credit, even nodded and said, yes, she could see the possibility of that actually working. Now, the room you have to offer is for your old pal, Loss. If you do not make such provisions, you will always be looking out the window, sneaking in or out of the house, at pains to avoid rather than acknowledge. If you allow this process to make you cynical, you will have in a real sense begun tossing the time you have left and with it the time with the individuals, processes, and things you so value.

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