The point of loss
Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

The Point of Loss

One of the characteristics of life around sixty is that loss becomes our constant companion.  Sure, he drops in on us from time to time when we’re younger, but at this period of our lives he just seems to move in to stay.  Friends and parents depart the earth.  Beloved animal companions leave us alone.  If you live in a disaster area you can even lose your home and the life you thought was yours in an instant.

I have a theory about this and it goes like this:  Our personal reality is defined by our relationships.  These relationships may be with people, animals, places, things or activities.  They make up the substrate that defines the world for us as well as our place within it.  Each loss that we deal with is like snipping the strings which tether a balloon to the earth.  Eventually, all the strings are cut and there is nothing left holding us here, so we float away like thistle-down.

Every loss has a lesson to teach us.  Actually, I think it would be better stated if we said that we have lessons to learn and the pain we call loss is actually the process of learning them.

That’s why I think its very cruel and short-sighted when people want us to hurry through the process and ‘move on’, as if feeling sad and disconnected when these things happen were some kind of pathology.  The fact is that we simply don’t learn much from good times.  It sometimes feels like we do, but that is generally because we’ve encountered a loss and that gives us the ability to really appreciate how good those times were.  Its always pain that teaches us in the end.  Maybe we all have a shell like a crustacean.  That shell is our always faulty definition of the world, and the pain we feel is the cracking of that shell as we moult.  Remember, though, a crab moults when his body has become too large for the shell to contain.  The only way the crab can continue to develop is by shedding the constricting shell.  By that standard, the shedding of the shell, even if painful, is a victory and a celebration.

In some ways, it is only possible to truly love something after it has been lost.  The distance which seems so painful then, is the  wisdom to see the thing or person we’ve lost without illusion or expectation, simply for what they are.

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Category: Relationships
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