I lost an earring the other day. Handmade by a Zuni silversmith out of old turquoise and silver, I bought the pair in Sedona, in 1986, when my husband and I were courting. When I noticed it was gone, I retraced my steps, and then retraced them again. And again. I woke in the middle of the night grieving my lost earring, remembering that time in Sedona, and how impossibly young and naïve we were.
I spent the morning cleaning out my closet, trying to be a grown-up about a lost earring, how it wasn’t such a big deal, etc etc etc, and brought a huge pile of clothing into the local thrift store. And hanging right in front of me were the white flannel pajamas I had just been lusting after in a glossy Christmas catalog for way too much money; something like a week’s worth of food and my cell phone bill. These set me back $7.50.
So I began thinking about both the loss and the gain, and how really both losing the earring and finding the pajamas had been completely outside of my control. I began reflecting on the words: The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, and how that’s the same as saying hey kiddo, you’re not in charge…of the giveth or the taketh.
I began thinking about my losses and my gains.
I lost my youth. I know that sounds careless, like how could I misplace such a thing, but honestly it disappeared as mysteriously as that. But what I found were friends to grow old with, laughing our heads off because we can’t remember shit, commiserating with each other as we move with more caution, afraid of breaking bones.
I lost my youth but found the single item of magic from the Harry Potter books my introverted self coveted: the invisibility cloak. I thought it would be delicious to move through the streets of my life invisible, observing but not being seen. And in some mysterious Potteresque way, I have been gifted that cloak, because I found that women my age are largely invisible.
I lost my family. Again, not careless like losing a sock in the dryer; lost, like they died. Even my brother, who was only four years older than me. But I found a place inside myself where I can light a candle to his memory, his dark troubled soul twisting in the wind as he struggled out of his body. I found a place where I could remember him with love.
I’ve lost beloved pets to old age, leukemia, the wheels of a truck driving way too fast down our narrow street. I’ve lost friends to breast cancer, uterine cancer, lung and bone cancer. I’ve lost the cities of my youth: New York, Cambridge, Santa Cruz. I’ve lost one place to call home, but found the freedom to be at home wherever I am.
I’ve lost the ability to retrieve the perfect word when I need it; some days I find the patience to sit at the keyboard and wait without despair.
I’ve lost past lovers to other women, to the road that curved away from me, to hard or easy deaths. I’ve lost the sound of their voices and the feel of their skin. I’ve lost best friends from childhood, gardens I grew and left behind, house plants given away in haste. I’ve lost phone numbers, and directions back to a time no longer mine.
But oh what I’ve found shines like the rising sun. I’ve found true love after what felt like a long, futile search. I’ve found a place inside that holds steady when storms rage. I’ve found a few magnificent friends who delight me, and love and support me no matter what. I’ve found joy beyond joy with my daughter, and the peace of a safe place with my husband. I’ve found a still, small voice inside that I am learning to trust will guide me.
May this new year bring you comfort for all you’ve lost, and gratitude for what’s been given.