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Loss is in the Air

by William V. Giddings, Ed. D.

September 13, 2003

Yes, loss is in the air, more than usual. I've been losing summer lately, then today I lost blueberries, and even though there should be some beautiful colors coming soon, not long after I will lose Fall and leaves, and so on.

It's really no wonder so many of us are worried and anxious and desperately trying to control our worlds via routines and addictions and what-ifing. Our worlds change often. We always seem to be losing something.

You could tell me that losing blueberries really isn't that big a deal, but to me it really kinda is … and it's symbolic of other, definitely bigger, deals. For a couple of months now we have regularly had blueberries on our Cheerios in the AM. A pretty, healthy sight, and oooh so good. But as suddenly as the really good ones hit the market back in August, today they ended. There are no more, leastwise not except the pseudo-berries in the stores that come from California. And those are about as good as NA beer is to a Heineken drinker. I know, they'll be back next year. That's true, and that's way better than lots of losses, but that's not a lot of comfort today, tomorrow or next week as I stare at my barren cereal. Improvise, you say. I don't wanna! I NEED my blueberries ! (or so I think) And so I'm left sad and down and hanging.

And we lost our carpenter a while back, … just disappeared one day in the middle of our remodeling. No word, no contact, no reason, - - just gone. Greener pastures I guess, but we are left hurt, angry, and hanging.

A few days ago came the word John Ritter and Johnny Cash died. More losses. These men weren't critical in my life (like blueberries), but they were like staples on the entertainment table. Always around, familiar, and therefore kinda comforting even if you weren't into their particular talents. And so lots of us are left hurt, shocked, anxious, and hanging. Who's next? When is my turn?!

Losses … they're everywhere. (There are many gains, too, but that's not the focus here.) A TV series ended recently. Arthritis has stopped some people's knitting or woodworking or piano playing. Relationships have ended as people "fell" out of love or out of caring. People have been laid off or fired. Disease or illness has reared its head (recently, or for some long time now) and simple functions aren't so easy any more. And people are left hurting, angry, scared, and hanging.

Got any ropes to hang onto? Any seatbelts for the life-ride? This-here life is a real bear oft-times. Well, there's my bottle, or my food, or my "smokes," or my pills to help me feel better. But sooner or later they will cause more losses … real serious ones. And we will be hurting and scared and anxious and hanging.

Hmmmm, notice a theme here? "Hurt, angry, anxious, … and hanging."

Scary isn't it. And kinda depressing … potentially.

But notice another theme in there, too, at least for those familiar with my Metaphor stories.

Life is pretty darn foggy. Yup, Fog Happens! And

All those losses, big and little, are Arrows we get shot with. And if you've been doing your homework (smile) you know what that means. It means that though you can't control the shooters or dodge some of the arrows, you CAN control some of what happens to you ... especially emotionally … after you get shot.

Also, we humans are a competitive lot. Winning is a real big thing to us! … on the golf course, football field, in relationships, at work, and in healthiness. And largely the huge importance of winning exists because we have created such strong negative associations with losing. Biggest of all is the simple, cutting label: Loser! I.e., Worth less (with or without a hyphen).

Winning makes you feel and look good, and Losing makes you …A Loser. Winning is to be sought wherever important things are going on, and Losing is to be avoided, ignored, or glossed over as much as possible.

But what has this whole epistle of mine today been about?! Losing!

We are going to lose … a lot. Whether we should or shouldn't is really irrelevant. It's going to happen, we just don't often know how, how much, or when. I know this is going to sound strange because it's a real twist of our usual thinking, but what that means is that while we strive to win it is also very important to learn attitudes and strategies for "losing well."

Entertain this thought: he/she who loses well is not really a Loser!

That person has less of whatever they've lost, that's for sure, but you can't really be a Loser unless you violate yourself with the loss by twisting it!!!!

Is Mohammed Ali a Loser? Is Michael J. Fox? Certainly not! Granted they aren't winning as much as they used to or in the same ways, but there is no question that they are not Losers. Well why is that?? BECAUSE … they are Losing Well. (Not every day, probably, but many days.) And if in your heart right now you are saying, "Well damn, I can do that, too." You're absolutely right.

Stretch that Ali and Fox thinking a little further: Is a divorcee automatically a Loser? Is someone with a sudden cancer diagnosis a Loser? If you lose a job are you yourself a Loser? In each case the answer could be, "Yes," If the person acts and re-acts like a Loser. But the phenomenal thing is that in each case people do not at all have to be, or perceive themselves as being, Losers, if they lose well. Of course there's loss, … big time. Nobody's arguing that or saying superficial platitudes like "you just got to smile through your tears," or "count your blessings." Loss, even of blueberries, is genuinely rough and it does "leave you hanging." But "loss" is an Arrow, whereas "Loser" and "lost" are Twisted Arrows. You and I DO have power over what, how, and how much we do or don't twist!

All this losing ain't fair, you say! But notice as soon as I agree, which I do, we both feel worse, not really better. Cuz now we're twice as sure life ain't fair, and that's doubly mean and nasty of It. And meanwhile, like a lazy river, life just keeps on flowing… churning up other rocks and debris along the way with nary a care of its impact, pro or con. It doesn't "intend" to hurt us most of the time. It just happens to flow over those particular rocks, and so we get hurt.

Well, I can't change the river. But I do have a choice as to whether I just get tossed around and banged up or I learn more about rafting and also personal first aid so that I can ride this thing better.