Feeling older and more mature I begin to try and analyse what my life really amounts to? What have I really learned? What skills have I really obtained? And in saying this I don’t mean my academic degrees or the books I read in order to be awarded such degrees, as this was nothing more than the training I needed to carry out the job I do for a living. What I mean is, how have I (if I have) earned my adulthood? What makes me different today as a grownup than who I was as a child or a young woman?
Yes I look different; different facial and physical features, and am considerably taller, my dictionary may be more sophisticated and advanced, I can - in most cases- unless overcome with strong emotion, accurately measure and illustrate a rational response to life’s most difficult, most challenging situations when I am faced with one. But wait! What does that mean?
After thinking thoroughly about it, it means being able to deal with loss. Loss, is life’s most challenging battle, and the wonder is that we are fed “loss” from an early age in a piece meal fashion; loss of a favorite toy, loss of teeth, loss of an old familiar home and familiar school friends and neighbours when moving house. These early experiences of loss, however, are mild -in comparison to later life experiences of loss - even when we are as children faced with more tragic losses such as a loss of a relative or a friend to death, we are shielded from its brutality with our blissful ignorance of the meaning of death, because as children we are unaware of our vulnerability to death, we are not yet shoved in the shocking realization of the fragility of our lives, the boxing ring in which we exist and the instinct to try to continue to survive within the elastic ropes yet brittle human life.
I am, as a grown up, as a human who has survived life for 33 years, am more able to manage loss. Saying this, I feel two faint but persistent feelings: the first, is a light sadness that I am still not extremely good with handling loss. The second, is a slightly happier feeling that I will get better at handling loss as I get older, since there is an obvious correlation between age maturity and successful loss management. So, what are the signs that prove I am better in dealing with loss? Here they are:
I am familiar with loss: I know what loss looks like, the way I can be familiar with my bedroom! It’s the room I sleep in, thus, it must be comfortable, or as comfortable as I can make it for myself, however, I do sleep in this room, meaning, most of my hours spent in this room I am not awake, and with such limited consciousness my behavior and reactions can be alien to me. My bedroom is also where I do most of my crying, meaning, it is where I allow myself to hurt and to convey hurt; the good and bad memories, the unleashing of emotion, the horrible endless sleepless nights, the haunting nightmares, the reaching and (most of the time) not finding myself, all of this happens in my bedroom and the more it happens the more familiar I am with it.
No matter how long I’ve occupied my bedroom and found solace, refuge and comfort in it, I can still be surprised by how spacious it is (especially when I’m cleaning it), or how tiny and stifled its becoming, this depends highly on my mood, on how I feel, on what kind of day I’ve had.
My bedroom is also where I stuff all my personal things, my clothes shoes, accessories and make-up, they are very neatly stored and organized, however, things can get messy sometimes, when I need something I can’t find or when I’ve bought too many shoes (to cheer myself up) and start putting them places where they just don’t belong, my shoes are not scattered on the floor but not where they should be.
Being familiar with what loss looks like doesn’t always mean it will not surprise me; surprise me with how tiny and stifling it suddenly feels or how massive it is to conquer, it doesn’t always mean that I will always know where everything goes, it doesn’t mean that it will not get messy and out of hand, and it’s familiarity doesn’t always mean that (with time and practice) it will become comfortable. Like the human face, I know where the eyes, nose, mouth and ears should be, but looking at a Picasso painting I also realise that there’s always a different perspective.
In many cases I can predict my loss: When in an ill-suited relationship, a once sturdy wall of friendship that has sadly began to gradually but surely deteriorate and fall apart, or an acquaintance who’s been battling a long term disease, we can as adults predict our loss and so, be better prepared for it. Of course nothing can lessen the devastation of that moment when all is lost so suddenly, the shock, like a serious car crash, the teeth gritting screeches of your full body weight on the brakes, the horror of seeing it all happen and yet your eyes feel so tightly shut with fear! And the gratitude of surviving it with no physical damage which is quickly replaced with the dread of all the financial burden due to damages to the car.
No matter how many times it happens, not matter how well prepared I am, the experience can stay with me, like an echo, like a white empty space full of shadows of what was lost, I carry it with me, and there is no time limit, each experience comes with its own “enoughness”.
After one car accident I had not long ago (although not my first) I did not want to drive for many week, and used my car only for necessities, I dreaded other road users and the sound of traffic, I was jumpy and panicky and imagined the cars around me were coming towards me, all the sounds of horns, passing cars and loudly played music collided, and driving became frightening. This said, the voice inside me was telling me that what I am going through is nothing but a natural reaction to the shock and to the anger, as I was hit by a very young reckless teenage boy, the anger that - in many cases - people don’t care very much about how much pain they cause with their mindless actions, the anger that indifference and apathy have become the norm. This reassuring voice was my maturity; the ability to not only accept my feelings of loss but to also put them into perspective and successfully treat them. The same goes for loss of acquaintances, friends, lovers, jobs, money and emotional attachments, predicting them and being better equipped to face up with them does not necessarily mean less pain, it means healthier pain, pain that you can look at, feel, then let go of.
Finally, I can handle my loss: Crying, grieving and continuing to grieve are not signs of weakness or inability to handle or overcome loss, just as being easily amused and laughing so vigorously and exaggeratedly at simple things is not a sign of daftness or lack of intelligence. Crying and laughing are responses to emotions, emotions of happiness, amusement or severe pain. Thus how much we depict or hide them depends on our personality and how comfortable we are with feeling amused by the simple things and feeling hurt by our losses, which we would not call “losses” if were not important to us in the first place.
Saying this, I’d say, I handle my loss well, not well enough, not as well as I hope to learn to do so someday, but well. Handling my loss means; I cry when I feel it is necessary for me to cry, I don’t hold back, or maybe hold back (resist) a little at first then I let go, and I’ve cried at times and places where it was not convenient to do so, although a little ashamed, I also felt liberated. I believe that there is a strong connection between our hearts and eyes; when the heart is in pain, the eyes weep and so some of this pain in the heart is released, and sometimes we see with our hearts and feel with our eyes.. I believe this.
Handling my loss doesn’t always mean I can be clever or crafty around it, tricking myself into feeling less loss, no! In many cases it means the same mistakes made before but knowing where the remedy lies and so taking the steps towards healing with more confidence and strength, sometimes even smiling through the process of healing, which was difficult to do when I was younger.
If I had to put it in a metaphor, I would say it would be like carrying out my large dish of casserole out of the oven, I’ve done it so many times before and though I’ve always used kitchen mittens, I still miscalculate sometimes and get burned! Thankfully I always keep the ointment handy.