Tuesday morning, I saw the magenta tracks under my eyes.
I looked closer, wondering what on earth those were. It took a few zoomed-in looks to realize they were broken blood vessels. Lots of them. I hadn’t seen that many on my face in ages — since I birthed three babies. So what were they doing mingling with my morning bags?
Then I remembered the crying I did the night before. Violent crying, from the evidence.
Monday night, I worked to finish Tuesday morning’s blog post. Normally a morning and daytime writer, tapping the keys after an incredibly long, full day of mommy-dom took it out of me. I felt tired, but determined, so I kept going, even though all I really wanted was a book and the comfort of my pillow.
At about 10:30, I finally finished writing and editing the post. Slouched under my comforter, I tapped “Update” on the iPad screen. At which point, said iPad blanked and flashed to the home screen.
I entered back into the program and saw that the last 30 to 40 minutes of fast and furious typing were gone. Gone with the words was the sacrifice of time and energy I didn’t feel I had for a piece that started as an ode to our new vacuum, Vivian (and morphed, to my great surprise, into a 1200+ word piece on vulnerability, community and cleaning emotional house).
I rushed downstairs and tried to retrieve the most recent version from our computer. I swore a blue streak and hoped girls in PJ’s would not peek around the corner. I cried miserably to my husband, all the while feeling angry he could not help me bring it back. I prayed, wailed, pounded my fists. I tried to figure out what I’d done wrong.
Part of me realized my reaction was likely disproportionate to what was lost, but it was loss, and I was feeling it, and I couldn’t stop feeling it.
I’ve heard it said that loss is loss, pain is pain, and on one hand I agree. Trying to categorize pain creates a slippery slope where some feel like they shouldn’t be feeling what they’re feeling, that whatever it is shouldn’t be a big deal, though sometimes it just is. Hurt and loss affect us all differently for so many reasons.
Regardless, we all know the big losses — the ones that tear through and leave gaping holes. The losses that fill nightmares and real lives around us. The losses we never get over. The losses we pray never happen to us or anyone we know. And the losses to which most of us are never exposed, living as we do, in relation to the rest of the world, people of privilege.
But as I began to calm Monday night, I realized this small loss clearly was tapping something deeper. The way stubbing your toe can make the world suddenly seem far too hard. Or the way a movie or book can awaken long-ago sorrow.
Certainly things of this sort are matters of degree, but I wondered — eyes wide open at 11 p.m. — what my loss of some words on a screen may have in common with losses that undo on a prolonged and life-changing scale.
As I sought some answers, I recognized at least a few common threads. Though I’m still sorting this out, I know that in my life’s losses I’ve experienced:
awareness of a complete lack of control and a pained longing for the loss to have not been,
anger and sadness — at times separate and at others, intermingled,
the desire to blame,
nagging feelings that I could have done something differently,
grief at what seems pointless waste,
replaying of the loss over and over again,
ache for full resolution and completion that lives beyond this life.
So many of you have known volumes of loss. You’ve touched it and mulled it, hated it and accepted it, avoided it and closed off parts of your heart to it. And then you’ve seen your broken heart rebuilt with new pieces you’d never have chosen in the first place.
In this life, we can know pain and loss (both the everyday and the world-altering) are constants. God tells us it will be so until we join him.
Today, I’m still thinking about how everyday sorrows prepare us or inform us about bigger losses. What are your thoughts? Have you experienced new compassion for yourself or others through your own journeys of loss? Have you seen gratitude as part of the bridge between loss and meaning? Are you still in the thick of it? Please consider sharing in this space today.
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Thank you for taking the small and dismissed to allow us to see what an insight it can be into the larger pieces of our lives. Beautifully stated.
Thank you. :) I wonder if we dismiss those smaller losses in our lives too quickly for fear that we’ll stay stuck. Maybe the challenge is to sit just a moment in that place of examining, learning what there is to learn and moving forth — in even a small way — changed.
Ashley you may feel as though you’re still midway in the process of understanding how the smaller losses prepare us for the larger ones. What I see here though is a dear seeker of wisdom who is nearly there at the point of clarity and profound understanding. And I do absolutely believe that gratitude forms the bridge, as you said. “thank you, I know this is not Just loss, but also a gift of teaching, or preparing the way, or opening my eyes to something greater or to the hurting hearts of others. Thank you.” And something about that thank you, or maybe every single thing about that gratitude that offers release and peace. Even though the “loss” remains, it’s been diminished by some measure. (and this is a small point, but we so hate that our dig-deep-down profound efforts be wasted. Your posting at a time when you were so exhausted and then having your hard found words erased from existence is loss to be sure. I hope you know none of us belittle that loss!) You are so loved! xoxox
Thank you, and I believe you’re so right. Such benefit in seeing pain as a teacher. That does seem huge. Yes, it was only when I began saying, “thank you…thank you” the other night that I felt able to “move on.” As you say, you still feel the hurt, but it feels purposeful somehow. Gosh, don’t we (I) want purpose in it all?!
This wakens dark memories of personal loss. Why it happened at that time is no more clear to me today then it was so many years ago. I still carry the hurt and bewilderment I feel great empathy toward those experiencing and suffering loss. I am aware of that dark emptiness and emotional loneliness. Your faith, if strong enough, will be there to mitigate your desolation.
Papa, thank you for your beautiful, vulnerable words. Your empathy is boundless — it’s true — and such a testimony to one who has suffered, felt and continued choosing the path of love.
This struck a chord with me, too. It’s funny: there is no one exact loss that surfaces now, but I completely understand how something seemingly small can reverberate through other small losses that we usually don’t give ourselves the time to contemplate and truly feel. Beautiful post. Glad I found my way here tonight.
Emily, thank you so much for your comment. I’m so grateful to have “met” you here. Yes, the word “reverberate” is so apt, Emily. It’s like one loss echoes through the chambers and reawakens others long-forgotten.
I so related to your experience of loss, as I recollected my own term papers, slideshows, projects lost. As always your wisdom in drawing meaning from the small things in life and applying them to the bigger picture touches my heart.
You have certainly known many of those kinds of losses, Sissy. You show such resilience…starting right back up again each time. Knowing it cannot be changed and getting going again — after maybe just a wee meltdown with fist pounding?
It’s often the small losses that undo me. If it’s big and glaring I have warning, tend to steel myself so I can keep coping with life as it comes. Often it takes something I wouldn’t expect to get past my guard. Of course, then a lot of the things I’ve been putting on hold rush in to my experience as well. That said, I’m feeling lots of losses, big, and small as I prepare for life in a new place.
Shelley, thank you so much for sharing. You are so right. There is something about seeing them coming, isn’t there? We are ready to put up the fight, keep plugging away. When you are preparing to move, the minutiae and the large-scale intersect in some powerful ways. I am praying for you as you feel these losses — comfort, grace, peace. Love you.
Sometimes the urge to cry just wells up unexpectedly too, doesn’t it? I’ve had your experience with losing hard-written words.. It’s such a creative endeavor.. losing a piece of writing or manuscript would be like an artist having a painting vanish before their eyes in a split second. And you realize that no matter how hard you try, it can’t be painted or written in exactly the same way a second time.. and that the first time it was perfect. Sorry, I’m not trying to make you feel worse, just that I know what losing writing feels like… I agree with everything you’ve written, it must be the absolute powerlessness that we feel, anger that we have no control, and the admonishing of ourselves for not “saving” to prevent the outcome. What have I learned.. maybe to think ahead a bit, but then again, so much loss in life is unpreventable? That’s why we have our family and friends to turn to… xoxo Smidge
Yes. I do think the surprise element is so horribly unsettling. We do what we can to avoid and manage loss, and yet it still comes. And often times, as you say, so unexpectedly. The understanding of another (as you show in your compassion here) sure does help, though. :)
It is hard and feels somewhat unnatural at times to give thanks in all circumstances, as in the bible, but god must have known it was the best remedy for our pain and loss. Grateful for you Ashley.
Amen to that, Deb! It is so hard and yet, in that laying down of our way, our rights, our belief that we know best, we can usher in such beauty. As Ann Voskamp so gorgeously describes in One Thousand Gifts, God is right there in that place of breaking open and speaking gratitude.
Julea encouraged me to read 1000 gifts, so just started :):)
It has been a life-changing book for me.