Longer Than We Have Words to Describe

If I had to sum up 2015 in a word, it would be “loss.”

It’s a euphemism for death, and this year seems to have had a lot of it. Former teachers, professors, colleagues, and friends of mine are absent now, and my sphere of existence is dimmer because of it. Stepping outside of my own circles, it’s a fact of our world that death touches everyone–through violence, through disaster, through disease, through happenstance.

“Life and Death have been in love for longer than we have words to describe. Life sends countless gifts to Death, and Death keeps them forever.”

I’m not an alarmist or a fear monger. And I can’t evaluate the world in terms of better or worse, because to pass value judgments is to have an evaluative standard I don’t possess, but sometimes I can’t help but be afraid for myself and for people I love, because of where they live and how others judge their race or their gender or their culture. I don’t like being cynical, but I also can’t fathom feeling particularly hopeful in this chaotic world.

The tangible absences of people from my life also make me think of all the friends I’ve simply lost touch with or grown apart from as the years have waned on. This is how life goes. Circumstance is the first step in friendship, and when circumstances change, so, too, does the nature of a friendship. Some friendships survive that change, and thanks to technology it’s gotten easier in some ways to have friends in far-flung places, but it’s never quite the same again.

Mississippi River MemphisI instigate these circumstances, these losses, by being transient. I get twitchy when I’m in one place for too long. I don’t have roots to put down. So, instead, I end up leaving pieces of myself behind. There are bits and pieces of me left in Memphis, in Indiana, on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, and in my heart I am a leaf in the wind.

I left a job earlier this year for the sake of the only profession I’m technically trained for, but that, too, has brought loss of a sort. I definitely feel the loss of financial security. I picked up and moved away from a major city and a coast and (relatively) reliable public transportation, and so I’ve lost frivolous things like the ability to get Thai food delivered at 10 pm on a Sunday night, proximity to major airports, and movie theaters I can walk to. But I also lost not-so-frivolous things like colleagues who were genuine people in spite of working for an inherently disingenuous institution.

Thinking about the progression of my life in terms of these changes, these losses, has left me feeling unsteady. What do you do? Do you fill the holes? Do you sit back and watch the gaps close over into scars? How do you not let loss turn into feeling lost?

The older I get, the more I shed layers–those frivolous aspects of a persona I mostly have adopted to make other people feel more comfortable around me. The raw, exposed version of me that exists underneath my sarcasm, my wit, and my sense of humor is sometimes not easy to deal with or be around–even for me. But the more I voluntarily lose, the more I shed, the less sure I am with what is left behind. I thought I would get tougher as I got older, but instead I seem to be growing more vulnerable.

Of course, I realize I’m being self-indulgent. Survival, privilege, the exercise of intellect–these things are indulgences. And I know things like gratitude and generosity are the tested and proffered counters to filling hollowness. But my sense of nihilism and absurdism run too deeply to take these things as anything more than a temporary salve. I need epistemic shifts and metaphysical answers. I don’t want to feel better–I’ll never feel better; to me, feeling better is to be complacent–so I just want to make sense of it all.

In some ways this is all just a matter of perspective. Loss operates best on a linear trajectory of time and space. If you abandon linearity, if you abandon past and future, then you always have everything all at once. You never really lose.

But if you look at things this way, you never really change either. And giving in to this idea seems an awful lot like giving up.

“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside while still alive. Never surrender.” -Tupac Shakur

Wuppertal2015 was a strange year for me. Though I write here about loss, I also grew in immeasurable ways, being confronted with and forced to alter truths I believed about myself, facing fears and living in spite of them. So, maybe as I shed my layers, maybe what I have learned from loss is that I’ve spent far too much time living a life that doesn’t suit me in a world that doesn’t want me and owes me nothing. Maybe I have to reconstruct my world. Maybe I know a little better now what that world could be.

Every year I end my 1 January post with a resolution of sorts, and so I will do so once again. I could aim higher and I could be more specific, but as this calendar year ends and I look toward 2016? Frankly, I’ve grown weary. And, at this point, I just don’t want to give up.

2 thoughts on “Longer Than We Have Words to Describe

  1. I miss you. More than I thought I would. Kate and I still weekly come upon situations we wish you were with us to appreciate.

    • I miss you too, Dan! And Kate! I didn’t realize how much I felt like part of a community up in SS. Not having that anymore has been hard.

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