The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster,
Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.
Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.
I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three beloved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.
I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.
-- Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) a disaster.
This poem by Elizabeth Bishop was read by a dyslexic Cameron Diaz (oops, spoiler!) in the movie “In Her Shoes”, which I was able to watch twice during the 16-hour flight home. I liked the movie better the second time around because that was when I understood the characters more and felt their profound pain.
Small coincidence that I was feeling a little lost while watching that movie, as I actually lost a whole day – January 7, 2006 – as if I did not exist for that day or that day did not exist for me. I left the US January 6 then lost a day even though I flew for less than 24 hours. When I arrived, it was already January 8. It was the first time I experienced what seasoned travelers must be so used to by now. I didn’t like that experience. Seven happened to be my favorite number. I seemed to have lost an entire day- the seventh for the new year.
I have lost many other things through the years, too. During the flight home I remembered them all.
Cameron Diaz’ sister in the film is a lawyer who gave up her job in a hotshot firm in order to walk dogs for other people. Smile smile. When retired lawyers from her grandma's (played by Shirley McLaine) retirement home (or a place of assisted living, something like that, as recited by Cameron to her sister), asked her where she was connected, she simply replied that she was kind of on vacation. Wider smile. That’s a way of putting it! Grandma wouldn't like the long answer, after all, she had admitted that at the place where she lived they always needed grandkids to brag about. She couldn't brag about her dropout-lawyer of a grandchild, obviously.
Why the need to brag in the first place? It places undue pressure on the object of bragging. I'm sure the lawyer-turned-dog-walker had enough problems of her own to think about, and her grandma's deprivation of bragging rights, if taken to heart, could even bring her further down into depression.
I’m kind of on vacation. From lawyering. I gave that answer to several people to whom explaining the history my decision seemed to be too cumbersome and they all looked at me as if I were nuts. And yes, I’m still single po. I was asked why. Repeatedly. I could not give them simple answers to all those questions, because it might even take a lifetime before I could figure them out myself. Thank God for movies like “In Her Shoes” that don’t make sense. All I could do was smile in appreciation.
Now that I'm home, I hope I can have more space to quiet these negative pulls of emotion and realize that I have gained so much more than I have lost.
The art that is more difficult to master is the art of gratitude. A new year is everything they say it should be, as more than anything it is a time to make resolutions to improve our lives. Never mind that we’ve had practically the same resolutions since grade school. I believe what matters for us all is that we have this golden chance to start over. Otherwise, we could easily be lost and caught up in the keys, continents, and worse, loved ones that we habitually lose.
In my last few days of vacation, I was led to reflect on Mama Mary’s response to the overwhelming things around her. She pondered things in her heart. She kept all those things – people recognizing her Son for who He really was and paying Him the worship and respect that He was due. She must have drawn upon those wonderful memories when she lost her Son. She knew that she, and the entire world, was gaining so much more than what she was losing at the moment that she stood at the foot of the Cross.
Lord, I pray that I would also have the grace that you gave Mama Mary, to treasure things in my heart and remember what is of primary importance, so that when I tend to lose in my eyes and in the world’s eyes, I would not slip away into depression or hopelessness.
Maybe gratitude isn’t an art that we master, but a gift we could only receive by grace.