Today’s writing assignment from Writing 101: Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t any more. This doesn’t need to be a depressing exercise;.
Ha! The times I have chosen to write about loss have been very depressing times indeed! I once remarked to my sister that it seemed like the only times I wrote were when I was grieving. Personal grief and national tragedies were the fodder for my writing life. No wonder I avoided writing! I’ve spent this day writing about anything but loss, avoiding the assigned topic, that avoidance fueled by memories of other forays into writing about loss. But I am committed to finishing this challenge to myself, to write every day for 30 days on a topic suggested by the Writing 101 challenge.
However, I hardly know where to begin. My life, like most lives has been plagued with loss. Sometimes it felt like my life was a Greek tragedy or as my mother used to say about her life: a soap opera! There was the loss of my first tooth, the loss of status as the baby of the family when my brother, Raymond, was born. There was the loss of innocence followed by the loss of a fantasy world as I grew from childhood to adulthood. The loss of boyfriends was no minor subplot to my adolescence, in fact, those had to be the biggest tragedies of my teen life! There was the loss of my childlike view of God, there was the divorce, and eventually the empty nest. More grievous than all of those has been loss of family and other loved ones to death, some tragic, all painful. I have written about those losses in other venues usually when the pain was greatest.
Someone has said that each new beginning is preceded by a loss and this is no less true when the new beginning is a positive one and much welcomed. The most recent loss for me was brought about by my own volition, freely chosen in the hope of lessening the physical distance between me, my children and my grandchildren. I looked forward to reuniting with old friends, celebrating holidays with family and reawakening my writing life. I have been able to do those things, but it didn’t come without a cost.
At times it feels like I’ve lost my self. The self I was in Albuquerque, that person who loved her home, the life she had created from nothing. Moving to Albuquerque in 2006, I didn’t know anyone. I was starting a new job in a strange environment, having never worked in a jail before. All of that was by my choice, too, and I loved it (well maybe not being in the jail so much but at least I was working in the profession I had chosen and ostensibly helping inmates learn to make better choices in the future.) I had dreamed about New Mexico, sacrificed to move there, and made the most of every moment I was there. If I had been childless, I know I would have moved there sooner and lived there longer! But needing to be with family had finally outweighed my love for New Mexico, the sun, the Sandia Mountains, the physicality and geography of the place, as well as the friends who had become like family, and my spiritual mentors who had been a great influence on me and who, inadvertently had ignited the flame that fueled the need I had to return to Louisville. It was the deepening connection with God that made me realize how important it was that I return to family.
The first few weeks in Louisville, I felt like someone had died and that someone was me. I had lost the structure of my everyday life. In New Mexico, I worked, I shopped, I went to church, I attended a very special book club, where we spent more time catching up with each other than we did discussing the books we often hadn’t even read. I functioned as a prayer chaplain and the leader of a spiritual group within the church. Those people were like family to me and the loss of their immediate presence in my life is the hardest to accept. In Louisville, I worked (fortunate enough to bring my NM job with me and work from home!) but everything was different. I didn’t know the layout of the stores. I didn’t know where to find things. The nearest Barnes and Noble was on the other side of town! The house I had rented across country wasn’t to my liking. It had the right number of bedrooms, it had an office, a basement, a dishwasher, a huge back yare, and grass. But the closets were too small, the stairs too steep, the basement unfinished, even the grass in the yard that I had wanted for my dogs, (who had grown up running on xeriscaping) needed to be mowed too often! And in my first month here, I learned that my eyesight was so bad that I could no longer drive (another loss!!) and so the loss of personal freedom added to my feeling that this decision had been a very bad one!
The one thing that had been missing in my New Mexico life was writing. I tried to write, I joined a writing collective, but never went to the meetings, I went on “artist’s dates” as Julia Cameron’s suggests in her book The Artist’s Way. I made dates with myself to write and let nothing get in the way. I faithfully kept those dates and would write for an hour or two, in coffee shops, in book stores, on the college campus lawn, all in an attempt to rekindle my desire to write, but nothing worked. I knew that in New Mexico I missed my writing self. I don’t know why Louisville KY is my writing home, perhaps that is a subject to pursue another day.
It has taken me several months to begin to feel as if I belong here. I still haven’t replaced my church family, I probably never will, neither have I found a book club that rivals my Albuquerque connections. But what I have found is a reconnection with my family, the delight of being near my grandchildren, writers who have welcomed me back into the fold once again, and a strong desire to express myself through the written word.
EPILOGUE: If every new beginning is preceded by a loss, then every loss offers the opportunity for a new beginning!