December 29, 2014

The Art of Losing: December 29th, 2014

Today seems like a good day for some poetry.

BY ELIZABETH BISHOP

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 loved 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!) like disaster.
—–
This poem just popped into my head, earlier today, when I was pondering the words we use to talk about parting with things.  Obviously, Elizabeth Bishop was stiff-upper-lipping the very real pain of losing someone loved, but the poem, as it builds to this tragic conclusion, speaks to the reality that stuff is often really just stuff.  Letting it go is not a disaster.  Even when the letting go is unintentional, it is still surprisingly easy to overcome in the long term.
But why do we use such negative terminology?  Throwing away, purging (think of your body: gross), trashing, even downsizing sounds vaguely like something slightly sinister.  It’s the word your boss uses when you’ve been made redundant.  It’s the last thing you hear before you need to write a new résumé.
I am loving the sense of lightening I’m gaining from the “loss” of 5 things every day.  We are all proud of how far we’ve come already.  We’re noticing our surroundings so much more.  Mike, for instance, noticed that our windows have mold growing on them (no, not black mold, just the kind that likes to attach to windows) so he spent hours today, cleaning it off*.  He asked if it would be okay to include the mold as something 5 Down”ed”.   As far as I am concerned, this project is not as much about the exact number of items we divest ourselves of, but rather the things we are gaining, and those things are not physical objects.  We’re gaining a say in how we life our life.  We’re not going to let our family be defined by our stuff.  And we’re going to take pride in getting rid of things we don’t need.  We certainly don’t need mold.  So, to me, the window mold very much fits into this framework.
Take some time to read some more Elizabeth Bishop if you never have before.  Otherwise, at least do what I’m planning to do: I’m going to think “it’s not a disaster” whenever I need to “lose” something that has a sentiment attached to it.  I think it’ll help.
Day 59 Scorecard: 295 down, 1530 to go.
* yes, he pretty much is the best husband in the world.  Yes, he has a brother, but he’s married, too.  Sorry.

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