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The Art of Losing (or: Entropy is killing me)

December 12, 2013

Elizabeth Bishop wrote a poem that I have always found lovely, but now really, really relate to:

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.

I can’t find anything in my house.

It drives me crazy.  Especially “the hour badly spent.”

We lose toy parts.  Yoga pants.  Keys.  Shoes.  Strainers.  Spatulas.  Dish towels.  Binkies.  Sippy cups.  Periodically, my sanity.

There is a toy diaspora migrating from the kids’ bedroom to the living room to the car and back through.

Today alone I made three separate offerings to St. Anthony, patron saint of lost things.

Some of these have been reclaimed, and some seem to have disappeared into the void (like the yoga pants–weird, right?).  Some of these things are lost not because of my own doing, but another’s, which drives me even more crazy.

The “I just put that there a second ago…” but some little person decided to move it, so my attempt at organization (i.e. staging something that I will need later) is foiled by entropy personified.

The more out-of-control I feel about Life, the more everything becomes a symbol of how discordant everything is.  The freezer that has buried items from a year ago.  The car that has needed cleaning out of old Cheerios and stomped-on books and a broken basket organizer.  The piles of clean, folded laundry from our amazing friend Cleo, stacked in laundry baskets for weeks because I am too tired at the end of the day to put it away.

Everything we own, flung wildly into corners, screams of instability and powerlessness.

It’s easy to prioritize when one thing has a clear immediate need; these days, everything feels like an immediate need, and many not of my choosing.

After being in CA for six days for Thanksgivukkah, we packed up to stay in a rental house for 3 days because our basement was being painted.  We returned home and immediately got and put up a Christmas tree, because, you know, it’s the HOLIDAYS and we need to have the CHRISTMAS SPIRIT.

The other night I was determined to go to bed early, nearly falling asleep in my dinner.  But there were Christmas decoration boxes to be stacked in God-knows-what-corner of the already overflowing office/guest room, and having to figure out what Fun Holiday Things we were going to do with our kids, in this their first season of magic and mystery.

I find myself raging against this disorganization precisely when I have the least amount of time to tackle it.  Sometimes the sheer number of Things-That-Must-Be-Done coupled with Things-We-Want-To-Do (like finding the pizza wheel cover, or clean socks) paralyzes me.  My friend asks me kindly what I can let go, and I feel like all I do is let go, until “the center cannot hold” (yep, I just compared the craziness of our life to Yeats’ apocalyptic poem.  Take that, W.B.).

Maybe this is the life of every parent, this rollercoaster of chaos and calm.  With this new job and having toddlers and renovations, it feels like we have been at 200% chaos capacity for months.  Maybe after the renovations, something else will replace that stressor.

Since our recent family cold, Theresa has found comfort in us rubbing her back at night.  Earlier, it probably distracted her from not being able to breathe through her nose (but bonus:  we are down to only one binky-dependent child).  Now, she asks us sleepily, “Rub my back, rub my back.”

If this physical comfort mechanism is the price we pay for binky removal, I’ll take it.  It soothes my own spirit to know that my hand massaging her little back under fleecy pjs calms her, helps her rest.  It reminds me of my own parents putting me to bed, rubbing my back, the solace of weight and warmth, love made tangible.

It is what I asked of God tonight as I walked back under trees strung with lights to care for my children after grading at a coffee shop.  These days, the disorder strings me out, frazzles my nerves and makes me stuck.  Rub my back.  Let the slow circles slow my breathing, my heartrate, my mind.  Help me find the peace that is not the absence of stress and anxiety, but that is the centering within the chaos.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. December 31, 2013 1:13 am

    There will be NO major stressor to replace the basement renovation this winter and spring; instead there will be added opportunities to enjoy teaching, parenting, time with Alan, and quality Michelle-back-rubbing! 🙂

  2. December 18, 2013 5:03 am

    One or all of the members of my household have been sick the last month or so, and I too feel myself being worn down by it. The last few days have been a little easier, somehow, and reading this eases it up a bit further. I was just rubbing my son’s back after an early awakening, and those slow circles do as much to ease his heart as they do mine.

  3. Emily permalink
    December 17, 2013 5:04 pm

    This sounds like our house too. My yoga pants were missing for a month or so, and then mysteriously appeared in the bottom of my closet. So maybe there’s hope for yours too. We’ve given up on a few other items (I recently replaced my turkey baster after half of it had been missing for two years). As the kids get older the chaos problem improves a bit. This year feels way easier than last year. But as long as everyone is clothed, fed and loved then everything will turn out OK in the end.

  4. Jill permalink
    December 13, 2013 11:34 am

    You know, the universe swallows things up. It will spit them back out, as with the lost car keys to the locked car, spit out after a week, in a weird spot. The lost yoga pants, spit back out in a pile of Curtis’ clothes, long sitting on the closet floor.

    But, you are found. You know who you are. And, this is more important. 😉 Peace to you friend!

  5. Neal & BJ permalink
    December 13, 2013 6:09 am

    Michelle, wow! That’s about all I can say! I love your last paragraph . . . we all need someone to “Rub my back!” on a daily basis . . . they’re so lucky to have y’all be the ones.


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