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A Chronical of Loss

The last weekend of 2020, I decided to lose the battle for half an hour.

Last week china smashed to the floor. I was reaching into a cabinet, where something had shifted, and several pieces of china came sliding out and smashed onto the kitchen floor, shattering to pieces.

Nothing remarkable about that – but what was remarkable was my reaction. As they slid off the shelf and onto the granite counter top, I screamed at the top of my lungs “No! NO! Fuck you fuck you FUCK YOU NO! STOP STOP STOP!” Of course, there was a fear something (perhaps a particularly heavy pottery book end) would smash down on my head- but that wasn’t it. My heart pumped adrenaline like I was being chased by a panther, and I yelled as each of the pieces- old, unused salt and pepper shakers- smashed on the counter and careened to the floor. I looked at the shards on the floor and tried in my head to assess what had happened, how many pieces, which ones, rank them in my head as to value and importance – and, here is where my emotional life and the reality of my physical life collided – what was lost.

That question drove me out of the kitchen and into a chair in the living room. I collapsed and started to sob. Greedy, breath-filled, rib shattering sobs that shook my whole body. I didn’t stop, and wouldn’t stop. The sobs were loud and full throated, and over took me. Sometimes, in the midst of a good cry, I can feel myself actually make the choice (is it greedy?) to not impede the progress and violence of my grief and terror. Sometimes I simply let it release and shatter me, thrilled by the free fall of sheer emotional collapse. Whatever the reasons, I sobbed loud and long, out of breath, dispelling my energy in a wild random breakdown. Until - well, until I no longer did.

What was lost. A ridiculous question. Everything and nothing; every day and never; irreplaceable and completely ordinary. That was how I ended 2020.

“All life is a chronical of loss” – Tennessee Williams. Everything, everything is lost, through the span of our lives. “mere oblivion; Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.” A salt shaker means nothing.

Right. So it doesn’t take a genius to perceive that the terror and anger about the loss had little to do with the broken salt shakers or the chipped book end. The daily privations, new anxieties, morbid fears, longings, and uncertainties of this past year had worked their ways into my bones and muscles, and gripped them hard. Squeezing and holding onto me, wrestling with me for a hold on not only my emotional self, but my physical self as well. I never notice that as much of course, except in the physical phenomena of grinding teeth, tight stomach, aching joints, loss of sleep: a host of physical battles with the terrors of the political landscape of the past year, and discipline of staying cautious and safe through the pandemic.

I simply decided to lose the battle, for half an hour, shuddering in my living room (admittedly, and very fortunately, safe and protected: I am a lucky man). For half an hour, I let myself live in terror and despair. Then I chose a few good curses, got back up, and returned to what I was doing.

The scale of the release was remarkable. The shock at how this small misfortune triggered such a huge response was remarkable. Perhaps what was most remarkable of all though was the decision to indulge in the sobs, just for a bit- and feel at a loss. All in all, I m glad that I am able to make that the exception, and not the rule, and I am lucky and safe enough to be able to visit that Land of Loss, and return.

But all that said: fuck you 2020 for everyone you have taken. Fuck you for everyone who feels more endangered and hurt, alone and scared. Fuck you for everyone I worry about and love. Fuck you for leaving us all a bit more in the grip of those terrors. Fuck you.


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