Monday, August 08, 2005

Does Loss make you a Loser?

It’s a rhetorical question, really, of the variety that has no answer rather than one that is obvious, I suspect, so don’t strain your brain too much trying to answer it.

The new Imperfect Pedant is perhaps not always going to be a place full of sunshine and witty anecdotes. Nope, I’m not a witty anecdote kind of gal these days. Sorry, but them’s the breaks.

I am currently ‘working’ through a book called Good Grief. It’s a slow process as I get to an exercise after doing some reading and find that my reaction is ‘Well, I don’t know!’ all too often. I’m not telling you this, by the way, to incite a ‘Poor Pickwick’ response. I’m telling you this cos I’m going to share some of my reflections and the learning curve I am currently on.

The first exercise in the book is for you to make a timeline of loss you have experienced in your life. The losses can be pretty basic, like moving house, or quite serious ones. The model they give is for someone my age, and they have them experiencing 12 losses. I have 32 on my line. No wonder I’m fucked. You are then instructed to do a number of things, one of which is to reflect on a particularly significant loss and I chose to reflect on my Mum’s car accident when I was seven. Readers of the old Imperfect Pedant will not be entirely new to this.

So, I wrote this:

I guess that, other than the womb-thing outlined in the book – which I just don’t get – my first loss was being hospitalized as an ill child. I don’t remember that, though, and thus I don’t feel it really worth considering. I don’t even really feel the losses of moving house and changing schools at the end of my prep year.

The first loss I can really comprehend as a loss is Mum’s accident. I know it resonates as ever since, I have been filled with a sense of dread whenever I’ve not known where someone is but I thought I should. I recall coming home to unexpectedly find Mum not home once in High School and going crying to an uncomprehending neighbour who saw me as completely irrational. The rational part of me knows that most often when people aren’t where I expect them to be, they are fine, but that rising sense of panic is as much a part of me as my hair, hands and eyes.

There were many other losses caught up in it, too. The loss of dependence in needing to help more around the house when my grandparents came to take care of us. The loss of my mother, physically, at the time and the ongoing loss of the mother I knew, replaced by the one with the high-level needs, struggling to continue being the mother she wanted to be in spite of her changed self. The loss of my father, always distant but now irrevocably so. Caught up in the needs and frustrations of his own loss, resenting this life he had been handed in an unguarded moment. A moment that should not have required guarding in an innocent world.

I guess there was a loss of identity, too, because I suddenly became the child of ‘that woman on the news'. I think of it that way as it was soon after this that I first told a lie – a small, childish, insignificant lie – perhaps in an effort to redefine the seven-year old I was.

There’s a loss of innocence in seeing your community rally around your family, feeding and transporting you; in going clothes-shopping with your father for the first time; in vomiting for the first time without your parents to comfort you; in sitting in the car for four hours, three times a week when you’re finally able to see your mother, see the bandages, staff and processes; in learning how to scrub and put on a hospital gown, hat, mask and gloves before entering that room in your Sunday best to kiss a part of your mother’s hand that was visible – a hand that was connected to her but alien in form, texture and scent. I’d never kissed anyone’s hand and was horrified by the act. There’s a loss of innocence when you realize that you can’t assume life will ever be the same again, each morning that you step away from the house on the way to school.

There was the loss of Karen; the loss of the M’s in the changes her death wrought in them; the loss of trust in the teacher who screamed at you to get your seven-year old self together that play-lunch when Karen’s funeral was held at the church over the road from school. After all, it’s wasn't like she was my sister. The loss of confidence in what was best to say and do as you met so many new situations for which you had no model.

There was the loss of routine as you were able to eat disallowed foods, watch banned television, practice piano less.

The loss echoes through the years when five years later you realized you’d lost the ability to mentally conjure her image prior to that indelible date, as thirty years later you come to realizations about its impact. Each is a fresh loss, and the simple knowledge of this makes me wonder the degree to which my life was shaped from and by that moment in 1976. I've made my choices since, but the influence on them is inescapable.

The book instructs you to identify which of your losses are unresolved and my inclination would be to say it is really only the recent deluge that needs to be dealt with, but as I continue to arrive at new realizations about old events, I wonder if they will ever be resolved or simply take their place as one of the ghosts of my past.


Blogger C said...

It's a continuous effort towards resolution, but as long as there are these ongoing realizations, i don't think there ever comes a point when you can say "yup, it's sorted" cause they throw you off balance, even just a teeny bit, everytime you think about it from another point of view.

Are you no longer bald?

9:47 am  
Blogger Pickwick said...

I suspect you're right, C, about ongoing degrees of resolution.

I am no longer bald, but am adorned with seven weeks of growth. I did get it done again, but I don't think my employer would be too wrapt in me maintaining baldness as an ongoing style, damn it. I'd prefer it to be!

10:25 am  

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