A newly found, good-quality grey wool hat. One brown half glove. An earring received as a gift. My grandmother’s turquoise ring.
These are a few of the things that have gone missing in the past two weeks. I believe many of them will show back up. I’ve found through experience that getting myself rattled and expending energy to dig and sort for them doesn’t do anything. I also believe that some are gone forever and I’ve come to have a non-attachment to objects that would have been impossible for my younger self to fathom.
Still, I beat myself up for some level of inattentiveness that allows this losing to occur in the first place. Spaced out? Not careful? I’m not sure how to characterize this tendency to slough objects with such haste and altogether too much ease.
We rarely lose things that don’t matter. The Yoda wool hat that I bought as a joke, for instance, is with me for life. As are the earrings I inherited from a friend at her post-divorce give away event. If they were to disappear tomorrow, maybe I’d hardly notice and so I wouldn’t even bother to characterize it as a loss. Maybe it would just be an evolutionary moment of form seeping back into formlessness.
My grandmother is currently struggling with her memory. When we talk, I can hear her wrestling and gnawing at that person, place, or thing that is just around the bend in her cortex. “You’re in Wisconsin?” she asks me, sheepish and triumphant all at once, knowing she’s both failed and found something true all at once. My uncle is in Wisconsin, so she has pulled something correct out of her brain, and yet I can hear in her voice that she has lost me. I am slowly moving from form to formlessness; I am moving to the shadows.
As the shadows grow heavier, enveloping more of my grandmother, I wonder what she’s finding there. Her childhood self? I asked about her own mother recently and she admitted to me that she can hardly remember her. She knows vaguely that she was a nice woman. So if it’s not her mother in the shadows with her–and I’d pretty much bet big money that it’s not either of her husbands–then, who is there? What is there?
Will I eventually with my shadows as my waking life dims? This is not an easy place for any of us. My vulnerability, my victimhood, the needy child who I am ashamed is still around–all live in my shadows. I shove them into the alcove and put a blanket over them, hoping they’ll compost into nothing. But unlike a lost glove, they never entirely go away. And like my grandmother’s memories, they come out not when I intend them to, not in a way I can control. Rather, they have their own incongruent schedule.
Like an Indonesian shadow puppet play, I try to engage with them in this liminal world. I give them full admittance of my not knowing, sometimes even muttering “I don’t know, I don’t know,” with the sacred tones of a mantra.
When my marriage fell apart this summer, it seemed like something solid had crumpled, as though a major bridge had an unseen engineering flaw and dramatically, tragically caved in. Now, it feels as though the marriage had been a candle, the flame snuffed out and now, still, the smoke wafts and dances in unexpected waves, fire evolving into a new element.
I gaze at the sinuous smoke and repeat, “I don’t know.” I think of where I last saw my grey hat, imagining a lost & found box behind the movie theatre counter or flattened and muddy in the street, and repeat, “I don’t know.” Someone asks what I’ll do next — for work or where I’ll live — and all I can say, with a half-smile that holds both sorrow and anticipation, “I don’t know.”