The Art of Losing

28 Nov

One Art (1976)
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 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.

My poetry professor, Gibbons Ruark, read this poem to our class with such a passion that I was moved at the age of 22, though I hardly knew the loss Elizabeth Bishop was writing about at that young age. Through out the years, I have heard lines from the poem in Gibbons’ voice as life unfolded as it did for me and I came to know losing farther, losing faster. And I have yet to write it! like disaster.

So here I am. Writing…you can tell me about the disaster part…

It took me years to gather furniture and possessions that expressed what I found beautiful in the world – through many battles of want, need, cost…You have no idea how insane it was. I lived for years in the pattern of mania that had come to seem normal: as soon as anything became easy in my previous life, it was shaken to the ground! Tear DOWN that easy and make it a challenge seemed to be the motto of my marriage!

When our house was to be sold, in a rash, unplanned move from Charlotte to Charleston,  his latest idea was that we would have an estate sale and get rid of EVERYTHING.  I left the house in more than a huff. I walked around the block once, twice, three times until I calmed down enough to head home.
Soon after, I agreed to let it all go.   It is just stuff some part of me knew, which I said to anyone who asked, as if I were enlightened enough for that phrasing…but the “stuff” leaving me at that point still hurt. For many years, I would miss an elegant bowl, a japanese teapot, a beautiful wine glass – the missing limb syndrome of the “stuff.”  Ah, 5 years later I still can see the paintings, the china, the couches, the platform bed;  there are still psychic ties.  I prayed over the items that the ones who obtained the “stuff”  would love them as much as me.  I’m sure that desire came to be!

That longing, searching, connecting to things no longer there reminds me of my grandmother in her last few years.  She lost her eyesight, and though her furniture had been distributed to family members, in the room where she lived in an assisted-living home, she would feel around her drawers over and over, just knowing things that she had stored in her furniture in her 94 year life were there.  In many ways we are all like her, waking up in the dark night, searching for things of long ago in foreign furniture…

Later, after losing the money, losing the marriage, losing the security of living on dry land, I’m only left with stories. When most everything was gone, I learned to see:   what was left , was what I was/ what I am.

“We are identifying with what is passing so fear comes.
We are trying to make steady and permanent
what is by nature impermanent.”  – Mooji  (my youtube guru ;))

6 Responses to “The Art of Losing”

  1. KarenwebbKryder December 5, 2012 at 6:04 am #

    I am really enjoying reading,relating, recognizing, realizing what was right under my nose for too many years of self-searching to reach out when it right there for me relate to in the flesh. Thank you for finding the words that make sense of what I have seen, lived through and with. God Bless your incredible strength, and ability to make some sense of the “stuff”, and the searches…only to be followed by re-searches-it’s no longer there…….it was burned and given to Good Will-the precious “stuff” collected over a life-time-and some of Grandmother’s………

  2. marga t. December 28, 2012 at 11:10 pm #

    Strangely, it seems nothing is ever wasted though, no experience, no possession, no giving or receiving…all has its place! much Love to you!!
    x! marga

  3. sv April 14, 2013 at 1:03 pm #

    love this poem , had posted it my blog in 2010 , after watching the film -In Her Shoes – this the first poem Maggie (played by cameron diaz) is asked to read while working at her grandmother’s retirement community . Your experiences make it all the more profound. glad to have read your post

    • marga t. April 14, 2013 at 1:40 pm #

      Thank you for sharing this overlapping connection. Does seem to be one of the resonant works of words that pings in the memory throughout life for many of us. I haven’t heard of this film; adding to my netflix list! Joyful flow to you this Sunday.

  4. reneetamara May 14, 2017 at 6:57 pm #

    I see that the trajectory of our respective blogs have been quite parallel, we started, and have seemed to pause, also, at similar points in time. Just checking in to see how you are, and hope you are well… perhaps one, or both of us, will post again soon.

    • marga t. May 16, 2017 at 7:07 pm #

      Hello Renee,
      So funny about the ebbs and flows of life; I find it beautiful that you and I honored the natural progression of what was flowing and ebbing. I wonder if it will bubble up again, too. I wonder if your hands are busy with making other beautiful things…Wishing you well, so good to hear you ping in! x m

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