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Litany of lost things
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We all know that one of the byproducts of existence is losing things. Does manically sorting closets and drawers help keep things at bay? Mostly. Does rainbow color-coding your house make it easier to find things? I wouldn’t know. That said, despite how we try to Container-Store our way into perfection, things still get lost.
Early in life, I was labeled as an organizer. Now, whether I was actually “born” an organizer or just have this compulsion to Put Things In Order because of the pressures of Fundamentalism, I will never know. Regardless, I have sorted my existence to perfection, for better or for worse.
People have said things to me over the years (and by people I mean acquaintances, and by acquaintances I mean people from various small groups) like, “you’re so organized”, “you’ve turned out so well”, “well it wasn’t all bad, was it?” I smile and nod and tell the voice in my head, whispering to me in Gollum-like tones “we didn’t have a choice, did we?”
The truth is, I’ve lost a lot. Despite my accounting, and calculating, and sorting, and organizing, things are missing. It’s like a phantom limb. A nameless thing I carry with me. Perhaps we all have these phantom limbs. The choices and decisions we could have made or the things we lost to chance or poverty or wealth.
I once made a list of things I’d lost in a McSweeny-style attempt to poke fun at some of the things I didn’t experience as a teen. Several times since I wrote that first draft more than two years ago I’ve attempted to revise it into something that doesn’t read like a depressing list of every piece of pop culture in the 90s – boy bands, choker necklaces, MTV – sprinkled with some just truly dark shit – frivolity, questions, myself. It’s interesting to look at this list and recognize that these are things people long to abandon while I longed to just participate.
At this point you may be thinking, “but do these late-90s pop culture things really they matter?” They probably don’t in the grand scheme of history and the larger cultural forces that are currently trying to gut our democracy. And yet. These are the things that bind people together. These are the references that create fast friends. They are conversation anchors. These are the little things life is made of. We measure our lives in pop culture references.
Yes, I could very easily make a list of things I’ve gained. I could easily list out for you the benefits of my whole deconstruction process, but I’m not. One of the things my first therapist encouraged me to do was to acknowledge my grief. It’s easy to say that these everyday losses don’t matter and for the longest time I told my self to be grateful for all that I have while ignoring all the losses. It wasn’t until I started grieving what I’d lost, however, that I learned to really appreciate what I have.
I was taught that “this world is not my home, I’m just passing through. My treasures are laid up, somewhere beyond the blue. … and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.” It was a call to shun the world and everything in it. I’ve swapped this philosophy for another that says, “We're only tourists in this life. Only tourists but the view is nice. … Everybody’s coming to my house.” And while you’re here, you can teach me all about the Backstreet Boys.