Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Mastery of Losing

Some days when I walk into work in the morning, I think about my old job in Conway. Back at the company that shall remain nameless. Back before they eliminated me and my job. Everything was so new and nice – the first few months I was there, I felt like I was dreaming. Now, sitting in my worn, thirty year old government-office-esqe chair at my equally depressing faux wood metal desk, I remember the privileges left behind.  My own laptop, a sleek, ergonomic desk, work from home privileges - of course I took them for granted. I had no idea how losing those things would feel.

Occasionally, I’m out in the driveway beneath the street lights setting out the trash and I remember our little house on Conway Boulevard. Nostalgia's warm embrace sneaks up behind me, and I recall little bits of a life lived in a better town. Quiet streets, like tunnels, with trees arching over the top, a small house with creaky floorboards - the perfect size for two newlyweds, everything we needed within a few minutes drive. I never looked over my shoulder, never double-locked the doors, never woke up in the middle of the night because it sounded like an Airbus was landing in our driveway. Those quiet tree-tunnel streets are lost to me now.

I miss the feeling of putting down roots; truthfully, I’m afraid this Memphis soil is poisoned, so forgive me if I’m hesitant to plant my family in it. When we make the occasional pass through Conway, I have to fight the urge to take the family on a driving tour of our history. There’s the McAlister’s where Bethany and I first met. There’s the spot where I proposed- right there in her parents' driveway on her birthday on a night when I just couldn’t wait any longer. There's the hospital where Jackson was born, the dock at Beaverfork Lake where I used to go write, and Blackwood’s where so many delicious meals were had. A good part of our favorite years is scattered all over that town. And I seem to have lost it.

Sure, we talk about coming back. Back to our friends, back to our comfortable town, back to the only place we’ve both called home. Is it true that you can never go back? We have history there; our history here is yet to be made. I have my doubts, though, and as time passes, those doubts speak more loudly. There are not a lot of jobs in Arkansas, especially for writers like me, and nothing indicates that changing anytime soon. It would be hard to justify a move when I already have a job here. Perhaps it is just the absence that has caused my heart to grow so fond? And if we did go back, would we recognize it as the place we left or has it changed too much? Maybe it too is lost for good.

When I was in college, I took a poetry course sophomore year. Most of the poems were strange and hard to understand, however, one in particular stood out. I've always carried it with me thinking that someday I would find a use for it. It’s called, “One Art” and it was written by Elizabeth Bishop. It’s beautiful, it’s stark, it’s a reminder of how much slips through our fingers in the course of a lifetime. I don’t know why, but today, with this post, I felt I should share it.

One Art
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 a 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.


Laura said...

oh my goodness, I checked half way through this post to double check I didn't write it myself. We feel so similarly. Living in Boston is something we've enjoyed, but I look back at Conway so longingly. While we visited over Christmas, I did drive through and re-hash memories...and took in all the changes too. Reading your post made me want to move back too. But, just like you, we need jobs to move...and I have a good job here...


I too really long to put down roots somewhere - and I'm hesitant to do so when we live so far from our family. It's hard. Here's to hoping for the best.

Sorry I wrote a book here - but I just wanted to say I feel ya!

Ben said...

No, no, I enjoy the comments. It's nice to know that we're not the only ones who feel this way. Maybe someday we'll all get to where we want to be - wherever that may be.