Losing It

Rusty Keys by Kim Newberg

Boo Monkey just found my keys at the bottom of the dog’s toy bin.

I’m pretty sure I put them there, though I don’t remember how or why. At first, I didn’t recognize them as mine — because, really, how would my keys end up in the dog’s bin?

It’s astounding, sometimes, how I shed pieces of my life, my self, my sanity. And still remain standing, able to put the keys back on the ring, ready to walk the dog. Again.

There are some things I’d actually like to lose. Fifteen pounds, for starters. Since Boo Monkey is five, I don’t think I can call it “baby weight” any longer, though there is some injustice in that. While other women seem to get their bodies back completely — flat abs and all — for me, the process of carrying and birthing two lovely girls turned my body into something that I hardly recognize as mine.

What I’ve lost, here, it seems, is the self I was, maybe even the self I imagined I would become. Instead, I have what Rainbow Girl calls a “little pillow belly.” For her, this is a good thing. She says it is comfortable to lie on. I am hardly consoled. I have learned to suck it in, though I usually forget.

My belly is a strange reminder of other items lost and gained. It is a seismic shift, tectonic grating, plates against the soul.

At sixteen, I taught myself to vomit. I learned voluntary starvation. An over-achieving perfectionist, I wasn’t content to chose between anorexia or bulimia, so I opted for them both. That meant that an apple in the afternoon, half a cookie, let to purging. No small thing. No easy loss.

It took ten years and a great deal of therapy to renounce that particular addiction, that grasping at a false control. And still, long after, I tugged along the fringes, exercising madly. “Watching” what I ate.

There are many ways to lose yourself. I have tested several. Each one leaves its share of scars, its burden of resonant echoes.

And each one bears, too, its gift. Its brass-ring remembrance, pulled down from the edge of a twirling carousel.

For me, today, a “little pillow belly” is really not so bad. It is, after all, the perfect place of comfort for small daughter heads. Daughters who will love their bodies, in all their many incarnations — childhood, adolescent, adult, middle-aged, and ancient. Having lost myself, I know the signs, the ways to keep my girls from falling. My arms are strong enough to catch them. My heart, split and healed a thousand times, has space for them to tumble.

Together, the three of us walk the dog each morning. I often lose my keys. Sometimes I leave the poop bags behind. And those 15 pounds are stubborn. That’s okay. Boo Monkey is great at finding what is lost. Rainbow Girl can always see the silver lining. Together, they restore me to myself, each day, so that I can, in turn, keep them from losing everything that matters most.

I am farther away from perfect than I have ever been before. And happier as well. There are some pieces of myself that I will never shed, having gained them at a wretched cost. Sometimes “losing it” — the keys, the grip, the hold on triviality — is, paradoxically, the only way to find a home, a self, a day of grace within a wild, imperfect world.

After all, there are only so many places I can misplace my book, the milk carton, a toothbrush. Today, I’d rather hold what matters.

Though, if the dog ever actually eats the keys — and I wouldn’t put it past him — I might revise my view.

Do you ever feel as though “losing it” is not so bad? What lessons do you hope your kids will never have to learn?


16 thoughts on “Losing It

  1. Oh my goodness, Lisa, this is so beautiful and so sweet. You really bowled me over. There is so much I’d like to say but in comments is just not the right place — a cup of tea seems best but probably unlikely. You are a remarkable woman and I cannot begin to tell you how many times I’ll think of you and this post today.

  2. I think the hardest lesson to learn was the loss of control. As much as you think you can control what happens to your children, you cannot. Once I accepted I wasn’t really in control, ironicallly that thought didn’t make me more anxious, I became more relaxed. I realized I would just have to deal with whatever came my way each day. I still could do everything I could to keep them safe, but then I had to let go. I remember being in the ER with one of my sons who had to have an emergency appendicectomy. As they were wheeling him in to the operating room, I remember looking down at my clothing and thinking, “boy when I got dressed this morning, I didn’t think this was how my day was going to end.” So the lesson I taught my boys was that you do want you can to control things in your life, but then let it go and deal with the hand that is dealt to you each day. You can’t control what happens to you, but you can control how you react to it. Face each day with as much courage and dignity as you can.

    • So true, Joan! The more I let go of that illusion of control (and it’s not easy for me), the better I feel. More relaxed, as you say. I hope I can teach my kids as well as you’ve taught your boys. Courage and dignity. Thanks.

  3. Lisa,
    I admire and respect your honesty! I think women in general, but moms especially, need to be more honest with each other and less secretive about our “short comings”. I have long wished that instead of trying so hard to appear in control and perfect, women felt comfortable admitting and sharing their mistakes, failures and uncertainties with each other. What better way for us to understand just how similar we all are, that there’s no such thing as perfect, that we are not alone, and that we’re all just figuring it out as we go!

    • Thanks Rebecca. You make such a good point here about honesty and community. Somehow we do tend to keep those messy bits hidden. I think maybe there is a deep fear of revealing too much, of being the “only one” who has fallen down like that. Or of not being in control enough, “perfect” enough to take care our kids. I’m not sure. I’ll just keep being messy as I go!

  4. Lisa,
    Admitting to my imperfections – as a wife, mother, daughter, sibling, artist – is so difficult for me. Accepting the messy bits, the things I can’t control, a lifelong struggle. I so admire your honesty, your acceptance, your desire to teach your daughters not to lose themselves in their striving for some unattainable perfection. Thank you for sharing your struggles and the joys of discovering the way through.

    • Brenda, I know what you mean. It is so hard to admit that I’m not what I’d like to be. It is a life-long struggle — and a learning adventure, right? (Rainbow Girl has taught me how to find the bright side.)

  5. What a poignant post, Lisa. First, your honestly is so wonderful. And how true that sometimes “losing it” is a good thing and sometimes it isn’t. I wish I could “lose it” more with my writing . . . be less afraid. Looking forward to losing weight after this baby. (and after having 4 babies in 7 years.) But a little worried about losing some of writing time. But also don’t want to LOSE perspective of the preciousness of this time when the kids are young.

    Thanks for making me think of all this!

    • Nina, thanks for making me think in new directions as well. I am definitely ruled by fear too often. (And exhaustion.) I also get anxious about my writing time, and I have two kids, not four (though I also have the crazy dog.)

      It’s difficult to strike a balance — because you’re right that this time when they are young goes by so quickly. I never feel that I have the balance exactly right. It’s always a bit wobbly, imperfect. I am always falling down and getting up again. I suppose it’s the getting up that matters most. That and a sense of humor. Luckily, my kids are hilarious 🙂

  6. Oh boy. Now the tears won’t be pushed back. I just miss you. But thank you for letting me use your words today as the puffy place I needed to fall into. You are a treasure that I am grateful for daily.

    • Right back at you, CoCo treasure. (I think I gained some more weight this weekend — too much dessert. Now, I am even puffier.)

Comments are closed.