I’ve been missing all the people I’ve lost more than usual recently. Probably comes from the slackening of my most recent life whirlwind and the sudden and overwhelming quiet that has settled in its aftermath. Unstructured time has always been my downfall; and I’ve kept my life as busy as possible in an unconscious desire to keep myself from myself.
I tend to carry around my lost people in my head – sometimes I pull them out myself, sometimes they jump out at me without invitation, usually when I’m in no mood. Some of my losses were self-inflicted, some by mutual driftage, but some were taken; and those are the lost people that have been in my thoughts lately.
I’ve dealt with enough therapy (from both sides of the couch) to know the standard approach to consoling a person that loses their person; you try to correlate the pain they feel to the depth of the love they felt; that they only hurt as much as they were loved – that only a few really experience these depths, because only a few have ever had what you no longer have. The love of your lost person is elevated and wedded to the pain you experience. That pain seems endless and overpowering, and thus – so must have been their love.
Only one problem; it’s seldom true. Most of us are much better remembered than we deserve – human nature seems to give other human natures the benefit of the doubt. And so we raise our lost people to the dizzying heights of our sadness and we survive in the belief that we are unique in having been loved so well and consequently lost so much. (…insert 70’s lost love rock anthem here)
And I see nothing wrong with this bit of self-delusion if the lost person truly was irreplaceable; a parent, a sibling or even a spouse at the end of a shared life. But what about those who’s loss comes relatively early in life and the role they played is not really one that they are ready to do without for the decades still ahead? In this case… is there a downside to all this elevating?
I’m thinking yes. Besides the idea that pretty much any self-delusion is gonna be problematic at some point, there is the obvious problem of trying to find a replacement for someone that you have elevated to a status beyond that of anyone you might meet. Yes, even that person at the coffee shop that you think is so, so perfect!
We carry our own baggage and we create our own ghosts. Those of us mid-lifers that find ourselves looking for love in all the wrong places have lots of bags and multiple ghosts. Whether we load those bags down with every issue we can as we head off on a date is up to us. Whether we look across a table through the mist of our ghosts, or directly at the new face… that’s up to us too.