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Where are my keys? How to lose things with grace

The art of losing isn’t hard to master

so many things seem filled with intent

to be lost that their loss is no disaster

~Elizabeth Bishop

by Barbara Moser

I lost my credit card. This is a public announcement to all my creditors that my card is in limbo and I will pay up, but first I have to call the credit company and tell them to issue me a new one. I’m hoping the card turns up in one of my many purses or stuck to my cellphone.

This is not the first time. I hope it’s the last, but I’m doubtful. Losing things used to be frightening, but now, the frightening thing is that I seem to be taking it too well. I’m not scared of losing things anymore. I’m not even scared once things are lost.

I seem to be getting the hang of it. I’m even getting good at it.

I don’t cry or yell or chastise myself any more. And that’s what’s scary.

I’m just getting better at accepting that I’m prone to losing things.

I tell my students to keep copies of everything they hand in because I might lose it. I’ve never lost anything important to my students—like their grades—but I’ve come close.

There’s a wonderful villanelle by Elisabeth Bishop called The Art of Losing Isn’t Hard to Master. I’ve certainly mastered the art of losing. The poem starts with the small stuff, keys and what not, and goes on to the larger stuff, cities, heirlooms, people.

I encourage you to read it. If you lose things like I do, it will make you feel better, or at least less scared.

Once, when my daughters were small, I lost four tickets to a big ice show at the Forum. We lived in a big house and I spent hours and hours looking for those tickets. I finally found them tucked away in the dining-room hutch, but the fear of disappointing my girls made me physically ill.

Losing something I’ve written on my computer can be very annoying, but I’m never as scared as I used to be when this happens, and it happens all the time.

Often re-writing from scratch can be healthier—for the article.

You could think about it this way: when you lose your keys or your purse or your credit card, it’s a very small loss compared with losing a friend or a house or a city (as Bishop’s poem will tell you).

Yes, it’s annoying but don’t blame yourself. And no, it probably has nothing to do with the onset of dementia. Unless, as the commercial goes, you find your keys in the fridge.

I’ve found my keys in more unlikely places. Like me, you probably once had a whole set of car keys but now you’re down to one. Recently, I had just stepped out of Akhavan Supermarket with our mothers and lots of groceries for a dinner we were preparing that evening. I couldn’t find the one set of car keys I still own.

I started feeling scared, but then I said to myself: “What’s the worst thing that could happen? I’m in a parking lot, it’s Sunday, I have two moms with me and a dog in a bag.” (I always take Diego in to shop in his bag). Just then when I was prepared to go back into Akavan and look among all the pita and what not for the keys, I opened the bag to let Diego out—and there they were. They had fallen in when I had placed him in the bag. Lucky me.

I lost my father in 1970 when he was 48 and I was 20. I don’t think I’ve ever recovered from that loss. He lost his life much too young.

I lost my sister when she was 48, the same age as my father 30 years before.

Losses like that scare me. Losing a friend to cancer scares me. But we can’t live in fear of these losses, can we? The important thing is to not get upset over the small losses.

Losing is part of life. If you don’t play the game, you won’t lose.

But you won’t win, either.

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