Some days we go through life on auto-pilot. Put away the laundry. Empty the dishwasher. Refill the dog’s water bowl. Our To Do list is long and we work on its completion around our family and our jobs. Text a friend? Make an encouraging phonemail? We put that, too, on the list, giving it the same weight as picking up the prescription from the pharmacy. We mean well, but we’re so busy that we can’t fully engage. Before we know it, we’re heading up to bed. The list is done, we feel productive…but do we feel happy about it? Here’s my take on loss in 2022.
Life is overwhelming right now, on the heels of the pandemic and all the changes it still presents. We may have less time than before, but the need for self-care, acknowledgement of our needs, a realignment of our priorities is even more of a necessity than ever before.
We all hoped that 2020 was the worst, but then 2021 came around. Now, 2022 is here, we’re still in the end game of the pandemic and the words “world war 3” are being thrown around on the news. On a personal level, we started the year with a couple of us getting sick. Quarantining because everyone had to was one thing; quarantining because you’re sick is something else. Then we learned our closest friend passed. We’d been friends for around 23 years. It was a gut punch getting that call late one evening, waking up the husband telling him what happened while still crying and saying WHAT? WHAT? WHAT? to our friend’s dear wife of 1.5 years.
It’s been six weeks now and it still seems surreal. He was laid to rest last weekend, in a beautiful ceremony that honored him and expressed the love we all felt for him. One very special part of the reception was being asked to participate in a release of doves. What an absolute honor. I really don’t have the words to adequately express that, but to say his name as we each released our dove — I hope his wife understands fully how much that meant to us.
I’ve lost loved ones before. I lost my parents many years ago, and before that, I lost my first husband in a car accident. We lost a longtime friend to COVID last year, and another friend passed from an aneurysm. As you grow older, it happens, but nothing prepares you for the broken heart, the disbelief and then the quiet attempt towards acceptance. I can honestly tell you, I’m not there yet. I’m still in the angry phase. He was too young. He was so vital. So happy. And we had so many more plans.
This past weekend was the NASCAR race at Auto Club Speedway. We had made plans to spend the whole weekend infield in their RV, after decades of other race weekend adventures that included traveling to Bristol Motor Speedway together. Instead, we were writing “We love you, Dave” on the start/finish line in his memory. I wrote it, then stared at it. Wait, what?
Losing him…2022 in general, I guess…has taught me a few things. Some of it I already knew but wasn’t putting it into practice. I’d already made some changes in 2021, things that made life a lot easier and more enjoyable. I’d started saying no to client opportunities that didn’t fit. I declined opportunities that had me spending hours on the freeway unless it was something special. I stopped working for free, and started requiring fairness. (Compensate someone else but nothing available for me? I can’t do the work, thank you!)
Getting sick, saying goodbye…I realized I just don’t have the time anymore for drama. I can’t with the pettiness. Carrying a grudge? That’s on you, I want no part of it. So convinced you’re right that you’ll let hate and anger take the place of human kindness? That regret will come back and bite you later. And if it doesn’t, that may be even worse.
I’m no pro in dealing with grief or circumventing life changes. Like everyone else, I’m doing the best I can and pretty much winging it. I’m happy to have downsized my obligations. I’m a happier person when I’m not rushing from event to event, especially if it’s not something I’m doing with the family. I’ve learned that once the funeral is over, people stop asking. They stop talking about it. We’re supposed to just move on. It’s taught me to make sure that I never, ever do that to my friend’s wife. She’s stuck with us forever now, and I’m thankful for that gift. If you’re able to leave a legacy, leave relationships and love. It’s so much better than money.
In short, if loss in 2022 has taught us anything: get over yourself. Be kind. Life moves quick. People leave us in a heartbeat. We never know when their time…or ours…will come. They’re gone but our regret will live on as long as we do.
Important to note: this doesn’t mean you have to put up with people that treat you like poo. Just because someone asks for another chance, it doesn’t mean you need to give it. Regret sometimes is initiated by allowing people to treat you badly, and that regret is lifelong as well. You only get one life. Spend it with people who support you, who listen to you as much as they talk, and make sure that talk is TO you, not about you.
Life is short. Don’t waste it. Go hug your loved ones. Tell them how you feel…even if it’s not a good thing, because at least you tried. You won’t have to regret not having spoken up. And be yourself. Go to Disney all you want. Go to Disney alone. Spend the money now rather than saving it for a trip you may never get to go on. Take the selfies. Make the memories…and share them with everyone. If you experience loss in 2022, my heart goes out to you.