Almost every day, I get messages from people telling me what and who they miss from my life, from my books or my blog.
Today, I got a message from someone saying they miss Ed Gulley. I got three messages this week from people saying they missed Ali and the soccer team and the stories of the the refugees in need.
A man from Ohio send me a message yesterday saying he missed Simon, my donkey. And lots of people miss Rose, my remarkable border collie. And Kelly from the bog, and Tyler our young handy man.
Many people still miss Gus, or Elvis, my brown Swiss Steer. Or their own dogs and cats, which many people miss for years and years. I haven’t thought of Winston, my first rooster in years, but two readers of the blog said they missed him just a few weeks ago.
According to one study by a major insurance company, over a lifetime, we will lose and miss some two hundred thousand material things, plus people, relationships, money, elections, loved ones.
That’s a lot of missing. I only hear about a fraction of it. It is certainly mind boggling.
I don’t mind these messages, they are neither intrusive nor unwanted, they are often poignant, even sad.
I take them as compliments to me and my writing. I would hate to write about characters, people or animal, that no one cared about or missed.
In a way, I feel responsible for all the things these people miss, I’m the one who wrote about them and knew them in the first place. I wonder why I’m usually not the one missing them. Perhaps it’s the detachment of the reporter, or writer. Perhaps my subconscious is warning me off of that path.
Much of my life has been lived in a state of detachment, sometimes by choice, sometimes by necessity.
Yet, as often happens, I am not always sure what to make of these messages, since I have different feelings about missing things.
I think it’s important to think and talk about the way in which we miss things, since it happens so often and runs so deep, and what that says about us, and our own lives.
I believe that while pain and loss are inevitable, suffering is something of a choice. I choose to not suffer from the past, since it is often all about remembering or missing or mourning things, especially as I age.
Missing animals and people from the past is, to me a form of nostalgia, and I consider nostalgia a kind of trap, a fly trap, a bog. It is so easy to get stuck in the past and to come to believe that everything that was, is better than everything that is. It seems noble to me to remember the things we loved in the past, but missing them is about something else, I think, something more complicated, something of a heavy burden perhaps.
Remembering is involuntary, missing is a choice for me. I tire quickly of people who see their lives as one continuous lament. I never speak poorly of my life.
I don’t often care to focus on what’s gone, when there is so much here now and so much more to come. I have never seen the point of missing things I can’t bring back, this is something no one can complain their way out of..
People write me about what they miss, what they lost, not what they have, what they celebrate, or hope to gain. To me, missing things is a story about how we understand our lives, and how we deal with life and change and disappointment.
There is an intimate connection for me when people tell me they miss Rose, who died eight or nine years ago. The writer often has an intimate connection with the reader, good or bad. Sometimes I feel people are scolding me about the things they miss, as if I should be missing them, too, or writing about them more, or reversing events – Simon, Ali and the soccer team – and bringing them back.
I am not a writer or a person who goes back. For some time, it was just painful for me. Then, as I moved through life, it just seemed pointless. There is room for only so many things in my head at one time, and I am a lover of life right now, that is where my imagination and creativity resides.
I am often surprised by the things in my life that people miss, it’s not the way I think, which doesn’t make it better or worse.
Isn’t life itself a parade of things to miss, everything I see today could be something I can miss tomorrow.
One reader did complain that I almost never write about the people and animals that I have lost in my life. She’s not done with Rocky the blind pony, or Elvis the Swiss Steer, or Rose or Orson. They still live in her imagination.
I did that. This is a powerful thing for me to think about.
This characteristic of mine, a very deliberate choice, is disappointing for many people, who don’t wish to see all those people and animals go away in their minds. I think I understand that, I hope I do.
We all are condemned or blessed to live in our own heads, thought.
I feel pretty much the way Cecelia Ahern, the author, feels about missing things. She wrote about missing that it doesn’t matter how much, how often, you miss things because you can’t control the comings and going of living things. “Sometimes things and people just go. Just like that.”
I’d go farther that Ahern.
All things and all people go, just like that, or over time.
I accept this as a part of life, it does not surprise me. A loyal and valued reader named David Harris e-mailed me the other day, and the next day I learned he had died in his sleep. I sat in silence to honor him for a few minutes this morning.
I was fond of David, he was special to me, supportive, thoughtful, civil. I never met him or spoke with him. But this is what it means to be a human being. We are the only species in the world that knows we are doing to die, yet we always seem stunned by it, as if we were cheated or robbed.
I can’t say that I will miss him, I hope to remember him.
I am more interested in life than death, more drawn to the living than the dead, more interested in the present and the future than the past.
The past is a sinkhole for me, a place to get stuck. There is only so much room in my head, I want it to be crammed with the now, because the now is where I live.
I don’t miss Ed Gulley as much as I remember him and think about him. Someone speaking to me after Ed’s funeral – a religious man – said he couldn’t imagine why God would take a person like Ed Gulley and permit him to die from brain cancer.
But, I said to myself – not to him – aren’t we all going to die? And for those people who believe in the omnipotent God, isn’t it his or her purview to decide who dies and when? Aren’t believers supposed to honor that, isn’t that what they worship?
If we live a life with animals, we will know loss and death, as most of the people reading this do know. I wish Ed had lived longer, but he did have a full and rich life, and he told me often he had no regrets and was grateful for the life he had.
I admired him for that.
Ed did not wish to be remembered as a God, or a saint or an angel, he told me, but very much as a man, with all of the complex baggage and contradictions that entails.
Ali was working with me for two wonderful years, and then things changed, and he is now working with someone else, and so am I. I think of the soccer team kids often, but they needed more than I could give them. It was time, all things have a time and a place.
I did miss them for a few weeks, I think of them often. But my head is spinning with the people in my life now, and the things I am doing now – my marriage, my farm, my dogs and animals, my photography, my radio show, my books, my blogs, and now, my acting classes.
And I have found many other refugees to help in several new and different ways. Isn’t that what life is about? I think my job is to provide new and different things for people to miss. Gus is gone, Bud is here.
I don’t wish to do the same thing, over and over again, for the rest of my life.
I have so many things in my past life that are gone, there would be no room in my head for one new idea if I spent all day marking and mourning and missing the old ones.
Honestly, I don’t want to think of Simon and Lenore and Orson, and Elvis and Simon and Frieda and all those sheep and chickens. Spirit creatures, I believe they have moved on, they are enriching the lives of other people as they did mine.
I want to think about my life right now, of the animals and people and things that make up my life in 2018, 2019 just around the corner.
I am a speck in the scheme of things, I can hardly believe how little time it takes for a year to go by. I am resolved not to waste that time, it is precious and in my mind, that means moving forward for as long as I can.
And if the people and animals never change, wouldn’t my life be boring and one-dimensional? Wouldn’t my readers be numb? What can they learn from that? Stasis is the enemy of the creative, it leads nowhere but nowhere.
A woman from Seattle wrote me months ago to say she loved my dog Rose dearly, “and I miss her terribly, almost every day. ” She asked if I could put up a photo of her once in awhile.
Maybe once in a great while. Rose was the least sentimental dog I ever loved. If I know her, she is lying in clover in a green pasture with no horizon, telling sheep where to go. She sure isn’t missing me, not if she has sheep.
I only think of Rose once in a great while, and I do not miss her. I owe her that, my wish for her is to have her own life, as I have mine.
I have three wonderful dogs to live with, and I am busy caring for them and loving them. They don’t need Rose in the house, or in my head.
As their steward, they deserve my full love and attention – look at what Red has been going through. I can’t love a score of things, there isn’t that much good love inside of me, and Maria takes up a goodly chunk.
What did we expect of Rose? Or Ed? Or even Gus? That they would live forever? That nobody dies? That the soccer team would never grow older or up?
That people won’t change and do different things in their lives? Life is all about change in so many ways for me. Change is the very definition of creativity.
I’ve thought a lot about life and acceptance in recent years, and my idea of acceptance means respecting life and change, to me death to me is life’s sister, part of the family, not our enemy.
We will all get the chance to live well and die, we are here for a blink. I wish to be discerning about how I use my very short time.