Practicing Loss

Some Early Thoughts on Loss, Practice, and the Nativity Fast

I’m amazed at how much work I do sitting at my computer. I run pretty much everything from my laptop. By the time I’m finished with catching up on paperwork for the kids, for our business, for my writing, my training clients, banking, what have you– my brain is mush.

Right now, for example, my brain is mush. Sorry.

But I came in to check on my poor blog today because it’s just getting pushed to the back of the “to do” closet. I’d call it a “to-do” list, but honestly, I have so many lists they fill notebooks and so many notebooks, well…there’s the closet.

Today, though, there’s a little bit of breathing space. And what came to mind as I sat down to write here was the feeling I had while watching my son at his first fencing competition. He went in feeling like a million bucks. He’s my youngest, but he pretty much owns the whole world. He exudes confidence.

Neither of us knew what to expect. I kind of pieced it together as we went and between the two of us we made sure to get him to the places he needed to be and fence the kid he was meant to fence. He lost the first bout, then the second and the third. Each time he’d come back to the bench where I sat to watch him. The first time he tossed off his facemask and chattered about the match. The subsequent times, each a loss, he walked more slowly back to my bench. He waited to take off his mask. He grew quiet, red-faced. His eyes were watering, and his mouth turned down. The disappointment was palpable.

My heart sank with each match. I prayed for the kid to get one break, just one. It didn’t arrive. He finished as he started. Don’t tell him I told you or at least don’t mention it for a year or so if you see him.

I know that disappointment. It lives in my skin. I remembered it, prickling there, as I watched him try and try and try again. I tried to think of words to offer to help him feel better, “you’re still new at this” and “you’ll get it, I know you will!” but it’s all hollow in the moment, isn’t it?

What comes to me in these times is a recognition that we just keep replaying disappointments in life, especially if what we aspire to do is difficult and needs practice. With a fencing competition, we can see what’s on the line, a trophy, a placing, a medal but with things we can’t see so well, practices we keep up now, as grown-ups, it’s not as clear. Prayer, alms giving, patience, charity, care for vulnerable people…these are things I’m practicing now, and I fail almost daily. I imagine I’m in good company, at least I hope so! It’s frightening to think I’m alone at the bottom of the score card.

So today is just a little reminder that if you’re feeling in this season of the Nativity that perhaps you’re not winning the bouts your fighting, you’re not alone. And here’s just a bit of encouragement to keep it up. Don’t quit. We’re going to get better at this. We’re all still learning here.

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