The Impact of Little Losses

This past week has been one of little losses in my life.

I postponed my artist residency in September thus delaying my primary art project indefinitely, I gave up a grant I received for this residency, two friendships (of sorts) have changed (these are a bit complicated), and one of my roles in my personal development community has paused indefinitely.

Each loss on its own isn’t really that big of a deal, and if they had each occurred individually over a few months, I may not even have flinched.

But because they’ve all occurred one after another this past week, I find myself suddenly left with an unclear direction as an artist, less two connections, and less on focus in my personal life. And in addition to existing challenges before and during this pandemic, I feel these little losses have taken their toll on me this week, and I’ve felt defeated and sad and tired about everything.

I know these losses pale in comparison to someone losing their job in this time, or a death of their loved ones, or the end of a committed relationship, and so while I feel down, I’m simultaneously chiding myself for feeling this way. I tell myself these little losses aren’t a big deal, that I should focus instead on what I’ve still got, that there are better things to come, there are new things to create, in the larger scheme of things this will all make sense one day… and yes I know all this intellectually and from personal experience, but it doesn’t lessen the effects of the loss.

I think we’re living now in a time of many little losses, and each of them on its own may not seem like a big deal, but when they accumulate over time, their effects do add up. Because of the pandemic, our way of life has changed so quickly, and the little freedoms we used to enjoy like hanging out in large groups, going wherever we want without wearing a mask or contract tracing, taking public transport to and from work and recreation without fearing you’ll catch the virus, watching a movie in the cinema, etc… all these little freedoms we once took for granted as our way of life are now lost for an indefinite time. Yes we know they aren’t lost forever, but at this point of time, amid uncertainty and chaos, they are our little losses.

From our experiences with loss, we know the hurt won’t last forever, and eventually we will find a way to pick ourselves up, adapt and continue on. Or we compare it with other “bigger” losses and decide this isn’t that big a deal, and we should just stuff it down, suck it up, and look for the silver lining.

Most of the time the loss itself may not seem all that significant. What we really need to deal with are the personal implications of the loss, because every person is different, and the loss isn’t about the “thing” that we’ve lost, but something much deeper.

For me, I have a deeply-rooted belief that I don’t deserve to get what I really want, so when I get an opportunity to paint a Dream Tree mural, like getting accepted into an artist residency, I feel affirmed that I’m on the “right” path in my life. So when I have to postpone it indefinitely, the chances of me altogether losing this opportunity increases. At the same time, knowing that I probably won’t be able to travel or paint Dream Trees for at least the next ten months, I suddenly feel lost about what I’m supposed to do as an artist, since “Project: 100 Dream Trees” is my primary project.

It’s a similar thing with my personal relationships. I always feel that people don’t want me around or that they don’t like me, and having lost friendships and been rejected romantically many times before, when a relationship takes a step “backwards”, I feel there must be something wrong with me that resulted in this, even though intellectually I know it isn’t so.

So I share this today not to justify how I feel about my losses, or to get sympathy or encouragement. I share this because I think we need to know that it’s okay to feel down in this time of numerous little losses. Yes we know they aren’t a big deal, we know it’s probably temporary, but in this moment right here right now, when we’re still reeling from the effects of that loss, no matter how seemingly insignificant it may be, it is a big deal to us in this moment, and right now it does take its toll on us.

Whatever you’re going through now, if you’re chiding yourself for feeling bad over something seemingly small, I want you to know it’s okay to take a moment and feel sad and hurt. It’s okay to feel defeated and depressed for a bit. What we need then is a little time to mourn these losses in our own way, e.g. share how you’re feeling with someone, write or draw or sing about it, take a day off to be by yourself and cry, maybe hold a symbolic funeral. Because it’s only when we allow ourselves to acknowledge what we’re truly feeling about our little losses, that we can be more at peace with it, and then stand back up powerfully and continue on towards our dreams and goals.

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