I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the things I’ve lost since Lizzy, our third child, has entered our lives. Free time. Quiet. Evenings out. A clear sense of priorities. Feeling rested. Time alone with my partner. Spontaneity. Sex. Breasts that don’t leak. Nights of uninterrupted sleep. Old friends, whom I no longer have the energy to keep in touch with. Any illusion of control. A sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. My keys, every other day. My glasses, which I theoretically never take off, twice a week. At least seven pairs of shoes in as many days. Thank God our portable phone beeps when it’s stranded under a cushion or pushed up against a chair. You push a button on the base and the telephone beeps wildly.
There’s a epidemic of missing things at our house. Today it was the key to Karyn’s truck, the hook Eli needed to make a birthday potholder, and my checkbook. Items regularly vanish into a vortex of nothingness: Eli’s favorite book, Dinosaur Dream, the novel I’m almost done reading and can’t wait to finish, the purple wool socks I need for a camping trip, the overdue utility bill I was going to sit down and finally pay.
Invariably, I spend an hour a day looking for something I must have, but can’t find. Often I catch myself heading purposefully into my office or the kitchen, searching for something, only I can’t quite remember what it was I was so intent on looking for once I get there. This is not the occasional odd sock being eaten by the monster in the washing machine. This malaise of the disappeared has penetrated every aspect of our lives.
When I am stalking through the house one more time hunting for Eli’s flip flops, I wonder if this happens in other people’s homes. Do all parents of young children suffer from this malady? Is this one of the typical childhood diseases of the first year? Milk of amnesia the bane of nursing mothers?
In our house, missing items fall into two categories the misplaced and the chronically lost. Misplaced things show up after an hour, a few days or several weeks. But the chronically lost like Eli’s yellow furry coat, the purple jacket I haven’t seen in six months, and my treasured Swiss army knife weigh on me. Periodically, I get into a frenzy of checking all the same places I’ve already checked, certain these missing treasures will turn up. But they never do. They have vanished. Where to? My current theory is that the aliens have taken them to Navnow (Eli’s imaginary planet, just past Pluto).
The time I spend searching for missing sneakers, address books, and sweatshirts is humiliating to me. Mothers are supposed to be the champion finders of lost articles. Instead, I’m the person at our house who’s most frequently lifting couch cushions, rooting around under tables, searching through piles of paper, and when desperate, rummaging through the garbage, wracking my sieve of a brain for a shred of memory that might tell me where “I saw it last.”
That’s another thing I’ve lost the ability to think. Sentences come out with words missing in the middle. Remembering names difficult for me in the best of times has become a nightmare. I often recite several names before I stumble on the proper one. I call Eli, “Lizzy,” Lizzy, “Eli” or Karyn, “Thumper” (the cat). It’s humorous when it happens at home but out in public? Most people forget names or faces I find myself unable to retain either. This leads to all kinds of close encounters of the embarrassing kind.
Then there is the whole category of losses that are really gains. The longing for a family that no longer gnaws at me in the middle of the night. I never experience boredom, and loneliness, only rarely. I’ve given up the belief that the world owes me for my suffering. That sense of entitlement, the belief that my thoughts and emotions were at the center of the universe that kind of self-absorption is history. The distant angry feelings I held toward my family have given way to compassion, kindness and pleasure. And I no longer believe in my terminal uniqueness my kids tie me to the joys, struggles, and challenges of parents everywhere, and I thank them for it.
In losing my mind, my possessions, and what I used to call freedom, I have gained deeper love and purpose that I ever thought possible. I may be permanently scattered, perpetually interrupted, and always turning up couch cushions, but I am no longer searching for meaning in my life. I am more of a whole person, a mench, than I ever was when my keys were hanging on the proper ring and my jacket was predictably thrown over the back of the same chair every night. Now if only I could get my yellow jacket, Swiss army knife and checkbook to beep, I’d really be in business.