Len and I spent six weeks trying to escape winter weather, on the Sea of Cortez, near Guaymas, Sonora, where it was a bit warmer than here on the Pacific Ocean. We rented a beautiful hacienda style house, steps from the shore. We settled in and adopted a daily routine: sleeping until the sun woke us, Len feeding and walking the dog while I cooked breakfast, enjoying the sun's warmth while eating breakfast on the patio, watching the fishermen, a diver, brown pelicans, seagulls and an occasional bottlenose dolphin begin their daily routine right in front of us. Getting acquainted with a new kitchen is always a bit challenging, but, after a few days, I could fix breakfast without too much difficulty. Until one morning when I lost the can of Pam Cooking Spray.
I knew I had used the spray, but in cleaning up after our meal, I couldn't find it. I looked in every cabinet in the kitchen and every shelf in the pantry. When I didn't find it, I expanded my search- the refrigerator, the patio, even the bedroom and bathroom, thinking I must have had it in my hand and set it down in another room.
With some embarrassment, I told Len that I couldn't find the Pam and asked him to help me search for it. He repeated most of thesteps I'd just covered and confirmed that it wasn't in the kitchen cabinets, pantry, dining room, living room, bedroom or bathroom. As we stared at each other quizzically, I suggested we might have a poltergeist in this house, playing tricks on us.
We spent nearly an hour trying to reason our way through this dilemma. Where had I gone? What else was I doing when it disappeared? Where could it be? Feeling defeated by the mysterious disappearing can of Pam, we resigned ourselves to its loss and decided to move on with the day.
Then, I opened a kitchen drawer, and there was the missing can of Pam. Neither of us had checked that drawer because who would put a can of cooking spray in with the potholders?
My sense of relief was disproportionate to the $5.00 cost of the Pam; I was relieved that I hadn't lost my mind! The real lossI felt had to do with my sense of personal mastery. What did it say about my mental capacity if I couldn't handle cooking breakfast without losing something? And, was this a sign of aging? Would my adult children see me as failing and in need of an additional level of support? Was I, in fact, losing my ability to navigate my daily life competently?
Life?s small losses go beyond the obvious. Changing jobs may be exciting, challenging and rewarding, but there's also the loss of relationship with co-workers, the loss of familiar surroundings and comfortable routines. Moving to be closer to family may mean losing friendships that were part of what made life rich and joyous in the old neighborhood.
In our fast-paced daily lives, we can lose sight of our losses, the micro-moments of pain or sadness that accompany our steps forward. What happens to that loss? Where does that small dose of unresolved grief reside?
I've noticed that unresolved emotions don't shrink and go away. The can of Pam wasn't important, but I was questioning my abilities and my self-reliance. I was actually grieving a bit over a perceived loss of competence because my familiar problem-solving skills and strategies hadn't worked.
So, now we laugh about the disappearing can of Pam and acknowledge the need to pay closer attention to what we're doing. Now, if we can only locate that bottle of shower tile cleaner that Len bought a week ago, used once, and we haven't seen since.
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