Findings Lessons in the Loss
I heard an archived interview this week with the author, Pat Conroy, who died last week at the age of 70. He said,
“The thing that has always been a theory of mine that does not sit very well in America is, I don't think you learn anything from winning. You just jump up and down, it's wonderful, it's fabulous, it's glorious. But losing - there's a deeper music in loss. There really is something about losing that you have to figure out what you did wrong, you have to change the way you played, you have to look at yourself in a different sort of way. Losing seemed to prepare me for life - bad reviews, my mother dying. There was nothing about my mother's death that reminded me anything about winning, but it did remind me of how I felt whenever we lost.”
The person who wins every time never has to evaluate his experience. When everything always goes your way, there is nothing to learn, nothing to figure out. “Must be nice” you might say. But it is my perspective that a life without learning is not a very full life. And no one lives a life without experiencing hurt and loss. When we’re willing to lose the game, we get to have the experience of playing the game in the first place.
If you’re not willing to experience emotional pain, then you don’t get to have the good stuff either. I’ve known people in my Asheville counseling practice to hold back in their lives because they are afraid something is not going to work out. And you know what? It doesn’t work out. Often times because they weren’t willing to go “all in” in the first place. Conversely, if you’re grieving the loss of someone or something important in your life, that means you were willing to have a relationship with someone, to give of yourself, to allow a connection to be made, which ultimately made your life fuller in some way. You can’t have love without hurt. You got the good stuff because you were willing to lose.
We are human beings with the ability to experience the entire spectrum of emotions. Yet we usually try to limit the experience to just the “good” ones. When we try to shut out or avoid the “bad” ones, they end up sneaking into our consciousness anyway, despite all the energy we spent trying to keep them out. And we end up having to feel all of our feelings anyway.
Willingness is a switch we can turn on and off inside ourselves. Willingness doesn’t always mean jumping off the diving board with your arms spread wide, it can mean being willing to gently ease yourself in. Either way you’re still “willing” to get in the pool. Being willing to feel the range of feelings helps you move in the direction of what is most important to you, despite the roadblocks that may present themselves.
So what if you were to shift your perspective from “I’m not getting in that pool, I could get wet.” To, “If I’m going to swim, I guess I’ll have to get wet.” Could you open your arms to the experience at hand, and find lessons in the loss?