Excerpt 09 : The Art of Losing

Read the whole essay here. - by Ruth Ozeki in Shambala Sun Magazine :

So what is the difference between losing and letting go? What makes losing feel like such a disaster? On an obvious level, it’s about control. When I let go, I’m in control; when I lose, I’m not. Letting go is a willful act; losing, a violation of my will.
I think there’s a powerful link between creativity and death. We make things because we lose things: memories, people we love, and ultimately our very selves. Our acts of creation are ways of grappling with death: we imagine it, struggle to make sense of it, forestall or defeat it. 
To care for a parent with Alzheimer’s is to practice losing every day. I wrote a lot during that time, which was part of my practice. These are some entries from my blog :    

May 25, 2004 
A lot has happened. My mother turned ninety last month and we had a little birthday party for her. 
“How old am I?” she asked me. 
“You’re ninety, Mom.” 
Her eyes widened.
“I am! That’s unbelievable! How can I be ninety? I don’t feel ninety.” 
“How old do you feel?” 
She was perfectly serious. 
I laughed.
“You can’t be forty. Even I’m older than forty.” 
“You are?” she exclaimed. “That’s terrible!” 
“Gee, thanks.” 
She shook her head.
“You know, I must be getting old. I just can’t remember anything anymore.” 
She looked up at me and blinked. 
“How old am I?” 
Later on, I asked her, “How does it feel?” 
“When you can’t remember things. Does it frighten you? Do you feel sad?”
“Well, not really. I have this condition, you see. It’s called os... oste... ” 
“You mean Alzheimer’s?” I said, helping her out.
She looked astonished. “Yes! How on earth did you know?” 
“Just a guess...” 
“I can never remember the name,” she explained.
 “Of course not.”
 “It affects my memory...”
 “...and that’s why you can’t remember.” 
She frowned and shook her head.
 “Remember what?” 
“There’s not a single thing I can do about it,” she told me, when I reminded her.
“If there was something I could do and I wasn’t doing it, then I could feel sad or depressed. But as it is...” She shrugged. 
“So you’re OK with it?” 
She looked at me, patiently. 
“I don’t have much choice,” she explained, “So I may as well be happy.”
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