As the last planned post on loss, what I call The Rhythm of Life, is a followup to "Everything Changes" published on Feb. 14th, and "Accepting Change", published earlier today. These 3 topics were never envisioned as a series, but the private commentary I received from the readers of the first of this series lead me to the conclusion that I had to do more than simply tell my readers what I did to get past these painful events. I needed to dive a little deeper and give them the gifts my past experiences gave me. This article, The Rhythm of Life was originally reserved as a chapter in my book. But because of the implications loss has on The Rhythm of Life, I felt compelled to share this concept, and how it applies to this subject. I will still take a deeper dive into this topic in If I Were a Lucky Man, once it is complete.
I'm not sure what would come up if I googled this phrase, and perhaps one day I'll find out. But what I have called for many years now The Rhythm of Life, includes the things we do day in and day out, on a well defined schedule, without even thinking about it. This also includes the interactions we have with those closest to us. This could be as insignificant as having your first drink of coffee in the morning, or as simple as going to the movies every Friday night. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that if you sat down and really thought about it, you could list 40 or more things you do regularly, and that list would likely be only 50% complete. The bottom line is the way we live our every day life is built around this rhythm I'm talking about, and all the people in your life have carved their own notches into it.
By now you might still be wondering what this has to do with loss, and accepting change? The most difficult thing about accepting loss is accepting the changes to our Rhythm of Life. Your Rhythm of Life includes dozens of daily interactions that go mostly unnoticed because of the monotony that occurs when you do the same things day in and day out for nearly as long as you were together.
And when someone suddenly leaves us—regardless of the reason—they take a part of us with them. We know it's missing, it feels like a gaping hole in our life. But in reality, the biggest non-physical thing they take from us it this Rhythm of Life. The fact that this hole in our life, this rhythm that our entire life revolves around is intangible, makes it perhaps the most difficult part of recovering from the loss of someone close to you.
But this concept doesn't only apply to loss. The Rhythm of Life also has the same affect on those in the lives of people who have partners in the military who are deployed long term. Or the spouse of someone who becomes imprisoned for a number of years. Regardless of the reason why, anyone who experiences the loss of a loved one—even if it is only temporary—will have their rhythm disrupted. And these same people who have their life and their rhythm interrupted by a temporary loss spend months resetting their Rhythm of Life, only to have it disrupted again upon their return.
If you are reading this, it's likely you have already experienced significant loss in your life. Maybe it happened recently, or maybe it was several years ago. Regardless of how long ago it was, you probably recognize the Rhythm of Life as I've described it, and you've likely experienced the effect of losing someone close, on your own rhythm. It's said that recognizing the problem is just the start, and I would have to agree with that. The hard part—beginning to recognize and document those interactions—is perhaps the most painful task required of you for what comes next.
The good news is that I've developed a method that will allow you to at least perform a partial reset on your rhythm. It's not going to be easy. It will force you to recall every interaction you had with your significant other on an regular basis and write them down for future reference. You are going to have to try to recall the interactions that happened repeatedly each day, each week and each month, and then you will document the date and time these interactions took place.
Many of these interactions will be difficult to recognize. Many of them are so small and insignificant on their surface that we don't even realize they happen at all. Once this person is removed from your life, they may feel like dejavu, or like something you just dreamed. I'm going to describe a couple of examples of these seemingly insignificant interactions to help you recognize them in your memory.
We are both smokers, and we routinely walked outside together for a cigarrette first thing in the morning, and after dinner, among other times.
This sounds easy enough to remember, but let me add another detail to that interaction:
We are both smokers, and we routinely walk outside together for a cigarrette first thing in the morning, and after dinner, among other times. He takes 2 cigarettes from the pack and lights them both, then hands one to me.
Do you see what I mean about the small, insignificant details and how important that they are? Here is another. It lacks the complexity of the smoking interaction, but still leaves you feeling suddenly alone when it happens:
All the time we were together, he refused to put the toilet seat down. And I fussed about this to the extent that it became the daily joke. But now that he's gone, the seat is always down.
Here's another that again will seem so small and insignificant that it just doesn't really matter, but the reality is these are the things that we notice first:
Every time my wife has a bowl of my Frosted Flakes, she leaves the box top standing wide open and puts it back in the cabinet. I don't want to say anything, so when I see her empty bowl in the sink, I just go to the cabinet and close the box.
It's the things you can't really put your finger on that really make you miserable. And that's simply because you can't prepare for them in your mind. You just pick up a cigarette as you walk out the door and put it in your mouth without having lit it, and can't understand why you did.
So without giving away to much from what I've already prepared for my book, I'll close with this instruction: Finish your list of interactions, no matter how painful. Remember that the cure is sometimes more painful than the disease while you add items to that list when they come to you seemingly out of thin air. And then add to that list actions you can perform without any help. If that means you have to raise the toilet seat when you finish, or begin to close your own cereal box, then do it. Soon your Rhythm of Life will be your own, and the pain and anxiety of a life without that other person will start to diminish.