Missing the Little Things (for Now)
When we have enough emotional intelligence (EQ) to recognize that other people are suffering more than we are, we sometimes convince ourselves that we’re not allowed to be sad about the losses we feel, because they seem so much smaller by comparison. We assume that denying our own loss will somehow make us more compassionate towards those who have lost more … but that is a grave misunderstanding. Denying our own pain, hurt, and loss doesn’t make us more compassionate towards others – it makes us LESS so. True compassion comes from a place of deep authenticity – which means acknowledging, honoring, and feeling whatever we actually are feeling.
One little thing that I’m currently mourning is the loss of is my ability to accost the dogs of strangers on the trails near my house. I live outside of Denver, Colorado, in a wonderful area that is crisscrossed by an extensive trail network. Thankfully, even the most restrictive stay-at-home orders here in Colorado still allow for outdoor walking and exercise (as long as everyone maintains six feet of distance), so I’ve been able to continue my almost-daily 5-mile walks. Historically, these walks were my opportunity to shower love and affection on the dogs of strangers I encountered on the trail. I lost my beloved Black Lab, Merlin, a little over a year ago – and so I’m pretty much always in a dog-deprived state these days. Prior to the pandemic, my walks provided me with a much needed “dog fix.” Sadly, the ability to pet the dogs of strangers is one of the many casualties of the current coronavirus situation.
I feel this loss every time I pass by a dog that clearly wants to say hello to me as much I want to say hello to him/her. This pang of loss was particularly acute yesterday evening, when I passed a young Black Lab whose sweet face and intelligent eyes reminded me SO MUCH of my beloved Merlin. I kept my six-foot distance … but it killed me to do it.
As I neared home at the end of my walk, I realized I needed to find a way to reframe my sense of loss in a way that was more positive and less painful. And I thought to myself, “How about if I focus on ‘the things I’m looking forward to being able to do again someday’ rather than ‘the things I’m sad about having lost’?” And so I imagined – as vividly as I could – what it would be like the very first time I was able to pet some happy, wiggly, tail-wagging dog again. And it was pretty awesome.
I think this is going to be one of the strategies that gets me through this pandemic with my sanity intact (hopefully!). Being really honest with myself about even the small losses I’m feeling, honoring those feelings of loss – and then reframing the loss as, instead, “something I’m really looking forward to enjoying again, when all this insanity is over.”
I suspect I’m not the only one mourning the loss of small things. I’d be curious to know what “little things” other folks are missing as a result of the pandemic (and looking forward to enjoying again someday).