In the end, all you own is your character

Damn, I'm Good

I’ve spent the last month doing more family activities, and as usual have neglected my writing. To make up for this absence, I want to write about the biggest lesson that I have ever learned. I know it’s a big one because even though I understand it, I don’t know if I’ve changed yet from it.

I am a master of losing things. I love losing things so much that I have memorized the poem “One Art”. This poem describes the art of losing. It is a fantastic thing to recite to somebody when they want to make you feel bad about losing the car keys again. If you do it enough times, they stop making fun of you. If there is one thing I learned about being an English teacher, it’s that people hate having poetry recited to them.

I have lost more important things than care keys. I have lost a job a couple of times. I have even lost a house. Crazy right? You’d think a house would be easy enough to find. The thing about losing these things, is that I didn’t know who I was without them. I felt radically different because I had lost ownership over something that I cared deeply about. Who was I without my backyard? Who was I without my classroom?

Most of us lose things. Some of us lose more than others. I know a man who is a three-time cancer survivor. He has had three different kinds of cancer. He has more energy and empathy than any person I have ever known. I know a woman who lost her young daughter. She told me that when she knew her daughter was gone, she prayed to not become a bitter, old woman. I know a young man who lost his father in a war. With a smile, he told me that his father’s last words to his older brother were to take care of his younger brother. These people exemplify character. After losing their health, their child, or their father, they continued to be fantastic.

Another one of my favorite poems is called “If” . Actually, this was my grandfather’s favorite poems. One of my favorite lines is about loss.

“And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss”

Now, I believe in talking about your loss, but one of the worst things is becoming bitter.  People don’t need to hear about how things are not fair. They don’t need to be reminded how it didn’t work out for you. We chose whether we cross the next threshold with dignity and enlightenment, or bitterness and jealousy. (I think I may be the latter, which is what I meant by not having mastered the lesson yet.) My goal is to have the wisdom of the three people I discussed earlier.

I think that we believe we own the things closest to us. It can be our job, home, loved one, or our health. The truth is, we don’t own them. If we did we could control the housing market. We could control the poor choices that our teenage son makes. We could control the health of a spouse. We don’t. The only thing that we can control is how we react to it. In the end, all you own is your character.