Mom and Tag - Olivia Newport

Photo by Larry Mohr

I still have $2.85 left on the prepaid card at the coffee shop where I used to spend Saturday mornings.

There used to be a barista who would see me coming through the door, with my laptop bag over my shoulder, and ask, “Having your usual?”

I also had a usual table, and I admit I got my nose out of joint if someone was at my table. Like someone sitting in your favorite spot at church! You get over it, but … Then there was the guy who sat at the next table over, a scifi writer. I didn’t understand most of what he talked about, and we didn’t talk much because we were there to write, but that was a normal Saturday morning.

After I cranked out a chapter, I went home for lunch, threw in a load of towels, had a walk around the neighborhood, wiped down the kitchen, and headed to the library for my afternoon normal and the second chapter of the day, writing from where I could stare out tall windows at a panoramic view of the mountains.

I haven’t done any of that in almost eleven months. Chronic migraine disease has meant I’ve had to find a new normal. I finished up the writing commitments I had in the shadows of my own home over the winter, and then took a break during the spring months for rest and healing, and to make emotional space for the impending passing of my mother. That happened in May. Now there is a gaping hole in the world.

My husband has gotten used to my habit of snapping off overhead lights when I enter a room. I’ve invested in ambient lighting. I unscrewed half the canister lights in the kitchen and added curtains to windows that didn’t have them. Reading glasses strewn around the house, as they have been for years, now are tangled with sunglasses also always within reach.

It’s a new normal, that’s for sure. But I’m definitely functioning better than I was a few months ago, and my brain is starting to get antsy about getting the next book underway. It’s just not going to happen at the bright coffee shop or looking out those big windows at the library under the fluorescent lights.

I realized recently that I felt a loss at those old Saturday routines that had served me well for years and through many manuscripts. The temptation is to say they are small things. Just habits. Just Saturdays. Not worth counting as loss.

I think we do ourselves disservice when we shut ourselves off from our own feelings about what counts as a loss. My writing Saturdays are a different kind of loss than losing my mother, but they are still loss. Naming one as loss does not diminish the other. If we only allow ourselves to feel loss when we think it meets some sort of logical, rational standard, then we don’t heal from those losses.

And it seems to me, if we practice naming and healing from losses such as the habits of our Saturdays and seeing a new way forward, then we’re developing the inner resilience and pathways to also name and heal and see new ways forward from the losses that cut through us more deeply, like the aching empty spaces left inside us when loved ones leave this world.

Name your losses. They matter.