The art of losing

Vicky Prokopi
Feb 13 · 5 min read

When loss knocked my door recently this year it found me totally unprepared, as it usually happens in these cases. Event if you know it’s coming, even if you expect it, you can’t avoid the shock that it causes and of course you can’t avoid the grief and pain that follow a relationship break-up or generally a loss from a beloved person.

In my country we say “A Break up is a small death”. It definitely was for me, feeling dead inside for quite a while. During this time, I tried my best, along with my friends’ considerate help, to avoid sad songs, sad movies, news (!) or anything that could amplify my sadness and the feeling of pain. Not that I needed any particular reason to reminisce the pain, the negative thoughts, the sadness. There was a period when I was almost daily locking myself to my company’s restroom, crying my heart out for some minutes. It was a daily routine.

So coming back to music, it was not my purpose at all to listen to this song:

The Infinity by The Xx

It briefly played in a TV show I was watching at that time. The intro strings got my attention initially, but as soon as the lyrics started flowing my acoustic center and I started processing, I was paralyzed; hooked. After that point, I listened to it thousands of times analyzing every little word. So, It can’t be but this song the subject of my first story here!

A friend once said that when she first heard this song a great flow of discomfort came to her. This is exactly the emotion we feel when loss comes our way, greatly portrayed in the song’s lyrics. We suddenly feel we are hanging on a thread, scared to death we will fall from time to time. Scared we will keep falling with no end in the abyss of insecurity and negative thoughts.

Each verse of the song is a punch in the stomach, starting from the title itself. What is infinity? What do people mean or expect when they faithfully promise to “love forever”? Is infinity an achievable state when it comes to affairs of the heart? And when we realize that love has been disrupted or failed, how long will it take to realize and accept the situation?

Stillness is a burn” as it is perfectly portrayed in the first verse, accompanied by Oliver’s — the band’s lead vocalist — unearthly vocals. Oh yeah.. this supernatural power that keeps us from not letting go, from not moving on, is a damn big slow burn.

Jumping some verses lower:

“Could you tell

I was left lost and lonely?

Could you tell

Things ain’t worked out my way”

Sometimes we sense the end is close, this beginning of the ending, probably in the majority of the cases. But we can never predict how we will react into this abrupt stop of attachment, we can’t predict when the journey of pain will end. And then is when we realize once more that our expectations failed us and “things ain’t worked your way”. We need to realize in these tough moments that our only weapon, our only armor is to let it go and accept the loss, embrace it. Mourn for the loss, but don’t get lost in this process.

When the chorus arrives the intensity of the lyrics reach their peak:

“I can’t give it up

To someone else’s touch

Because I care too much

Care too much

Care too much”

The grief is so big, touches infinity in our minds and letting go looks unbearable. ‘I can’t give it up’ whistles in our heads. We can’t bear the idea of a new person coming in our lives. But no matter how much we choose to stick in our past and swim in our sea of sorrow, acceptance comes after a while. The time that we actually let it go comes as soon as we take that decision. Because this is what it is all about, a decision to let it go. During this, a main part of the process is to do our self-reflection, accept out mistakes, accept the other person’s mistakes and acknowledge the fact of whatever happened we deserve happiness and a new start is right out there.

“Wish the best for you

Wish the best for me

Wished for infinity

If that ain’t me”

On the other side of the coin, loss is something so inevitable in life, so prevailing. And being able to cope with it one could say is — borrowing the phrase from Elizabeth Bishop’s famous poem — an art. The poem itself presents this interesting perception of loss:

“The art of losing isn’t hard to master;

so many things seem filled with the intent

to be lost that their loss is no disaster.”

I started reading this poem, part of a poetry collection book I recently purchased, in the metro and I came in terms with a very interesting experience. A guy sitting next to me, which I initially though was a pervert or lunatic staring at my side (!), peeked at the page and turned to me almost in tears : “I just read the poem about loss..thank you so much. This is all what life is about. “

But can loss become a habit? Is it something that we can practice and get acquainted with? Bishop’s second verse presents exactly this point:

“Lose something every day. Accept the fluster

of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,

some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.

I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.”

The poet masterfully blending and playing with words — art, losing, master, disaster — summarizes the essence of the poem and Bishop’s manifestation about loss; loss is an art you can practice and eventually master, even if when first encountered looks like the end of the universe.

Personally, passing through the phase of accepting loss and pulling myself out of the pain of it, I can’t say I am even close to mastering it, but I can say I can survive it getting stronger and wiser out of this process. And that is the key in my opinion, whatever comes your way, no matter how long you stay down; if you manage to come back on the surface and start swimming again you are already a winner.

Vicky Prokopi

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Diving into the darkness to find the light. Exploring the intersection between music, writing and emotions.