I’m a cynic about calling in to radio shows to express myself on the air. I don’t know why my opinion matters, and even if it did, I can’t imagine I’d ever get through the digital equivalent of a lit-up switchboard. Why bother, really?
So when I found myself pulling my car over to the side of the road recently to call D.C.’s MIX 107.3, I was surprised. I didn’t know the depth of loss I felt.
The topic was “things you gave your ex that they kept when you broke up.” And the show’s host was saying that his ex, Barb, had kept his baby blanket when they broke up. He’d given it to her to ease the pain of their separations in a long-distance relationship. Now that’s PERSONAL. A baby blanket…. a love object… a cherished childhood talisman… how did he part with it to begin with?
And then when they asked listeners to tell them what we had lost, I felt compelled to talk, and I dialed fast. And when they answered, I said, “Beaver’s and Wally’s autographs.”
To which they replied, “Oh, you need to get those back before they die and the autographs become valuable.”
To which I replied in a sad voice, “Well, it’s been 35 years. I’ve lost hope.”
Who knew this was so troubling?
Seriously, I’ll get over it… because these autographs are only a symbolic loss. But it did raise the point for me of how we give parts of ourselves away in our relationships, and sometimes those bequeathals create loss.
Maybe it’s a romantic entanglement. Maybe a deep friendship. Maybe a mentoring relationship at work. We connect, we invest, and we give away parts of ourselves (if not our Beaver and Wally autographs), and we accept gifts from the other person. Those exchanges enrich us, help us grow, move us along life’s pathways. And yet sometimes we part or the relationship changes.
And I swerved to the side of the road last night to anonymously tell an anonymous radio audience that I had lost something, in fact had shared parts of myself in many relationships, some glorious, some disappointing. It showed me just how much we need to admit and dignify those losses, relational or emotional. And how much we need to encounter each other, friends and strangers, with empathy and kindness, assuming that any of us could be grieving a loss, however small. “Benefit of the doubt” goes a long way.
I feel better already, having been heard. Even by an anonymous listening audience.