On July 4, I went to a party at a parishioner’s house, and when I went to tuck a lock of hair behind my ear I realized one of my favorite earrings was gone. I stopped to search through my hair, because I’d often find earrings tangled, but held, a few inches below my ear. Sadness rose in my body, then settled into my belly, as I realized it wasn’t hung in hair. I looked through all the rooms I had visited, but I knew it was of no use. I’d never find it there. I was disappointed, but I took myself away from the crowd just long enough to remind myself: It’s just an item. It is okay. Don’t hold on to things. You can get another. Whatever you’ve lost, you don’t need it to survive. It was a prayer for lost things. That I could let go. That I would let go of what I couldn’t place in my hand.
You see, I lose things. Often. I am the worst mixture of a person who holds too tightly to things, while also not holding to them tightly enough to keep them. I remember moments of losing things in the past when I was undone by the idea that the thing had been lost. I’ve done some work on losing my passion for possessions, but I haven’t lost the sinking feeling that settles in my belly. I hold onto hope like I hold onto earrings; I treasure it until I don’t. I dig through drawers wondering if it can, in fact, disappoint. Lost hope sinks into the same belly where I hold the memory of lost treasure. In my tepid hope, I kept the other earring.
Last week, I went to put on my favorite necklace. It is the piece of jewelry that holds the most significance for me. It is a necklace that I bought in the Old City in Jerusalem. It is a thin, ocean blue pendant of ancient Roman sea glass. I have the certificate proving its antiquity, and I bought it so that a memory of the Holy Land would rest just above my heart. It was nowhere to be seen. I searched my house, finding nothing. My stomach aches to think of it. I need yet another prayer for lost things.
Every time I put on the silver lined jewels that matter to me, I worry. What if this is the time it is lost? But, if it only hangs on my wall, never warmed by the touch of my skin, isn’t it always lost? Wearing these treasured items always feels like a risk, and it feels as weighted on my heart as the chain that bears the memory of holy ground.
Today, I was out in my yard with some men from my church. They lovingly offered to help me clean up my shrubbery, because it had been neglected for months before I moved in, and I hadn’t given it the attention it needed either. As they gathered up their tools to go, one of them held a gloved hand out, saying, “I got you something.” After growing up around gardeners, I half-expected him to drop a roly poly into my hand. I felt my earring slide into my palm, a pearl from its oyster.
It can take a little over a month, sometimes month after month, even years or a lifetime to receive what we have lost. I received back something I had grieved. I never expected to see it again. It wasn’t as if I kept looking, periodically, thinking I might find. It was only earlier this week that I had looked to see if I could find another pair, not knowing what to do with the disappointing earring that sat alone. If you receive something back that you’ve released, it returns to you with its newness. Some of the gold on the edges had worn off long ago, but when placed back into my hands today, it was as if I had removed it from its first package.
I wondered, holding that earring that would rust and decay, what might happen within the belly of my loss if I offered a prayer for lost things when I lost myself. What if, running my hands through my hair, and even after searching through its locks, I couldn’t place my fingers on my self-respect? What if, after I put on shoes and glasses before going to work, I looked into my jewelry box to find it vacant of self-compassion? What if, as I gathered up my tools at the end of a day in the earth, I found within a gloved hand the peace I hadn’t felt for weeks?
If I offered a prayer when I couldn’t recognize myself in the mirror, it would sound something like this: It’s just your life. It is okay. Do hold on to it. You’ve only got one. Whatever you’ve lost, you need it to survive. It would be a prayer for lost things. That I could hold on. That I would only hold on to what I could place in my heart.
I can receive back something I have grieved.