We Never Lose What We Value

Ife Nihinlola on Loss

It was the morning after a long night that I’d spent working on copy. I was sleep deprived and my mind was slow to react to things around me. So when my phone dropped to the floor, I reached for it sluggishly. The danfo that I rode in had body parts, which moved even after the bus stopped, held together by the ingenuity of welders and panel beaters. We were on Third Mainland Bridge at 6:30am and moving as fast as the dying engine could permit. I looked down, saw asphalt through a gaping hole, and knew I had just lost my phone.

Kathryn Schulz, in an essay titled, When Things Go Missing—a wonderful piece that stuck to my guts days after reading—quoted Abraham Arden Brill, who said, “We never lose what we highly value.” I have thought of the many ways in which this is false. We do lose things we value. They slip away from our hands, like my phone. One month without calling a friend becomes six months of not keeping in touch, and then a relationship is irreplaceably lost. The same goes for the loss of faith. It might be gradual, but the heart knows it is gone.

We groped the floor as the bus sped along the bridge. A woman with a little kid on her lap—bless her soul—kept dialling my cell phone as if calling it would make it reappear miraculously like a genie.  The bus conductor rearranged the jerry cans, wrenches, and other bric-a-brac stored on the floor beside the door. But as all this was going on, I knew my phone was forever lost. In my six months of using that little Samsung device, I’d grown to love its size, its understated beauty, and its hard metal shell that accommodates my clumsiness.

Phones have become a large part of my living, serving as everything: from library to notebook to entertainment system to life planner. Although I’m always in need of a good phone, my finances are set up in ways that replacing what is lost is a decision that has to be made with extra thought. Do I just buy a cheap phone whose loss, when it happens, won’t hurt at all, or do I buy a phone capable of meeting all my needs—which means it would have the capacity to store information that stands the risk of getting lost again?

Loss is an inevitable part of this world where everything, humans inclusive, comes with an expiry date. All kinds of loss can probably be read as a shadow of losing life in the end. “Regardless of what goes missing,” Kathryn writes, “loss puts us in our place; it confronts us with lack of order and loss of control and the fleeting nature of existence.”

Loss, of any kind, often works like a flood that cracks the dam of my mind. One minute I’m sad that I’ve lost my phone and the next I’m wondering about lost friends, lost time, and the brevity of life.

My reflex reaction to loss is to do everything I can to avoid pain. I spent most of my childhood learning how to avoid connecting with people to the point where I missed them in ways that make the heart break. But emotional insulation comes with its own kind of pain. One stands the risk of becoming stunted, incapable of fully expressing the range of feelings needed to make a healthy inner life, incapable of loving. One cannot afford, for fear of loss, to shut the heart to the joy relationships can bring.

Perhaps, the ultimate lesson in the loss of my phone is that after two decades and a half spent on this planet, I’m just learning how to live and love.

© IfeOluwa Nihinlola 2017

IfeOluwa Nihinlola writes essays and short stories and has been featured in online magazines such as Afreada, Omenana, Klorofyl, and Litro. He works as an editor and is an inaugural fellow of aKoma’s Amplify fellowship. He is a fan of Zadie Smith, is looking for a replacement for Pringles as muse, and blogs at ifenihinlola

 

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/man-mobile-phone-person-smartphone-1868730/

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2017

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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30 thoughts on “We Never Lose What We Value

  1. I agree with Kathryn. I have lost a couple of phones. The bitter feeling of loss always lingers for at least a week and what follows is a sort of punishment I mete out on myself: going without a phone for weeks until I realise this is futile and end up sourcing for a replacement–even if a cheaper alternative that would serve for the meantime.

    I agree with Kathryn because at some point I realised that the more I value a possession, the better I look out for it. But I don’t know how well that’s working for han relationships now though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Losing your cell phone is traumatic, it is like losing your arm (hyperbole). I’ts good to find alternatives quickly.
      It’s true that if we value something we look after it… still loss can be inevitable.

      Like

  2. I still recall the day I lost my phone. I’d grown so attached to that little pink device that when it was stolen at Lekki on a Friday, I just couldn’t believe it was gone.
    It took me until Monday to come to terms with my new reality. Oh, how I cried lol, you’d think I lost a friend hehe.

    “My reflex reaction to loss is to do everything I can to avoid pain. I spent most of my childhood learning how to avoid connecting with people to the point where I missed them in ways that make the heart break. But emotional insulation comes with its own kind of pain…”

    And this…
    *sighs* This is my reality, too.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m so sorry about the lost phone, Uju. And yes, I can understand that level of attachment to the phone.

      Somehow I’m trying to wean myself from that attachment, but who am I kidding? Is there a downside to this though? Should we be listening to those who insist we love our phones because they keep us away from people? I don’t think they’re right, but what better time to reevaluate everything than now, while the loss is still fresh?

      Yorubas say, when the burning of a king’s house only makes it more beautiful, so I hope this becomes the case with your lost phone.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. This paragraph!!
    –“My reflex reaction to loss is to do everything I can to avoid pain. I spent most of my childhood learning how to avoid connecting with people to the point where I missed them in ways that make the heart break. But emotional insulation comes with its own kind of pain. One stands the risk of becoming stunted, incapable of fully expressing the range of feelings needed to make a healthy inner life, incapable of loving. One cannot afford, for fear of loss, to shut the heart to the joy relationships can bring”.

    Each day we lean towards one side, the side that drops the next outer layer of defence or the side that takes up an outer layer of defence. A subtle reflex movement.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Each day we lean towards one side, the side that drops the next outer layer of defence or the side that takes up an outer layer of defence. A subtle reflex movement.

      This is true, and also seems to be affected by the people we meet. A good friend is able to nudge us in one direction and a bad lover in the other direction. And we can also do both to people, unwittingly.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. It’s interesting. I got on the cell phone bandwagon quite late, as I did the smart phone. Another latecomer warned me, ‘they’re addicting, wait for as long as you can or don’t do it’. So after maybe a year or two of having it, truly not long, it died on me and I had to wander the hot dusty streets of Cambodia trying to figure out where and how to get it fixed.

    Finally, I did find out where I needed to go and I had to wait – WAIT! It didn’t take that long, I don’t rememeber now, a few days, but I was surprised by how much I missed it, got frustrated when it broke under warrenty, etc, but since I bought it in Thailand, I had to pay to replace the broken part. The whole experience was eye-opening at best.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I get in denial upon loss until such denial becomes impossible(like calling a stolen phone weeks after it was stolen, hoping it was simply missing. My whole bag was stolen). Its the reason why I decided to be pessimistic but my daily guide happened and the cake and this was what I needed to believe the xake thing wasnt Gods wsy of saying, blind optimism isnt for you, try pessimism. I jyst have to be more realistic I guess.
    No it began molding yesterday morning. There’s still some other cake left that didn’t get soaked so I’d just get a cold drink
    Kunu with akara?
    Perhaps I’d try that. Soaked akara is more easily redeemed.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I woke up to find a large Bundy cake that got soaked three days growing mold and forming unhealthy looking bubbles. It was sad to know my efforts at saving it(sun drying, freezing etc) was in vain. It was a lot of cake
    But I see what you say. Sunday night I resolved to become even more secluded in a bid to avoid loss but my daily guide yesterday changed my mind.
    Following this cake thing, you’ve Inspired me thanks

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hold on a bit: you tried to resuscitate a molding cake? This is either extreme faith, or recklessness with your abdominal tract.

      Maybe you get a new cake and a cold drink, so you can celebrate the fresh inspiration. 🙂 I’ll join you here with my glass of kunu and akara when you’re ready.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. If we’re as addicted to these things as we’re made to believe, then perhaps withdrawal is the perfect word to use. I got over this one rather quickly, but something tells me it’s because my mind has been occupied by other things that preclude the use of a phone.

      I hope you found a worthy replacement for the broken computer?

      Liked by 1 person

  7. This is so deep and beautiful.
    Loss makes me feel like I’m lost at sea and out of control, like Kathryn wrote. I was thinking early this year about how I have never really known true loss, this was when my best friend lost her aunt. 2 months later, my grandmother passed away. I felt like something was yanked out of me, leaving a hollow space. This is how I feel when I lose mundane things too.
    But loss is not only about physical death. I’m not afraid of losing relationships because people will always leave, eventually. But I do not treat my relationships with levity because of this, perhaps inevitable, fate. And that’s because I know the joy loving brings, and that joy is far greater than my fear of loss. I pride myself in being a lover, but I’m still learning. God knows I’m still learning.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. But loss is not only about physical death. I’m not afraid of losing relationships because people will always leave, eventually.

      You’re right in saying people always leave. It’s inevitable in ways most loses are. And perhaps how we respond to this fact says a lot about how we are made, how we respond to challenges and how much work we need to put into ourselves to respond properly to relationships. Your comment is so lucid in a way that suggests you have this loving thing figured out, but then you also admit that you’re learning. So I guess the learning never stops.

      Thank you for stopping by Dunni, and for your wonderful comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Very thoughtful piece and deeper than one would think at first glance. Any kind of loss can bring us sorrow and suffering. The bigger the loss the greater the sorrow. This is the first noble truth in Buddhism. The antidote to suffering is non-attachment. Of course I know it is more complicated than that. In the meantime, if I might make a suggestion, when you get your next cell phone, and I hope you do get a “smart” phone, please get insurance on it, you will be glad you did.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Buddhist aphorisms are often confusing to me. I want to contest ‘the bigger the loss the greater the sorrow’ then realise that could mean the degree to which one grieves is an indicator of the size of the loss, which has nothing to do with material standards. [sigh]

      Cellphone insurance isn’t a thing here. What we do is backup the things we can and hope our phones live long in the land of the living.

      Liked by 4 people

  9. Woah, it must have been a while since I visited your blog. You now have your own domain name. Congratulations!

    Is it me or is there a post when you pondered on getting one and decided against? I hope there’s one that lets us (me) know how you got here. I’d catch up with the other unread posts soon eventually.

    ” All kinds of loss can probably be read as a shadow of losing life in the end.”

    A shadow of the inevitable. I have recently had to ponder on this.

    I can relate to the reaction of doing everything to avoid that kind of pain – emotional insulation as you called it.

    Thank you Timi and Ife for bringing me this post. I needed this. Shalom.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Tony, this is a stand alone piece, but now that you tap about this, I’ll actively think about what writing about how I got here would require. I hope pondering on the inevitable has led to better things. Thank you for reading and commenting.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes it is hard for those of us who feel content in our solitude to embrace all vulnerability, grief, etc., but part of the learning is realizing that we don’t fully understand all that is good for us yet.

      Liked by 2 people

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