You know those particularly rotten, no-good weeks that feel like a personal affront? I had one recently.
I felt so unlucky I thought it was the ladder I almost walked under last month, except I made a point to step right around it. I’m not superstitious but I don’t make a habit of tempting fate.
I went out in Downtown Orlando for all of 40 minutes on my birthday and had my phone stolen out of my back pocket without my noticing until I got home. A few days later, I received a text notifying me my phone had been found. I was distracted and in the middle of a long workday so without giving it much thought, I signed into a page identical to Apple’s which turned out to be a phishing scam the thieves used to disconnect the iPhone from my account, presumably wiping it clean to resell. If you lose your phone and receive a similar text message… don’t be me.
This is more common than I knew. Some users online have said they’ve even been locked out of their own accounts. Once they have your security details, they can wipe your other devices, lock those, or steal a virtual identity that in today’s era can be attached to your bank accounts, your most personal photos, and literally anything else you might throw on the Cloud. They may even be able to see your location. After I realized what happened, I fell victim to a lot of fear. Having someone steal something out of my back pocket and solicit my log-in credentials made me feel like my security is an illusion ready to be violated at any moment.
I retreated into my bed and turned into a burrito of sadness for the rest of the day.
Around the same time, a few Facebook acquaintances were circulating a GoFundMe page for a young man who had been in a severe motorcycle accident and landed in the hospital in a coma. Tonight, I saw one of them post a memorial tribute to the same young man. As I tried to figure out who this person was, what their life was like, who they belonged to, and considered his family’s unimaginable grief, I ended up on the profile of his girlfriend who couldn’t be older than 19.
I thought of my own tender heart at this age—as well as a friend who lost her high school boyfriend around the same time, carrying his memory with her twelve years later—and began praying.
There’s the loss of an iPhone, or your red 1970’s Schwinn road bike (Penelope Cruise), but then there’s a particular kind of loss that is so ravaging and sudden, it is the unseen swell of a wave that knocks you off your feet, sending you spinning underwater. There are seasons of life that are months, sometimes years, of thrashing and longing for the relief of surface air. There are seasons of life that only hold memories of when the world was upright and sun-soaked.
I am not in that space now but once you know this sort of loss, you join a club no one wants entrance into.
There’s a writer I respect who recently shared the struggles she’s faced with suicidal thoughts over the course of her very young life. I thought of our relationship and the witty, independent thinker I’d gotten to know through Twitter and a handful of professional interactions. Her frank and sincere voice refreshing amidst the self-promotion and nihilism many internet circles are characterized by. I read her admission and felt ashamed because it illuminated how much I assumed I knew about her life, her story, through the bits she had chosen to share of herself online.
The loss of my phone has been forgotten, but it’s unoriginal and hollow to use the pain of others to put our own into perspective. I’m in a season of life where things are breezy and good. But I remember too newly when they weren’t.
If you’re in a season of lack, of want, of thrashing and if your lungs are held because you can’t bear to swallow sorrow all over again—it does end. The spinning eventually stops and you’ll taste air anew. Those that have made it to shore are waiting for you to return and tell us about the swells you’ve survived. I’ll show you my scratches, we’ll throw shells into the ocean as we count our blessings again, and most of all, we’ll breathe deep.
“… And here am I, budding
among the ruins
with only sorrow to bite on,
as if weeping were a seed and I
the earth’s only furrow.”
–Pablo Neruda, “Lightless Suburb”