Soft losses

Someone from my new gym moved away. We were only gym acquaintances, nothing more. Yet I felt a sense of loss as I went to the gym and he wasn’t there. In a place where most folks don’t acknowledge you, he was the one who knew everyone’s name. The bright spot.

The sadness is short-lived. It’s not like losing a close friend but it made me reflect on other soft losses. It’s different from a hard or tragic loss – death, divorce, illness – all of the biggies.

The first time I recognized this kind of loss was when I started working. It took me a few years to really click with someone and we became friends. The kind of friends that do things outside of work. It lasted six months and then she moved to the city. It was like breaking up with a new boyfriend although I was happy for her. It was her dream but I felt left behind. We continued to be friends for a few years. I visit her but she rarely came this way. The city was too exciting to leave. When the kids came, it became complicated. I haven’t seen her in 30 years.

It’s not just people. I used to live a block off of a woman’s college campus. Unlike other campuses, this was a civilized one. No wild parties or annoying events but there was excitement and people around. Every year after graduation, when everything was quiet, there was a sadness about it. I called it my “empty nest” syndrome. It was quiet until the end of August, when bikers and joggers from the college started roaming the neighborhood again.

Turnover at my local coffee shop is a double-edged sword. That job is a stepping stone. It’s just “until my classes start.” Or “until I find a permanent job.” I still miss them when they go. And there is the agony of retraining. A selfish soft loss.

Changing seasons give me a sense of loss especially when I leave one of my favorites behind. (Especially when my favorite was a huge disappointment this year. Yes, I’m talking to you Mother Nature!)

Finding out that someone you looked up to is capable of disappointment is another soft loss. This happens with professionals. You realize that doctors and dentists don’t have all the answers. Sometimes the answer changes. There are technicians who didn’t take the extra time required causing a series of mishaps. All disappointments.

It’s a matter of maturing. One day you are young and idealistic. You think people are perfect and nothing will change. Then you realize that they aren’t any more perfect than you are.

There are new people to meet but the rose-colored glasses have been left somewhere along the way. Perhaps that’s for the best.

There is something to be said for low expectations.

118 thoughts on “Soft losses

  1. I was actually thinking about this the other day as a friendly mail carrier retired. He was a daily “hello” for many years. I hadn’t thought about “soft losses,” Kate, and that’s such a great way of putting it. There are so many over time. And I think you’re right that maturity begins to prepare you to expect flow and change, but even anticipated changes are sometimes worth a little acknowledgement. I think when we connect with people, under any circumstances, the leaving is at least momentarily significant!

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  2. There are so many comments to read. You must feel pretty good about your writing Kate, you’ve inspired so many.
    As for me personally, loss should be tattooed across my chest. Mimi comes to mind. Had a good weep over her recently. Always expect her to come popping out her front door, her welcome mat still there, in gentle tribute.
    A very poignant post indeed, and soft losses should be a noted term since it affects all of humanity in one way or another.

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    • Mimi may cross the line into a hard loss. The basset hound does too. So does your hearing. Maybe you have more hard losses than soft one. I also expect to walk into the gym and have someone greet me who knows my name. The current turnover at Starbucks is especially painful. Long waits, repeating your order 3 times because they don’t quite get it. Sigh. It’s not as easy as it looks and they didn’t start training the new crew early enough. Soft losses affect all of us and although you get a better grip when you get older, there is still sadness.

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  3. Maybe not lower expectation rather reality without the human emotional longings for “forever”.
    Love the “soft loses” term and concept – it’s those that weave the routines of daily life – tiny unsettling/hurt even when one edge of a tiny spider’s web is loosened and drifts sway – can’t ever fix that.
    Better we all believe in Santa Claus forever. Helps in the hard times
    All done. Poignant (Fall and living with cats will do that to ya’)

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  4. I think I’ve been an old soul from the beginning. I’m friendly, but expect disappointment when it comes to people. Someone once told me that you need to remember that people are like buses that come and go from your life, getting you where you need to be at a particular time– but not the direction you need to go for your whole life. People change, you change buses.

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  5. What a great expression! I immediately understood the feeling of a soft loss although I had never attempted to label it before.

    My most recent soft loss was yesterday when I said goodbye to my sister. They are leaving for their annual winter sojourn in Florida. Although we try to rack up memories together over the summer, I always feel a sense of loss when they leave in October.

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    • Sure hope she’s not going where the hurricane was! When we first moved here, two neighbors (next door and across the street) spent the winter in Florida. It’s was another empty nest syndrome for me. Even if we didn’t interact every day, I saw them in the yard or coming and going. Eventually one moved there and the other stopped going. Neighbors changed and now I don’t see any of my neighbors. As I say it, I feel sad about it because it was more fun when we did occasionally get together but that’s how it is today.

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      • This time of year is challenging as I say good-bye to several friends who head south for warmer climates. Interestingly, they all seem to go to the same area around Sarasota – including my sister.

        Although I ‘know’ many of the people on my street, we’ve never developed friendships with them – the kind where you go to each other’s homes, have a beer on the back deck. I always thought that would be nice although staying at arm’s length works too.

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        • I haven’t been to a neighbor’s house since my next door neighbors moved 5 years ago. They were the only ones who “entertained” neighbors. We were friends and did things like dinner and concerts together. They moved about 10 minutes away but it’s been very hard to keep connected. They are active in several different organizations and their family is close by. I’ve worked to keep connected but there are only so many times you can call to get together without a definite response. Another soft loss.

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  6. “Soft losses”… perfect Kate. I have felt so many of them and I feel your soft losses with your words on your description of them. This is a very thoughtful post. This is kind of silly but I am missing Doc Martin. I made my way through all the seasons and episodes during the summer. I so enjoyed the show. I don’t see them making any more. I miss our birds back in MO. I share your thought in your comment back to Val. It is a rainy dark morning here and it makes me reflective… not at all in a bad way. Shoot, I miss the loafers that my Aunt used to buy for me at the start of the new school year… 🙂

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    • 🙂 I miss the new school outfits when I got to high school (and out of the uniform!). Sometimes I’ll go out and buy myself one anyway. l never saw Doc Martin but someone else told me it was good.

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  7. The “soft losses” add up, and the older you get, the higher the tally. It can generate quite a bit of sadness when combined (in our thoughts) with the “hard losses” but it’s just life (and loss). Thanks for another thoughtful post, Kate.

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  8. Transiency is difficult. My first job out of college was at an ad agency in the Creative Department – talk about people that don’t stick around. I had hoped to work my way up the ladder to a junior copywriter position. Ad agency creative types are always looking for a bigger venue to show off their talents … I can’t tell you how many large going-away parties I attended the 18 months I worked there, then when I left, only one person in my department remained and we went to Olga’s for lunch and that was it.

    Our major account was Chrysler/Plymouth and there were two other local agencies doing Chrysler/Plymouth work (one just marine division, the other just lease cars … we had the bulk of Chrysler’s work). My boss did the commercials for Ricardo Montalban and Hal Linden – it was a fun place to work. Lee Iacocca was the big cheese at Chrysler at that time and very difficult to please. One day he was fed up with all his ad agency creative people and fired the trio of agencies. It was known as “Black Tuesday” in the ad world. We went from 150 people in our agency to about 50 – I had 9 bosses and most left before a month was up. This was 1979, long before cellphones and social media and we lost touch. I had a boss that took me under his wing and became my mentor – I was heartbroken after he was gone. I wrote about him in this post … it is long, when you get a chance to read it. I decided to track him down a few years ago. He had become famous for more than his copywriting skills, producing movies and other things. He had an art director who worked with him – they were both great. I tried to track down my boss Jerry and Googled around, only to discover an obituary notice – he had died two weeks before. I was in a state of shock, though we’d lost touch decades before – my first and only mentor. I wrote a tribute post to Jerry. In it, I mentioned his side-kick Larry. I had heard Larry moved to California so I Googled around for him – he had a website, was an accomplished painter, ran a production company and taught at USC Grad School for Cinematic Arts. I shot him an e-mail to ask if he knew about Jerry’s death – yes, he had heard. We e-mailed back-and-forth a little, I sent along my post about Jerry and he said “I’d like to read more of your blog but I’m swamped right now” … I liked his paintings on his site and asked if I could use some images in blog posts with his permission – “yes, I’d like you to do that” … so, I never heard back from him and figured he was busy and he had no time. Yesterday I heard something on the news about the upcoming WWI 100-year anniversary and remembered those paintings Larry did of soldiers and thought I’d ask if the offer still stood. He also had a short film he did. I went on his site … a banner at the top of the home page said he passed away in 2015, the same year as Jerry. I was in shock. I felt empty, though this was someone so far in the past – we were just a group of co-workers. I gather it was sudden from the obituary notice and the website … I didn’t say this to anyone because really … who would care, but after reading your post I felt compelled to comment. I didn’t know his wife or family. We never had parties including spouses, just get-to-gethers for lunch or at the office. This is the post I did to Jerry – I won’t do one for Larry as it would be too similar. I also had a profound sense of sadness in feeling my age and my mortality; he was five years older than me but remembering the vibrant person he was, it just floored me. https://lindaschaubblog.net/2015/03/25/not-all-ad-men-are-mad-men/

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    • People don’t age in our memory and we think of them as the 30 or 40 year old they were. At least I do this. I’ve lost both classmates and co-workers and I’m always struck at how “young” they were. It is a shock to my own mortality. You were lucky you were able to find them. I became Facebook friends with a former co-worker a few years back but she never really posted. Each year FB would send me a reminder on her birthday and I’d drop her a note. One year I went to her FB page only to find a lot of comments on her death. She had died 10 months before. She lived in another state and we had no one in common locally anymore so I never heard. As I was developing this post, I looked for the friend I talked about. I found her FB page but there hasn’t been a post in 2 years. Death? Illness? Fed up with FB? I don’t know but there was no other information that I could find.

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      • The first line of your reply says it all Kate and I was thinking about your post and my response after I shut down my computer last night. For me, classmates/friends/co-workers all do seem stuck at the age I last saw them. I can look at myself in the mirror and don’t see a lot of change -perhaps if I saw a picture of myself on a regular basis it would be different. The last picture of me was taken in 1999. My friends on Facebook that I keep in touch with I’ve not seen since we graduated high school and that was 45 years ago. Our 45th reunion was last Saturday and I didn’t go because we had 613 in our class and I didn’t know half the people as I hung out with a group of girls that we were close at the time, but I’ve not seen in 40 years. We got together in 1978 for a reunion and were hard pressed to sustain a conversation the entire evening. So, further as to me, I have no work colleagues – my boss and I left the Firm in 2003 and went out on our own. I don’t see those people anymore. A few of them we exchange Christmas cards, but they are not on social media, and unbelievably (in this day and age) do not have computers at home and at work are not allowed to use social media during work hours. I’ve not seen my boss since 2012. He drops off tapes in the mailbox, or mails work, or scans in 99% of my work. My Facebook friends live out of state – the only one who posts a lot is Carol (“cat friend”) and not pics of her, but her cats and sister. Other friends use seasonal pics like I do for a profile pic. The one who does have a profile pic looks the same as she looked 20 years ago, when I went through her photo albums when we connected when I joined Facebook in 2009. I have no relatives to watch them age either – I think I said before I have no family. I was thinking that is a little strange and this is probably why, in my mind’s eye, I see everyone like the last time I saw them. I think I’d make a great psychological study on that subject. I was kind of shocked to see about Larry’s death, thinking to myself it was the second time I tracked someone down and found they had passed away. Jerry’s death was chilling as I will always wish I had contacted him just a few weeks earlier. As to your friend on Facebook – it makes you wonder. I connected with a kindergarten pal through Facebook and the elementary school we went to. I joined the group to see if I would remember anyone, even though we left Oakville, Ontario when I was 10. This woman went by her maiden name (Maggie Rust) but her childhood name was Margaret Rust. She had already scanned in group class pictures for each grade and since it was handy, sent our kindergarten pic to me, noting we were standing next to each other in the school picture. That night I wrote a post about us reconnecting as it was so fun going down memory lane. Maggie is an artist and with her permission, I’ve used her paintings in blog posts before. But after the last Facebook security breach, she shut down her account and went to Instagram. I need to set up an Instagram account to follow her again. However, after we connected and chatted about a few things we remembered from grade school, we really didn’t have a lot in common. She met/married an American, moved to New Hampshire and got dual citizenship, divorced and now has remarried a Canadian and lives near Toronto.

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          • Yes, my friend Carol only connects through Facebook and never uses her e-mail account anymore. I only use Twitter to follow some the news station I listen to – health, business, news bulletins and follow a couple of meteorologists. I rarely tweet either. I don’t post anything on Facebook and have my privacy settings set high. My boss had a tenant for a while and his wife and kids friended me. I told my friend Carol that my boss had me doing term papers for his son – I was whining to her about it. My boss did his term papers, book reports from junior high through the first year of law school – he dictated the report, and I typed it and we edited it to final formatting then sent it to the kid. Rarely did I see a thank you to my boss, let alone me. Anyway, I mentioned it to Carol and she ALWAYS posts news articles, health articles and many political articles from social media on her Facebook Wall. She also posts on other’s FB wall when she thinks it is of interest. She posted something to the effect of parents who enable their grown children by doing schoolwork on my Wall with the comment that “if only you could show this to your boss” … I deleted her post and restricted posting after that. But I like Facebook to keep in touch. I used to blog in a group on Patch.com and we had a nice group with a Community Engagement Editor and we interacted, shared posts – it was all good while Patch was owned by AOL, then they were sold to another company and they fired a lot of the editors for the various states and cities across the U.S. and changed the platform for posting. No one from “the outside” could post comments anymore unless they joined “Disqus” and posted that way and the platform was so messed up that they lost readers. I still post there when I post on WordPress, but you have to post each photo separately like a gallery and the vertical pictures don’t always display properly so I attach my WordPress link so people can see the pictures displayed the way they are supposed to look like.

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  9. It does get harder to forge those close, intense relationships with new people the older you get. I think there is something about shared experiences that people go through at the same time to cement the time period. But being friendly is relative too. Your post is a reminder to me that perhaps my wearing ear buds at the gym might not be the best thing to do because it closes off interaction with people. – Marty

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  10. …. And there is also something to be said for accepting that everything comes and goes, and nothing stays the same. It’s when we become attached to wanting things to be the same ( yep – I’m talking about your coffee too) that we suffer the loss. Perhaps it isn’t about lowering expectations, but letting them go completely. Then we can appreciate what comes up that makes us smile and our hearts open. We can also handle what frustrates and makes us sad, knowing that it is the law of nature and life… and will pass.
    Without loss, there would be no space for anything new to emerge 🍁🍂🍁

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  11. I miss favorite TV shows that are no longer. I also miss favorite restaurants when they close . . . or even favorite menu items that are no longer offered.

    When Fresh Market stopped baking our favorite bread, Pane Toscano, we were bummed. Others must have been bummed too ~> it’s back! A soft WIN!

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  12. That’s very true.I used to feel that way when I worked and people whom I grew close to left for another job or loved away. You really do feel left behind and there is a void of sorts. It’s such a strange feeling.

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    • I feel like that about my hair stylist from the late 90s. I went to him for over 5 years and then he died in his 50s of congestive heart failure. I even got him featured in Good Housekeeping. I have not found someone I like as much since. He knew me and my quirks and rolled with it.

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  13. Interesting post. I like the concept of soft losses. As I think about it you really don’t have to have an intimate, so to speak, connection to people, places, or things to experience a sense of loss when they are gone. Silly as it sounds, I feel this way after reading a great book!

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  14. Your last sentence said it all. I am regularly amazed, simply by having low/zero expectations. If I expect good manners, courtesy, honesty etc., I am so often disappointed and can get affected by the resulting disappointment/negativity … but if I have zero expectations, the result is either totally neutral or, better, very positive. It’s all perspective isn’t it! 🙂

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  15. I enjoyed this insightful post and the perfect way to end it.

    “There are new people to meet but the rose-colored glasses have been left somewhere along the way. Perhaps that’s for the best.

    There is something to be said for low expectations.”

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    • I keep my expectations low for the gym. I’m not there to make friends and don’t really want to have chatting sessions while I should be working out. However, I was surprised at how missed a simple “how are you today” from someone. There is another woman I chat with (briefly) and that’s all I need.

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  16. It’s kind of surreal when you think about the number of people who touch our lives, some only a brush and some more of an abrasion. I can’t help but think all of those little and big interactions have made us who we are today. I’m glad we don’t have to be perfect…it’s exhausting!

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    • I found that I have processed (I don’t know what other verb to use!) friends at work. We had the company in common but if that was all, there was no connection afterward. Especially during my early work years, no one stuck. I did have a few long term (20 year) friends but people move, conditions like health change and the connection gets lost or hangs by a thread.

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  17. What a profound concept, Kate! In my neighborhood was a beautiful old maple tree. In the summer I could always count on its shade when I went walking. In the fall, an amazing array of orange and red leaves. Last week it blew down. Apparently it was hollow inside and no one knew. Now I go walking and it’s not there. Soft losses.

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