On Loss and A Volleyball

A couple of weeks ago, we saw the new Tom Hanks movie, Captain Phillips. And I thought to myself, “Man, I really love Tom Hanks.”

Now, I have no idea what he’s actually LIKE. For all I know, he could be the worst human being on the planet in person…but I like to think not. And, he’s in one of my all-time favorites, Forrest Gump (which STILL makes me bawl).

Though, you have no idea what it was like being a “Jenni” in the ’90s when that movie came out. If I hear, “Run, Forrest, run!” one more time…But, I digress.

The other day, I was thinking about loss. October is such a mixed bag of emotions for me now. I have always loved the month and all its accoutrements. Fall. The leaves, a fiery hue, streaming to the ground like little meteorites. The scary movies (!). And clearly, the excuse to eat way too much candy.

But, October has also become a season of loss to me. I suppose technically it has always been that way – the excitement for fall layered with the sadness of watching summer slip by. And yet, now it
is literally a time of loss, as we mark the one year anniversary of losing my dad and the way of life I knew before losing him and before my injury.

You may thinking, “Okay, Jenni, I’m with you here, but what does Tom Hanks really have to do with anything?”

Does anyone remember Castaway? Maybe it wasn’t your favorite Tom Hanks movie, but I bet you remember that volleyball (why, by the way, you can apparently purchase, fake bloody handprint and all). There was nothing quite so sad as watching poor Wilson float away from the raft,
and nothing likely mocked so much after as Tom’s character screaming after it.

You know, people made fun of that scene. Why be so upset? It’s JUST a volleyball.

And that’s the issue here, really. When we start prefacing our speech with “JUST,” we sort of miss the point, don’t we? It doesn’t matter if it was just a volleyball to you. To his character, at the time and given the circumstances, it was the biggest loss he could face.

Conversely, making these type of justifications or comparisons lessens our ability to emphasize with other people who we feel have it “easier” than we do. Saying, “It’s JUST a ____ (fill in the blank – horse/house/cat/car/whatever)” just isn’t fair.

On the hand, constantly comparing your own loss to someone else who you feel may have it a lot worse can sometimes make your own feelings seem invalid. But they’re not.

There is a very entertaining gentleman in my local “Back to Work” support group. He has a lot going for him. He seems to be very bright and his speech is quite clear. People might wonder what he’s doing there. But when asked how his disorder has impacted his employment, he was very specific. For the first time, he can no longer walk into a group of colleagues and feel proud, self-assured.

In this case, his loss was one of confidence.

It’s okay to be grateful for what you’ve been given–life–but still want more. The loss is very real even if other people think it’s JUST a “something.”

I feel like I am constantly chasing my own Wilson – the version of myself that stopped existing on June 4th this year. I feel that it always within reach, but depending on the day, the tides change. And that’s okay.

The important thing to remember is, just about everyone is riding the same ocean – the circumstances might be different for each one of us, but we’re all chasing after something.


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