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Lost Items

The piece I was writing needed a visual example, and I thought to myself that this ink drawing I made back in graduate school would be perfect.  It was the sketch for an intaglio I never made.  I left my computer and went down in the basement to grab the pad so I could scan it.  But the pad wasn’t there.

I started removing the most likely boxes and opening them, but while I yielded a lot of other sketch pads, I couldn’t find the one from graduate school.  I started amassing all my art supplies and drawings and prints into one enormous pile, returning to it over and over again to flip through every single page of the pads in case I had forgotten that the sketch was buried somewhere in the middle of a book.

It wasn’t.

I got out a ladder so I could methodically go through the boxes, dozens and dozens of them.  I left a mess behind in my wake, unable to lift the boxes back up to their shelves once I got them down.  And then I left the basement and moved upstairs, taking apart drawers, going through file cabinets clearly too small to hold the sketch pad, and even checking the pantry that I just cleaned a few days earlier.

The longer I couldn’t find it, the more distraught I became.  I wasted my entire work day looking for this drawing, and in the meantime, more work had come in.  But I couldn’t think to do the work because I was obsessing over the location of the sketch pad.

When Josh came home, we went through the storage room together while the twins unhelpfully danced in the basement.  The ChickieNob promised me that it was in the storage room.  “You showed it to me a few years ago, and then you put it back inside a box.”  Yes!  Yes, it was inside the storage room.  It was confirmation; a clue.

Josh patiently brought down the boxes and put them back up, sometimes doing it a second or third time to give me peace of mind.  I took a break for a video meeting, the whole time my brain working through other places I hadn’t looked yet, and then we returned to the storage room again to check the very same boxes.  By 11 o’clock, I had to concede that the sketch pad wasn’t there.

My plan was to return to looking in the storage room the moment Josh left for work the next day.

I woke up that morning and went down to do yoga.  My first thought when I walked into the living room was that I should clean Truman’s cage.  I turned on the light and thought that it didn’t look that dirty, but sure, I’d do it that evening after I had been to pick up more bedding.  I jotted it down on my to-do list and turned on my yoga app.

After I finished the routine, I heard the shower go on upstairs.  Josh was getting ready for work, and it was going to be 15 minutes before I could get my day started.  Annoyed, I debated returning to the storage room to fill the time, but then turned around and looked at Truman’s cage.  I might as well clean it now rather than wait for later.

I scrubbed it down, still obsessing about the lost sketch pad.  Where could I have packed it away?

We keep his bedding underneath the table holding his cage.  As I opened it, my brain thought, “reach to the left.”  So I reached to the left, and my hand connected with a tight stack of papers atop a box that had been left underneath.  My sketch pad.

I have no clue why my sketch pad was underneath Truman’s cage.  I have no clue how long it had been there.  I have no memory of placing it in such a bizarre location.  It was one of the only places I didn’t check the day before because… well… you don’t expect to see a sketch pad amongst guinea pig supplies.

Opening that book, seeing the ink drawing, made me internally unravel.  It was such an intense flood of relief; like I had finally gotten a key to fit in a lock and now I could re-enter a space.  I could work again; thoughts of the sketch pad were finally released from my brain.

I know it’s a form of control.  It’s a constant need to have a neatly ordered world because it’s the one thing I can command when the rest of life feels so tenuous, so beyond reach.  Knowing where things are, having everything in a place, is about neatness.  About creating calm when things feel tumultuous.

Let’s just say that I completely understand Bert in a world of Ernies.

17 comments

1 nicoleandmaggie { 03.04.15 at 7:40 am }

I always identified with Bert too.

2 Rachel { 03.04.15 at 8:01 am }

Ugh I totally know what this feels like. The whole time I read this I had a pit in my stomach wondering if you’d ever find it. I am a minimalist, and throw everything away, which sometimes leads to events like this and me wondering if I even still own something I can’t find. Sends me into a panic…if my need for a clutter-free existence weren’t so strong, I would definitely be a hoarder.

3 Catwoman73 { 03.04.15 at 8:05 am }

I totally get Bert, too. I have accepted my lack of control in almost every area of my life. But not in my home. Every object has a home, and I literally can’t relax until everything is in it’s place. I wish I could make my husband and daughter just like me in that respect- they are definitely Ernies.

4 Ana { 03.04.15 at 8:14 am }

I, too, have always harbored a hidden empathy for Bert.

5 a { 03.04.15 at 8:44 am }

Last time I lost something, it was my car keys. I was looking all over for them and my husband was calmly sitting on the couch, looking at stuff on his computer. I was freaking out and finally yelled at him that he was insufficiently concerned with my lost car keys. (He continued to be unconcerned – but, then, he can’t find condiments in the refrigerator, so I don’t know why I bothered to seek his help.) We only have one set of keys to my car, since I lost the other set in the yard somewhere many years ago. I finally found them in a jacket that I had been wearing, but forgot about since it wasn’t my usual jacket.

I sort of sympathize with Bert, but he could stand to lighten up just a touch. 🙂

6 Geochick { 03.04.15 at 9:20 am }

A’s comment cracks me up. The same type of thing happens in our household! I have a habit of reorganizing to make things better and then can’t find it again later or DH gets annoyed because I moved something. I’m kind of Bert but not in a good way.

7 Peg { 03.04.15 at 9:35 am }

Best. Last. Sentence. Ever.

8 Turia { 03.04.15 at 9:42 am }

I am SUCH a Bert. I cannot stand losing things, because I almost never do. So when it infrequently happens, it is a calamity far out of proportion (usually) to the actual loss.

9 deathstar { 03.04.15 at 11:10 am }

I could actually feel your relief. I can’t tell you the times I would go bananas when I couldn’t find something. I would obsess all day long and visually replay my steps in my head to find said lost item buried in my cluttered brain. One day I went into the bedroom closet and cried out of sheer frustration at not being able find something. I was convinced I was going to get dementia just like my mother and not being able to find something was proof. I don’t even remember what I was looking for now or if I ever found it. Also please tell Josh I love him for going through all those boxes with you.

10 earthandink { 03.04.15 at 12:42 pm }

I went through this about 6 months ago. It was a sketchpad. And I couldn’t find it. It possessed me. In part because some sketches I was having fun with were in it and I didn’t want to redo the work!

I ended up finding it, but that’s a story for another day. But I completely understand having to find something! (I can’t remember what email address I used for my old flickr account and it’s making me crazy.)

11 Cristy { 03.04.15 at 2:58 pm }

Yeah, stuff like this drives me batty. Losing things is traumatic enough, but having zero clue where they could have gone prevents closure to the grief.

Glad you found your sketch pad.

12 Betty m { 03.04.15 at 5:21 pm }

I’m another who can’t bear to lose things. My house has also turned into a place where things just vanish – this last couple of months a brand new hardback cookbook and a pair of new ballet shoes have dematerialised and are nowhere to be found. The place has been turned upside down twice at least in the search. It is still driving me nuts and I’m looking and real looking in every spare moment. If I charged myself for the time I’ve wasted on the hunt I could have replaced the items 100s of times over. But still it niggles….

13 Queenie { 03.04.15 at 8:01 pm }

It drives me crazy when I can’t find things, to the point that I can’t do anything, either. Mostly because I think it’s a sign I am losing my mind. 🙂

14 Tiara { 03.05.15 at 8:54 am }

Oh I really identify with this. I hate losing things or being unable to find something in the place I just KNOW I put it only for it to turn up in the most bizarre place. I was actually getting a know of anxiety in my stomach reading this for fear that your post would end without you finding the sketch pad.

15 Justine { 03.05.15 at 9:27 pm }

Oh, yes. I hyperventilate when I lose things. And when my kids lose things and don’t care, I confess: I lose it on THEM. Why don’t you CARE, I ask. You need to learn to CARE.

On the other hand … maybe they don’t. Maybe they’re just not attached to things. And I don’t like to think I am, either, but maybe it’s the order I’m attached to, not the thing itself … and things provide order. Does that make any sense?

16 Lori Lavender Luz { 03.05.15 at 9:55 pm }

There’s a biblical story about a lost sheep. The shepherd has 100 sheep and one goes missing. He forsakes those 99 to go looking for the one.

I feel like that when I lose things. Drives me bonkers and I get fixated, too.

Glad you found the lost item. Did it suit your purposes?

17 Jamie { 03.09.15 at 12:43 am }

I absolutely love the last line of this post. I’m right there with you and Bert. I’m sorry you had to experience that and can u.understand how distracting like something like your misplaced sketch pad can feel so distressing. When I’m stressed, those feelings of a need for control become more pronounced, as much as I’d rather they not.

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