When I was about 16, I worked all summer, baby-sitting, to earn the money to
buy a ruby ring I’d seen in a store window and couldn’t get out of my mind.
The ring had five dark stones that twinkled among tiny golden branches. I
used to fall asleep thinking about it.
But just a couple weeks after I finally owned that ring, I misplaced it,
never to be found again. Today, nearly 40 years later, I still sometimes
think of that ring late at night.
A few months later, my brother came back from Finland with a special gift
for me: a delicate silver bracelet of such original design that I got
compliments each time I wore it. I wore it while swimming in Lake Tahoe, and
somehow the catch opened up, and it sank down to the lake bottom. I can
still clearly see it flickering as it slipped from my grasp.
For many years afterwards, I had a recurring dream of swimming to the bottom
of a deep lake, and finding there, in one place, all the beautiful things I
couldn’t manage to hang on to: the ring, the bracelet, and various earrings
and necklaces, together with various keys, sunglasses and twenty-dollar
bills. Always in the dream, I’d be flooded with relief, and that rare
satisfaction of a perfect resolution to a story that at first seemed to have
When you lose things just occasionally, it’s really no big deal. But when
you lose things all the time, you start to worry, secretly, that you have
somehow also lost your self-control, or that maybe you never even had that
in the first place.
At the age of 49, when I was diagnosed with Attention-deficit/Hyperactivity
Disorder, it felt like one of those rare resolutions: the moral of a story
that had seemed to have no end. By understanding and addressing my
condition, I came to understand the corollary of Joni Mitchell’s famous
line, that you don’t know what you’ve lost ‘til it’s gone. I didn’t realize
my greatest lost until I’d found it -- recovering something just as sparkly
as my beautiful, lost ring: something like childish self-confidence.
Today, I take an improv class each Sunday. One of our rules is to applaud
mistakes, which we learn to consider as gifts. Nothing is lost; everything
is transformed. And better late than never.