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 no end.
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, said that old French scientist, Antoine Lavoisier; everything is transformed. And better late than never.
Causes Katherine Ellison Supports
Women for Afghan Women, Moms Against Climate Change, Planned Parenthood