“Lost and Found”

Technology is great.  When it works.

When it doesn’t, blood pressure goes up.  Angry words are spoken.  Denouncement of anything created after 1896 is adamantly proclaimed.

When it crashes and takes three weeks (3 WEEKS!!!) of work with it… well, let’s just say I thought I must surely have been feeling close to what the the survivors of the Titanic, the Hindenburg, and Sam Oldenson’s highway piglet* disasters felt.

In short, I went through The Kübler-Ross model of the emotional stages experienced after a loss: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Denial:  “No.  No, that can’t be right.  It’s still here.  I’m just looking in the wrong place.  This isn’t happening.  I’ll just go get a cold drink and come back and I’ll see it right in front of me.  That’s it.”

Anger:  “WTH?  This is bull!  *%&#%@#*%!%* computer!  I hate technology!  I can’t frikkin’ believe this!”  May or may not be followed by device abuse; definitely followed by worse language.  Always followed by frantically texting T (because these things only happen when he is gone).

Bargaining:  “Ok, I will start exercising more — that’s what this is about, right?  It’s to make me realize I’m probably sitting in front of this computer too long, right?  Ok, I get it. I can change, really!  Just bring back my notes, and I’ll change into sweats right now and jog around the block.  Really.  Please.  I can’t rewrite all that.  There’s no way I can remember all of it.  Please don’t ask that of me. I’ll do a n y t h i n g, just please please please please please bring back my notes!”

Depression:  Staying in my pajamas, not showering, deliberately avoiding computer devices, and drinking endless cans of Diet Coke and eating semi-sweet chocolate chips straight out of the bag while sitting listlessly in front of the TV watching reruns of horrible 1970s and early ’80s shows like “TJ Hooker” and “Charlie’s Angels.”  At least someone is kicking butt at what they do.

Acceptance:  To an outsider, it may look a lot like the depression as noted above, but I actually will shower and get dressed (albeit, in sweats — but they’re CLEAN sweats).  Also, my TV habit becomes more along the lines of “Hart to Hart” (hey, if you’re going to keep tripping over dead bodies, you may as well be fabulously rich and good looking, right?).

For computer disasters of this kind, I can run through all five stages within a 48 hour period.  This one began when I went looking for my grocery list mid-afternoon on a Friday (created on my iPhone the day before), and realized it — along with all my other notes dating from three weeks back — were G O N E.  I checked every app.  I checked the back-ups.  I checked deleted documents.  I went through every step in every setting before panic really set in.  Then I texted T.  Explained what was happening.  Sent screen shots.  Explained what SHOULD be there.  Never mind that he was at a conference.  Never mind he was SPEAKING at the conference in five minutes.  MY COMPUTER NOTES ARE GONE!  Please lie to me and tell me you know exactly what has happened and know how to fix it.

Which he did.  He’s really good to me.

To a lot of people, this may all sound very melodramatic.  But please try to understand: my heart had just stopped, dropped, and rolled.  No, these weren’t finished pieces by any means.  But they were the kernels, the seeds.  These were the ideas and sentences and paragraphs that got me going and kept my tush in the chair and fingers on the keys to W R I T E.  Some were far more developed than others, that’s how I work:  I have multiple pieces in various stages of development to keep feeding the pipeline.  That way, I always have something to work on, and don’t face this writer’s most dreaded prospect:  a blank page with nothing to say.

I am a Writer by profession now.  That’s who I am, that’s what I do.  Without the words, without the ideas, I’m back to where I was before: sad.  And not happy at my job.  And stressed — the bad kind of stressed, not the motivating kind.  And I was grumpy, which SO isn’t me.  I didn’t — and I don’t — want to go back to that sad person.  Sure, I can come up with other ideas… but how disheartening to have to start over, and be afraid you can’t trust the tools of your trade to keep those ideas safe!  I truly thought about going out and investing in every yellow legal pad in the Chicagoland area and digging up an old Smith-Corona.  But it never occurred to me to quit.

T came home after the conference.  And he took my phone, and my computer, and my iPad, and said he had some ideas about what to do to fix it.  He spent his evening fixing the problem, and found a back up that restored 98% of my notes.  Then he spent even more time loading safeguards so that I won’t have to go through this particular writing disaster again.  By Sunday morning, I was in business again.  And then he spent some more time reassuring me it wasn’t anything I did that caused the loss and that I’m not completely hopeless when it comes to technology.  Not completely.  (T could be lying to me about that to make me feel better.  I don’t care.  I’ll go with it.)

Something else happened:  once I accepted that there wasn’t anything more I could do, and that I needed to be patient (NOT one of my virtues), and wait until T could take a look at things, the real estate in my brain that was clogged with worry and panic cleared.  A new idea began to form — a brand new, totally different idea.  So new, it made me halt on the steps heading upstairs.  I looked up as the new idea formed out of the fog in my head.  And I just stood on the steps, one foot up on the next stair, thinking.  When I realized this wasn’t just a sugar high delusion, I pivoted and went back down the stairs into the kitchen to find a pad of paper and pen.  And made notes.I will eventually put those notes into better-formed sentences on my computer.  I will ‘update’ frequently…probably copy the file to another folder…make sure it’s backing up on my other devices…do back ups more often.  The iCloud is becoming my default space.  I will keep working.

I am a Writer.  Always.

*Over 2,000 piglets were loosed when Sam’s semi ran off the road and the piglets escaped into the woods, according to Ohio’s Xenia Twp. Fire Chief, Dean Fox.  How do you explain losing 2,000 pigs to your boss?  I can’t imagine Sam stayed in piglet transportation after that.  Also, for the record, I am by no means claiming my loss is the same as when there are human or animal lives lost.  These examples were used purely for illustration of despair.

 

About Dana McKenna

Dana McKenna is a playwright, essayist, editor, and interviewer. Her essays can be seen on Litro, Grown & Flown, Huffpost.com, and her website 'I Feel Like I’ve Forgotten Something' at reminddana.com. Her interviews appear in regional magazines and local newspapers. Two plays and a book are in the works. She lives in the NW Chicago suburbs with her partner, Tim, and her college-student-son, Zach, and their two cats.




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