I enjoy driving and the feeling of freedom I get, when behind the wheel. Depending on my mood, I tune into one of my preset radio stations and sing away (windows closed, of course). On this particular day, I was tuned into an oldies station. I was getting twitchy with all that “back-then stuff” and was ready to switch to a current music station when a really old tune began to play — and miracles of miracles, I remembered it.

I began to sing “you don’t know what you have until you lose it.” It was recorded in the early ’60s by Ral Donner. (I looked this one up, I didn’t remember who sang it, either.) The tune and the words ran around my head for the rest of the day and something clicked just in time to file a column!

We all have felt the sting of losing something or someone that we often took for granted. It happens; we’re human.

The loss of a job is a biggie. We moan and groan that we are overworked, underpaid and the boss is too rigid, too laid back or a complete ass. (Take your pick!) Then one day, for reasons beyond our control, the job is gone. Looking for new employment is no walk in the park and bingo! we realize that our boss was OK and a steady paycheck wasn’t all that bad.

Many of us couldn’t wait until our kids were out the door and on their own— and then they are! We have the quiet we’ve longed for, the house is always neat, no bottomless stomachs to feed and the fridge is always full. And, yet, we miss the noise, the smelly sneakers, and the sweaty clothes that are plopped down — wherever! How disconcerting: We actually miss those loud disruptive teenagers who exasperated us to the point of distraction.

Those who are widowed will often ruminate on how we wished we could have done things better. Again, we forget we are humans having a human experience. We pick at our brains constantly disrupting a healing wound. We engage in unearned mea culpas and indulge in the famous words, “If only…” We long for the small things that we didn’t appreciate. And the big things? We realize they were quite manageable. We wonder why we wasted so much time battling simplicities with stupidities. Even if our spouse drove us crazy at times, we miss their particular brand of craziness.

But wait…How’s about another spin on the words “you don’t know what you have until you lose it.” The operative word here is “lose.”

It’s a fact, given the myriad of diets and gimmicks to aid in weight loss, many folks struggle for years, perhaps throughout their lifetime with yo-yo dieting. Realizing that there is no magic pill, numerous folks tackle their weight issue once and for all through a healthy diet and exercise and obtain their goal. With that extra poundage lost, they are enjoying better health; have a positive self- image, have more energy and as a consequence, are happier.

Our brothers and sisters in Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are brave folks, who struggle, sometimes daily, to restore their sanity by giving up their destructive habits. Those in the program will tell you that they feel much freer now. They are taking care of themselves rather than trying to control others. Losing the obsessive “stinking thinking” brings peace.

Lose those toxic relationships, period. Who are they? It could be a spouse, a partner, a relative or friend or anyone who has the power to manipulate us with push-pull techniques until we are stressed-out and climbing the walls. These toxic folks are masters at discrediting us, striking us with envy, and are gossipy, untrustworthy and unhappy. They are control freaks and drama queens. While their advice may be well-intentioned, it’s the “kick to the belly” type. Most times they lack empathy and are freeloaders who rent space in our minds. Not a pretty picture, right? Losing that relationship may leave one feeling aggrieved — but not for long. Many regroup and morph into their true selves.

Think of technology, the internet and our cell phones. I had the unnerving experience of leaving my cell phone at home. Folks it was one of the most uncomfortable feelings I’ve experienced over an inanimate object. I keep reaching for it, obsessively. But, by mid-afternoon, I was feeling calm and relaxed in the midst of a mostly stressful day. I lost that “have to know what’s going on in my world feeling” and let things be. And guess what? Nothing earth-shattering occurred, save for clearing the clutter from my mind — hey, maybe that was earth-shattering!

We humans possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. Nothing remains the same. Enjoy what you have now before it becomes what you had. Conversely, get rid of those chains that put us behind bars in prisons of our own making.

Here’s the paradox: We don’t know what we have until we lose it, but we don’t know what we are missing until we find it.

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Celia Marszal-Iannelli
Celia Iannelli is a native New Yorker enjoying a second career — in 'retirement' — as a freelance writer. She lives in Jamesport.