Friday, March 13, 2009

On strength.

I sometimes have the urge to just go to the place that is reserved for particularly disturbing fifties films where the distraught mother loses all touch with reality and dresses a porcelain doll in her baby's clothes, and calls it by her dead child's name. I would surround myself with all things Lucy—her hair, her picture, the little acorn baby that I bought for her Christmas, her ashes. I could create some kind of fancy, strange little Victorian museum out of all her things, wrap myself in another reality, and rock in the corner. I would just weep until I believed she was alive again. It would be morbid and ugly, and somehow deeply satisfying. But I have a child, even if I did this for one day, I fear I would go fully insane and not be able to come back to my beautiful life. But for one day, I want to dress like Bette Davis, and say something akin to "But you are, Blanche. You are in that chair."


The other day when I wrote that I wasn't strong, I was also a goddamn liar. I have lived a few lifetimes already. There was a time in my life when, convinced that I wanted to be a writer, I decided that I would not turn down any new experience. I have talked to truly insane people, like a man who believed the Illuminati was following him and had tapped his Temple dorm room phone because he was a Catholic. I talked to him for five hours. I once went cliff diving in New Mexico while visiting a Zen Monastery. I tried to be brave then. I did. But I wasn't strong. I really was just a knucklehead. I have always thought that when people called me strong they just meant that. They just totaled all those knucklehead experiences and thought it equaled strength. But to me, that never was strength.

Strength to me is being compassionate, being humble, being capable...I want to be that. I strive to be that. One day, in a seriously delusional moment, after Lucy died, Sam and I were driving I began saying, "Being strong and faking being strong are the same exact thing. No, really, I am just going to pretend I am strong. I am just going to act like a strong person, like how I imagine a strong person acting, and then I am going to get through this." and I giggled nervously,"Yeah, I'm just going to fake it."

After Lucy died, I reveled in the emails and notes I received from my friends, and loved ones. But I was also completely stunned, and still am, at the amount of people who have said nothing. Not one thing. I know they know. In my kindest moments, I see their suffering, and pain. In most moments, I call them cowards. Fucking cowards. And I am shocked at how many cowards I know. My amazing friend, whose wife miscarried three babies wrote me the rawest, most honest email after Lucy died. It stunned me, and I read and reread it. He got it. He has survived this nightmare. He talked about the abyss. He gave me exactly what I needed at the time--permission to go to the dark place, to be angry, to be alienated, to grieve in anyway I needed without regard to my mental soundness. He still does this for me. It is a gift I can never repay. When I wrote back and told him about the cowards in my life, he wrote this:

I am sorry that others you care for and who, no doubt, care for you cannot be more for you in this time of suffering. Such is a bitter lesson for the strong: Because we are strong does not mean that those around us - though they may revel in this quality - will be equally strong when we need it; Indeed, it is in times of weakness that you find that those around you who rely vicariously on your strength are nowhere to be found because they cannot fathom the responsibility of shouldering the load; they cannot be strong for you... And you must find it in your heart to forgive them. You can believe that they are out there wishing they had the strength; the courage to try and lift you up....

But you will find that your strength alone will carry you through this, and you will indeed come out stronger.

But in the end, I do think I am strong. Not simply because I have survived a lot--death, birth, robbery, marriage, taxes, sickness, bills, corporate life, traveling, depression, giddiness...but perhaps it is because I have grown from these things. Because I have let others lean on me when they are going through them. Perhaps it is because even though I don't know what the fuck to say when someone's baby dies either, I still say something. ANYTHING. Even though I am afraid. But I don't think it is any of those things. Not really. I think it is simply because I forgive all those cowards in my life. I do.


  1. wow. I think I'm going to have to gather my thoughts on this post a while before I comment. Not sure I have much coherent to say except yes, yes and yes. I love this space Angie. You've got spunk.

  2. It is so deeply disappointing to me that so many have run to the hills in this time of tragedy. Your friend's email hits the nail on the head. Thank you for sharing that.

  3. I have a lot of "no comments" as well. The thing that irritates me about the people who clearly siphoned off my strength when the going was good, is that some of them have made this tragedy about them -- how sad and small their lives are now since WE have undergone this mess. To which I say, Eff You.

    Joe Biden was once asked on MTP whether the accident that took his wife and toddler was "the defining moment of his life." He responded that it was the worst moment, yes, but it didn't define him. And I roll this around in my head almost on a daily basis. I want to get to the point where someone years from now discovers the story and thinks, "Now I understand how she got through that," NOT "Now I understand her." Difference. And strength -- strength of character and conviction and falling back on what worked before in order to see me through now -- has a lot to do with it.

  4. i too have been shocked by those who have said NOTHING. no call, no email. not even i'm sorry. it boggles my mind how a friend could disappear during a tragedy of this magnitude. i don't feel very forgiving or compassionate towards these so called friend at all. perhaps one day...

    and strength, each time someone has said 'you're so strong' i have said 'no, i'm not strong, i have no choice in this' but perhaps i can look at strength a little differently now...

    thanks angie

  5. you are strong, angie. i don't doubt that for a minute. getting up every day, getting dressed, taking care of bea, all of that adds up to strength. it may not feel like a choice most of the time, but it is. and you do so much more than those life necessities. you write, you process, you feel.

    i'm probably telling you what you already know but i'm also telling myself. some days i am amazed i keep moving through life. so many friends don't make life any easier but if you can forgive, that's wonderful. i have such a hard time with following through with that forgiveness. i say i want to forgive but i hold the hurt inside anyway.

  6. People can be jerks sometimes, intentional or not, it hurts. And the strength thing - I actually got a sympathy card from someone who wrote that in a way, they were glad that this happened to me and not someone else because I am so strong. Yeah, well, wish I was fucking weaker then - maybe this wouldn't have happened.

  7. molly, i think you are right. we make a thousand choice a day to fight the abyss. all of us are facing our biggest fears whether we chose that or not.

    but as tash said, we are strong, but not for the reasons most people think we are strong. we are strong because we have succumbed to our dark places, and walked out again. we have howled in grief all day. we talk about death without fear. we support each other, when most people are terrified us.

    monique, that is effing horrible to say. holy crap. it's mind boggling what people think is comforting.

  8. so what makes us strong? because we have to continue to live our lives? i want to stay in bed or curl up on the couch everyday. but i can't. i have to live my life. if i didn't, would i be considered weak? i guess people think they couldn't do what we are all doing if they were in our shoes, but i think everyone seems to find this inner strength to continue on.

    my sis in law just told me her really good friends who haven't contacted us (they live in our town) thought that it wasn't their place to say anything. they thought if they called or wrote that we'd feel obligated to reply and that they didn't want to add anymore to our plate. weird right? i don't send cards to people expecting a reply. i'd send it to show my sympathy, that i was thinking of them. people are so strange. these same girls also felt that our blog was too personal for them to read.
    i guess i've been mostly surprised by the people who have stepped up to the plate. like your friend who wrote you the beautiful email. i received so many like that. its surprising how many have been amazing. i try to focus on that, but its so hard not to get wrapped up in the people who suck - which has also surprised me. i want to forgive them, but its so hard.


What do you think?