Sunday, July 5, 2009

Le Shitstorm

I guess this is the blog post where I finally ask "Why Me?" over and over again, kick and pound the floor, cry and whine. Well, I don't really do it. But I do the blog post equivalent of that. Since coming home from the hospital after birthing Lucia, I admit I just never really asked that question much. The question "Why me?" sort of goes against my moral and spiritual understanding of the universe. I am no one special. Just a woman. Sure, I try to do right by my body, my family, my friends, my neighbors, my universe, but in general, suffering happens. Not just to other people. It happens to everyone, whether you are good or not. So, while I did ask often, "Why did this happen?" and expect answers from pathologists and doctors, I didn't ask God "Why did this happen?" As I once said on Aliza's blog, the ClifNotes version of my general philosophy of life is this: the world is a random, chaotic shitstorm, and sometimes you get caught in the eye of it. Other times, you are in the trailer park looking at the shitstorm coming straight for you. You can choose to evacuate and recognize that your trailer is a "thing" and not permanent, or stay in the trailer, look the aforementioned shitstorm in the eye and hang onto your crappy tin facade of security and control. But still, the Random Chaotic Shitstorm of Suffering is barreling towards you. Best thing you can do is be kind, help, love and support those in the shitstorm now, and hope that there are others there to help and love you through your shitstorm. Ah, my proverbs are so deep.

This weekend, while enjoying a nice day of picnic-ing with my family, my mother's house caught on fire. Well, I should say a tree right in front of her house caught on fire, and got to the business of catching my mother's house on fire. It melted the siding before my stepfather, acting very quickly, began hosing the house down with the son-in-laws. We evacuated said shitstorm in plenty of time. So, huddled with my puppy and my baby in grass across the street, I trembled. A deep, bone-rattling tremble. I watched my husband and step-father with hoses shooting two stories up, as the brutal wind carried the flames and smoke into the atmosphere. The men put it out within seven minutes, I know because invitees sitting with me kept speculating what percentage of the house would have been destroyed by this point if we waited for the firemen. My family is generally pretty good in crises, and keep their cool. My four year old nephew turned to me and said, "I'm scared." I cuddled him with us, and said, "It's okay, Little. Everyone is here and safe. Why are you scared, honey?"

"I don't want anyone else in our family to die."


Later, in the way that happens after a traumatic event, we all sat around our proverbial campfire and talked about what happened, and our reactions. I talked about how I was sitting around the corner, upwind from the fire, with my daughter painting, drinking a glass of water. When I heard "FIRE", and saw the billow of black smoke engulfing the picnic area from where my family was running in terror from the house, my first instinct was the throw the water on the house. How ridiculous, right? To throw the water from my glass into a fire that reached two stories. She laughed. Then it reminded me of when I worked morning shift in a cafe. I would arrive at 530a alone, start making coffee. One morning, I came into about two inches of water covering the entire floow. I didn't know what happened, and internally, I sort of shrugged my shoulders, scratched my chin. How am I going to open at 7a? I grabbed a mop and began mopping. Dipping the mop onto the floor, squeezing the water into the bucket, repeat. After an hour, with little progress, I realized it was too big for me, and I called for back-up.

It is a feeling I haven't been able to shake since yesterday. As though it were a metaphor for my entire life since Lucy died. Like I am sopping up a flood with a mop and a bucket, or throwing a glass of water on a burning house.


As I sat there, shaking with the girl and the dog and the nephews, remnants of the tree smoldered and the melted siding was strewn in piles around my husband and family, the firemen began coming, and coming, and coming. Soon there were five fire trucks, a paramedic/EMT, a water truck, fifteen F150s (I am generalizing on the Big Truck Models.)The tears would grow in my eyes watching them in their full firemen suits, and face masks, testing everything to make sure my mother's house wasn't burning anymore. Then they would go away, and I would catch a glimpse of my daughter bouncing up and down, and pointing, and yelping, "Mama, mama, look. Firetruck. Mama, look." And my eyes would well up again.

My internal mantra for yesterday post-fire was, "But my daughter died. Why is this happening? Are you aiming at me, God? Is this something Job-ian? Have I failed the test?" It just all came to me in one fail swoop with the fire. That feeling of being damned. Of being punished. That hollow, tinny, lonely echo of "Why me?" reverberating in my soul.

Everyone had a different reaction. My mother was very relieved. She thought of every scenario which could have made it worse. Nighttime. Inside. No one saw the tree. We waited for the firemen to come. No one pulled out the hose. Children playing there. I became furious. Very very angry. I became more anxious than I already am. But mostly, today, I am still trembling. I am still shaken. Still trying not to read the signs in the signs.


  1. OMG angie. Its like all the plagues are raining down. So sorry this happened. And so easy to look at it all as a big conspiracy. You have every right to be angry and shaken. So glad you, Sam, Bea, Jack and the rest of the family are safe.

  2. Angie, I am so glad everyone is OK, but what an ordeal! I would be shaking for days. Hugs, Hugs, Hugs...

  3. I ask why me all the time. I couldn't stop saying it/asking it in those early hours/days. I get the shitstorm/chaotic universe thing a bit better now, and that no one is immune.
    But yet I sit here and read this, and can't help but think why Angie?????
    Love you heaps Angie.

  4. wow! I'm so glad that everyone is okay.. what a scary event!

  5. I wish I could offer some sage advice on how to 'deal' with this. I do hope you and your family are able to emotionally recover from yet another blow. I am grateful nobody was physically harmed, but still.

    I too have felt like Job during these months. It's so easy to add all the tragedies, traumas, losses, etc., together. After my surgery, somebody told me to resist doing that. If we can resist tying all of these events into one horrible life story, it becomes less overwhelming. Some days are easier than others. Some days I can see the incidents as isolated events. Other days, I simply feel that the world is out to get me.

    Please continue to write about this topic and all other life events that shape you, Angie. While they may seem to be 'over' from a real time point of view, they are never 'over' in our emotions and in our memories. It would be so much easier if we could say, "Huh. That WAS scary" and then go about living our lives. But, each of these events start to chip away at our hearts and souls. So, please continue to explore what this fire means to you and never feel that you can only talk about once. (I've felt that way regarding 'the cancer', yet I know I shouldn't)

    Peace, my friend.

  6. Oh yes, the "it could be worse" comment.

    Do you know that people actually say that to me? They said it to me after Freyja died and then AGAIN after Kees died? Then, when I would look at them in a kind of awed way, they would try to explain that they meant "at least you have each other".

    As. If. That. Makes. Everything. Better.

    Yes, it could be worse.

    This baby inside me could die too.

  7. ((hugs)) I am glad your family have cool heads.
    I know what you mean, I tend to be more jumpy and everything gets magnified.

  8. "Like I am sopping up a flood with a mop and a bucket, or throwing a glass of water on a burning house."

    I get it and think many of us do.

  9. Fires are scary as an isolated event, how could this fire NOT shake you up following Lucy's death? So many times bad things happen but horrible outcomes are avoided - like the fire where no one was hurt and relatively little damage was done. But, at least for me, a deadbaby kills the optimism that everything will turn out ok. Rather than crossing my fingers that the fire would be extinguished by the water hoses, I'd be unwillingly envisioning the fire spreading and taking out the entire block because SHIT HAPPENS - and not just in annoying ways like running out of gas or something overall innocuous.

    "Like I am sopping up a flood with a mop and a bucket, or throwing a glass of water on a burning house." It's easier to ask for help with a problem that has a tangible solution, how do you get help with grief when others get over your loss so quickly?

    I's so glad to hear that no one was hurt in the fire.

  10. I'd had some hard things happen already. A young adulthood struggling hard with depression. A few years coping with cancer. The break-up of an engagement and the loss of a whole life I thought would be my future.

    Then the death of my daughter, my first and much-wanted child. It's hard sometimes to not feel cursed.

    So yeah, why all this, why you? I find it hard not to ask, even though I know I'm not supposed to.

  11. Oh Angie, how scary for all of you. I am so glad you and your family are safe.

  12. I'm so glad that you and your family are alright. I'm so sorry. It never rains but it pours. It is that old Random Chaotic Shitstorm of Suffering barreling along. Your poor little nephew.

    I am in complete agreement with your ClifNotes but I still catch myself trying to read signs in the signs. Even though I don't believe in signs.

    The descriptions of you thinking of throwing your glass of water onto the house fire and mopping the flood brought tears to my eyes. Yes, that is what life feels like now. All you can do if throw a glass of water on the raging inferno because it's all you've got.

    I struggle with that feeling of being punished. Especially when something else rotten happens to me. Like you say "But my daughter died." I can't cope with anything more.

    But my initial reaction when everything started to go wrong was more along the lines of, "I'm not surprised. Sigh." It all felt strangely inevitable.

  13. that's all very scary and stressful. Even without being a grieving mom.

    but, um, how the heck did the tree catch fire?

  14. Speaking of the last email you sent me- if ever there were a time to yell "I ACCEPT ALREADY" at the universe, sounds like this would be it. I am shaking for you, even knowing that everyone's safe.

    I met someone from the Red Cross once who told me that the official definition of a disaster is anything that outstrips the resources of the area in which it happens. So a foot of snow is not a disaster in Michigan, but it may well be one in Florida. All this by way of saying that a near miss and a catastrophe can look very similar depending on how long you've been in the shitstorm.

    All a longwinded way of saying the following, I guess: Holy Shit.

  15. Thankful for your quick-thinking family, but feeling the horror of this. I think I heard once that it is common (healthy?) for old traumas to get reactivated by new ones, which probably doesn't soothe the rawness, but it does sound like you are working through this in a remarkably clear-headed, honest way.

  16. How scary - I'm so glad everyone is okay!

    How is this for a weird 'coincidence'....about 3 weeks after Rose died, my husbands parents home had a fire - they lost everything and have been shuttling between family ever since while it is rebuilt. They'd been there for 50+ years, and were able to save or recover nothing. In a one month span, my poor husband lost so much of his future, and so much of his past.

    Fortunately no one was injured, but can I join you in the why me party?

  17. I'm late as always. You know the type...
    I really appreciate the metaphors in this post Angie.
    The story of Job pops into my head often. It's one of the few stories in the Bible that teach me nothing. It makes me feel like Satan and God had a bet and Job was just going along doing what he was supposed to do. Sure, God gave him more sons and daughters, but I'm sure he really wanted the ones he already had.
    I too wonder, if God thinks I'm annoying and thinks to put me in my place...daily
    You really do seem to have some powerful energy around you right now. Take in what you are supposed to learn and just know that you will have more simple times.
    Love, Lindsay


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