Sunday, October 18, 2009

More than a little jaded

So often I reread posts of mine and think, "Wow. I wrote that?" And not in a fiction-type way, but more in a you've-come-a-long-way-baby type way. Damn Virg.inia Sl.ims for ruining that phrase. Okay, more like that doesn't sound like the me I used to be. Sometimes I feel like I am making strides towards getting over my negative programming, formulating new ideas about myself and the universe and have a genuine sense of curiosity about who I have grown up to be.

Bear with me, I have a feeling this is going to be a long one.

WAY WAY BACK...many moons ago, (if this was a movie, everything would get all wiggly, and I would suddenly have on grunge clothes and combat boots) I dated this beautiful kind gentle boy who appeared on college Je.opardy . (I have no idea why I remember that small detail and am sharing it.) If I remember correctly, he was from a wealthy family and developed a drug addiction in college. He had come home and gotten clean. We met at that time in his life and dated. We had so much fun at the time. It was laid back. I had a large group of friends, and so did he. I was, cough, cough, nineteen, so it worked--his recovery and my underaged-ness. We did non-drinking things.

To sort of paint the entire picture, I lived on the couch of some friends. I was at university; in this iteration, I was a radio-television-film student. My parents divorced before I graduated from high school, which sort of exacerbated my feelings of alienation and bitterness. I applied to one university in the middle of the ghetto, which was basically the exact opposite of the experience I had growing up.

I cultivated this tough, street-smart persona when I came to university, because that is not who I was in high school. As I mentioned before, I am soft and sensitive. I have idyllic childhood stories of running through cornfields, picking wild berries, and walking out of our house after a tornado ripped through our little group of houses to women bearing cookies and lemonade. This sarcastic, angst-ridden persona covered up my insecurities about growing up in rural Pennsylvania. When I read Vonnegut and Camus, Burroughs and Kerouac, and whatever deviant other fiction I gravitated to in high school, I basically fell off the proverbial turnip truck. I wanted to move to a city. To see the gritty underbelly of society. I wanted to live a different life than the sheltered one my parents envisioned for me. We didn't even take the car keys out of our car at night. No one I knew growing up had been robbed or victimized. Well, once a neighbor from a mile away had their lawn mower stolen out of their garage while they were on vacation, but they found it in their neighbor's field. I steeled myself against disaster by expecting the worse of people. I talked to anyone, no matter how much my gut was telling me to run in the other direction. I walked with a kind of foolish bravado that welcomes bad things. I wore black and combat boots. I admit now I looked like everyone else who grew up in a small town and came to the city for university, though I didn't know it.

Anyway, back to this beautiful gentle boy. I was dating him for a while. I don't even remember how long. Long enough to call him my boyfriend and talk to him every day. One afternoon, I was visiting a friend who lived on the fourth floor of an apartment building. I was out on the balcony with a group of people talking, and I see him. The beautiful boy. Walking. With his arm around an unusually tall, thin beautiful babe. They were not holding each other in a friends-type way.
"Oh, shit. There is J."
"Who's J?" Someone I met that afternoon asked.
My friend M. didn't miss a beat. "J. is Angie's soon-to-be ex-boyfriend."
And I yelled, "Hey, J, up here."

The story has been exaggerated through the years by my shocked group of friends. For a long time, I was referred to as the 101st Airborne Division. According to their version, the boyfriend jumped four feet into the air. He backed away from the girl, arms raised in a sort of mock cops and robbers stance, though nothing he was doing was done in irony. He stood in terror while I stood waving like an insane person way up in the sky with a group of guys terrified about how this was going to turn out. I didn't flinch. I just carried on a conversation as though he weren't caught red-handed with another woman, "What are you two up to? Some dinner?" Yes, yes...dinner. "I haven't seen you in a while, beautiful woman who was introduced to me as J. lesbian best friend." No, no, it has been a while. "Okay, see you later!" Turned around, walked into the bathroom, and cried tears no one saw. I came back out to my friends saying, "That was AWESOME!"
"Did you see the pure terror on his face?"
"Holy shit, Ang, that was insane." That person standing there listening to words of congratulations was internally horrified and destroyed. In front of my friends, he did this thing. I laughed with them. I made fun of him with them. I pretended it was meaningless. "Men," I mused. "Harumph. "

We had to break up, I guess. And that conversation, the break-up conversation, changed me. I thought that it was fairly clear what happened, and he admitted he had been sleeping with this woman. I was scorned. I expected a conversation filled with apologies and pleadings as I walked out of the room, head held high. I even planned what I would say, "I don't know if it is you, or all men are assholes, but I'm not going to stick around long enough to find out." I practiced that over and over. I think I heard it in some movie, and planned to use that one day. I still have never used it. But he is the one who did most of the talking. He said the words that changed me. "Angie, you are just a little more than jaded."

He explained that this is the reason we were breaking up. He called me jaded and cynical. He said he knew it wasn't going to work out because I expected the worse in people. I mean, I was there to break up with him. Of course, it wasn't going to work out, but I expected to control this situation. I thought I had ammunition and came out completely disarmed. I became jaded about being called jaded. Was I? Was I jaded? I joked about it to my friends, but that hurt me more than the "cheating" ever did. I lived with this adjective for a long time. Jaded. I mean, I wasn't even twenty, and someone thought I was jaded. And I was. Nothing happened to me out in the world, except that my parents divorced and I had to figure out how to survive university without much financial support, because my father quit his job to drink full-time, and my mother decided to go to college at the same time we did. Everyone had a teenage angst story like mine, why did I become jaded because of it? Sure, things were a mess in my family life, but I grew up in comfort surrounded by safety and cornfields. I never knew hunger. I never knew want. Suddenly, people believed this persona I had cultivated and I no longer liked it.

As my life went on, I got into another heavy, important relationship. Intense. Dramatic. A lot happened to us. Infidelity. Burglary. Losses. After four years, we separated. After I was alone again, I thought about that word often. Jaded. Did my relationships become self-fulfilling prophesies? Did I condemn my life to a life worth being jaded about? It was exactly my cynicism that gave me things to feel cynical about.

After we split, I gave up dating for a while. I changed. I didn't want to just practice non-violence in my eating habits, but in myself. I stopped beating myself up and started seeing myself as part of a larger part of the universe. I stopped expecting the worse of people, and began expecting the best. I tried to cultivate compassion, rather than derision. I just decided that this was it. I was remapping my programming.This is the hand I am dealt, and I best make something beautiful from it. I am not living this negative life anymore, and that conversation, the one where I was called a little more than jaded, played a role in changing my programming.

I remember when Niobe posted about whether blogs were telling the truth or not. I basically had been blogging about my loss for two months, and still in the early months of my grief. It had never occurred to me that someone would lie about losing a child. That post shook me up, which is actually completely unlike the jaded nineteen year old in me. That silly girl always thought people were lying. In fact, it didn't even matter if they were lying or not. As long as they told a good story, I was happy. I would have long conversations with delusional people. It amused me. Nothing surprised me. I expected lies. I expected fabrications. I expected nefarious scheming. But I felt ridiculous after posting my naive indignation, like those in this community for a long time were rolling their eyes at me. "Small town, simple-minded girl. People lie, hick." And I felt like explaining all of this about the punk rock nineteen year old I once was. I was ashamed at myself for believing every blog I read at face value. This past week, trying to change my bad mood by doing something weird and kind for a stranger, I had this same sense of self-consciousness.

I am a woman who has been through a lot in my life. I am choosing not to be jaded anymore, but it isn't because there isn't reason to be. I just don't want to be a jaded, bitter, negative, cynical or sarcastic person anymore. It alienates people. In many ways, I live my life now trying to prove that beautiful boy wrong.

:::

Here is a sort of blog powwow of posts that got me thinking about this topic. Loribeth of The Road Less Traveled posted a very interesting post, The dark side of positive thinking, the other day, which started this chain reaction of thinking in me. She was talking about Barbara Ehrenreich's new book Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Underminded America. I am prefacing this by saying I have not read this book, but watched the interview with her on Jon Stewart's Daily Show. Ehrenreich had breast cancer and talks about her disease openly, honestly, and rawly. I am planning on library-ing it after my current read. M from Maybe Babies beautifully discussed one of her articles recently about this very topic. And also Sweet and Salty Kate talks about birth. All of those got me thinking about all of this.

Shedding my cynicism made me feel so unprepared for the death of my child. This whole positive thinking movement--if you abstain from wine and lunch meat, do prenatal yoga, see a midwife, have your babies in semi-darkness with Tuvan throat singers playing gently in the background. If you make a birth plan, if you just think positively, visualize birth, draw pictures of it, focus on a labryinth where all roads lead to out, you will have a healthy, happy, well-adjusted baby who will come home on holidays and call every week. After Lucy died, I resented this shit. I mean, I resented my relatively newfound pollyanna-ish take on life that I adopted before having children. I resented positive thinking. That nineteen year old, the one that was a little more than jaded, would not have been completely unprepared for loss. What did positive thinking get me? A dead baby, and a large goose-egg where I bumped my soul on the floor after the rug had been pulled out from under me.

After many months of wondering how I could have prepared myself for a death with no reason, I came to the conclusion that being trusting is a good quality. Being more than jaded has mostly worked out well for me. It isn't that I have turned into the child I once was, that naive person I saw myself as on Niobe's blog, or the angst-ridden cynical nihilistic teenager I once was, but I am somewhere in the middle these days. Connecting with people, wanting to believe people write about loss from a place of connection rather than attention, trusting in my body and expecting the best, I would rather surround myself with that than expectation of apocalypse, even though now, no matter how much I talk myself into positive, I sometimes slip into the definitively bitter category. The worst happens. It happened to me. I don't want it to define me, though it now tints everything I touch. I'm not sure being prepared for loss with cynicism and distrust would have softened the blow. It just might have made me unbearable to be around before I lost Lucy.

I am pregnant again. Fourteen weeks, actually. I can't say I'm not jaded this time around. I always classify every statement with if, not when, this baby comes. This pregnancy is different than the two that came before it. I can only say in the most cliche-y yet true way, I am preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.

38 comments:

  1. Angie, you seem to me like someone who sees the world with clear eyes; the beauty, the hardship, the love, the pain.

    That beautiful boy... he said that intending to hurt you, to make it about your transgression instead of his. He was wrong, he is wrong. You've proved it. I know you know this, I know you know all of this stuff. I just wanted to say it again and add my voice to your internal one.

    I'm so happy to read your news here. I'm wishing and hoping, wishing and hoping.

    Lots of love xx

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  2. I'm happy to read your news here, too. :-)
    Very!!

    You are an awesome writer, did you know that?

    And you will shake of the negativity and cynicism, not for the sake of being positive but for the love of life.

    I haven't read any of the stuff you're refering to but I'm all eyes for good reads.

    Sending you much love
    xx Ine

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  3. I'd have to agree with Jess. I think that boy wanted to 'pass the buck' and make it about you. When he was the one in the wrong.

    And as you say, being cynical and prepared for the worst, well . . I don't think it softens the blow when the worst happens.

    Hoping for the very, very best for you, I needed cheering up and that news has made me grin from ear to ear xoxo

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  4. Oh Angie, it was he who was jaded, not you. Talk about projection! And the last few lines of your post, what wonderful news and like you, wishing for happy xxxxx

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  5. You are far from jaded, Angie. Thanks for inspiring me to be a better person. Wishing you so much love, luck and happiness for the months ahead.
    xo

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  6. ditto.
    You have no idea what freshness and beauty you bring into my world.
    I am so happy to hear of your news.
    xoxo

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  7. De-lurking to say I am very happy for you.
    As a graduate of a neighboring ghetto school in Philadelphia, I have really identified with your last three posts. Is there something about the City of Brotherly Love that engenders cynicism? Sometimes I think so.
    But it's also a city that clings to that loving moniker and actually think the Eagles are going to win the Superbowl every. single. year.
    I am sending lots of hope, prayers, and love your way.

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  8. Hoping for the very best with you, Ang. Hang in there.

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  9. I believe everything I am told and always have.

    I am delighted with your news and I will hold hope for you every single day.

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  10. You, my dearest, are a very gifted writer. My heart was pounding for some reason through this post. And that ending--it brought a huge smile. Congratulations, sweetie.

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  11. Talk about burying the lede.

    So, 14 weeks. Does that mean that we're (and when I say that, I mean you and our surro, Trish) are due at the same time?

    Oh, and, as you know, jaded is my middle name. ;)

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  12. I've only been reading you for a little while but your writing is beautiful and thoughtful and you don't come across as being jaded at all! Congrats on your news*

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  13. Such wisdom. Earned and merited. Rejoicing in your being in the world.

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  14. congratulations, angie. very happy to hear your news! xo

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  15. Likewise I have to say I haven't read your blog for too long but jaded is never a word that popped to mind as I've read through your posts - and that's also considering you're writing as a babylost mumma now. Sounds like projection to me as well. Congratulations on your pregnancy and sending you all good thoughts.

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  16. I used to call it cautious optimism, but lately I call it expect nothing and be pleasantly surprised. I'm not sure that's really pessimistic, jaded or cynical (this coming from a born-and-raised-and validated cynic), but real and grounded and honest. Sometimes I think it's healthy to stare a fear down, even from a top floor.

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  17. I have always been a cynic but somehow joining the db club made me feel more positive and I can't figure out why...it's a strange twist. Getting pg after db is a huge, enormous, leap of faith. maybe that's what changed me. Maybe having proved that things can really go to shit makes you want to prove that things can also get better.
    I hope the next couple of months keep you feeling less jaded and more hopeful. What awesome news.
    And yes, Niobe is so right, talk about burying the lead....yowza!!!

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  18. I am so excited for you Angie! It was a pleasure to talk with you and Sarah in person yesterday! I have to admit I am having trouble picturing you as a punk rock teenager! You are so sweet and gentle! I will hope and pray for the best along with you in these next few months.

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  19. If the definition of jaded includes living life with much beauty and grace - then yes you are jaded...otherwise, notsomuch.

    I've always felt so blessed to have your voice with me on this grief journey, and so honored to be on this next journey as well....to healthy babes.

    April. It will not come soon enough will it? Hoping for the very best.

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  20. I am from rural PA - was that tornado in, oh say '84 or '85? Tornados are so rare there - that's the only one i remember ever.

    Maybe it's not jaded, it just being realistic, looking at life without rose-colored glasses.

    hey - you are like two weeks behind us! and I don't think 'if' is jaded - just scared - and it's a protective mechanism. It's slowly switching over to when, some tentative talking about things to do with the baby. Very slowly.

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  21. I can so identify with the "expecting the worst" part - that was me, once upon a time. I sometimes find myself slipping back to that person every once in a while. I guess it just comes with the territory.

    And what wonderful news for me to come home to today! I am hoping for the best right along with you.

    Sending love...

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  22. See, if you were really jaded, you would've totally seen through his buck-passing, and wouldn't have believed him. Which only proves that you were not so much. :)

    Such great news! I am so very happy for you. And may it happen for you in good time.

    Oh, and I am sooooo not giving up my sarcasm. Though I would define myself as more of a realist. "Approximately 50% of available volume in this glass appears to be occupied by liquid" kind. Sarcastic realist, and damn proud of it.

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  23. Thrilled for you, Angie, and hoping for all things good.

    This post was so interesting, and actually prompted me to look up the origin of the word "jaded" which is quite fascinating to a word dork like me.

    xo

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  24. Sending you many, many congratulations.

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  25. Congratulaions Angie!!! That is wonderful news. I think at this point hoping for the best is all we can hold on to. xx

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  26. You are really a gifted writer and I am very picky about it. Even though I am a terrible writer, I love to read since a very early age and became very sensitive to style.
    I disagree with the ones that didn't like the beautiful boy said you were jaded (I said "were" in the past on purpose). At least he gave you something to work on and he was probably honest. I hate when they say "it is nothing about you, it is all my fault". I don't believe them.
    I don't think that being jaded would have helped you to deal with your loss, though.
    Wonderful news! I'm wishing you peace for the months to come.

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  27. I am sooooo excited for you! Hoping and wishing, too! :)

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  28. Oh Angie, I am just catching up. How wonderful. Scary, terrifying and wonderful at the same time. xxx

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  29. A belated reaction to your post.

    Firstly, congratulations and best wishes for your little critter.

    Secondly, how can someone pull off a full reverse like that? I had to lie and cheat on you because you're jaded? I say you dodged a bullet there.

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  30. wonderful post. you are a fantastic storyteller-
    congrats angie! i'll be here throughout, cheering you on. can't wait to meet you finally- so soon!
    xo

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  31. You seem to connected and full of life to be jaded. I'm very happy and hopeful for you, Angie, and I'm wishing you good, good things.

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  32. Angie - what an intense and truthful post. You certainly are far from jaded.... we just know so much now.

    So happy about your news. Look forward to reading more about this new phase of your journey. I am certain that Lucy will be with you every step of the way.

    xo

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  33. I'm just catching up Angie and... WOW! Just WOW. Oh and congratulations too!

    xxx

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  34. I was wondering when you were going to come out. I'm so glad yo did. I get bitched at for the 'if the baby comes home' but I think that attitude is fine. It's the best we can do.
    Hoping for us both..

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  35. Buried the lead indeed! I started reading this post the other day and got 1/2 way through before Tim called me for dinner. Just getting caught up now.

    Happy, happy news :) My fingers and toes crossed while I'm waiting and wishing with you.

    xo

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