Sunday, October 11, 2009

A wart

I often write on this blog of my breakthroughs, my realizations, my enlightening moments. In fact, that is sort of why this blog is here. This is not one of those posts about enlightenment. In fact, this is about those small incidents, the little seemingly meaningless ones, or the flippant comment that becomes, to quote Miller's Crossing, a wart on one’s fanny. It doesn't obsess the everyday, but every so often, I adjust in my seat and feel it there, and it just makes everything uncomfortable.

This really is so stupid. I mean, it really isn’t that insulting or anything. So, I am just going to write about it hypothetically. Let’s just say there was a get together that I avoided because humans confound me. I am a Martian who was raised by gnomes and bunnies, which has made me confused and soft. Anyhow, my avoidance started talk about my whereabouts, and someone speculating might have mentioned something like “Angie doesn't return my calls because she is jealous of my children.”

I wasn’t there, so I am just making this up as I go along. Really.

It is true on the Red Planet where my people come from, we speculate about others we haven't heard from in a while. Some people even deflect any negative connotations that lack of communication might have on themselves by questioning the sanity of the estranged one. But, in general, we give some effing latitude to a grieving mother. I can’t even tell you why, but it really hurt to hear that, even as I imagine it wasn't said maliciously. In my clearest moments, I imagine the situation reversed--I could have been one of those hurt egos theorizing over a glass of wine about where I have been. It isn't even particularly a cruel statement. It just is not true. I mean, yes, it is true that I often do not call people back who are not on the A-Team, or Martian brethren. I just can't make the chitchat of loss with people who don’t have that je ne sais quoi. But I am pretty much an equal opportunity jackass. I just simply avoid most people. As charming and handsome as your children might be, it has nothing to do with it.

What angers me about this stupid, silly little comment is the way it has sort of embedded itself into my sense of self, as though it is somehow reflective of who I am and what was known about me over the last fifteen years. Of all the things to think about, why this? People have actually said stupid mean shit to my face this past year. This incident and others like it are so small in relation to the rest of the year. It happens, as it did this weekend, that sometimes, when in the passenger seat driving home from a lovely dinner with my beautiful family, it creeps into my head and absolutely ruins my moment. And I get angry and sad, and miss all the things I have lost in this last year, including my good name.

Why do I care?

Maybe the truth is much more shallow than I want to admit. I have just lost my filter, and it's fucking liberating. Daughter death wiped out my effectiveness of faking it, lying, obfuscating and hiding my emotions. These kinds of incidents, while better left untouched (I wasn't there after all), are simply out of my control. What people tell themselves about me is not me. But truth be told, I want to defend myself. I want to defend my reputation. I wanted to write a venting email telling everyone at that party how NOT jealous I am of their lives. I wanted to explain with effective use of bullet points, time lines, graphs and pie charts why exactly I haven't reached out to certain people. I craved just writing in huge scare quotes and capital letters "THE DEATH OF MY BABY ISN'T ABOUT YOU." Somehow I manage to reign in my angry Martian self in these circumstances, because I realize that I don't just fantasize about doing this to the one woman who said this, I fantasize about doing it to everyone with whom I have ever been in contact. Just a huge mass email of venting about everything. Not telling anyone off isn't nearly as satisfying as laying into a random gossiper would be.

Misplaced anger, good evening, nice to see you again.

This is the spiritual practice that I crave right now--learning to let go of petty grievances and silly obsessive thoughts. If I can meditate on letting go of the guilt of my daughter’s death, then certainly I can let go on my need to control my reputation. I know this incident is so small that it would be behoove me to forget it. I know this incident is petty that it would behoove me to remind myself that it is someone else's issue not mine. I just don't know how to do it. Part of the reason I write this blog is to talk about my grief, my shame, my guilt, my pain…I expose it to the air, because shame feeds on the damp, dark corners of your consciousness and grows into a kind of cancer. It is like crap in your lawn stinking up the place. You need to expose that shit to the air, dry it up, let it float away, or maybe, just maybe, if you can't let it go, that dried manure can feed your lawn, make it more beautiful, nourish spiritual growth. Well, that is what I am hoping since the letting it blow away into the air thing isn't exactly working out.


  1. I hear you completely. I have the same thoughts and I still don't understand why I care what people say or think about me... yet I still wonder what they think and why they say things. Recently though I have decided that if someone says or does something hurtful and I think this person might still be in my life and perhaps a friend, I need to just tell them that it was hurtful. That comment though... that is heartless and I am so sorry.

  2. Sigh. Yes, I'm still practicing the letting go...its the little things that sometimes dig in deeper than the big ones.

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  4. It's a funny thing, what baby loss does to our feelings on how we are perceived by others. I find that while I do at times care about what other's think of me and my behaviors since losing my daughter, I am just too exhausted by grief to do anything about it. That being said, I think the comment was insensitive and despicably self centered i.e. your life and actions in response to the death of your child revolve around her and her children. Anyone who thinks you have the energy to purposefully ignore them at this time out of jealousy, has no concept of the depth of this loss, or the experience of living through it.

  5. I still care way too much about what others think of me, or even what I think they think of me. I should let it go, I know. Like you though, I lost my decency filter and when and where possible, I call people out on it. Lately it is the people who tell me or tell others then it gets back to me, that I'm "doing much better and almsot back to my old self". I want to promptly call them out on that. I might seem to be doing better, but I'll never be back to my old self. Not by a long shot.
    Waving at your misplaced anger as she skips in to town again. She's always welcome here.

  6. Sometimes the strangest little things bother me so much more than the big ones.

  7. I SO wish I'd written this. I feel EXACTLY the same way!!! Seriously. Exactly.


    There is one particular person I really want to say this to,but I wont.
    I worry constantly what others think, I know it's ridiculous, and my husband tells me to stop, but I just can't.

  9. A big YES to all of this. I think the small comments are more painful because you're less prepared for them somehow. A big, hurtful jibe is wrong in a way everyone can see and understand, you're "allowed" to be angry with them, but the little digs are often considered "less valid" (Scare quotes to denote things I believe are total bullshit, by the way!)

  10. "Misplaced anger, good evening, nice to see you again. "

    ...yup I can relate to that.

  11. I'm sorry this happened. I'm sorry this happens to any of us.

    I guess I always hoped that if I'd become a real target for gossip it would have been for some juicy, outrageous scandal (as if, but a girl can dream). Being talked about because of my loss still bugs me, and these little digs can have so much staying power.

  12. angie, this post is perfect. and it's good to know i'm not the only one still avoiding social gatherings. i'm sure people think i don't want to see them and their babies, which is also true and it is so very complicated. there are so many issues and changes and we are not who we once were. i hate that these so called friends are talking about us and thinking that they know even one once of what we are going through.

    writing it, voicing it, letting it go- such an important spiritual practice for us in our new lives.


  13. As someone who has always known she was 'raised by gnomes and bunnies' and born with too few layers of skin I can only raise a (lonely) glass to this post.

    It's true, it isn't actually about anyone else in this particular instance.

    Sometimes those nasty, spikey little comments just get to me. Hope that exposure to the air gets rid of this particular one and feeds your beautiful lawn. xo

  14. Let's just hope that if you are being discussed among your friends the majority of comments are coming from an attempt at understanding, and hopefully you are coming up in conversation because people are concerned for your well-being.

    We all know somebody who thinks it's-all-about-them. Our choice is to accept them in our lives or tell them to get over themselves if the need arises.

    From a man's point of view, I sometimes wonder if my male pals and acquaintances talk about me and my child's death at all. Perhaps as Mr. Wilde said 'The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.'

  15. "The death of my baby is not about you" Oh I have said this (in my head) to so many people. Thanks for putting my thoughts in to words.
    Personally, I think the comment made about you is incredibly hurtful and egotistical.


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