Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Reflections on the year

After Lucy died, the year ended. Suddenly it was 2009. People wished us a better year. Even our daughter's birthday seemed like part of a large slide show of reflections on the year. I wasn't reminded by writing her birth year. But somehow it meant 2009 was a clean slate to fill with Lucy's death. I can't help but contemplate what a profoundly sad, fucked up year we have had. Mourning defined this year from beginning to end. I was lost in a cloud of grief colored with the Lucy crayon. It was a year of bad omens and meaningless symbols. It was a year filled with the challenges of the mundane. And yet, in the sort of cliff notes version of my life, I can see this time line of events. A definite progression through my grief, though it is impossible for me to see the trees through the forest. Changes in me. Changes in my life. Changes in my relationships. I'm not sure how I imagined 2009, but if pressed to imagine a year without one of my children, okay, yeah, sort of like this. Unbearable. Hazy. Lonely. Fucked. My only resolution last year was to survive.

I am still breathing.

I feel like I am cleaning up after an atomic bomb. I cannot make sense of these relationships that have withered away. I look at the dust and cannot tell if it was my safety, my lightness of being or my ability to forgive and forget.  I often have the inclination to pick up everything wholesale and move to the middle of nowhere. It seems far easier to resettle somewhere else, abandon the vestiges of a life I didn't get to live. I have privately contemplated what it would cost to move our entire house on a plot of acreage in the middle of nowhere. I am feeling restless and bitter. I want to go where no one knows me. A magical place where I can reinvent this sadness, retell my story, and make a new community of people who won't disappoint me.

My birthday comes a few days after New Year's. Usually it is the day everyone goes back to school/work. This year is no different. It is a Monday. That is sort of how I see my birthday--a cold, wet Monday. I have traditionally had shitty birthdays. Everyone forgets. My sister bails. And I am left alone, taking myself out for a martini. Now that I have a husband, he takes me out for sushi. The husband and the girl kiss me in the morning and I feel less alone that I ever have in my life. Last year, I lost my voice four days before my birthday. Laryngitis. I don't know if it was from crying too much, or simply a virus, but I couldn't really talk. It was a welcome respite from my continual refrain of "Lucy died. I can't believe Lucy died."

Last year, my sister and I, deep in grief, talked about what to do on our day, Lucy's due date. We decided to relive our childhood birthdays, which were always spent going out for Chinese food and then bowling. Due dates can get emotional the first year, I knew that, so I wanted to just avoid thinking about anything but throwing a ten pound ball as hard as I could. If there were a batting cage, I might have suggested that. Or a smash shack. One year for our birthday, my father bought us bowling balls with our names engraved on them. We didn't bowl that often, but I think it was a time we all loved. I still have and bowl with my ball, even though my fingers swell and welt from the small holes. For 2009, we ate Mexican food and bowled. It was a Sunday. I had no idea what venturing out of the house would be like, or how it would be celebrating anything, let alone my birthday. The day before, a mere twelve days after Lucy died, my mother sent me an email. I guess in the flurry of laryngitis and bowling plans, I never called her with an invitation to our birthday luncheon/bowling, but my sister did. My mother wrote me an email saying she invited herself along, and she now is reconsidering that. She said that she realizes now that we never had a good relationship. She wrote, "I'm sorry you are going through difficult times." She wrote that she has no idea how to support me. 

I had foolishly imagined that one was afforded latitude to grieve. I had no voice, but I called her. I convinced her that I wanted her to come to our birthday. I explained that I thought we did have a good relationship and that I am sick and grieving and it is not personal. I tried to explain that none of this is about her. And I kept thinking, "I cannot believe I am comforting my mother right now. I cannot believe I am having this fucking conversation." There are some defining moments in this year. This was the first little dash on my timeline, I suppose. Something changed in me after that email and conversation. I suppose I realized that life was not going to stop. That even the people that love me unconditionally don't always know how to support me. I realized that I was alone now. No Mami kisses were going to soothe this boo-boo. I was an adult. You find your own comfort when you are an adult.

Nonetheless, we hit the bowling alley at 10am, and rolled a few. My mother showed up and I kissed her. Sam and I played Dance Dance Revolution, even though I was postpartum, breasts filled with milk, fat and sad. I cried when Sam won, but not because he won, but because I was having fun. It felt like what I imagine finding out as an adult that Santa actually exists and he and the elves have invited you to visit their candy cane village feels like. Fun was possible. We ate Mexican food, and for some reason having to deal with one of her children, my sister stayed home for most of the meal while her husband stayed. It is always sort of the fucked up dynamic of my family that someone is not sitting at the table during dinner, and we are staring at an empty chair wondering when they are coming back. I remember being so sad about that, though. Empty chairs. Too many empty chairs. I wanted to scream and cry . I drank a vat of margarita as they put a gigantic Mexican sombrero on my head, sang a stupid Mexican birthday song, and took my picture.

This was my first lesson of my thirty-fifth year--people really only want to see you smiling with a sombrero on your head. I threw the picture out when I got home. I couldn't imagine a time when I would reflect on that birthday, or find it and laugh like some kind of demented newscaster, "Ha, ha ha, look at me. So sad and wacky!"

For my last post, when I was looking for the picture of my gnome environment, I paged through our family pictures for the year. I skipped January, February, even March...and in April, I began. Our new puppy. And pictures of Bea and I painting circles. Photographs of my paintings for my newly established Etsy site. Beatrice jumping in puddles. Fire trucks parked in front of my mother's house on July 4th.  There is my finger mutilated by the hand blender.  A picture of a dead scarab in my office. There was the trip to Panama. Videos of me hiding; the family posing and laughing. I have this inclination to put together a slide show of the traumas and the growth, just to remember something about 2009 besides a profound sense of what was absent from the pictures. I have never broken up with someone and cut them out of photographs, but there was this otherwordly experience, like Lucy was cut out of every picture. There is the hole where Lucy is supposed to be. Right there.

Right here.


  1. Your 2009 is my 2007 -- lost forever in some void where I was in a coma. I didn't even take pictures because I didn't want to remember any of it. I have no idea what Bella did for a whole year -- it's as if she froze, and then popped back up around 3.5-4. I certainly couldn't tell you what I did.

    The whole concept of photos still bothers me -- especially family ones. Because I think they'll always remind me of what's missing, what I can't capture with the lens. Other people will see one image, and I'll see the big gaping hole, too.

    Since I only look in two week increments anymore, I can only hope the next two weeks are ok for everyone, new year and your birthday included.

  2. You find your own comfort as an adult.

    That line will stay with me for a very long time.

  3. I have a January birthday too. It always was pretty much an afterthought for the family. I hate birthdays.

    I hope you find more healing in 2010. <3

  4. This post had me in tears throughout, though not all of them were sad. The first photo taken of us after Kai died is one that everyone else likes and I hate- all I see is grief, exhaustion, and the fact that I needed a haircut but was too afraid to talk to anyone to go get one. It took many many months before I could look at a photo of myself and not see the sadness and the loss- and some of them still feel grief-haunted.

    I wonder sometimes if i should have kept more of a record of 2009. A blog, a better journal, a photo diary. But maybe there are blessings in only remembering in pieces.

  5. Even though Lucy will always be missing, I hope you have a good birthday this year.

  6. What a post! I second Mrs Spit... the same line hit me hard. It was terrible to realize that no one was going to help me. That even almighty mom & dad don't have anything wise and healing to say to me...

    When I go through my pictures, I am completely lacking 07 and 08. It's like I haven't been there. The few photos I got my hands on were instantly burned because it broke my heart to see me this way: broken, skinny, dark, helpless, pale.... I never want to see me like this again.

    I'll go with Tash... and hope you'll have some OK two weeks. And then we'll go from there... Sending love! xx

  7. gorgoeous, simply gorgeous. you are a wonderful writer. all of the pictures, I totally relate to. My mil had a professional photographer takes pictures of the whole family two weeks after my csection with Jolene. She was taking pictures because my nephew was born three days before Jolene. I have not seen the pictures yet, but I am sure I looked sad, crazed, pale, postpartum, not at all glowing like a new momma. My baby just died. What a gorgeous post. thank you

  8. I have taken SO many photos this year, and I have searched every single one as if trying to find the thing that was missing in our lives. The shadow behind the tree or the end of the rainbow in the field. But of course I haven't found the thing because he is gone.

    I hope your birthday next year is what? Happier, better, more peaceful, all of the above perhaps.


  9. My brother was married about 4 months after Teddy died, and, reading your post, I think I've figured out why I have a hard time looking at his wedding photographs - they're beautiful and full of family, but yes, there's that hole.

    Hoping that 2010 is as good and kind as it can be.

  10. 2009 was THAT year, like my 2008.

    I hope comfort comes your way with 2010.

    And it's true, we are on our own. Maybe even in some ways as a kid, but we just don't realize it. But ow, I know. I know not to rely on my mom (ok I figured that one out in my teens), but I also don't have as much to give - to comfort her. She needs to deal with it herself too...

    And happy early birthday (I am one of those who always forgets!)

  11. It's just been recently that I've been in photos again - the end of 2007 through summer 2009 was not a time I wanted to remember. I like what you said about the hole where Lucy was cut out of the photos. It is like that. I didn't want to be in photos with gaping holes where Toren and my husband should have been.

    Happy birthday Angie.

  12. i too have not taken photos this year and i was in them sparingly. i did not want to remember 2009. what a year. there will always be something missing forever.

    miss you angie. lots of love for this new year. xo

  13. My birthday is three days before Cayden was born, and one day after Buggy is scheduled to arrive. January is, and always will be, a very loaded month. I'll be thinking of you next week and hoping 2010 brings only good things. xo

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  15. Glad to have been able to stand by you in your grief this year.
    I am so happy to have found you but so sorry you have to be here.

  16. ::points::

    right here?

    right here.. on the 3rd anniversary of my wedding. 3 years with the love of my life, a good day, someone said on facebook.

    and RIGHT HERE... is where the product of our love is missing. right everywhere.

    i wanna throw a ten pound something at ten smaller somethings too, and watch them crash. sounds about right. and it's true, people want to see you smiling with a sombrero on your head. i would have burst into tears. seriously, that whole act's not even fun when your baby isn't dead.

    i'm so sorry, angie.

  17. I can really relate to the moving thing. I think it stems from some sort of PTSD for me... I really need to get away. Will it make it better, I have no idea, but I think we are going to move far away.

    Oh and my birthday is in early January too and while at this point in life I am just glad I safely made my arrival any day, any month I do think it has always come at a bad time. First, there was the after-holidays blur, then mono on my 13th birthday and exams for 11 years straight. Lovely. This year will be the first in the last 4 that I am not pregnant... and I have one living child to celebrate with.

  18. I feel ya, hon. And I'm doing it too. I mean moving away where no one knows me. Who knows how it will turn out but I figure 2010 can't be any worse really than 2009...

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  20. Oh Angie. What can I say but YES. It's not long til midnight here and I'm thinking about this last year. You, my dear, are a highlight. Thank you. x

  21. I have an incredibly hard time piecing together the last two years. I have to stop and think when someone asks how old I am and sometimes I don't even know what year it is. My mind has just sort of blurred everything together and although I know I am older and that I have a new son, I sometimes still think in my head that I am at the age I was before the shitstorm rained down on me. I'm hoping 2010 will bring some clarity and peace and most of all hope, to you and to all of us here in db land.

  22. Angie, everyone has already said anything that I wanted to write.

    You are amazing to me. Honestly our lives are ricer for having you in them.

    I hope that this New Year is filled with love and peace for you and your beautiful family.

    I just visited Still Life 365. Amazing, beautiful and just well there is not a word for it I guess.

    Thank you for everything you bring to our community. Thank you x

  23. You always capture things so beautifully. Wishing you a joyful 2010*


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