Wednesday, November 16, 2011

another post where i kill a metaphor by slow torture

I feel like I am the precipice of major change in my life. I read the cards, lay them out, one right after the other. Something has to give, but I feel paralyzed by something like too many choices. It's a first world problem. In my card layout, there is beauty and fear in the middle of sticks and wands and cups and...Grounding, that is what I wanted early on. Some ground beneath my feet. My life restarted after Lucia died. I can't integrate that person I was with the person I am now. It's not even that I want to, but in my mind's eye, there is a line. A deep line. I can see it. That line reminds me of the line in the sand that Bugs Bunny draws for Yosemite Sam.

I feel like I am falling. I dared myself to cross a line into the air. I threw myself into the abyss. It was all I knew, now I am searching for grounding.

I was someone else.

I sometimes like that someone else. I mean, frequently, I liked her. It took me many years to like her, despite the teenage angst and the anger I once held. She was ignorant and oblivious, but she was trying to find something resembling serenity. She searched and studied sacred texts, meditated on red rocks barefoot. She shaved her head, and wore beads, and she liked people. I'm not sure how I feel about me now. I don't like me or not like me. I just am a deeply flawed person who is trying to do the next right thing. Before I was a deeply right person doing the next flawed thing. I can see that clearly now, but I still liked her earnestness.

After my daughter died, the easiest part for me was that she died. I could wrap my brain around that. Death happens. It was a medical fact. She was not breathing. Her heart stopped. I understand science in that way.

I engaged in magical thinking, willing her back, praying for something like Lucia in a sunspot or a ladybug or just a sense of peace around me, bartering with God, the gods, the universe, anyone that would listen. No one took my trade, and to be honest, I wouldn't have believed them if they did. It took a long time to realize I couldn't wish her back, or pray her back, or find peace in her gone, but when I did realize it, there was a peace in that realization. Conversely, the hardest part was being so far from my spiritual and moral principles. To be so angry and sad that I could not be the best me, I could only be the angry and sad me. To know it and not be able to change it. To work so hard at being honest and kind with friends and family about where I was, but still hurting them in the process. Yesterday, the Dalai Lama's status update was "Many people think that patience is a sign of weakness. I think this is a mistake. It is anger that is a sign of weakness, whereas patience is a sign of strength."

I never thought patience was a sign of weakness, I just couldn't be patient. And I knew it was weak to be angry. And that heaped shame and guilt and all the other crap that makes us feel worse on top of me. I was anger personified. Daughter-death is a justifiable anger, I thought, I still think. All the anger I swallowed for years while I endured humiliations and heartbreaks, it all came up again when the doctor said my daughter's heart had stopped.


I was being as patient as possible. Pain is the touchstone of spiritual growth. I hear that a lot these days. I think it is true, but it was a resentful petty growth in the beginning.

Fine. I'll grow. But I won't like it. 

I only grew in the way I wanted, toward the other babylost people I met. They received my patience, but no one else. Another line I drew, I suppose. I don't resent it anymore, the growth that came after my daughter's death, it just came much much later than I initially thought. In the early months, I was able to see through this dimension. I saw all the death around me, the suffering of people. I couldn't see the normal people going about their business. The funeral homes on every corner were lit from behind, beckoning me to look more closely at the suffering and the death. People hold grief in their shoulders, in the bags under their eyes. They hold it in their haunches which slow them down. I could see it hanging on them. And that, I thought, was my growth, the seeing and empathy part. Maybe it was, but I had no tolerance for the unsuffering amongst us. And even though I could see it, I drew a line in the sand, and said, "I dare ya to cross this line."

Someone said to me a few weeks ago, "Do you want to be right or happy?" And that is where I am now, trying to choose happy, even though right now, I am not happy. I am saying all this because I have to live with the consequences of drawing lines in the sand, keeping people at arm's length, of being a flawed creature succumbing to the demands of grief on a daily basis. There was room for understanding, but I chose to ignore it, instead choosing to dwell in a rickety cabin alone on the edges of the wilderness writing manifestos about grief. When people made mistakes in my grief, I graciously told them that I needed space and never came back. I suppose I didn't even draw the line. The line cast by my daughter's death was a ravine, long and deep with rabid weasels in its basin. Maybe I am just slowly filling that line, trying to rebuild the gap between who I once was and who I am.


  1. Oh, Angie. I relate so much to this post. Because I was angry. Very fucking angry. And I wasn't afraid to show it, hurl it upon people I loved, throw it in the faces of anyone who dared to make sense of Sam's death, but mostly, I was angry with myself. It was, by far, the strongest reaction I had to his death. And it took so long to subside. I carried so much hatred with me for such a long time, it just became, well, tiring. But the collateral damage that was left behind made some relationships broken. My father was the only one who could take my rage, sit with it, and just be patient and for that, I`m grateful. I don`t blame the others for not being able to do the same, I don`t know if I could do it either.

    I am just trying to forgive myself. For his death. For my bad behaviour. For everything. I have accepted he is dead and there`s not a damn thing I can do about it.

    Thanks for this post. Be gentle with yourself, Angie.

  2. Angie, thanks for this post. This line was beautiful, "I just am a deeply flawed person who is trying to do the next right thing. Before I was a deeply right person doing the next flawed thing."

    I'm sorry you're feeling the weight of those early decisions so heavily now. I think this should be required reading for newbies.

    Love and peace to you.

  3. Read you earlier today and as usual, loved it. You don't guess, but you are kind of a legend around our house. When I mention, "Angie said," my husband doesn't follow with "Still Life Angie?" any more. He knows.

    What stands out, maybe most, is the "Angie Ideas" that help so many express themselves in ways that would be missed. From "Right Where I Am" to the recent video posts, you advance depth, creation, immediacy, community. Thank you.

    I wondered if you would expand on some questions that surfaced about today's post?

    What *should* make us angry in life? Anything? I can't settle in with the idea that "nothing" is a reliable answer, or that anger always = weakness. I don't think you would say that, either - wondered what your thoughts are?

    What is the patience for? As in, what are we waiting for? Patience without an object doesn't seem like patience; more like denial. What about when the "patience advocates" are actually trying to deny the reality of suffering? Or is that the goal?

    I hope you don't mind questions. Your posts always make me think and that's very welcome.

    This is so right on:

    "I just am a deeply flawed person who is trying to do the next right thing. Before I was a deeply right person doing the next flawed thing. I can see that clearly now, but I still liked her earnestness."

    Likewise, and thankful,

    Cathy in Missouri

  4. Thanks for this post, Angie. I am still laughing at the title, but I also think it's a good metaphor. I wish there was an easy way to fill or bridge the ravine, to feed and placate the weasels.

  5. I can so relate to this. I am drawing lines in the sand all over the place. I am often moments away from blowing up at somebody. I am Mrs. Hyde, disguised as Dr. Jekyll.

    This, right here - this is exactly how I feel: "Pain is the touchstone of spiritual growth. I hear that a lot these days. I think it is true, but it was a resentful petty growth in the beginning. Fine. I'll grow. But I won't like it."

    Thank you for taking the time to write this and share your feelings with us. It helps me process my own feelings. Hugs to you.

  6. I agree with Josh. Required reading for newbies.
    I remember you telling me once that I reminded you a lot of yourself in the beginning. I see a lot of myself in the way you describe your early days. I hope I can grow as you have. I want to most days. But some days I really hang on to this anger.
    My baby DIED damn it, and I feel I have a right to be angry. Right?

  7. Oh Lady how you speak my soul! I am in the process of drawing lines in the sand. I get tentative: do I draw the line, or not. Should I ostracize myself. I feel like people are damned if they do and damned if they don't because my daughter died, and nothing is good enough. NOTHING. is supposed to work right? isn't that why I speak to the moon, make wishes on stars, dandelion puffs, lucky dimes, and 11:11? UGH. I feel stupid and infantile for ever doing these things. Superstitious and naive. Oh and the anger, at the moon, at myself, at others. The anger seeps into the cracks around my heart not taken up by sadness. I feel like I have aged a million years in 4 months and not in a way that makes me wiser or an old soul. More of a crotchety, bitter, old bitch.
    THE TRADE: I would have sold my soul to the highest bidder for my daughter to have lived. Where is Rumpelstiltskin when you need him?
    GROWTH? Ha! When is it that I am supposed to turn into mother Teresa? I feel like a kinder person with a bipolar side that is scary to the point of nullifying the good it presents.
    There was a woman who came to yoga the other night. She had a name and date of a girl tattooed on her shoulder. After class I asked her about her tattoo. It turned out to be her 2 year old living niece. I feel really fucked up that I was hoping that her daughter had died to. slightly disappointed that I didn't find a real life connection with this woman over our dead daughters. YEAH CRAZY...I HAVE BECOME CRAZY.
    When you were having a bad day as written in your blog post "PICK ME UP" and I wrote: "Choose Happiness" because I am trying to do this. I succeed throughout the day but sometimes I fail. Not by choice but because I am broken. "The line cast by my daughter's death was a ravine, long and deep with rabid weasels in its basin." LOVE THIS LINE... it made me laugh because well...I've got one too, surrounds my heart like a moat.

  8. ". To be so angry and sad that I could not be the best me, I could only be the angry and sad me. To know it and not be able to change it." Yes - I am trying so hard not to be angry/sad me but I don't know what I need to do to not be her.

    Very powerful words, Angie. Thank you.

  9. brillant! Thank you for sharing this now. I am a BLM just over 6 months out from loosing my son Sam. I have drawn sooo many lines that I am terrified to remove. For me, they are a comfortable personal space. Not feeling these emotions or feeling "happy" is sooo scary to me and fills me with the threat of guilt.

  10. Wonderful writing, Angie.

    Here is my thought on this:

    We do the best we can (I like to think anyway) with what we know when we know it. It is a process; all of this learning how to live in our grief. I can't fault the me for the stupid shit I did and said in my early days of grief anymore than I can fault myself for being wrapped up in my innocence before my son died. We live in first person, not third person and we just don't know what we don't know.

  11. I agree with Brianna--we're all just doing our best. I wish, really, that I'd had the balls to draw some lines in the and back when they needed to be drawn. Instead I just made excuses for people and wrote their behaviors off as reactions to my own faults.

    But I understand angry. I'm still there. I wish you peace and gentleness, more than I have for my own self.

  12. Drew a lot of lines, burnt a lot of bridges. Some parts of me wishes I could rebuild those bridges, erase those lines. But I'm here now and I'm doing ok. And I know as others have said, I did the best I could at the time, in the most trying of fucking circumstances.
    Thanks for saying this so perfectly.

  13. I have this same I'm hovering just on the edge of something new. But I've arrived traveling from the opposite direction. A patient person learning to be angry.

    I think I burned most of my bridges with silence. People wanted to talk about R and I just wouldn't allow it. And there's something just as awful about avoiding the anger as unleashing it. I've been patient with myself and with others but it still doesn't make the basic facts of the situation any more palatable.

    Can't wait to hear what comes next for you.

  14. Your post today brings to mind Michelango's quote, "Ancora Imparo", "I am still learning". Attributed to him when he was in his 80's.

    Learning means trial and error. Trying and terror. It is very frightening, in some ways, to realize that we want add a new way to our life. To learn a different set of responses to how we love and care for ourselves and those around us. To judge ourselves as not good enough and then seek news ways, a new place in the larger scheme of things. This doesn't mean to judge ourselves as not good, as bad or wrong. We can be bad and wrong, obviously, but seeing that is often easier then seeing the not quite good enough. (Changing or acknowledging error is much tougher then seeing it .)

    Learning means practice. Learning means hugging it to yourself or shouting in the street when you get it right. Learning means screwing up the whole problem because you transposed two emotions at the beginning. Learning means sitting in a dark closet crying because you are never, never, never going to get it right. Learning is suddenly realizing the you have done the first six steps right 10 times in a row. Learning means you do it differently then your teacher, but it still works.
    You get the point.

    All honor to you, in your learning.



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