Sunday, February 3, 2013

blogoversary

I cut and pasted my entire blog into Word. Just the cutting and pasting part took a half an hour or so. When I was done, I saved it, and an error popped up. "This document has too many spelling and grammatical errors to display properly. Use the spell check feature to rectify." Or something like that. It was 765 pages long, single spaced with one inch margins. That first year, I could have written fifteen posts a day. I would write them, then save them as drafts. I published nearly every day. I often wrote, then did my duties as a babyloss clicker for Mel's Lost and Found Connections Abound, which meant that I read all the blogs on the blogroll everyday, leaving comments, sending stories to LFCA. That is how I met HereWeGoAJen and I adore her to bits.

I've published 464 posts and 82 unpublished pieces that will probably never see the light of day. still life with circles has documented all of Thor's life, and most of Beezus' life and all of my grief. I began still life 365 as an idea here, and conducted many community projects, like Right Where I Am, and the Spoken Word round-ups. Jess helped me come up with the first community poem, which was started on this blog. I have answered a shitload of questions, and shared my struggles with alcoholism and recovery. I've shared my artwork here, and my Etsy shops, whatever their manifestations. I've talked about nearly everything in my life. I've lost friends after blog posts, and gained many through the comment section of this blog. This past year, I have played some cards closer to my chest, maybe the ones about school and career. Just because I want it to stick, and be in the midst of it, and besides it is all so new. I have to process before I can write about it. Grief hasn't been so demanding these days, and I don't always know how to blend all of these things in a graceful way. I've annoyingly opened up about my spirituality and my psychic experiences, and I know it has driven readers away.

In two weeks, it is my blogoversary--four years writing about grief and art and my family and me. It hasn't always been pretty, or well-written, or interesting, but it has been a kind of discipline in my personal writing that helped me believe I could write a novel or three, even though I haven't quite written three novels. Writing in this public way is so strange, humbling, scary, right-sizing, intimidating and liberation, self-centered, compassionate, supportive, strange. The best word is strange. I often start at nature, or whatever is around me, because I try to write even when I don't know what I'm going to say. And it grounds me in place. Certainly nothing profound is pounding in my head to come out. I just want to keep writing, the momentum of it, the discipline of it, the insistence of it...Write. Write. Write. Write. I pick oracle cards that say WRITE. I hear it from people constantly, "What are you writing?" Write, Angie.

Sometimes I wonder who is reading, yet write for nobody in particular. Does it matter? It doesn't, but I still wonder. Does everyone?  I wonder if anyone cares or relates to anything I write. I wonder where the conversation went, and if this space matters without readers. And yet, I know still life with circles has to change, because I am changing. And in the changing, I just have to write about what I know, which is not always grief.

When I write this is what is happening behind the scenes:
Everyone is in jammies. I drink coffee, and listen to the water gurgling. I stare out the window often, just trying to get inspiration. Thomas asks me to open squeezey yogurt or a granola bar every two minutes, and Beatrice paints piggies, and whatnot. I write and mother, and we laugh and they distract me best they can. I try to write a few times a week, just to still write, because parenting feels lonely some days, and writing makes my soul feel alive.

When the baby died in May, I doubted I could write again. I didn't think I could adequately describe the heartbreak and freedom I felt. Heartbreak at the end of my pregnancy days. Heartbreak at the death of our fourth child together. Heartbreak at the sadness of my children. Heartbreak that I won't shower another child with love and kisses and artwork and music and all of it. Heartbreak for my physical body which seemed so broken and damaged and diseased. Then the freedom to know that I am pouring my being back into my body now. Freedom in release from being a vessel for little beings to come into this world. Freedom in knowing that I am more than boobs and a uterus and warnings about jumping off of furniture and running in socks. Freedom to figure out what the last six years of pregnancy, mothering, wifing, grief, daughtering, sistering, losing, gaining, praying, releasing, resenting will mean. Who am I now? There is a freedom in the not quite knowing, but being sure you are someone better than before.

The part of me that wasn't lost in Lucia's death was drowned in bourbon. I pulled her on shore, and dried her off, and told her she is okay. Maybe even a decent human being. When the baby died in May, I didn't think about drinking, or resenting people. Each call that came in, each email soothed me in a way that I didn't allow when Lucia died. Back then, I just saw the words not said, the gestures not performed. I flush deeply at the thought of how broken I was even before Lucia died. How ill-equipped I was to deal with grief and parenting magnified under the lens of absolute destruction. This blog, beyond all the therapy and steps and talking to friends, this blog gave me the space to work through that, to articulate who I was in a way that helped me figure it out, to be a better person. Sometimes it was through a piece well-received, mostly it was through my mistakes, my hand-gnarling in early morning hours over a bitter blog post, and wanting to run away from my exposed skeletons and broken heart.

The single most important post I wrote here was Reasons. And it was a project I took upon myself during that time of my pregnancy with Thor that I felt most out of control. I wrote down each time I thought, "Don't do that--that is why Lucia died." I wrote them on napkins, in text messages to myself, in emails, in a notepad of my phone. I wrote it on the back of receipts, and on notebooks in my doctor's office.

Now, when I write, I sit at my art desk, light my desk altar candle and incense, I smudge the space, and stare at my inspiration board. It has paintings from Sky's mama, and Rachel and Amy, and Mother Henna, and my friend Saralee, and my daughter. The sacred images flood my heart, remind me of the sacred connection all of us grieving parents share. I have a deep gratitude for this space, for the people who send me emails after their babies die and tell me their story. I have a deep gratitude for all of you who sent me notes and emails after my miscarriage, for Lucia's anniversary, even though I am terrible about remembering anniversaries and birthdays. I have a deep gratitude for any comment. It reminds me that I am not alone, and neither are you.

It's been a long time since I have answered questions on this blog, but please if you have any about any topic, either personal, about some thing you think I might know about, alcoholism/recovery, religions (hey, help me use my major) or about a personal issue you have that you want advice about, post them here in the comment section or email me at uberangie(at)gmail(dot)com. I love questions, even if Brooke believes I do not write like Dear Sugar. (Still stung from that comment, Brooke! [I'm just joking. I have no delusions of writing grandeur.]) And the other part is that I have been feeling a deep need to do a tonglen mizuko jizo session to reconnect with my artwork and this community, so if you are interested in a mizuko jizo (free to anyone who asks, even if you have received one), please comment here, or send me an email at the above address. I usually charge $25 for them in my Etsy shop, but here they are free. You can read about mizuko jizo here. And then the other topic I wanted to bring up is this: How many people would be interested in another babyloss retreat? I did this in 2009. Comment here and let me know. I am just putting out feelers. Trying to figure out what kind of space I could find for us. (I'm based in Philadelphia, so I'm thinking an East Coast location.)

26 comments:

  1. I'm here, reading faithfully and always marveling at your openness. <3

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  2. You forgot to add to "now when I write...": the words come out so exquisitely that when a reader reaches the bottom of the post, she scrolls back up to the top to read again because she wants a little more time with it.

    Happy almost blogoversary. I am trying to think of a good question, but may need to chew on it for a bit today and then return :-)

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  3. Umm... I am totally aghast and at a loss at what comment I would have made that would have compared you to Dear Sugar and done so unfavorably. If anything, her writing REMINDS me you and what you have offered our community. My apologies if I articulated that unclearly!

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    1. You just said we were very different, and I have twisted it all up to tease you. Only love for you, Brooke. No resentment. I promise!

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  4. Hmm... I now see that the typo in the previous comment perhaps offers some hint at how such a miscommunication could have occurred... reminds me OF you, it should read.

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    1. I'm just teasing you. You never wrote that or even alluded to it. One Sugar is all the world needs!

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  5. I read in the early days, and here I am two years later still reading, still finding inspiration in almost every post you write. Wishing I knew someone like you IRL to go have coffee with on a regular basis

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    1. In real life she is just as amazing as her words are here. She has such a calming way about her, her Bea the same way, Thomas, impish silly and Jack a love bug and together they make this beautiful house of love. I haven't met the hubby yet, but he has to be fantastic to be part of their world:)

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    2. Thank you, my beautiful friend, for the lovely words. We miss you around here. Waiting for life to slow down, so we can catch up. xo

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  6. I have been reading our stuff here and on Glow since my daughter died in August. I appreciate that you seem so real. Thanks for sharing your life.
    I would LOVE a piece of your art. Thank you!

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    1. Awesome. Thank you, Steff, for your words. When you get a chance, email me at uberangie@gmail.com with your address. xo

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  7. Ang. Just the biggest love to you. I don't need a mizuko jizo as I have the most beautiful one here that you did for our Mizuko Star, but I wanted to just ask if you might say the boys' names when you do your next round of them. Love you so incredibly much. We are in the middle of moving back to Vashon Island, so I don't know what my finances, time, or ability to travel will be, but please put me on a list to get info if you do a retreat. If I could get there, I would. Congrats on the blogoversary! So glad you are here sharing your space with all of us. xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

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  8. My daughter was stillborn in August as well. A friend of mine who lost one of her twins pointed me your way. I've not read all of your posts, but I'm so appreciative of the ones that I have. You're able to put into words the complex layers of emotion our situations have brought us.

    I live on the East Coast as well and would be interested in a retreat. I've not found a lot of live-person support in my city, so it sounds nice. -E

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  9. I'm glad you included the link to the Reasons post today. I am 25 weeks pregnant after my second daughter died at 29 weeks, no apparent cause. I am writing lists in my head all the time, especially as I approach the time where she died. I think I will go back and read through the posts you wrote while pregnant with Thor. And I'll start keeping my own list and see if writing it down, getting it out of my stupid head, helps me, too. Thanks for writing all you do.

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  10. Oh dear... seeing my Mizuko on your photo (so close to the "We are connected" sign) made me teary eyed. Thanks for being present in my life, thanks for being my - our - friend. As far as retreats go: let me know what you're coming up with. I know I'm an oceans length away - but all I need is an excuse for a trip, hehe. Much love and happy blogoversary!! xoxo

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  11. I just went back and looked through the entire 365 archive. That was an amazing project, Ang. So special. I would totally come to a retreat, given enough notice - it would be good to find something I could spend my airmiles on!

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  12. I appreciate your writing style, honesty, and generous spirit. I am forever thankful that I found you talking about death and grieving in such a frank way when I could not find anyone in my real life who would, and I am thankful that you continue to write even as the grief changes shape in your life.

    I would very much treasure a mizuko jizo; I just moved into a new place and I have the perfect gallery wall now where I would hang it. xoxo

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  13. Angie,
    I feel very similar to you in this blog post. There are people who resent some things in my blog. There are friends I have gained through my blog. I wonder who writes and yet I also write for myself. I appreciate your blog too, and your honesty with who you are.

    I would also dearly love a mizuko jizo. Thank you for the offer. And I love the pic of your kids in the background of your blogging...it reminds me of my life, although I usually blog in the depths of the night when the tears can roll down my face as I write.

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  14. Just stopping by to offer congratulations on your blog-o-versary and all that you have accomplished over these four years and the lasting tribute you've built to Lucia, Michael, and the rest of your family.(and I'll put down a marker to pre-congratulate you for all of the astounding things you will do in the future).

    And a quick nod to the part of me that wishes this was a blog about wrangling four living, kiddos in the 'burbs of Jersey (even though I probably wouldn't read if that were the case).

    It's a mixed up world, no? Glad you're here to make some sense of it.

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  15. Happy Blogoversary to you! I love your posts and have been reading them since my son Lennon died in 2011. You help me to feel connected in a world that can be so cruel and so strange. I am thrilled at the idea of a retreat and would love to hear more about it. And I would also love love love to receive a mizuko jizo. I had my eye on one in your etsy shop a few months ago but when I finally committed to buying it someone beat me to it.

    Thank you for all you do and all you inspire us to do!

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  16. Love your blog and happy anniversary. :)

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  17. "Then the freedom to know that I am pouring my being back into my body now. Freedom in release from being a vessel for little beings to come into this world. Freedom in knowing that I am more than boobs and a uterus and warnings about jumping off of furniture and running in socks. Freedom to figure out what the last six years of pregnancy, mothering, wifing, grief, daughtering, sistering, losing, gaining, praying, releasing, resenting will mean."

    YES! Freedom from breakfastlunchdinnerbedtime controlling my life. I was frantic to have another baby for about a year after Nathaniel died, but once my husband agreed to trying, I started to wonder whether or not I needed another. I've been wrestling with the need for freedom and the desire for another teensy to care for. The desire to heal from my loss and the uncertainty that another baby was the right way to heal. The concept of freedom resonates with something right now - something I'm working to balance. Thanks for touching on it -

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  18. I want to thank for blogging so openly about your grief. From reading your blog, I'd like to think it has helped me to become a friend who knows how to listen, a doula who knows how to help, and a human who knows what not to say.

    Lucia has a very special place in my heart. I've been reading your blog since the very beginning -- I'm sorry I haven't commented more.

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  19. You're words are so meaningful and inspiring. I loved learning of Jizo. I would cherish one of your paintings. I would also be interested in hearing your plans for a retreat. Have you seen the documentary "Motherland"? Watching it made me realize how truly special the bond is that we have with other bereaved parents.

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What do you think?