Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Just So You Know...

Yesterday I totally had to call bullshit on myself for this post.

I know.  After I got all these super nice comments and everything!

It was like suddenly I didn't believe a word of it.  Not worse?  Are you kidding me?  Of course my life is worse than it would-could-should have been.  Everything should be different!  It shouldn't be too much to ask.  All I want is my baby.

And I could sob on and on about it.  As I did last night.

Not better or worse?  Not divided into before and after?  Seriously?  Everything in my life is either before (when I was happy) or after (post December 2010).  It's like the fall of the fucking Roman Empire.  Everything in the ENTIRE WORLD happened before or after that shit.

I read somewhere a comment from a bereaved mother who said that if she were to make a movie of her life, she would have two completely different actresses play her.  One before her baby died, and one after.

In my movie, we would move from this:

to this:

Except less bad ass and more weepy and pathetic.  But you get the idea.

Anyway, my point is that on a good day, I really try to believe what I wrote.  And if I can't subscribe wholeheartedly to those ideas, I can at least feel like I'll get there eventually.

And on a bad day, I consider getting a neck tattoo of the F-word.  Might hamper my future employment prospects, but would adequately express my emotional response to the world on those bad days.

So I was thinking about how much I've really changed.  What is different now?  There's some fuzzy-wuzzy stuff about appreciating small things and not taking my family for granted and loving my husband more than I really would have thought possible.  I'm not saying those things aren't important, because they are.  But the fact is, I appreciated my family and loved my husband before Eliza died, too.  The two major changes are that I am way more anti-social, and my tolerance level for bullshit is significantly lower than it was.

That's why, when I assigned a peer review session in class one day and actually heard a student whisper, "This is bullshit," I didn't pretend I didn't hear him, or wait and write a comment on his worksheet, or send him an e-mail, or ask him to stay after class.  I stood up and said, "OK, [Student's Name].  You can take your things and leave."  I said it before I even thought about how I was going to react.  I just didn't have it in me to take that kind of crap.  So he took his things and left.  And wrote me an apologetic e-mail right away, trying to explain that a comment that sounded like a criticism of my assignment was actually a compliment on how great his peer's paper was, and how it didn't really need any revision.  Part of me was actually a little shocked that I kicked him out of class, but it wasn't that I was being ballsy or bad ass.  The point was, my life is hard enough.  I didn't need a student giving me any trouble.  I won't tolerate it.  I don't have the emotional energy for it.

As far as social stuff goes, I'm so picky and choosy about what kind of things I'm willing to attend.  I want to know who else will be there.  I hate meeting new people because I'm afraid they'll ask me if I have kids, so I was dreading the orientation at my new job.  The great thing about meeting academics is that they will ask about your research interests.  And the secret is that they don't want to know about your research interests--they want to talk about their research interests.  So it's not too hard to twist the conversation around and avoid "normal" topics entirely.

I want to avoid a big family gathering as long as possible, not because I don't want to see my family (any of them are welcome to visit, individually or in pairs) but because all I can think about is that Eliza should be there for [insert holiday or family function] and she's not here and I just don't want to be part of it without her. I've only gone to one of David's ball games because I don't want to be the wife who's there without kids.  I don't want their pity and I don't want to pretend I'm okay, either.

This summer, a colleague of mine asked if I wanted to grab lunch or coffee to talk with him about a course he was teaching.  It was one I'd taught before so he wanted to ask me about it, I guess.  This colleague and I are not close friends.  He did not send me a sympathy card when Eliza died (But who's keeping track?  Oh, that's right.  I am.).  He's a perfectly nice guy, I suppose.  But last time I talked to him, his wife was pregnant.  And the truth was, I had no desire to meet with him and talk about the class and also make awkward small talk.  Before Eliza, I would have met with him out of a sense of obligation or collegiality or something.  But now I'm doing what it takes to get through the day.  So I sent him a polite e-mail saying I was too busy, and I attached some course material for him to use if he wanted.

Before Eliza died, I talked on the phone a lot.  My best friend and I talked at least once a week, maybe twice a week.  Now, I almost never make phone calls, unless I'm calling David or my mom.  Seriously.  I don't call anyone.  I wait for my friends to call me if they want to, because I feel like I have nothing new to say.  It sucks because it means I miss out on lots of stuff, and I rely on my friends to always make the effort to reach out to me, which I realize is an unfair burden.  But right now it's still an effort for me to answer the phone and have a normal conversation.  Even with my BEST friends.  So that happens...  maybe every couple of weeks?  Initiating that conversation is usually beyond the scope of my emotional energy.  And if I don't hear from them, I tell myselves they're very busy, but a part of me always thinks "Omg they don't want to talk to me because everything has changed and now I am different/sad/boring/scary/lame/awkward/jealous/bitter."  I hate being that person, but I can't get around it some days.

Every day I have to make an effort to live in this "new normal" and not fall apart.  I have to make an effort to find the good, or to seek it out.  Making plans requires forethought and effort and a level of energy that I'm using to just get through the day.  So if someone else doesn't do it, it doesn't get done.  Weekends that used to be filled with seeing friends now loom empty since I assume those friends are either getting together for baby playdates or going out of town to visit doting grandparents or maybe they're just hanging out with their babies but are afraid to invite us over?  Sometimes I don't want to hear about what people are doing because it's just another reminder of what we'd be doing if Eliza were here.  I have trouble accepting invitations in advance, so I make a lot of "game time" decisions, which I'm sure is annoying.  Want to do something Friday?  I'm not sure.  Let me get back to you on Friday.

So I try to make small plans for the two of us to look forward to--a movie matinee on Saturday.  A DVRed episode of True Blood.  An out of town concert.  A shopping trip with my cousin.  An art fair (that we may decide not to go to at the last minute because what if there are just too goddamn many strollers?).  I keep myself busy with projects and errands because usually I need something more to do than watch reruns of 90210.  Except sometimes I'm so wiped out that the Dylan-Kelly-Brenda love triangle circa 1996 is the only thing my brain can handle.

So what I'm saying is, I guess I'm not always doing so well at absorbing and accommodating this great loss.  I'm doing what it takes to survive, and most of the time I feel like I am doing pretty well, all things considered.  But even if I can get away from thinking about life as better or worse, I almost always wish it were different.

I just really miss her, and everything my life would be if she were here with us.


  1. A big fat HUG to you. I know exactly what you mean. I'll bet you meant every word of what you were typing yesterday while you were typing it, and then just after, something happened that brought Eliza back and the sadness back, and you didn't mean a word of it anymore. I get the same thing sometimes when someone really asks me how I'm doing (and I can tell they want the real goods) and I tell them that I am doing really well, and that the good times last longer, and the tears are fewer, and blah blah blah. Then something happens that re-opens the wound and I want to call that person back and say "Scratch what I said before. I'm awful. Still so sad. Furious. Still in shock. Whatever. I'm just not okay."
    We get it. I understand the bipolarity of our grief.
    Again, big hugs to you.

    Remembering Eliza with you.


  2. I just want to know what you google searched to get that sweet second photo. ;)

    I hate the phone. Loathe. I actually pray it doesn't ring because I won't have the energy or interest to talk to anyone. They have to be very blatant with me if they want to share. What a jerk.

    My cousin who lives in Chicago just got engaged and the very first thing I thought of was how I hoped that I had a living child by the time they tie the knot. Please, oh please. Because I would maybe feel a hair less awkward about being social and normal and around people. Selfish. But so honest.

    Baby loss makes us really ugly people. Sure, it will make me love more fiercely and all that garbage, but again... I thought I was loving pretty well before.

    I hear ya, friend.

  3. Oh I know. The roller coaster just sucks.

    I kicked several kids out last year too- three at once- luckily teaching at an alternative school that wasn't unheard of.

    I wish Eliza was here, too.

    And it's okay to avoid people/places/things. You won't need to avoid them forever, probably, but right now take care of yourself, first.

  4. As someone who used to talk all through accounting class (and have the marks to show this... ha), I can tell you that guy will NEVER do that again. Nor will his peers, if they have any intelligence about them. Dr T is for serious (are you consider a doctor? BC if I were, my signature would be DOCTOR McCannell! ha.

    Anyway, it's all ups and downs, as far as I can see it. Somedays, I'm optimistic about the future and I can't wait to see what is in store for me... What my future kids will be like, what kind of dad Scott will be when faced with a tricky kid... Then other days I'd trade all my happiness in the future for just him (most days, to be honest), for just one more day.

    Eliza is lucky to have a mom like you. True story.

    Ps. That's the chick from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, yes? That movie scared me.. I found it extremely disturbing and I hate to think that much evil exists in the world. barf.

  5. I freaking love you.

    "He did not send me a sympathy card when Eliza died (But who's keeping track? Oh, that's right. I am.)."

    Ha. me too. And if I can't recall if someone sent one (even though I know), I run to my stack and double-check before I act ugly to them. hahahahahahahahah

  6. Yup.

    I nodded along through this post (and then felt super famous because it was ME who wanted to be played by two different actresses in the movie of my life...).

    I also have a post titled "Oh Who the Fuck Are We Kidding" on my blog, much in the same theme as this...I feel like a fraud sometimes, thinking I'm doing better or making more sense of this loss than I actually am.

    I was talking with another BLM, who is farther down the road than me by a few years, and she reminded me that its okay (and expected) to be a total and complete walking contradiction after a loss like ours. Where things seem to make sense or like I've found a sense of peace at one point and five seconds later I am convinced that my life is permanently and forever and completely fucked by the magnitude of this loss.

    And, well, yes, to everything else you say. Most of my friends have been pretty good about giving me a pass about needing to be a last minute game-changing-plan-maker. Those who haven't can SUCK IT.

    And I too remember everyone that made a gesture after Otis died. Or, rather, I remember everyone that DIDN'T.


  7. I actually remember seeing a movie in film studies class -- Luis Bunuel, I think? -- where two actresses played the same role -- one was the sex kitten & the other was "don't touch me." I didn't even pick up on it until the class discussion later (duh). That would be fascinating to do the same thing from the DBM perspective.

    I hear you -- even now, years later, it sometimes takes real effort to put myself out there. I CAN do it. But it still takes a lot out of me sometimes, especially something like a baby shower or 1st birthday party. It seems like I can only endure for so long, and then I'm done, get me out of here.

  8. Yes to it all, Brooke. This just sums up the roller coaster that babyloss is so perfectly. One day we can look at our loss and be all sunshine and unicorns and the next day, we just want to curl up in a ball and never go outside again. This pattern will continue to repeat for the months ahead, but somehow it becomes less intense.
    Yes, yes, yes to all of this. The phone, the keeping track, the making game day decisions and the not wanting pity but not wanting to fake being ok, either. All of it. You really nailed it.

  9. Welcome to the roller coaster ride my friend! That statement is not meant to sound chipper. It's nonchalant coming from darkened lips. I do love the photo representation. I would have gone from Rose McGowan to Noomi. If it were to make you feel any better you pretty much just wrote my everyday experience. Most days I feel as though I am just floating through life waiting to see what's going to happen next. Thinking of you and Eliza~

  10. I was just talking to someone who has recently lost her sister about the whole before and after thing. That certain things that happen create this phenomenon.

    Grief is such a roller coaster, so forgive yourself for feeling one way today and another way tomorrow. It's the nature of the beast I'm afraid.

  11. I TOTALLY keep track of who sent cards/called/texted/acted like they freaking care that my son died. I'm so there with you. (And I'm LMAO at Molly going to check her stack before she acts ugly! HA!!!!!)

    I completely agree about the before and after thing. BA (Before Aiden)/AA (After Aiden) should be how I label things in my life.

    I'm not as fun as I used to be, I cry a lot, I'm probably not a great friend (ok I know I'm not a great friend), I get really quiet for no reason, things don't matter to me that much any more- people do but not things. I totally get why friends aren't around as much but it still sucks to know that people aren't there for you.

    Totally ok to contradict yourself. We get that right- the right to change our minds every 8 seconds about how we feel in this moment. Everyone can just get over it.

    I wish Eliza was here too....xoxo

  12. Yes, to this entire post. All of it resonates so clearly with me: the roller coaster, the phone phobia, the going out worries, the avoidance of big family events.

    Don't worry about contradicting yourself. Contradiction is absolutely okay in this world as one day can be fine and the next absolute misery.

  13. Sometimes it's nice to try and convince ourselves we're doing a whole bunch better. Then you get flashbacks and you realize "shoving down" and "getting better" are probably 2 different things.
    Thinking of the 3 of you.

  14. It's very strange how, one moment, I can have everything neatly arranged in my mind and feel that, somehow, this just might all make some kind of sense. And then, the next moment, it all falls down and looks like a terribly sad mess.One that would necessitate getting a neck tattoo of the F-word. But I think both versions can co-exist alongside one another. I don't think that this post is any more or less valid than the previous one that you've referenced. I know I've felt and believed both points of view equally fervently. Sometimes within 24 hours!

    I found myself nodding along to so much of this post. I still don't particularly like talking on the phone for the reason that you've articulated, that people don't want to talk to me any more. Difficult one to get round.

    Thinking of you and Eliza xo

  15. Wow I was just in the process of writing a post along the same lines as this. I couldn't sum up all this craziness as nearly as well as you did though.

    I hate that time just keeps going by but it isn't gettting any easier, that's for sure. I am just tired of being tired. And like you said even some days answering the phone and having conversations with good friends is tough. Sometimes I really hate this person I have become:(

    Thinking of you and Eliza always..

  16. Seriously in the same mind set!
    I have always been kind of shy so being social took work, but now it is impossible. When I am with friends silences seem a million times more awkward, that is if I can even get the gumption to even be with a group of friends. Dread it!

    I used to be pretty easy going before...not so much now. I have little patience for BS and my tolerance for those who love to dish it is nil. Actually, that kind of started when I was pregnant, but even more so now.

    I figure I am who I am now, take it or leave it. Thankfully the people I care about most take me as is and only a few decided to leave it (me).

    My new favorite quote I love and hate at the same time..."it is what it is."

  17. I understand. Hang in there, sister.

  18. Ugh. I hate when I comment and the Internets eats it. : (

    I just want to say that this post really resonated with me. I have days where I think, wow, the people reading my blog are going to think I am absolutely insane. I contradict myself constantly. One day I'm posting about feeling peace and acceptance, looking for some sort of silver lining, not letting the loss define me. Then the next day I'm posting about how I wish I'd never been born, that I'll never be happy again, that this dark cloud will forever follow me. I feel like a hypocrite, but I always try and write what's in my heart, and I can tell you do the same, Brooke. It's all the ups and downs on this journey that leave us all over the place and feeling scattered, inconsistent.

    I think it's so totally normal. Or else, we're all nuts. ~Lindsay

  19. I love when I have a few of your blogs to catch up on because they are all so fabulous - this one is no different. Just want to say "ditto"