“One for A SOLITARY MAN”

It’s true – I went to the movies last night and saw, A SOLITARY MAN,…  by myself. Bada bum.

I go every week, it’s something Susan does for me. Yeah, she’s pretty great.

Speaking of Susan, she just posted on our blog with a beautiful discussion/essay on sympathy and time. It was a fascinating read for me. To wonder and think and progress? toward something positive – in my grieving process in relation to my interactions with others…   hmm… well — as a topic – it just barely exists for me.

I am more or less conscious of who knows about Will and Tiger in my life – and I make an effort to mention them to those that don’t. Also, when mentioning them is a natural part of conversation, I try not to miss the chance to say their names (or refer to them). For instance, the other day at work, I went out for a team lunch. Simple enough. We made all the necessary small talk with a smidge of work stuff to assuage the guilt for the free lunch and fill the voids in conversation. We’re not really friends — they’re co-workers — if we’re not talking about work, there tends to be a fair amount of silence. Anyway, it came up about how I was running the Brooklyn half-marathon that weekend (I wasn’t bragging trust me- I am very humble, and not at all vain, in many ways I’m sort of a perfect human being, so I never brag). Okay, so, it came up, I don’t know how. and someone turns to me and asks, “why do you run rather than sit on the couch?” (because isn’t sitting on the couch more comfortable) – It was a joke – it was light. My response? The truth, I just said it, “Running helps me deal with trauma.” WHAM! Translation: “hey everyone – don’t forget – I had two sons die! Are you gonna eat those fries? Have you ever seen a dead baby? How dare you make small talk while I’m sitting here suffering! Ketchup, please.”

But here’s the thing, and – I have to qualify this by saying – maybe I haven’t thought about this enough – but — what I was thinking last night in that (really pretty bad) movie with Michael Douglass was. I feel so alone in my grief. For me – it is a solitary place. I don’t invite people there. I feel the need to honor my sons – and to be honest in my interactions with people – but – for the most part – everyone is entitled to a little sneak peek now and then – the rest of the time – forget it. This is my pain, my thing, when I think about Will and Tiger – it’s not that I want to keep it to myself – it’s more that I don’t think of anyone else – no one else exists.

Special, longer looks, are reserved for Susan. (or evidently -members of the Pregnancy Loss Support Group. I’m still shocked by my behavior there).

I don’t know. I don’t even know my point – I feel lonely I guess – I feel like the loss of Will and Tiger – their absence — this pain — my inability to include anyone else in it — has pushed me away from people (as if they weren’t far enough already).

Somehow – in spite of everything I’ve said – when I was at the table with a group of parents that have been through the same thing – and the time was set aside to talk about our children and loss — I don’t know — it opened me up. I felt like I was really with people.

Unfortunately, the Pregnancy Loss Support Group program lasted 6 weeks. Hmm – what to do with the rest of my life?

This post is so unclear and sloppy — there’s a writer’s voice inside me screaming bloody murder right now – oh well – he can get in line.

the tiredness of sympathy

In An Exact Replica of a Figment of my Imagination Elizabeth McCracken, in talking about the long healing process of grief says, “Grief lasts longer than sympathy, which is one of the tragedies of the grieving.”

I wouldn’t want the same sympathy that we got right after Tiger died. The difficulty of what Elizabeth says for me is when patience runs out- when your hour or month or year of grieving is perceptually over for some. OR when where you actually are in your grief is not considered and then it’s all a throw back to the first raw days. A friend said recently, when trying to demonstrate understanding, “How do you do it Susan? Your whole life has been consumed with sorrow for over 4 years. First Will then…..” and proceeded to tell me my whole story. Wow. I don’t think I was ‘consumed’. People do the best that they can. Ashe (and so it is). In my community, outside of work, I am ‘the woman who lost two babies’. I see it in people’s eyes- much of this is kindness with a lingering fear and often a dash of discomfort. I get that. It’s tiring- being the receiver of that, and still it makes me feel very human, very alive. When I am in a group of new people, who do not know my story there is a strange dichotomy of relief at remembering the me before tragedy and a feeling that I’m a fraud- that I am simply not the person that they see standing before them… Because my boys are here… they just are invisible. And it doesn’t feel right to hide and ignore children.

I could tell the stories of my boys at any moment if asked. No one asks that- why would they? how could they? Last Friday night I did tell a friend, who did not know me when Will was born, the story of Will’s birth and short life and death. He  wanted to hear and was a real active listener. I can’t begin to tell you how satisfying and important this was to me. In the winter I was at a morning ‘open school’ in my daughter’s classroom with other parents. One mother and I got to talking about maternal age and kids…. it just got to a point where I had to say it…. I had to acknowledge my boys and tell this poor woman. I’m so sorry that this mom was a victim of my grief because she was ill prepared to hear this news from an acquaintance, in a kindergarten classroom no less. And so from these two experiences I realize that none of this actually is about the staying power of sympathy but instead the ability to be present for another- to carry sympathy (loving kindness in Buddhist speak) with you for everyone. Also for me, holding your grief in a way that allows you to recognize those who can hear and be present.

I don’t ask for long term sympathy really. I just like my boys to be known. I don’t enjoy saying I have one daughter and a step son- which I do mostly say because it is what is appropriate and comfortable for others. I say ‘mostly’ because I’ve learned to be honest in moments and understand that everything isn’t always comfortable. My dear friend Janine has said of tightrope walking that for her, it is about learning to be okay with being unbalanced. I’m learning to be okay with discomfort- mine and others- when discomfort is the truer moment.

Congratulations

When I came into work yesterday Marlon was back.

He had missed a few days as he and his wife had their beautiful baby boy. (I forget his name)

Everyone was gathered around the pictures — I did my best. “He’s so cute.” Actually, I think I did alright — Even did my usual bit about, “who’s the father?”

Fathers always offer a polite laugh at that. There must be something that compels me to say the same stupid joke every time I see a newborn. – Someone must have  laughed at it once. Now I’m like the skateboarder who just keeps trying the trick over and over and I’m totally shocked when I fail to land it. Surely those guys must have landed this totally awesome, kick-ass move once in their lives. – Now, like me – unable to let it go – they look like idiots over and over.

Whatever – so I wasn’t funny – at least I looked – at least I offered something for everyone to laugh politely about — instead of saying, “wow, he lived – that’s shocking — it’s a lot like the opposite of what happened with Will and Tiger.”