Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Living in the Alternate Universe *explicit*

A couple of things have happened to us individually lately that made me realize that people we've known for a while have lost patience with us.  I get it.  I really do.  We're not who we were.  What that means is the relationship some of you have had with us has changed as well.  Maybe it's altered a little, maybe it's changed altogether, but it's different.  How different depends on a number of factors that varies depending upon which of us you know and what your relationship with us was before June 20, 2009.  About the only thing I can say for sure is that if you're hanging around waiting for things to return to "normal" it never will.  You have to decide how you deal with that.  And if that means you need to walk away, that's okay, just speaking for myself.  Friendship, I am aware, is a two-way street.  If you're not getting what you need from it, then, by all means, go find what you need.  If I irritate you, and my vaguely volatile mood swings keep you on guard, tell me that.  I'll probably remind you that I was always pretty annoying frankly, but I appreciate the feedback.  If I continue to irritate you to the point where you just can't stand it anymore, I will accept you need to sever the relationship.  Just please do it a little more quietly and less hurtfully than what happened to me today, but, by all means, do what you have to do for your own sake.  But, if you're trying to hang in there, just pondering why, after more than a year, we're not "over it", then let me try and explain.  You can decide what to do with that information.

For those of you looking in from the outside, our loss seems like a long time ago.  A lot has happened in the intervening months: the BP oil disaster, the debate over health care, the deepening of the recession that many are calling a depression, an increasing schism between progressives and social conservatives, people wanting to burn books, the Saints winning their first Super Bowl, certain jerks assaulting drunk college co-eds in bathrooms and getting their dumb butts suspended for four games.  Our small family drama seems like it happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.  But, for our little family, the reverse is true.  All these overwhelming world events seem like so much chatter over the ever present roar of the fact that we lost a critical member of our family.  I once described the feeling to my grief counselor as though I were a character in a science fiction movie I had seen when I was a girl.  In the movie, an astronaut had traveled to the other side of the sun and found himself in an alternate world.  Things looked mostly the same, but there were subtle differences.  A more timely and easily recognizable reference is the current show Fringe.  Think about the two Walters or the two Olivias.  It's a bit like that.  I awoke one day and found myself in a world that seems much the same, but isn't quite right.  My world experience is now different and therefore I am too.  I react to things just a bit differently.  If you look at me, you see the same person you saw before, maybe older looking, but recognizable.  I still love the Steelers.  I still love Rush.  I still have a cougar crush on David Cook.  But, everything I do now is cast in a vaguely different light.  Much the same is true for Marissa I think.  Maybe more so for Greg.  Marissa and I soldier on somehow.  She shows up for class and gets good grades, I go to work everyday and pay our bills.  Marissa worries over the grandparents of her boyfriend as their health declines rapidly, we travel and seek out new experiences, and we think about our future.  But there's never a moment that what is missing right now is off our minds.  Everything we do is colored in the hue of loss.  For us, it hasn't been that long.  Not at all.

I remember a woman who lived in the building where I worked as the assistant manager in my early 20's.  My boss cautioned me to be careful around her because she had lost her daughter to toxic shock syndrome and was a bit sensitive.  I had occasion to be in her apartment one day and saw a picture of the daughter.  It was in black and white, clearly at least 20 years old by the flipped hair and mock turtle neck sweater and pearls the young woman in the slightly faded picture was wearing.  I was, as I had been cautioned, always patient with the woman, who could be highly irritating, but I wondered what the fuss was about, frankly, as she clearly had sufficient time to recover from even such a heavy loss.  Now, if I could meet my younger self, I'd have to slap me for my callousness.  But, I need to also remember what my own experiences were at the time.  How could I possibly understand?  I couldn't.

The work we have to do, or anyone who has suffered a traumatic loss must do, is to make peace with our new world and how we now fit into it.  How long that will take is going to depend a lot on us as individuals.  To a certain extent, it will depend on our support system.  But, what we have to realize is that our friends and co-workers cannot know the hurt we feel, and I, for one, hope they never have occasion to know.  In the meantime, they suffer their own stresses and worries and need support that they once got from us.  Life didn't stop for others because we had this horrible thing happen to us.  We need to understand that.  But, what I would plead in return is just because you once could say or do something to me and garner a specific reaction doesn't mean you will get the same thing from me now.  I am trying to figure this new me out.   I don't even know her yet.  Please accept that even if you don't understand it.

I don't mean to be overly maudlin, but this is what I wrestle with in trying to put all of this in perspective:  I carried a child inside me for nine months and all that entailed, went through labor for nine intense hours, I nursed my baby, rocked her to U2 and the Moody Blues to ease her colic, I took her to the doctor for her shots, I comforted her when she cried, I read to her, I convinced her there really was a Santa Claus and it was okay to believe in him when the Baptist neighbor two doors down told her she was going to hell because she did.  I fought The Beast for nine long years to try and save her and give her a chance at a life.  Then I placed what was left her of her on a shelf in an urn no bigger than a gallon of milk.  I will not ever be who I was in the wake of that.  Neither will Marissa.  Neither will Greg.  And you want me to get over it?  Fuck you.


  1. Did someone actually say "Get Over It."?!? Did someone even ALLUDE to that? Does the person have any brain in their head or heart in their chest?

    I could never claim to know the hole in your heart, but what I can tell you is what I feel when I let my brain go to a place where there might ever be a world without my little dude when I'm still in it: a pain so deep that I really cannot even let my head stay there long. Just TYPING that made my eyes tear up.

    The only thing I can think is that person is not a parent...

    My husband lost his brother over 10 years ago, and the reverberations of that day still hit home on a regular basis (today to be honest).

    You be you and kick and scream and cry...or not at all...but you don't ever have to "get over it," and no one with half a brain or a sliver of a heart should ever expect it.

    Fuck em is right.

  2. I heart you Cheryl! I was sitting over in my lonely cube and heard them when they said it to you... and I am very, very sorry!

  3. Cheryl, you never ever have to explain to anyone the pain and agony you and your family are suffering. For anyone to be insensitive enrages me and I don't even know the person probably. We are not here to judge one another and the older I get the more I understand how deeply pain and loss can effect each of us in unique ways. My own sister lost a beautiful, talented daughter to suicide over 10 years ago and it is still as if it occurred yesterday. The pain and memories never leave us -- they merely recede behind other experiences. We should never forget anyone we love, especially a child and the thought that anyone had the audacity to tell you to get over it incenses me to no end!!! That person is not a true friend -- don't ever forget that. Though we have not seen each other in many years I will never ever forget you and how much I always enjoyed being around you and Greg. I am proud to call you my friend.