Monday, April 21, 2008


I appreciate the feedback, really I do. I have not had a whole lot of quality, awake time to process what happened, and so my reaction was perhaps a bit muted given how I feel about things today. Generally this discussion reminded me of watching "Titanic." The first 2/3 of the movie were single-handedly some of the worst cinematic minutes I have endured in a theater. The acting and lines were so poor that I sank into my seat, alternately peeking through my hands as if watching some poor high school students earnestly try and make their way through "Grease" but really scarring themselves deeply for life, and looking at my watch. "When is this fucking boat gonna sink already?" And finally, reward: people shut up, and the movie switched into a true special effects masterpiece (where sadly, I was so emotionally detached from the poor people, that it was far more spectacular than horrific. Extremely cool how they make the bodies float like that with floes).

Friday's discussion was similar. The first 2/3 were an awkward nightmare that I was wishing I could teleport out of, with a bit of redemption at the end, but by that point I was pretty checked out emotionally and didn't care much about what was said beyond a pure analytical level.

What I'm now realizing about this discussion with mom up the block:

1) I'm increasingly annoyed that it didn't happen on my terms. That she wasn't patient enough to allow me to initiate this. I like the term anon commenter made: ambush. I was no where remotely near a good place to have that discussion, and I don't think it was fair that the time was chosen for me. But none of this is "fair," is it.

2) You're all right, she unloaded HER stuff. HER woe. HER fears. HER version. Looking back I realize that 15 seconds into this discussion, the air left me like a balloon, and I didn't care. I just flat out didn't care. I'm tired of this. It's happened before you know, people usurping my grief into their own angst, just never right in front of my face like this. I feel like taking out a billboard not just for me but for all deadbaby mamas to the effect of:


I just don't. I spend a morning every two weeks loading my trunk with luggage and unpacking it at my therapist's office, and while I no longer drag along steamer trunks, there are still plenty of hat boxes left to pick apart. To be "angry at you for the loss of my daughter" requires some manipulation and mental gymnastics that my poor wee brain simply can't envision. I have a whole lot of other shit to wade through before I decide to direct my anger elsewhere. Like, what exactly to be angry about for starts.

3) As to point (2), I'm tired of worrying, caring, and being put in the position to recognize, validate, and apologize for other people's feelings towards me and my personal tragedy. My mom is one of those people that needs a fair amount of, how to say this, emotional reassurance that she's doing something meaningful. My wedding day, for instance, entailed me having to make sure SHE was ok when frankly I thought everyone was supposed to be worried about me. Good thing I don't care much about weddings to begin with. And I caught some glimpses of this in the days right after Maddy died, and it was a big reason I didn't speak to her for three months following because I couldn't handle that, too. I needed to deal with me, and I did not have enough emotional energy left over to prop her up too.

But you know? When I finally ventured out there, eyes rolling, "here we go," she was fine. She's been nothing short of terrific. The REST of the family has gone up in flames and stupid people abound. I don't want to hug you because you feel ignored or neglected or because I didn't ask you for help. Get over it.

4) As to the technical genius part of the conversation: after the tears had dissipated (perhaps she saw no forgiveness was forthcoming? who knows), she asked some very interesting (to me) and pointed questions that no one -- not family, and certainly not casual neighbors -- have asked about me. About how I felt about what happened. Whether I had a religious framework to place what happened in. (Whether my lack thereof made me think any differently.) What exactly had happened. If they knew what went wrong. And it was here, in this line of thought, that in my exhaustion I thought maybe someday, over piping hot COFFEE, she would be a nice ear to bend on some things I don't ever really talk about outside the computer. Maybe.


5) Because I'm not sure the inaugural G&T has ever happened quite so early, and it went down so badly, and yesterday was in the 50s again, I've decided I get a Mulligan.

I'll let you know what if anything transpires with Mom down the block. Could be she's already forgotten the whole thing.


Becky said...

Aw Tash, I'm so sorry that it had to happen this way. It just sucks.

Newt said...

Wow. This is so beautifully written, and compassionate without giving any ground. I hope your neighbor can become a friend again, but that her learning curve is really short. Really really short.

But you're wrong about Titanic. That is a kick-ass movie.

Julia said...

I disliked the whole of Titanic, and was grateful to not have paid to watch it at the movie theater.

As to your neighbor, I too hope for a very steep learning curve. Or maybe it's not a curve so much as a snap out of it-- one jump fits all. Cause it's so NOT about her, it's not even in the same zip code with her.

G said...

"It's happened before you know, people usurping my grief into their own angst"

Thank you for putting into words exactly what I feel like happens to me on a consistent basis.

I am sorry this happened, I don't think you should have been ambushed at *your* party like that. Parties aren't the place for deep conversations like that... it's about the G&T.

Waiting Amy said...

Yes - Titanic sucked.
Yes - I have a mother that needs things to be about her, even my wedding (good thing I too don't care too much).

NO - this whole experience should not have happened to you. It was wrong to do it on her terms, it was really wrong to do it at the beginning of a party, just wrong, wrong, wrong.

Although, the story has me thinking. When have I done something like this? I can't think of an instance, but I can imagine it happening. My social skills aren't particularly sharp. I have a tendency to obsess about how others perceive and think about me, in a paranoid sort of way. I could see myself making such a glaring blunder. It makes me disappointed to admit, but true nonetheless.

I'm impressed that you can see past these mistakes she made, and still imagine a fruitful encounter. It sounds like she could indeed be a helpful friend, once the air is cleared. I hope you find that common ground.

Missing said...

I think that people who have lost a parent know a little about grief (my mom lost her mom when she was 12) or even siblings (she lost her sister who was 19 and brother, later), but it is not the same. Some of the things you said she has asked about, my own mother has tried to say and help as well, but it is not the same. The only way that she has figured out it is not the same is because she has a friend who's 18 year old son was killed by a drunk driver 4 years ago. She talks to her friend about me...somehow, she is able to understand the grief from her friend and not me, but i am grateful that she is trying to understand.
You need to be selfish. You need to take care of you. If she cannot understand right now, then it is not the right time. Looking at her daughter reminds you of what Maddy would have been, how that would break my heart each time.
In time, I hope they will see....they will all see....and maybe we will be ready....maybe

Beruriah said...

Everyone above has already expressed my thoughts about the encounter. You're still being very generous with her.

As for Titanic, well, I laughed. I laughed at the love scenes, and laughed at the sinking. And when I looked over and saw my brother-in-law, super tough policeman, sobbing, I laughed so hard I cried and choked. It was all just so ridiculous.

loribeth said...

Well said, Tash!

And I agree -- "ambushed" is a great way to describe what happened to you.

c. said...

Oh, I don't think she's forgotten and I hope she feels like an ass.

I hope you can bend her ear sometime down the road and that she can, somehow, redeem herself by transforming into a wonderful and sensitive and supportive friend. Tell me she's better without the alcohol.

CDE said...

This was a phenomenon of which I became acutely aware after we lost the boys...people wanted to "be there" for us, but they didn't seem to take into consideration whether we actually wanted them there or not, or whether or not they were actually being helpful. For the first time, these gestures seemed selfish and needy, more about their need to feel like good people than actually helping. Like by letting them help us, I was affirming that they were good, decent people. And very quickly I realized that their insecurities were not my problem. I had something more important to deal with than someone else's need to feel like they were "doing something." I was not going to be a hug object for others to shore up their self-image.

One of my best friends was on the computer effects crew for "Titanic." Oh, the stories I could tell. Me, my interest in the movie can be summed up in two words: Kate. Winslet.

Lisa b said...

I doubt she's forgotten and I hope you are right that down the road she may be a good person to talk to when you are ready and on your terms.

Carole said...

I'm just now catching up...and man oh sorry about that ambush conversation. I just don't know what people are thinking sometimes. Or more...if they are thinking at all.

luna said...

sorry about #1 -- you're absolutely right. amen to #2 and 3 -- you said it and I couldn't agree more. I hope you're right about #4 -- it's always nice to have someone IRL who gives a shit, even if they're not sure how to do it. and absolutely about #5 -- definite do-over. ~luna

niobe said...

I really like the fact that you feel that your grief is more important than other people's feelings about your grief. Maybe this seems self-evident to you, but it's something I struggle to believe.

It's funny. I can't imagine ever having this kind of conversation. One of my ex-boyfriends said, in an aggrieved tone, "But Niobe, you never talk about your feelings." And while that's not quite true, your post vividly illuminates a couple of things about me (because I just know you wanted to listen to me talk about myself).

1. I dislike emotional confrontations, even when they're disguised as discussions, and will do almost anything to avoid them.

2. Unlike you (and this is why I read this post a couple of times, to try to really understand it) I tend to think that other people's feelings are stronger, more justified, more appropriate than my own. Like in that song, I'm always questioning myself: do I really feel the way I feel?

Okay. I'll shut up now.

Antigone said...

To dare to paraphrase Maya Angelou, we do what we know how and when we know better we do better.

Dayna said...

I'm sorry you had to deal with that.

So I'm pretty down with what *not* to say -- it didn't take this post to figure that out -- but what's harder is to know what to say, especially since I have not been in your situation.

I sure don't want to make this all about me, but someday when you're up to it I'd like to hear what I might say that would -- I don't presume to say "comfort" -- but what would be the least painful/most respectful/least intrusive/best to hear.

"I'm sorry" sure sounds lame but I wouldn't want to push myself on someone either.

What do you need? What can I/we/random people do for you?

Tash said...

Danya, thanks so much for your refreshing honesty. It means a lot. Hell, just being here reading this means a lot.

I wrote a post a long time ago about The Right Stuff, but it probably bears updating now that I'm a bit further out. I also think it's situational, but in her case, with a child who clearly causes me pain, I think simply patience and understanding would be all that I'd like. If she really felt burnt up, a letter might have been better than accosting me at a party (then I could compose a nice answer rather than having to come up with stuff on the spot), and a nice ice breaker. What I like about her though, and why I'm trying desperately to cut her a wee bit of slack, is that she's willing *to talk about IT.* And that to me is huge. I *like* talking about IT. I like saying her name. I hate having these curiosity questions hanging out there about what happened and if I'll get pregnant again which I'm sure the rest of my neighbors are thinking but don't want to ask. I LIKE being asked how I'm doing, for REAL. And I think she's got that in there, once the paranoid "I hate her" part gets put away. I just hate that it's my responsibility to tell her I don't hate her, or feel like I have to apologize for ignoring her.

It may be time for a new post on this. Thanks for inquiring. Just asking means you've got a big chunk of great compassion in you that I'm most appreciative of.

Maria (MKC101103) said...

I fell asleep in the theatre halfway through Titanic and I have yet to see the whole thing straight through.

I too hope you can find some common ground.

Anonymous said...

my guess is...she only thought working up her nerve to talk to you about your friendship and her sense of loss was the sort of act that required liquid courage. In reality, it pales profoundly to working up one's courage to apologize for the same.

I too found Titanic to be a wonderful source of white noise for my 2 hour nap.

Lori said...

I have been reading the back posts to catch up to this.

Oy.... it makes my stomach turn to even think about having this conversation. I think you have expressed yourself beautifully, and I will remain hopeful that perhaps the "cool" parts of this friendship might emerge again one day.

She did make it about herself which was her biggest offense in my opinion. Even her repeated inquiries as to "what she can do" were only coming from a place of her wanting to find a way to do something so that she could assuage her own guilt. Because if she were listening, really listening, she would have understood that the best she can do is to step back, be patient, respect your boundaries, and wait.

I'm a big believer in the nice handwritten note. She should have started there.

kris said...

Maybe Mom Down The Block blacked it out? Sounded like she was pretty loaded -- not that this excuses her ambushing you. (And it was indeed an ambush in the truest sense of the word.)

Hopefully she'll have the sense to let things be, instead of forcing the issue to be about her stuff.

Coggy said...

It never does happen the way we want it to does it? I read your G&T post and I'm so sorry you had to go through that. It was like reading a car crash in slo-mo for me so I can't imagine what you must have felt like.

It's always about them, the other people and they really don't get that they don't even register at all. I love the placard idea, you're right not enough energy left to bother with anyone else.
I feel like that a lot now. I just don't have the energy and I know it will make little difference to them even if I try to invest the energy to be angry at them. They just can't comprehend any of this.

I do think that if you can salvage something with this woman, even if it's to your own ends then go for it. Hopefully it'll be easier now you've done this opener. Maybe next time on your terms?

CLC said...

I actually kind of liked Titanic, but only because at the time I loved Leo. So maybe you don't want to meet me now:)

A note would have been nice. I think it would have given you a chance to express yourself the way you wanted to rather than be on the spot. I have found that a lot of my time is spent trying to put others at ease with my loss, and it's total bullshit. It must be human nature though because it seems to be pretty common in deadbabyland. But maybe since she asked and is willing to talk about it, maybe she is willing to learn how to deal with this, so god forbid this happens to someone else she knows, and she can actually have an iota of what's really going on and not thing it's all about her.

Bon said...

go away, miss everything. caught up now. feeling pretty gutted just from reading your posts in backward succession. ick. yuck. yes she sounds smart and cool...but also needy, if she didn't understand that that was an ambush, that some things are not about her.

but then, people do NOT get it. over and over again, i am struck by the prevalence of it. and i suspect it's an increasing sickness in our society, where people seem to resent anything that feels like resentment of them, rather than trying to empathize or understand.

or maybe society was always like that, i dunno.

either way, i'm sorry.

Alice said...

It hurts me so much to read about this woman in your street. I've been in similar situations so many times. Mainly I've spent the last three years managing the awkwardness that other people feel about my daughter's death. For me, the worst are the people who ring me up really worried because they're pregnant and there seems to be a problem and they're worried. I offer loads of comfort and support to these people. Happily their baby is born without a problem and then they never speak to me again. It's because they've looked into the abyss and understood what it might be like to lose a baby. And after that they don't want me anywhere near them. They don't seem to give any thought about how that feels to me. I don't have any solutions but I'm sorry.