Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Where I save myself an hour and a C-note otherwise spent at my therapist's office

I will be the better, the bigger person.

I will overcome.

I will forgive.

I will channel the general happiness and goodness that I feel most days into feeling better about these people.

These people.

His family. Our family.

I will forgive.

I will find a way to sit with them, to be with them, to converse with them, without harboring ill will, without remembering all the insane ludicrous shit they've done to us, without remembering how they treated us like utter assholes.

I will forget it all, wipe the slate clean, and forgive.

I will forgive them, all of them, every last motherfucking one of them, for things they don't even know they did. For things they have no idea were wrong. For things they thought were the right things. For things they're probably silently or maybe vocally proud of doing.

For keeping information from us, for not talking to us, for ignoring it. For ignoring her. For ignoring our daughter, you know the one.

I will forgive.

I will find peace with this. I will let this wash over.

Until the next time.

I will forgive.

But oh, ohmygod, how it hurts. It makes my stomach clench, my blood pressure rise, and my eyes bleed. My fingernails dig ruts into my palms, my jaw aches, my face breaks out. I hate the feeling of hate, and I'm toeing that line. I want what's right, I want justice, I want everyone to recycle and I want peace in the Middle East. I want a middle daughter born without fatal birth defects. I want everything to be as it was, even those superficial cursory relationships that weren't horribly meaningful, but weren't horrible, either. I want to resist. I want to fight.

I am out of fight.

I will do this for him, for my husband, because he's tired of my aching jaw and steely eyes and silent demeanor in the car. I will do this because I love him. I will do this for my kids, who I guess deserve to know their family, for better and worse. Especially the worse, I'm afraid they'll come to learn in the not-distant future.

I will forgive.


Somewhere in the vicinity of late college-early graduate school, I made the philosophical decision to forgo hate. This wasn't so much a statement for positive thinking as much as it was for time management. I just didn't have the mental or physical space to hate. I was busy -- I had work, and school, and music, and sports, and a boyfriend, and friends -- and there was no time at the end of the day to busy my head with voodoo dolls and revenge. I saw the hate inevitably bestowed by academia tear up relationships and erode intellectual capacity and thought, dude, why? For the record, I still carry this philosophy today. I simply flat-out do not get those wackos who travel (on planes! and by car! for days!) to protest . . . well, I'm still trying to comprehend the rationale no matter how many articles I read: to protest people who are gay? At military funerals? This hate has clearly begun to diminish their linear thinking IMO, but my god, the time. Who are these people to have this space and time to travel and hate as much as they do when I don't have time to shower or do a crossword or run a load of laundry? If I had that time, those open days, I would paint my toenails and whisk my family to the beach and make elaborate cocktails for my neighbors. I'd harvest and pickle my rotting garden and weed and have a yard sale.

I would love. Even if that love were sand in my bathing suit and ears, and pickled beets and clean sheets, I would love with that time.

And here I am, loathing the idea of giving in, of caving, of forgiving. I have never held a grudge, I have never sought revenge (though I might on my husband who left me alone with two children during the first half of the Women's World Cup final while he went and had a beer with his softball team, goddammit). And the thought of forgiving this group of people makes me seethe.

So I wonder why. Why can't I let it go? Why can't I forgive?

I am, I think, at the core, a patient person. A person who takes criticism well. Someone who doesn't take things personally. I know when my daughter throws a tantrum every night the week she has hockey camp it's because she's exhausted, not because she hates me, "worst mommy in the world." So I am patient, and I quietly shepherd her to bed. I am not proud. I am not vain.

Even about my kids. Face it, my kids are loud. The one interrupts, the other yells. (The other, alas, is dead.) I am not one to defend my children in the face of criticism, because usually, I realize, it's true. I'm the one who walks into the parent/teacher conference and braces myself against the tiny desk for the onslaught of "Not listening!" and "Disruptive!" and "No focus!" and am met with a pleasant smile and an intro of, "This will be easy, she's a wonderful human being." And then I interrupt and hold up my hand and inform them that we're BELLA'S parents. You know, 1:15? Bella? And they nod and smile and I realize this crazy age-appropriate inappropriate behavior is saved for us, for testing us, in the comfort of our own home. I am not ashamed to admit this to the teacher, that my child is not an angel when she gets off the bus.

So why do I care what they think of Maddy?

I have boiled down the behavior: the telling us to hurry up and get over it already; the getting mad at us for not bubbling with joy at new babies; for not traveling to see new babies (and missing school in the process, just saying); for wrecking family plans involving fat grandbabies (not like we had plans or anything, just saying); for not going to the first memorial service with us because "it might rain;" for not returning calls, or not picking up the phone, and ignoring us when they didn't like when we pointed out this behavior; for continuing not to speak to us about Maddy, ever; for not sending me gifts at Christmas; for everyone not telling us a brother was expecting a baby -- until the baby was born because they "thought we knew," or "didn't know how" to tell us, even when everyone was here, in my house, drinking my wine and eating my food the week before said birth; for not communicating to us for years to even know that telling us about this birth wouldn't bother us; for assuming they knew how we felt (angry and bitter for years, apparently) without having the nuts to simply ask us how we were feeling. . . .

and it comes down to this: Maddy was an inconvenience to them. She busted plans and made people roll their eyes and have to watch what they say. Boo hoo. Maddy says, my bad.

But really, who cares? Why do I care?

Is my husband right, that they just didn't know what to say, or were too stupid to know what to do or say, or thought they were being nice by not bringing things up? This is hard business, it's hard to know what to say, it's hard to know what to say to the neighbor who just told us she's separated from her husband, or the cousin whose wife just found out she had breast cancer. Maybe we should cut them a break, maybe I should ease up.

Maybe it's because she's dead. Maybe it's because she can't speak for herself, she can't contradict the claim that she's either an angel or a demanding brat. Maybe it's because after the moment is past, I can't hold her and know tomorrow is another day, another exhausting day at camp where she'll laugh and joke and fall and laugh some more and come home in a mess and cry that she can't wait to go back the next day.

Maybe it's because other people knew exactly what to do, what to say. We didn't speak to a lot of people, and a lot of them gave us time and then circled back around and knew exactly how to re-enter the conversation. Many other friends got pregnant and told us and the sun didn't implode and our friendships are still intact. Many other family members talk about Maddy now without stammering or halting. How can some people get it so wrong when others get it so right?

Maybe it's because it's family, and I have this stupid notion that family should know better. That family should be there for you, that family should shoulder you and prop you up, and pack you in a cute tote and carry you until you can walk by yourself. As if family was ever all that to anyone. As if families were anything but places where children were procreated and where you lived until you went to college. So what that my family wasn't perfect, but treats me pretty damn well now. My husband says we need to forgive because they're family. I can't forgive, because they're family?

Maybe I can't because I need something to channel my anger toward and this is it. Because there is no other channel, because otherwise there is just sadness.

Maybe I am wasting valuable nail-polish and vegetable-jarring time sitting here spewing about this. I should just stop with the introspection and spit out the hairball of hate and forgive.

I will forgive.

I can do this.



still life angie said...

Oh, fuck, I needed to read this today. I don't know how to forgive, i don't think it is something done on sheer will. Someone left this quote on my blog a few months ago, and so I am leaving it on your blog now, "Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different." And so I am trying to focus on that. I cannot change the past, only my future. But fuck, it is so hard. Why is it so hard?

Sending you love while you deal with them.

Jeanette said...

Family should know better, but it seems they don't.I don't know how to handle this either. I hope you can do better than me. x

Kate said...

My "his family" did all those same things - you described it so well. It is so hurtful. Ultimately it was clear that these types of behaviors really weren't limited to the loss of my son. This is a constant part of them, and how they handle anything that is inconvenient for them. It was just that it was so hurtful in these circumstances that it was hard to let it go compared to the other times they are like this. For me, that realization helped and gave me this distinction - if I had needed to forgive it would have been impossible. Because whether they meant it to be hurtful or not, they are grownups and responsible for their actions, and the consequences of being repeatedly insensitive is that I will think you are a jerk.

So forgiveness, no. But I can (try to) let it go. Roll my eyes, put that person in the mental red box where people go who can't be trusted or relied upon, and get on with my day. I don't know if that helps at all, but that's how I deal with this kind of person.

All the best to you.

Dre said...

Very well said. I cannot believe how much I relate to what you are saying. My experience with "his family" was not as intense as it only involved a difficult high risk pregnancy and a rough period after the birth. It all started with MIL saying I had no business trying to have another baby. So I am not saying in any way that I "know how you feel." All I know is that two and a half years later I am still consumed by the hate frequently. And I want to let it go because I am not a person who usually hates, but just when I think I have it all purged, it sneaks back up on me. I guess it is a process. I wish you nothing but the best as you work your way through your process.

Mrs.Spit said...

Ahh, yes. Forgiveness.

It is, in a way that is utterly bizarre, a whole church.

A whole church that utterly abandoned us.

I'm ashamed, but I'm still angry.

luna said...

I've got that anne lamott quote about forgiveness at the top of my blog, you know, to remember.

yes we expect more from family. we expect them to overcome their own issues and limitations and rise up in times of need. but people are often so blind and self absorbed, and they wouldn't recognize another's need if it hit them in the ass. and it's true, they don't know what to say or how to act. but some people simply lack empathy and compassion, the human drive that simply says I'm here and mean it, I'm listening. I will abide. that is a special but unfortunately too rare quality.

it amazes me how expectations leave you hanging, most every time. yet we find comfort in the most unexpected places.

you may try to forgive, but you will never forget.

Kristin said...

Your words are so true. I have noticed a pattern in myself of having a single person at whom I direct whatever hatred I have in me...not by being nasty to the person, but seething at him/her/them. I realized it in high school and it has been that way ever since. I try not to do it, but I don't always succeed. And I would describe myself the same way you describe yourself: I am patient, I generally let things slide...until...UNTIL.

There was a period when the target of my ire was my in-laws because they had behaved in some pretty atrocious ways. No baby loss, so it's not the same as your situation, of course. Still, I just couldn't let go of my anger at them for such a long time. I knew I needed to, but I just couldn't.

I am not a religious person. I am not a believer at all. But for family reasons, I do go to church. My husband was raised with no religion and felt like something was missing. I was raised with one parent who went to church (and dragged us along) and one who didn't. As an adult, I had made my choice not to go...until we had kids and I knew it was important to my husband to raise our kids in the church. So to present a united front and make it possible for our children to make their own choices about religion (rather than making it easy for them to reject all because Mommy does), I play my instrument and sing with the choir -- music is my religion. One day I happened to listen to the sermon (usually I don't) and it was about forgiveness, but the priest spoke about it in such a non-trite way and it totally resonated with me. I was ready to hear it, clearly, because that very day my intense anger at my in-laws just went away and I really haven't been angry at them since (almost 10 years now). Frustrated at times? Yes.

You can't force yourself to embrace forgiveness, but you can take little steps, by spending time with them. Maybe someday you'll find that you're ready to forgive. And if not, maybe you can put it in the mental red box Kate wrote about so well. And who knows? Maybe the mental red box can be the first step on the road to forgiveness. And, by the way, forgiveness does not mean offering a person who has wronged you 100% trust. You can forgive a person, but still have learned lessons from the experience and recalibrate your expectations accordingly. Forgiveness is just giving up the intense anger and no longer devoting so much of your own energy to IT. They say to forgive is a choice. Maybe so. But it's a choice that cannot be made until you are ready.

Anonymous said...

Here's my secret for forgiving people. Though, admittedly, it's likely to be of limited use to you.

Step 1: I forgive the person who wronged me.

Step 2: I never speak to that person again.


loribeth said...

Forgive, maybe. Forget, never.

You've reminded me of an interesting incident with some of dh's relatives that happened in the last few weeks. I think I may blog about it. Thanks!

A.M.S. said...

Hmmm. I got nothin'. Family wasn't our issue, really. People who I thought were friends, who liked us, not because of blood ties and a lifetime of connection but because of who we were and who they were and because they wanted to. And no, I not only won't forgive, I don't want to. It isn't hate. It's just this void of emotion whenever I think of them.

But, I do have some understanding of the weirdness of family and I'd be happy to swap tales via email if you need someone to vent to as you work through it. Sort of an "I'll show you mine if you show me yours."

I find the most extreme situations are made a bit more tolerable by remembering that we did not choose our family members and that it is perfectly acceptable and frequently understandable to love them without liking them and if being around them makes your life worse, you should be allowed to manage how you are around them.

Like I said, I *get* family weirdness.

not undecided said...

I've lurked for a long time, but I had to comment on this because it really resonates with me. Right at the tail end (still in beta hell) of a miscarriage my husband and I went to help his brother and his wife move from Albany to Baltimore. My BIL was a huge dick to his wife all week (always is) until he decided to be a dick to my husband instead, and was then being saccharine-sweet to his wife. We were out to dinner for my husband's birthday (for which they picked a microbrewery even though my husband's taste in beer gets about as exotic as Budweiser...maybe Heineken) and he puts his arm around his wife, looks me dead in the eyes and says, "that's okay, WE'LL have kids."

I know I should just accept that he's a dick and try to move on and not hate him. I don't often waste energy on hating anyone. But I can't help it. I'm hateful about that. It kills me that he probably doesn't even remember saying it, so even if I were to confront him in an effort to explain what I was trying to forgive him for, it would be futile. This was an early m/c, so I think the way you feel about it in relation to Maddy is perfectly rational. I wish you luck and truly admire that you want to try to forgive them, but I honestly think it may be too much to ask anyone to forgive that kind of hurtful behavior, especially when repeated over so many instances. That boiled down paragraph of their behavior is an awful lot to forgive. I love niobe's strategy. I try to forgive him and don't actively spend time or energy hating him, but will avoid him if at all possible and not feel too badly about it. Maybe someday I'll be "over it," but, then again, maybe not. And I think that's okay for now.

Hope's Mama said...

Oh Tash, I feel for you. We have been through the exact same thing, only with my dad's side of the family. I just don't know if I can ever forgive them though. I'm pig headed if nothing else. We really haven't spoken to any of them in about two years, though Dad speaks to his sister out of need, in order to make decisions about the care of our aged and fragile grandmother. I think when she dies, we'll never have anything to do with them ever again.
I think for me it is all about expectations. There are those in our lives we have big expectations of when the shit hits the fan. Obviously family is right up. And when they let us down so drastically, it hurts so much more. Thankfully I had so many friends, many of them fringe type friends, who really stepped up to the plate and filled the huge void left by my family who simply didn't give a shit.
Thinking of you. Amazing post.

missing_one said...

*hugs* I know you can forgive, but please don't forget. Don't forget these people were not here for you in your deepest darkest hour. They have acknowledged nothing. In my darkest hour, my best friend did the same thing, and we didn't talk for 4 years. She sent me a message on FB saying she was really sorry and how she hurt me and asking for me to forgive her. That god had put it on her heart to message me. So strange! I think your husband will always support and love the people who gave him life but I don't think you do. If I had to be in the same room with these people it would make my skin crawl. Disgust was the taste in my mouth thinking about their hurt. I don't think forgiveness is giving up or giving in. I don't think it washes everything under the bridge. They were wrong. I've had enemies tell me how sorry they were about J and even came to the memorial. People I didn't even like CAME because they were sorry. Family should be there for you. Family should feel for the loss of one of their own. I'm so sorry that his family is not. I've forgiven my 'best friend' long before she sent me a message but that does not mean that I want to spend any amount of time with her. I have peace and that is the point of forgiveness. But I have not forgotten. I will never forget. And I think she lives with a little regret that she ruined our friendship. I think she lives with that just a little.

missing_one said...

Oh and I totally get Niobe's comments! Me too

Searching said...

Niobe is a genius. I have no excuses or sympathy for your/his family. None. They should have been there for HER, even if they didn't know what to say to you or want to support you. Maddy deserved 5min of their time. Still does. So I have no advice, only love for you & your family of five.

erica said...

The hard thing about forgiving, for me, is that it doesn't seem to be the sort of thing I only have to do once. I find that when I most need to forgive people, I have to re-forgive them over and over. I'm probably doing it wrong. I mean, Oprah doesn't describe forgiveness this way at all.

Sending love and hoping they don't rough you up too much.

Heather said...

"How can some people get it so wrong when others get it so right?" Sigh. Really.

Can I repost this on my blog with my name at the end? I mean, other than the fact that its your hub's family and not your own...since its my dad and his side of the family. I haven't spoken to any of them more than twice in the past 2 1/2 years, and frankly when I did I wasn't nice and couldn't be cool. Because like you said, they're family, they should know better. Understanding by proxy. But alas, dead babies are inconvenient and how dare they come to be!! Angie's quote is awesome! Maybe I have forgiven them then? Since I have given up hope that it could have been different. Except now I refuse to experience it again and therefore have exiled myself and daughter from the clutches of their evilness. And I swear, I don't thin they care, if they've even noticed. I have taken my sadness and constant reminder that life can be really effing ugly, and I have gone off the radar! They are probably relieved.

Brooke said...

My husband's family never talks about Eliza but I overheard his mom say to him the other day (regarding me), "Oh, I don't want to say anything that would upset her." Meaning she knows that if Eliza is brought up, I always cry. I can't help it. Even though I want to talk about her, I miss her so much, it hurts so much, it always brings tears. Of course those tears can be a relief, a release, a much-needed outlet. But they scare people. Especially in-law people. So I try to expect less from them. I expect them to understand that we're still not okay, but I don't expect them to talk to me the way I always wish they would. After all, they bugged me a lot before my daughter died. I don't know why they wouldn't get on my nerves now.

findinganewnormal said...

I'm right there with you.

moplans said...

good luck tash. every motherfucking one? you are a far bigger woman than I

Groves said...

I relish raw Tash. Thank you for not "prettying it up" - whatever the "it" is in that day's post. Straight to the heart and straight to the point and straight from the hip. Seriously good.

If you had a show, I would watch it.

Where it gets all muddled up is trust. I can't tell if I don't forgive people, or if the trust is so wrecked that the relationship dies.

Forgiveness makes sense to me. Not hating makes sense. Not lugging grudges makes sense.

Trusting people who have proved - over and over, beyond a shadow of a doubt - that they are not trustworthy? That has never made sense. I don't trust them for the same reason I don't leave my children unattended in Walmart. You seriously never know.

So when, like you, I am riding to the in-laws with my jaw clenched, I'll keep telling myself I do it for my husband. He is definitely worth it. But I will not ever - no, never - relax in that viper pit. I was naive and placid early on. "Too soon old, too late smart."

I find myself very childishly wanting to smack your in-laws. But I think it's because I *really* want to smack mine.

Wishing I didn't let them get to me,

Cathy in Missouri

P.S. Niobe, you always rock.

Groves said...

And Kate, that "mental red box" is too good not to mention!

Cathy in Missouri

Renel said...

You are such a better person than I am... Or maybe I haven't turned into the wise mother Teresa type since my daughter died. In fact I think I'm meaner and less patient these days. I'm in the space of ... If they're assholes - cut them off. Glad to hear your in a place of forgiveness at least kinda. I'm certainly not there yet!

JoyAndSorrow said...

The one thing about my inlaws is that they have been very distant ever since our loss...Which, for me, is a very welcome distance. I am working on the forgiveness thing myself; their distance has sort of put this project on hold for me. ~Lindsay

The Turtle and the Monkey said...

I don't know much about forgiveness. I often think that if I could forgive, I would find some peace in this mess that is my life. I make a little progress only to be reminded of what an ass some people are.

I get it. My thoughts to you.

B said...

Thank you for this post.

And niobe, I wish I could do what you do. Once certain people have died, certain other people will be never spoken to again. I hate the thought of the people dying, but... the not having to ever talk to certain other people is such a relief. If it was my own family, I'd not bother to wait, believe me.

Alice said...

Dear Tash, Thanks so much for your comment on my blog. It was so, so helpful. And this post is just so true. I can't forgive either. And it's still going on. People in my family say to me, 'Why are you stressed?' And I'm thinking, 'Well, we're going through the seventh pregnancy we've started in five and half years and the pregnancy is 7,000 miles away. Doesn't that sound a bit stressful?' But no, they don't it. And I don't really forgive them and I can't trust them. But someone did say something useful to me the other day which was, 'Anger is the bridge that we build over the chasm of sadness.' And I do think that is true. It is so easy to get angry with all the hundreds of people who didn't care. And didn't say the right thing. But actually when we do that we're only doing it because it is easier to do that than to really face what is lost. Five and half years on I'm still doing the anger. I haven't got anywhere near the real sadness yet. With much love, Alice

Anonymous said...

I am new to the deadbabymama blog world. I had your blog recommended to me and spent the last couple of weeks every free minute ingesting your words. Today I finished your most recent and boy does it sound familiar. Time heals is crap, but I see through you that perhaps time softens. So at least there's that to look forward to. hubs blog:

ivfcycler said...

even better than a therapist might be sugar, one intense and amazing writer, no c-note required.

Barbara said...

Maybe the reason your in-laws don't get it is that Maddy was never "real" to them since her life was so tragically brief. They weren't there in the way you and your husband were. That's not to excuse them from being so insensitive but it might explain why they think you should be able to "just get over it."

As for how to forgive them? Perhaps you can convince them to move to a foreign country and time and distance will help (if only!).

Alice said...

Thanks so much for your comment on my blog. You are always there for me, your always have been. With love, Alice

Anonymous said...

Tash, I think of you this time of year because I remember the service at Children's. How are you all doing?


Kathy said...

Just catching up on some long overdue blogging reading/commenting and came across this incredible post. It really resonated with me. "His family" has been very hard for me to understand since Molly was born and died. As others have said, I feel like I could have written so much of this post, as our experience has been very similar.

I recently even returned to therapy (after a 5 year hiatus), in part to deal with my feelings and emotions related to "them." I have accepted that likely nothing will change/I can't change other people, so I need to find away to change my attitude, the way I cope and accept on some level how things are (whether or not I like or am okay with that).

I came across this quote awhile back that has been helpful to me:

"Forgive all who have offended you, not for them, but for yourself” ~Harriet Nelson

I am not totally there yet with this one, but I am working on it. Anyway, thanks so much for sharing this. It was just what I needed to read tonight. Hope that this find you and your family in good spirits and your new year off to a great start. Remembering Maddy always. xoxo

Katie said...

I absolutely love this post. My DH's family pretends everything unpleasant doesn't exist and my son now goes into that category. They are not bad people, just not good for me now and probably not really equipped to handle the true ugly of life. They want me to beg them to come back into my life, and the problem is that I don't want them back into my life to the same degree... I sort of need to try the waters again gradually. I think this is a really common issue- I think the problem is people have to understand that forgiveness isn't an instant process, sometimes it is a choice and the relationships will take time to build up into anything meaningful again. I guess my theory is that if you go at your own speed you can jump back a smaller distance and protect yourself, if they continually mess up you can then decide to give up the hurt feelings but not to expect the 'normal' relationship on either side. I take some of the blame as I am messed up- but unfortunately I think I am perfectly normal for going through this.