Thursday, August 21, 2008

Hard Truths and the Occassional Easy Landing

So, that last bit was a little harsh, yes? These days, I find it's best to get the hardest bits on the table early in the game. It's a fact that's not ever going to change and frankly I don't have enough energy to deal with people who cannot deal with that. The bad news is that's a lot of people. An astounding number of people. During the last three years I've met scores of them and have begun categorizing them in my head. So far, they break down something like this:

1. Happy Girl* – Happy Girl’s whole life is about, you guessed it, being happy. She likes to go to fun places, do fun things, tell funny stories. There’s no room for death in Happy Girl’s world because it is most definitely not fun. Happy Girl disappeared sometime between the accident and the funeral. We haven’t seen her since.

2. Eggshell Girl* – Eggshell Girl cannot bear it. It is just too hard for her and she doesn’t understand how we cope. In truth, she resents that we cope and rarely misses the opportunity to tell us how she wouldn’t be able to do it. She says things like ‘I’d still be in my bed’ and ‘I would have had to quit my job.’ Fortunately, her opportunities to say these sorts of things are rare because what she mostly cannot cope with is seeing us coping.

3. Ostrich Girl* – Ostrich Girl has reality issues. In short, she doesn’t like it. She spends her life pretending that bad things happen only to faraway people or people who deserve it and we are a constant reminder of the absurdity of that belief. Ostrich Girl doesn’t always avoid us but she avoids the topic or anything remotely related (motherhood – her own included – , traffic, college, etc.) as though it were the plague. The best we can say about this is that conversations are mercifully few and brief.

4. It Could Happen To Me Girl* – It Could Happen To Me Girl is convinced we are now carriers of some awful virus. If she gets too close she might catch Tragedy and then all sorts of terrible things will befall her and so it’s just better, you see, to keep as much distance between us as possible. She will call occasionally and we’re still on the Christmas Card List, but she won’t be dropping by. And just forget all about those holiday-party invitations and afternoons at museums and getting together for coffee. It might be catching and a girl’s got look out for herself.

The good news is that the people who are left are what my friend Kat would call 'Finest Kind.' And, if you're reading this, you're probably one of them; an easy place to land in a sea of rocky ground. It's pretty rare and I am grateful for every one of you.

[*This naming convention is not meant to imply that guys are any better at this stuff. I'm female and 'she' is my preferred pronoun default. There are plenty of Happy Guys and Ostrich Boys to go around.]


Greg Hyduke said...

Those are perfect archetypes. People are funny - in more ways than one. I have one to add: The MoveOn Girl. This is not some new wing of the progressive political organization, but the type who think it’s unhealthy to linger, the type who thinks it’s best to just deal with it already and move on.

Last week was Anna Grace's birthday. When you're talking about your children, nothing quite clears a room like the word "stillborn," except for "died" and "dead," of course, which you know all too well.

We still talk about her, referring to her as our little lost daughter, our sister, our granddaughter, as the case may be, which completely unglues some people. In other situations you can see them counting again in their heads: 'Did he just say six? I only know of five...'

I hope it's okay to talk about that, a little. I don't mean to shift the focus or detract from your circumstances, the narrative you've started here. I also don't mean to compare or equalize. I know it's not the same. I just want you to know I understand.

Although there is a fuzzy sort of reverse polarity going on between us. I’ve thought about this often, never having the nerve to articulate it before.

Anna Grace would be 13 years old. I sometimes catch myself imagining her into being. I can look at my other children and simulate what she would've looked like in my mind's eye. It's so very easy to do. I can construct a voice, a whole personality. I can pretend what it would've been like with her here. She's not an absence for me, though, since she was never really here walking and talking among us. She’s more of a ghostly projection of a life that was never lived. She’s just a dream daughter.

I know that you must have all kinds of images and voices and feelings like a constant movie reel running inside your head. The difference is those are very real. Real memories of real moments of a very real person.

I still mourn, at times, for an infant girl who never had the chance to live.

You mourn for a daughter who lived and is now gone.

We specifically had others, my wife and I – there is no sense in denying it – to try to help us forget, to try to help us do what the MoveOn People want us to do.

There is no forgetting. I don't think there really is a moving on. Not without them.

Your words are being picked with such care here. You are right to stress the precision of Britt being only. That hit me the hardest when I read it. Not just a child. An only child. The onlyness. That must be the place, I reckon, that everything else you are feeling passes through.

Maybe I am an archetype, too, and I just didn't know it: The Talker Who Doesn’t Know When To Shut Up.

Debi said...

Now, see, you're getting ahead of the game, Mr. Hyduke. Move On Girl is well known to us, but she doesn't belong in that first group. They are they deniers and disappearers. MOG belongs to a whole 'nother category I like to call The Fixers. We can do them next, mostly because it's been a long week sort of full of them. Timely.

And, truly, I am glad you feel you can talk about Anna Grace here. I often remember the story you told me about introducing Anna Grace to the little sister who will never know her. Yes, it's different what happened to us, but so much of what we deal with is the same. In that space where our broken hearts have to meet the world, we are standing side by side.

Greg Hyduke said...

I like that.

Until next time...

Katharine Weber said...

There are a few more. Blame the Victim Girl must have crossed your path. She's the one who asks about the very young female victim of a vicious sexual assault, "Well, what was she wearing?" Her cousin is Your Bad Karma Made It Happen To You And Yours And That's Why It Could Never Happen To Me and Mine.

Debi said...

Indeed she has, dear one. Unfortunately, at least in my case, that one cannot go on the list of People Who Are So Freaked Out They Disappeared. I can see we're going to need several lists: The Disappearers, The Fixers, The Blurters, and The Hall of Shame. I think the latter is where both BtV and Karma Girl must belong.

Jesse Wiedinmyer said...

I dunno, Debi. I'd argue that "Move On Girl" and "Bad Karma Girl" and the lot of them are all deniers. The basic gist of the all of the messages would be that "It's really not that bad, and even if it is that bad, that's not a problem, because the problem is YOU and what YOU expect. YOU brought this on yourself and if you'd just done something differently than this wouldn't have happened. Regardless, my life could never be like this."

What you need to do is...

You expect too much from people...

It's already been x amount of time... (I especially liked hearing this one within a month or two of burying someone.)

God took revenge on your daughter because she displeased him... (These people don't seem to have ever heard of Romans 8:31. Then again, as I think I've said before, if God ends up killing those he doesn't like, he must not like any of us too much. In the long run...)

Debi said...

Deniers, yes, jesse, but - at least in my experience - not Disappearers. They haven't turned in their friendship cards and hit the road. They are sticking around, if for no other reason than to continue to tell me how wrong I am. :)

Jesse Wiedinmyer said...

That, Debi, is where you're wrong...

Cheryl Sharp said...

Dear Debi: I am so glad that you finally started this page. Your ability to speak your raw truth has always been one of the things I have admired most.
I do hope that those who read this take a look at how we might fall into any of these archetypes on any given day, even when we have felt our own losses. It's amazing to me how we have so much advice for everyone else and can't help ourselves on any given day. All we can really share is our own experience and try to understand based on empathy rather than sympathy.
As I have said to you many times, I can't understand even though I want to. What I hope I am able to do is to be open to however you are experiencing your experience.
I do want to say that I never knew you when Brittany was alive. It is interesting that I never think of you without her being a part of you. Through your sharing her life with me, she is someone I also feel I could conjure. She has a voice, a personality, a family, and a spirit that I certainly can't deny based on my experience of her through you.
It's interesting that you shared the tragedy of her death with me early on, yet it is not the focus of your life. It is the right to continue to be a mother who loves her child. You didn't stop loving her because she died.
Anyway, I am so glad that you are giving people an opportunity to understand more of what the loss and grief is really like. Perhaps others will also begin to speak up and tell the truth!
C Sharp

Greg Hyduke said...

"I do want to say that I never knew you when Brittany was alive. It is interesting that I never think of you without her being a part of you. Through your sharing her life with me, she is someone I also feel I could conjure."

This is so cool. Human consciousness is so powerful.

Debi said...

Cheryl, sweetheart, I am so glad that you are here. And, thank you for what you said about being able to conjure my girl. I am so glad to have been able to make her real for you; that truly is what life is about for me these days: keeping her spirit alive in the world.

I could not have come so far in so short a time without you and I will forever be grateful that you are a part of my world.