“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seamed with scars.”

28 Sep

I scream that I want your life, but that’s not fair.

I sit on the bus staring at the dozen or so heads before me, and wonder why I think their lives are perfect. Who of they will die of cancer, will find out their child was raped? Who among them has already suffered?

I cannot judge. I am not in a place to judge. To look at others and believe that they have it better than I, that their lives are less full of pain and suffering and terror.

It’s a continuum, pain. A spectrum much as my own disease, and to each his own. My suffering may be someone else’s peace, as full of fear and loneliness as it may be.

Could I survive losing a child as Bon and Kate have, living with that hole underneath my heart forever? Could I do it with such grace? Never. That ache would echo in my chest for eternity, and I would forever be changed. Theirs is not the life I point to, and that’s just it.

I do not know you.

I do not know the person next to me at work, not really. I don’t know their past, their mind, their today. I do not know what their life has meant, or where it’s going.

I remind myself, shake it off, do not judge.

Do not judge. Ask they return the favour.

***********************

On my way to work, clutching coffee blurry eyed in the rain someone I once worked with walked by, hacking, saying hello. He said he was the working homeless, spoke of how he went to the soup kitchen and some of his ex-coworkers were there and refused him a second bowl of soup. How he reacted in a rage, and could feel them thinking ‘He hasn’t changed, not just one bit.”

I felt kinship, and a humiliating helplessness. I cannot fix him. I cannot make it better. But I can question why someone needing food only gets one bowl. I can imagine how painful it is to accept food from the very people who fired you. I can see the simple lines of incidents that could lead me to his very place, mistakes, moments, sudden stops in a doorway and suddenly, your life is very different indeed.

I liked him. I always enjoyed talking with him, and now-it’s reduced to words in passing on a street, and my impotent desire to help.

My life could very well be his, my misery compounded. I could be sleeping in front of Canadian Tire.

*********************

A friend brought in her 2 month old twins, all healthy and plump and snurgly. I held, no, I hogged them both for a time, reveling in a moment I never allowed myself to enjoy. The girl fell asleep in my arms, her tired eyes fluttering up for seconds, then back down with a sigh. I could have sat like that forever.

In a rush, the newness, the glorious newness returned to my body, the remembrance of all the futures you plotted as you watched your first born sleep. The smiles you wanted to stop on their faces, the small important victories of heads up and side rolls. The shiny smell of new baby in the house, the tiny diapers.

I mourned a little then, but I also found within me the ability to move past it, to look forward to the rest of my daughters lives, to school, to boyfriends (or girlfriends) and periods and PMS and ice creams and everything that life has before us. This part, this new life, the jarring impact, it’s now past us. We have aged and moved into an age.

And with age, I can now enjoy a long baby snuggle. Small victories folks.

************************

It’s raining today. When I was a child, I thought this meant god was crying.

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19 Responses to ““Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seamed with scars.””

  1. sweetsalty kate September 28, 2007 at 8:42 am #

    Thor, this is why you absolutely cannot, at any cost, stop writing. Pleasepleasepleaseprettyplease?

    The first bit has been my head for several months now, doggedly training myself not to think everyone else has a charmed life. Because there are people who would look at me and think the very same. In the NICU I used to peer into the incubators of other families, see babies in there born at 3 pounds, 4 pounds, and even much more (frigging MONSTERS), and see their parents in there crying, and my traitorous brain would skip to “fucking pussies….” because Liam and Ben were so tiny and so incredibly sick.

    It was a knee-jerk of grief, to feel that way. I was a knee-jerk.

    The biggest lesson through all this has been relativity: a lesson I think you’re in the midst of absorbing too, from a different perspective. I’m not done yet.. it takes work some days.

    About two months after our NICU release Ben and I were in the hospital for a checkup and bumped into another NICU mother in the hallway, looking very grey and bleary-eyed. In talking with her I discovered that her and her daughter were still there – making for a total of almost five months at that point – and the doctors still had no idea what was wrong with her baby. The baby was still being fed preemie protein cocktail through an IV – even Liam was off that stuff inside of a couple of weeks. She told me “her intestines just don’t work, so she can’t digest food. At all. They don’t know why, and she’s going in for a seven-hour exploratory surgery to see if they can figure it out.”

    Relativity. I’ve always wondered what happened to her and her girl, her baby that was born at a “fucking pussy’ weight of three and a half pounds. One of the very people I dismissed as being positively carefree compared to us.

    This just struck me so much this morning, Thor, and will stay with me for all day and longer. I wonder if I’ll ever really get it? Probably not. I’ll fall off the relativity wagon and then get back up again, kind of like the lifelong exercise of religious folk learning and losing and relearning their faith.

    Relativity is my religion.

  2. daisybones September 28, 2007 at 8:47 am #

    I echo Kate’s plea to pleaseneverever stop. These are the posts that inspire such a fierce protective love in my that I would, if able, have already bought my plane ticket to come to you, so I could squeeze you in a hard soul sister embrace and we could share poetry and music and paint each other’s toenails black and watch our kids pull one another’s hair and tear the house down. And I would bake you cookies.

  3. thordora September 28, 2007 at 8:55 am #

    oh guys. Crying at work makes me look like a fucking pussy.

  4. Nat September 28, 2007 at 10:40 am #

    That was really beautiful…. I liked this entry a lot!

  5. radical mama September 28, 2007 at 12:13 pm #

    Honestly, my mom didn’t give me very useful advice at any point in my life. But she did always tell me that there would always be people who had it better than me, and people who had it worse than me. In other words, be grateful for what you have because even though it could be better, it could be a hell of a lot worse too.

    There were times not too long ago that we had $60 a week for groceries for 4 people. That really sucked. That was a lot of grilled cheese sandwiches and tuna noodle casserole. We had our heat turned off in February 2 years ago, with two little kids to keep warm.

    But I never stopped being grateful for John and the girls and what little we did have. Because pathetic as it was, I knew there were people with $30 to feed 6 people and no roof in the wintertime.

    Perspective is a great blessing. Sometimes it’s hard to find, I know, but you seem to always find it eventually.

  6. Hannah September 28, 2007 at 12:49 pm #

    I never find your blog easy to read, but I always find I learn something. And the lessons this week about perspective have been invaluable.

    I’m quietly glad that you were able to find some peace and joy in cuddling that wee baby.

  7. Procrastamom September 28, 2007 at 12:59 pm #

    I’m new here, but after today’s post I’m inifinately glad I signed up for your feed. Beautifully written.

    It made me wish I hadn’t looked so forward to my babies’ futures when they were so little. I wished I’d stopped more and enjoyed who they were in that moment, instead of wishing for the day they’d start sleeping through the night, instead of waiting for their first day of school. Well said Thordora, well said.

  8. Caitlin September 28, 2007 at 2:12 pm #

    I find that all too often, we base our comparisons on only the numbers we see as positives and don’t dig too deep for the negative ones. I too was in the NICU, although my son was a “frigging monster” at just over 10lbs and 23.5″. I guess when you’re waiting for your baby to hit the 5lb mark so you can go home, it does seem absurd for the mom of a 10lb’er to worry. But what the other NICU moms didn’t see were my son’s O2 sats, which promptly dropped to the 70s whenever we took him off of O2 and had the nurses mentioning “possible brain damage” and me cursing myself for trying for a natural birth and not having an induction at 41 weeks and taking a c-section earlier.

    I would have gladly traded places with the moms of the 3-4lb babies that went home long before we did. I saw their “numbers” as 1-2 weeks until they could sign release papers, dress their baby in the going home outfit, strap their baby in the infant carrier, and be a mom without the nurses grading you. I didn’t take into account any of their negative numbers, like insurance covering less than 100% of the NICU stay, being stuck around 4.75lbs when your baby seems to spit up more than they keep down, or any number of other things to worry about you discover in the NICU. It’s hard to not be sick with envy when it seems like everyone but you is going home with their baby.

  9. Ariel September 28, 2007 at 3:07 pm #

    Amazing how people can look perfectly fine, and be so torchered inside. I wonder, does someone want MY life? Do they think I have it easy sompared to them?

  10. Dragon September 28, 2007 at 3:17 pm #

    I know how it feels to look at everyone else and think, why is their life so perfect? Why can’t I have that? It’s hard not to be jealous when you feel like everything in your life absolutely sucks. Thank you for reminding that it’s not all roses and sunshine on the other side.

    –Dragon

  11. thordora September 28, 2007 at 6:47 pm #

    I get caught up in my own shit sometimes, and have to remind myself that pain is not a contest, that there are no winners or prizes. It’s hard when things are sucking.

  12. Marcy September 28, 2007 at 9:41 pm #

    Okay I’m going to write first and *then* read the other comments.

    Yes, I know that little (but huge!) victory of being able to enjoy a newborn… the first friend with a newborn after Amy, I couldn’t even think about without squirming, and wanted to avoid them like the plague. Now I see younger babies and I am not scared of them and am not immediately shifted back into the PPD darkness.

    And I have been hashing and rehashing “getting by and compensating” in my head for the last few days. I want to say something like, that IS life. For everyone. The obstacle course never ends. The boot camp never ends. There’s no *thing* you have to get through or over in order to get on with life. Whatever is now, IS life. This is all that warring against reality stuff. Absolutely there is rage and grief involved in coming to terms with the fact of reality, but there it is, and it really is possible to accept that reality is what it is, without condoning it.

  13. marcelarhodus September 28, 2007 at 9:43 pm #

    we can always find something better and something worse in other’s lives, it’s a matter of paying enough attention. So many times what seems to be the perfect life upon close examination is way worse than our own… noone gets dealt the perfect cards, some people just bluff better than others.

    I envy that you have a job, and that you see your husband every day at home… some people envy that I’m living in Japan and experiencing this world… I’d say everything comes with a price to pay, I’m experiencing this wonderful country, but I’m a single-parent for months.

    it’s raining here as well.
    when it rained my grandma would say “This is what heaven smells like”… it’s always stayed with me.

  14. Joanna September 28, 2007 at 10:34 pm #

    Thordora, you are a wise person and a sharp-witted writer. What an amazing post. Interestingly, I wrote something along the same lines on my blog yesterday. You just summed it up so much more eloquently, with great heart. Thank you for this reminder, indeed.

  15. bon September 29, 2007 at 5:29 am #

    for me too, the hardest lesson, this constant relearning, this struggle to keep the doors of empathy open.

    your encounter with your former colleague reminded me. many things reminded me this week.

    this was an amazing post.

  16. jewwishes September 29, 2007 at 9:42 pm #

    You are human, and you are humane. Try not to be hard on yourself. WE ALL tend to want to judge others, and when I find myself starting to, I talk to myself and tell myself to stop it. Who am I to judge…but it is the human side of me.

    And, you know what, the others on the bus were probably looking at you, thinking you had it better, and somewhat judging you, and telling themselves not to.

    Peace to you.

  17. bine October 1, 2007 at 3:08 pm #

    what a wonderful post. no, pain is not a contest, but we all wish life had easy rules and fair play and that everyone would get what they deserve.
    sadly, it doesn’t work out that way. as always, i’m wishing you more light and joy. and less pain.

  18. Oh, The Joys October 2, 2007 at 9:15 am #

    I loved this post, Thordora.

  19. moo October 6, 2007 at 11:32 am #

    sometimes, if I am driving at night, I see the glow of lights on in homes I pass. I find myself wondering what those people fear, what they love, if they are any better off than I am.

    I find I do this in the car, on my way in to work, as well. That man who cut me off … is he married, or gay, or dying of cancer? That couple in the car behind me … are they arguing, are they co-workers, do they even like each other?

    I think it is human nature to wonder about other people and to be curious about their lives. I think part of the “charm” of blogging and reading others’ sites is that you get a quick peek into the life of someone else. Someone who may be worse off than you … someone whose pain is so intense, so raw, that it makes you heart bleed.

    I am so sorry for your loss.

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