“The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live. “

12 May

Are you satisfied?

Our company moved into a new building today, a spanking new(ish) place, replete with new car smell and everything. For the most part, I observed that the move went pretty well, which is quite the achievement. My desk moved ok, most of my stuff arrived, everything I needed to do my job was there. I was good.

However, there is always a squeaky wheel prepared to drive everyone mad with their incessant demands and complaints. Nothing is ever good enough for them-something always missing. Never can they see the good-the quiet area, the new lunchroom, better decor. Only negativity. Only the bad side.

Can she see that her irritation, her dissatisfaction is relative? Would she be happier without a job? Would she be happier somewhere else? Would she be happier, ever?

We expect people to “get” us-we demand it. We demand that they acknowledge that the light is crappy at my desk. We demand that people acknowledge only our pain, our losses, discarding their own behind them. We demand that people stop and pay attention to us dammit! ME ME ME!

This isn’t to say I haven’t done this from time to time. But why are we so accepting of this? Why are we so indulgent? When we lash out and accuse others of not truly having suffered, not truly having anything worth whining about, when we accuse the people around us of having it easier, better chairs, better lives, what does that make us?

It’s like the pain olympics, just ten times more useless. My pain is MY pain. My irritation is MY irritation. It is not yours. You do not feel like I do. My relatives do not feel as I do. Strangers on the bus, strangers at work do not suffer, or not suffer, in the ways I do. We are unique in this-our pains, our annoyances and indulgences belong to us. It is not for me, or anyone else to permit it, to bless it. Despite my own pains, I have in the past grinned and borne it when listening to a litany of complaints, much as I did today. Because when it’s relative, I cannot absolutely 100% grasp what the other person is handling. I am not them. They are not me. There is no magic mirror into my soul that tells someone I am at 83% capacity for grief and 13% over it.

With this, I am satisfied. I do not believe that anyone can see inside my soul, nor do I want them to. What I want to understand, what I try to understand, is why any of us has this driving need to feel worse, to compete, to say my loss, my pain is worse than yours! You think you have it bad! Well, try living with this! Try sitting here! Try a loss like this on for size!

Are we still all 12? Is this a race to see who has more Barbie’s? Is loss a competition that can be won?

I have hurt in the past, and lashed out because I do not understand sometimes, the almost bucolic pains of some people. But I have also come to a starling conclusion that none of us sit in the same seat, and none of us, not even I, know the pains of every other person. I have come to understand that loss, pain, suffering, are unique and special snowflakes which stab and melt in altogether different ways for everyone. And that our losses can always be bigger.

I am not accusing, I am not casting a finger at anyone but myself. Yet I wonder how much more healing we could all do if we sat together and acknowledged that yes, we ALL hurt, and yes, we all suffer, equally but differently. I wonder how much easier it would be if we didn’t expect others to just get it, didn’t expect others to beware the fence we’ve erected, to say and do the right things, to put the light fixture exactly where we want it.

The world doesn’t revolve around each of us, even when we feel like it’s stopped, And we must be satisfied with nothing more than that. Otherwise, what point to our losses? What point to our rickety chairs and empty spaces?

Couldn’t we, shouldn’t we be satisfied with much more than ourselves?

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10 Responses to ““The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live. “”

  1. radical mama May 12, 2008 at 8:50 pm #

    I don’t get it either. But that could have a lot to do with my discomfort at being the center of attention. I don’t WANT people to “Look at me! Look at me!” *shudder*

  2. Oleander May 12, 2008 at 9:06 pm #

    I came upon this blog absolutely completely by accident, but I was totally drawn in by this entry.
    I don’t understand it either. What a pointless game. What is the prize? Pity? Respect for having “gone through so much”? Martyrdom for slights suffered? I’m not sure that’s attention I’d want or a game I’d want to win.

  3. sweetsalty kate May 12, 2008 at 9:21 pm #

    For me, it’s not a matter of wanting to be the centre of attention. It’s just one of the immediate phases of grief. It fucking pisses me off right now to heart women complaining about birth. I can’t bear it: it’s toxic to me. It feels like a slap in the face, like a dishonour to every woman who has had to hold their child while that child dies.

    Cerebrally, I know you’re right on all counts. I have the odd day where I believe it. But in my heart, there are other days when I’m just furiously angry still. Only jealous that I can’t be oblivious anymore. Textbook self-pity, but I can’t apologize for it.

    It’s easy to say in hindsight that the world doesn’t, and shouldn’t, stop for us when the shit explosion happens. That the concerns of the rest of the world are not trivial in comparison. But in the fallout, we will think so, for a while. Please be patient.

  4. radical mama May 12, 2008 at 9:45 pm #

    Kate,
    No one would accuse you of being self-indulgent. You also don’t compete with others to see who has suffered more. I’ve read your correspondences with Bon etc. and it’s about finding understanding and healing, not about wanting attention. Even though some of your posts are difficult for me to read and understand as a person who has not suffered the same loss, I am so glad that you are out there writing. Reading blogs like yours makes me a better person, truly.

  5. sweetsalty kate May 12, 2008 at 10:11 pm #

    Oh, no, I have been this way lately. It’s okay. What Thordora says here makes my eyes cross (in a thought-provoking way) only because here I am asking for the space to just be pissed off sometimes and not have it mean I’m a horse’s ass – and yet in the same breath, I would deny someone else that same right.

    It’s the emotional equivalent of a temper tantrum… and I’m trying to let it go. I don’t plan on being this bitter for the rest of my life. Sorry for the digression thor, I’m up too late. again.

  6. thordora May 13, 2008 at 7:02 am #

    It’s ok-I would get peeved by this if I hadn’t written it.

    I just read something yesterday or the day before that in essence completely minimized any losses I have suffered because theirs was greater-and while I realize it was mostly a vent, I also realized that I’ve always allowed myself to cow-tow and say “yes, yours is worse” when it may not be, when there is no purpose to saying so. If we had cancer, would we spend our time saying “no, MINE is worse, why are you upset?”

    We wouldn’t. We would find a way to support each other instead of isolating ourselves behind those very temper tantrums. (Which I have had, truly-I am not excluding myself from this behaviour anymore than I’m accusing anyone)

    We need our space for anger, for irritation, but I wonder if we can’t find better ways to channel that anger.

    I also know that the first few years after loss are angry and completely irrational.

    But there’s also true loss, and perceived loss. The “birth junkies” you speak of-that isn’t really loss, not in my eyes, just because a plan needed to be deviated from to save your life and that of your child. And I can understand your anger with that. I felt that way frequently, and still do sometimes around people with mothers-in my eyes, their lives are still perfect, and why are they complaining?

    It’s complicated, but despite everything, I’m still not sure why we ghettotize ourselves with grief when we could be open to anyone who has been there. (and hey, I know, when it hurts, I don’t WANT to be like anyone. I understand. I just wish I, myself could rise about it)

  7. radical mama May 13, 2008 at 8:36 am #

    I thought about this post when I was reading this quote today. A Quaker sent it to me:

    “Be kinder than you think necessary, for everyone you meet is engaged in some kind of struggle.”

    I think it is important to recognize and respect the struggles of others and if they seem trivial, perhaps they have been unable to voice what is really difficult in their life. I like to hear about the joys and happiness of others, too. It makes us human.

    I tend to keep my “struggles” to myself and work them out internally, but I also don’t think I need to suffer catastrophically for any of my pain to be considered valid, nor do I think I need to apologize for NOT having suffered catastrophically. Everyone will suffer greatly at some point in their life.

    I don’t think it is fair to expect people to just be grateful all the time because they haven’t experienced a loss as great as our own, whatever that may be. We all have things to be grateful for and things to mourn, too.

  8. thordora May 13, 2008 at 8:53 am #

    Well said Mama. Well said.

  9. Erin May 13, 2008 at 9:15 am #

    Those Quakers are some bright people. I need to read more of you…i’m not even sure how I found you…feel the need to understand you…I feel your pain…

  10. candidchatter May 13, 2008 at 10:07 am #

    I needed to read this. I am hypersensitive to the point that it hurts me if “they” offend me. Certain “theys”. Not all “theys”. I can be extremely self-centered with those “theys” though.

    Your post drove a point home that I needed to read. Thank you.

    We really don’t know the sufferings of others. Even when we believe we’ve suffered the same situation.

    Heidi Reed

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