Friday, November 11, 2011

You gotta live it to feel it


Woot woot!  I try not to be a follower whore, but it did make me smile today to see that 200 people have chosen to experience my dysfunction up close and personal.  Hurray!  Now let's celebrate with a post that will no doubt offend a number of people and drop that number back down.

I think of myself as very empathetic and have always thought that I could put myself in another's shoes and appreciate what they're dealing with.  The flip side is that I also believed that others could do the same - basically that anyone could understand anyone else if they tried hard enough.  Among many other things, motherhood has taught me this just isn't true.  There's a line in this song where Eminem says "You gotta live it to feel it/you didn't, you wouldn't get it" and he's right.

Here are a few things I've experienced that have to be lived to be understood:

1)  Bullying

"Everyone gets teased on the playground.  They used to call me Stork Knees!" 

No.  You don't get it.  I'm talking about vicious emotional torture that continues for 5 out of every 7 days for years.  A relentless boot kicking your self esteem and sometimes your body into unconsciousness.  I'm talking about not having even one friend and knowing that every human being in sight despises you.

There's a coldness in me and an inability to forge deep friendships as an adult that I attribute to those years. Because how do I know you weren't the one making my life hell under a different name all those years ago?  And yes, I do hold a grudge.  Show me a grown-up "bully victim" who doesn't and I'll show you someone who thinks being called Stork Knees was being bullied.

Here's what I can't understand:

The experience of those who were abused at home.  I was fortunate to have loving parents to go home to and my house was a refuge.  My heart aches for all the children and teenagers around the world who have no safe place at all.

2)  Miscarriage

"The baby was only the size of a grape and a first-trimester miscarriage is like a bad period.  It doesn't really count as a death and you don't need to memorialize it." 

No.  You don't get it.  I'm talking about seeing your baby curled up on the ultrasound with that bright, beautiful heartbeat flashing life on the screen.  And then holding tiny, misshapen pieces of tissue in your hand and realizing those little white bits were your child's spine.  And those dark blobs on that lifeless round piece of jelly on your palm were his or her eyes. 

I'm talking about blood drenching your clothes as if you'd been in a swimming pool, and hunching over the toilet trying to breathe through contractions that you know will bring a corpse instead of an angry, triumphant cry of life.  I'm talking about the baby and placenta falling into the toilet and finding the strength to search through the blood for him or her, because you will not flush your child away.

Here's what I can't understand: 

The unimaginable agony of reaching to wake your 3-month old and receiving no response.  Waiting as the hours tick steadily by for a 10-year old who never makes it those few blocks home from school.  Opening the door at 1:00am, an hour after your 16-year old's curfew, to police officers with grim expressions.  These scenes are the real horror movies of life.

3)  Motherhood

"Why are mothers always whining?  They signed up for this after all!  Why don't they have time for their friends?  If they find it so difficult, maybe they aren't cut out for parenthood."

No.  You don't get it.  It's (sort of) OK - I didn't get it either before I had S.  Even that statement used to make me mad, but it's true.  The grinding day in and day out pressure of parenthood, and the fierce, bone-deep love that goes with it, are not things you can understand without living them. 

One of my dearest childhood friends just gave me a letter of encouragement that lifted my spirits more than I can say.  She told me how brave she thinks I am, and that although I'm struggling and feeling like I'm not getting by, she knows I can do it.  The most beautiful words in the whole letter were:

"I want you to know that you're not alone in this...and I know that your friends and family...cannot understand well enough to be all you need...But we are here."

It was a letter that could only have been written from one mother to another, and I will always treasure it.

Here's what I can't understand: 

The heartbreak of so many women who never get the chance to complain about parenthood.  Miscarrying over and over, with no baby at home to bring hope for the future.  The single mothers and fathers who shoulder all the responsibilities of parenthood without a partner to laugh and cry with.

I wanted to talk about a number of other issues - poverty, depression and other happy thoughts - but this is a post, not a book, so I'll leave those for another time. 

One last thought:

It's Remembrance Day and I've been thinking about what it would be like to be 18 years old in 1917, watching your high school crush march toward fields of blood.  And then 42 in 1942, married to a different man after your fiance never came home, watching your son again march toward fields of blood.  It's something I can't understand - the strength of the generation who went from World War I to the Great Depression to World War II - but I can certainly respect and honour them.

In remembrance of all who have fought for our freedom, past and present:


  1. 202 new followers now :)) Found you via Mom's Bookshelf hop!

  2. Wow, heavy stuff, well written and thought out.
    Makes me think twice about stuff I've never lived.

    The Cranky Old Man

  3. First the light stuff: we all love our followers, but you have real followers who care about what you read, so you're not whoring it :P

    I can NOT imagine the miscarriage as you described it, but thank you for sharing it. Also, thanks for posting In Flanders Fields. I remember reciting it every year on Remembrance Day at school.

  4. This was a powerful post. It's real, it's honest, and doesn't try to camouflage the truth. And that's one of the many things that your followers love about your blog.

  5. Rather than being dissuaded, I just added to your followers list. And am glad to do so.
    I, too, marvel at the strength of the generation between the wars (with a great depression thrown in just to make sure everyone was paying attention).
    It makes me feel so petty when I bitch about the internet being down for an hour.
    Powerful post.

  6. Oh, and just so you know I'm not serious all the time (well, hardly ever, but I think you've figured that out by now, though)....
    I love Eminems! They melt in your mouth, not in your hands.
    Although I didn't think they were spelled that way.

  7. My philosophy has always been that I cannot fully understand someone else's feelings because I have not had their experiences.

    I have had friends who could not have their own children while I had four. Although I can empathize with them, I do not totally understand the depth of their despair on this issue.

    I have also lost one of my children to cancer while another set of friends have lost two now, one to an accident and one to cancer. I can understand their loss, but I cannot understand doing that twice.

    We all have different events in our lives that affect us and we should never blow off someone else's pain.

  8. Deep and powerful stuff! And that's so true... you will never understand it if you haven't lived it!!

  9. I'm so sorry for the heart ache you have experienced. Yes it's wonderful that we don't get so many things but that doesn't make what you do understand all too well from experience any less painful. That little baby you lost was truly blessed to have such a compassionate mumma and I'm terribly sorry his or her time was cut short.

  10. So powerfully and beautifully written, sometimes we have so little real understanding and appreciation of others' circumstances. There are far too many real life horror movie scenes sadly, conversations we wish never to have, experiences we hope never happen to anyone. :)

  11. You are an amazing writer. You have the uncanny ability to put emotions into words to express to the reader so viscerally you bring them to tears. My heart aches for you, but I admire your strength and courage. You are a beautiful soul.

  12. What an amazing post, and you are such a terrific writer. Certainly bringing perspective to things most won't ever experience or understand.

    Showing some comment love from FTLOB


  13. I'm glad I came over from your dancing post to read this. A tear dropped here!


Lend me some sugar!