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Archive for the ‘just thinkin’’ Category

Life is busy. For every one. Not a single person would not shake her head and say “Life is so busy!”; “I have no idea where that time went!”; “I just don’t even know what to do first!”

Yes, it is true. I have a busy life too. Or so I think. But when I try to slow things down, really stand still and attempt to make a list of exactly what I have done, I have an almost blank list, nothing much to add to the usual “busy” stuff and getting from one place to another. So I am not sure how I used to be on Facebook (somewhat) regularly, or write all these posts on this blog.

I guess, there was a time when I had no choice but to force upon myself the luxury of grieving. Yes, the luxury. Where you spend the days washing your face with tears, pulling your hair out, shaking your fist at the sun, and all bright beautiful days, searching for and putting together broken pieces. Everything fell to the wayside. The house crumbled, the yard went insane, and homeschooling went out of the window. Instead I read every book on stillbirth that I could lay my hands on. I crawled through the internet, seeking information: I needed both an explanation and an accurate forecast for the next pregnancy. I read blogs like crazy, with a feverish urgency to connect with others who have experienced similar losses, who could understand my broken heart.

And I started this blog.

And then I neglected it.

The frequency of posts on this blog has plummeted. What does this mean? 500 years later, when an internet archaeologist chanced upon my blog and run his proverbial magnifying glass over the debris of my blog, what will he think? Will he classify this under the category “experienced loss and then moved on”? Or perhaps “Time heals all wounds”? Or “Signifies death of blogs; age of Twitter”?

Well, yes, I have moved on.¬† There is no choice but to move on since there is no going back- don’t I wish I could go back and change everything?!

I have not forgotten, but the scab does form over the wound, and yes, life gets busy again (full-time grieving can only be a short-term luxury), and the mind gets distracted. But my heart still aches. I still cannot raise my head and look at a star without thinking of my little star voyager. I still sometimes when opening the car trunk or a cabinet will think I may see a shriveled up baby in a bundle, forgotten by his terribly neglectful mother.

Most of the time, it is the struggling and healing process after that comes to my mind most. It is just too painful to go back to that day. So, when I was approached by Janel Atlas to contribute a chapter to the book They Were Still Born, I wondered how I would tell my story. Much as I knew it would be a difficult writing process, I was eager to write it, to add my voice to the stories of loss, hoping that someone will hold my words in her hands and nod her head vigorously, and perhaps, find a glimmer of hope after.

Writing my piece plunged me viscerally back to the event itself: the shock, disbelief, the searing pain of saying goodbye forever, and then turning around and realizing that no matter how hard, one has to trudge on. As such, I chose to write my piece in third person, thinking it would distance myself from the pain, and also attempting to view my personal story from a distance. I had also hope that, by not giving the grieving mother a name and a face, that others reading the story will be able to identify with it better, and feel that their story could have easily fit in there, and that the hope and healing could be theirs too. However, writing in third person did not make it easier, because it still did not allow me to dissociate my past self with my present self. They are still very much the same person. In writing my piece, I also read back to my blog posts close to the horrific experience, and I winced and flinched at the flooding of strong emotions. Also I felt I used so many words!! So many exclamation marks!! So, I decided to scale back. Used minimal words, and refrained from a direct telling of the emotions experienced by “the woman” but to let the story unfold by itself, to let the reader fill in the details and experience the emotions for themselves. I imagined it was a silent movie and the reader would choose the soundtrack that they preferred and changed the scenery as they like. It was an endeavor to distill everything down to a somewhat skeletal story so that every reader can tailor it to their own experience, their own stories, and yet be able to identify with the events, the same shock, disbelief, pain, and healing… and know that it is truly possible, since she had done it.

However, I have to be truthful. Janel told me to contribute the story of my stillbirth and I simply took it to mean- how did it happen, what was it like? So, when I finally received my copy of the published book (!!) and read through it, my initial reaction was that of dismal. The book is a rich collection of stories, but it was not exactly what I expected. There were more ruminations, reflections and spurs to action. It felt like every other writer was more intelligent and thoughtful, and more able to analyze their experience and delineate what the path of healing may look like. I thought to myself, “Oh my goodness! All I wrote was the event and nothing more! I could have added more intelligent analysis and all that! But now it is too late…. this must be the dumbest piece in the whole collection.”

Yet, I was thankful for the experience and grateful to be included so my story can be told. I hoped it would help someone else understand the experience, and know that re-birth is possible. And I was so proud of the book, not just a collection of wonderful stories, but also with an informative section. I had read so many books on stillbirth but seen nothing like this; a book that could offer emotional solace and also empowering information. I almost burst with pride that I could have something in such a book, that I felt sure was going to make a difference to every grieving family who had experienced a stillbirth. Surely they would find a voice or story in the collection that they can identify with, and feel they have informative resources that would enable them to move on confidently.

But would I change my essay given the opportunity? Probably not. It feels now that my piece in the book is like a piece of the puzzle. If I change my piece, I would also change the shape of the puzzle and it would not fit nicely anymore. But I guess it would also depend on the feedback from those who have read the book- if they say, that was an odd piece, then I probably would write something else, because ultimately what I wish to contribute is not just my story, but a step to healing. However, if the publisher would establish a companion page to They Were Still Born, allowing the contributing writers to update on their grieving process, or where they are now in terms of healing, I would be happy to contribute. Life is a meandering path as it is, and it is human nature to wish to see ahead, to find a glimmer of guidance, to know that by putting one foot in front of another and keeping one’s chin up, there will be golden days ahead. Knowing that many others walk this meandering path is a comfort, and bolsters one’s courage. It may not make a big difference, but every little small thing can be amplified when you feel lonely in your grief and darkness.

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How about you? Do you think you have left the path of grief? Do you still have the urge to post on your blog, or connect with fellow babylost mothers?

I miss you all and hold you all in my heart.

 

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Yesterday afternoon I speeded through my blog reader while Lyra dangled off my breast, her face and body limp, her snores interspersed with the clicking sound that the mouse makes when I scroll down pages, and click on links. I think I am sort of up to speed. I made a couple of comments where I felt I could say something with an iota of meaning; some other times I still cannot find the right words, or felt too much time had passed to say anything significant. I am still subscribed to too many blogs (I don’t believe those of you who even subscribe to grammar blogs, and you know who you are!) because I still live under the illusion that I can create time and that if I read a creative blog I just may one day start knitting a kilt or something.

Another thing. I noticed many of you have slowed down writing too, especially those who do not stand too far from me on the time-line of grief. I hope this means we are spiraling out and some healing is going on. But maybe it just means we simply have to dust off the shit and get on, even if the wound is still gaping. I know in the past weeks I have experienced several times intense re-visiting of my grief, when I felt the clouds, dark and heavy, standing shoulder to shoulder, blocking out the light, and I did not feel I could breathe. I still sense deep pain in my heart, and disbelief that this is me, and this is my life. I lunge forward, my fists reaching with clenched determination to punch a hole through the dark cloud wall, and it felt soft.

In fact, this morning I thought: sheesh, I do not miss him less. I am missing him even more.

::

An uncle of mine, uncle A, died last Saturday. It was peaceful, he was at home, surrounded by family. It probably was a release for him, having suffered from severe dementia the last several years and being recently diagnosed with advanced colon cancer. He underwent a colon surgery and then developed a lung infection and suffered several days for that. Then he was discharged. And then I think he decided enough was enough and his body began to shut down.

He had always been quiet and reserved, a rather shy man. I was never really close to him as he seldom shared much, but he would never say no if approached for help. He had always been nice to me, and he will be greatly missed.

It was hard when he had dementia. He became impossible to reason with and often he seemed to be in a world of his own, or perhaps a resilient bubble that we simply could not break through. Sometimes it was hard to be patient with him. Sometimes we forgot to be kind because we felt tested.

What I’ve been thinking is: do we treat someone nicely only if they can treat us back nicely? For some time, uncle A did not treat anyone nicely, because of his dementia, his condition. But before that, he was just this gentle-mannered man who always had a smile lurking on his face. But sometimes it was hard to remember that somewhat elusive smile, and get frustrated by his unreasonable (and baffling) behavior and… not be nice to him.

His condition was dementia. I think we all have a condition: stress, grief, insufficient support, lack of appreciation, low self-esteem, self-loathe, etc.

And it is not always easy to see that someone is experiencing a condition, and still needs to be treated as nicely as possible. We somehow become our condition in other people’s eyes.

And so, in honor of uncle A, I vow to see past your condition, acknowledge it, and still see who you are, beneath that condition.

::

It is crass, I know, to put it here, but it ties in with the theme of this post.

This year I am trying to find ways to generate an income. I have thought about what I can do, if I still wish to stay home with my children, and especially if we continue to homeschool. I have been away from the work force for ten years. Prior to that, I taught in an art college, worked in an art gallery, free-lanced as (art) translator, and was also a teaching assistant (although at that time they gave me an overblown title of “Visiting Scholar”). I have basically stepped away from the art world the past years. Some things simply did not resonate with me anymore. I don’t think I will ever step back in again. My translation assignments had slowed down (to zilch), but the children are growing and it will be good to have a secondary income.

I have looked at books for small business ideas and none appealed to me, mostly because I do not like to sell things. I have been a salesgirl before in my life and I know it is not something I will excel at.

So, I am trying to maintain a food blog that will hopefully generate income. The good thing is, I will have all my favorite recipes in one place even if the blog does not rocket to star status. (And frankly, I’m a little intimidated by what is already out there.) The bad thing is, I almost feel like I need to sell my soul. I need traffic, period. The more the better. Will you please visit my food blog, and tell people about it? Hopefully people will like it and eventually become not just regulars, but friends. I will try to be civil, but I am not sure I can promise, because I have my conditions sometimes.

Maybe I’ll see you there?–

My Sweet Life

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It rained almost the whole day yesterday. I love the rain, but it also made me melancholic.

And then, during the night, the wind picked up. It blew and howled all night long. I could hear and feel, our bedroom window rattling, I could feel muscles in the wind, how it was trying to bend trees and test strengths and push limits. How it felt like it had teeth and claws and what a savage animal it could be. It reminded me of typhoon season in Hong Kong, when the rain will pour down in merciless buckets and the sky will literally turn black and the winds will take out everything in its path, a dangerous time indeed.

As I laid and listened, I felt the howling, pressing wind was like a metaphor for how grief can be like. Powerful and relentless. How it can break you. How it rattles, how it can take you by the knees and whip you and shatter you.

I also thought how the volcanic mountains can also be a metaphor for grief. How it explodes, and smother for days and days on end. How it may go to sleep for a time, and then erupt all over again, with added fervor. How, even when it goes dormant, is still a volcanic mountain. And you never can tell if it ever becomes active again, and when.

When I got up this morning, the sky was light and bright. I did not see any damages in our yard and I was a little surprised. Everything was rather still and quiet, and calm. The sun was out, but it is going to be windy today.

I am still melancholic. I miss my son.

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no way out

Last week at the library I saw a new book and just grabbed it as we got ready to check our books out. The author is Jane Yolen, whom we love, and the book title was “Elsie’s Bird.” We love birds, so I thought I could not go wrong grabbing the book.

This morning Lyra brought it to me and I read it. And my heart broke.

The story is about a little girl, Elsie, who lived in the city of Boston and how she loved the birds and all the sounds. But her mother died and her father, in an attempt to move away from the sadness in his heart, re-located them to Nebraska, where the only sea Elsie could find was a sea of grass.

She hid indoors with her bright yellow canary in a cage, not hearing any sounds, and sobbing in bed without letting her father know. But one day while he father was out in town the bird Timmy Tune flew out of out his cage and Elsie had to go looking for him. She finally did, and Timmy came back to her shoulder, and then she began to hear all the sounds of the prairie.

She finally made her home there in Nebraska.

It is not a true story but how my heart broke, that the father tried to run away from the sadness, and how Elsie could not find comfort, at least not for some time, until her father brought home the chickens and the rooster and a dog.

After Ferdinand died, we talked about moving, but did not. But I know for some time I was not there for my girls. My sadness and grief built walls up around myself. I did not try to run away but my heart and mind was often elsewhere, seeking. Perhaps running.

As I read the page about Elsie’s father wishing to put distance to the sadness in his heart, I said to myself, You cannot out-travel grief. As MacCracken said so well in her book, grief will follow you wherever you go, no matter how far you fly, how high you climb.

But it is not always necessarily a heavy luggage to lug along.

Sometimes it is just a sigh you exhale as the sun plunges into the bleeding sea.

 

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seasons of grief

I have been wondering how my grief will feel different if I’ve never left the tropics, because this past year I began to discern my grief feels different in every season. Not that every season has a clearly different face, for the grief warps and weaves through time and there is always some constant, but perhaps what my eyes perceive and what my body feels affect how my grief feels. Or perhaps, it is the other way around. The seasons felt that way as I meet them with my bereaved soul.

Summer is the worst, the season when he left us. Especially here in AZ, the oppressive, dry and unrelenting heat made it difficult to breathe, and the never-ending heat and its intensity morphed into a metaphor for my acute grief and eternal missing. The memories of that summer weighed heavy on me, obnoxiously sitting on my chest, grinding away. When the rain would not come, it felt my tears could not be released either.

Then, autumn. Colors change, temperatures dip. Watching life prepare to rest, or return to earth, once again, releases my grip on grief. I let go. I see the cycle of life play out and listen as gentle songs tickle in my ears, humming of meeting again and dust forever circulating. I recall our first autumn after Ferdinand died– the deep melancholy, and how a year had passed since we first knew that he was in my womb¬† — but not having him with us. The sadness is more gentle. We made fires that consume our sorrow and sent our love up in the smoke. As stars seem to freeze in the velvet dark skies, and we shudder within our warm layers, we gaze up and feel that cold in our heart, and reach our hands over our hearts to warm that chill of grief with passionate missing and love.

Winter. The holidays trigger the flurry of why’s and if-only’s. I endeavor exercises in gratitude and celebration, attempting to demonstrate to my living children that no matter what, we still have so much to be grateful for. No matter what, Ferdinand is with us, in our hearts, peeping over our shoulders even. In winter I contemplate. I curl up within and bring a candle into my cave and mull over those philosophical questions about life and why and about crap. I see friends, I see families, I see children and I miss him. But in a different way from in the summer. Winter can feel warm: the extra layers we throw on, the heater never knowing what’s the best temperature for us, the hot chocolate, the steaming cookies, warm baths and comfort food. The friendship and concern people show. I think all those temper the grief a little. And then also make it worse a little.

Spring. The first spring after, when tiny, bright green and tender leaves began to sprout, I felt there must be hope. Life must thrive again. No matter how dark the winter, and how quiet and seemingly dead it had been, life must spring forth again. That first spring it was important for me to see that life would come forth. Of course I saw too that some life did not make it. Some tress never came to again and every beginning of life involved some form of struggle, as we saw it out in the wild. Life can falter. But it never really gave up. That first spring made me grind my teeth and plod on. Now, when spring comes, I think, “Look at all this life. The other side of death.”

How about you? Is it different for you? What is the most difficult season for you? How are you for autumn?

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in the early months after he died, i always felt the path ahead was long, dark and winding, whatever dimness of light ahead leaking from the door to death. alongside the path, snarled branches to tear, gigantic roots to trip, thorns to rip. perilous, winding path.

after a while, i see that the road does not just lead on and on, it comes back, again and again. spirals. we’ve all talked about that. stumbling a bit further from the pain and memory, then suddenly finding one back at the same point again, a little removed sometimes, time doing its work perhaps.

until one day recently, I was making accordion folds with my origami paper, trying to put together a kusudama flower. back and forth, back and forth.

it provoked memory of a performance I watched while viewing a documentary not too long ago. you have to watch it, you have to, it is amazing.

but he is playing winter. Ferdinand was a summer baby, so i looked for summer and found it. and my soul stirred and my heart slammed and the missing came in huge waves.

back and forth, back and forth. squeeze, release, squeeze, release.

simplified, that is the essence of the accordion. the bellows. the accordionist squeezes the bellows, pressurizing the air within, forcing it to escape, which in turn gives music to notes. the harder the squeeze, the louder the emergence. it is the accordion pleats, made from cardboard, cloth or leather, that allows the bellows to swell and collapse, varying the volume of the music played.

and so is grief, at least mine. back and forth. swelling, collapsing.

but never truly silent.

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words are meager

A week ago my friend’s mother died. I cried with her and for her, for her mother was not just her mother, but her very best friend, and much, much more. I have never spent a lot of time with her mother but I feel I know her, because her spirit is so huge; every time I interact with K, I feel I am interacting with her mother. She has baked for us, and sewed for us and she knows how I drool over the clothing over at Chasing Fireflies and had offered to try to duplicate some for me, if I would just let her know which ones I lust over. And I had thought once I got my stuff straightened out I would start taking sewing lessons from her, starting from threading the machine, and sewing straight lines.

Only she got sick. Her kidneys gave way, then her liver, and everything fell apart soon. She fought, so hard, but her body had had enough and ready to take leave of the dusty realm. All her three children were with her, and said their goodbyes.

But, K said, mom did not get to say her goodbye. She was too sedated, she never came to again. And her voice broke on the phone, and my tears rolled with hers, and we sniffed in unison.

I wanted to tell K we have a condolence card for her. I just need to send it out. Except I also don’t feel like, because it feels so stupid.

I spent a long time in the store with the girls, looking through every card. All were crappy. Meager words that echo deep with emptiness, because really, those card writers also do not know what to say. (Who knows what to say? I don’t.)

Nonetheless they printed “For Your Comfort” on the front of the cards, with either flowers or sunset alongside. Really? How would a $4.95 card bring comfort, even if it were printed on recycled paper? They all say the same things- may you find hope, may memories bring you peace, love goes on and similar things. All Bull crap to me.

As I picked up each card, glanced over the front, opened it up and then put it back, I started to heave.

Even if those words were meager and empty, they reminded me of what I do not have- memories of my son. I strain to hear his voice, stare hard to find his smile, but I have no memories, other than the pregnancy of course, and how the horror unfolded and when the world collapsed. How I wish I had some other different memories.

Words are meager. I have written many lines here, thousands of words. Trying to understand, giving up trying to comprehend, trying to find hope, trying to find my feet, trying to feel my heart and writing down what I feel. I told myself this is how I honor him, our grief and his memory.

But oh, meager, meager words.

In memory, with love and respect. Because words cannot express. But perhaps the trees and rocks know.

(Picture taken during Colorado trip.)

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