Out of the Shadows

The other day I couldn’t resist watching the trailer for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children even though the book scared the daylights out of me. I was curious if the characters looked the way I’d pictured them, and I must say, I certainly never pictured Eva Green as Miss Peregrine (I’ve always seen Maggie Smith). At the end of the trailer, there’s a short image of what terrified me in the book.

While it’s not a creature I’d want to meet in a dark alley or, well, anywhere, seeing it on the screen made me go “huh…that was what scared me so much?” It’s interesting that I’d taken the outlines in the book and filled them in with my own terrors, insecurities, and ugliness to make a truly horrifying creature that scared me for good reason.

Finally pulling the monsters lurking in the dark spaces of my own mind out and really getting a good look at them this week has had a similar effect. They’re still formidable creatures and I still don’t want to deal with them, but they’re not as big or terrible as the shadows they cast.

~*~

Mali left a wonderful, sage comment on my last post pointing out that although the media (and social media) portrays family and big events as uncomplicated and happy, the reality is usually murkier. As much as I sometimes know that in the back of my head intellectually, it’s easy in the onslaught of joyful photos and exciting news to forget that this isn’t the whole of reality. I spent some time looking through what I’d posted over the past year or so, and it was interesting to note that after E was born, my Facebook posts take on a decidedly upbeat tone that wasn’t terribly congruent with what I was actually experiencing at the time. It’s also worth noting that I’ve never posted about my brother’s death on Facebook.

This didn’t happen in a vacuum, of course. After E was born, it seemed that any time I’d express concern or get upset (mostly IRL), I often got a variation on this: “But you’re thankful/should be thankful she’s alive! And doing so well!” It’s true that for a 28 weeker, especially with the early PPROM, E has done exceptionally well. She never needed a ventilator, much to everyone’s immense surprise, and at this stage of things, is right on track for her adjusted age of around 9 months. I was and am thankful for E, knowing how close we came to losing her. But it did not take away the reality that it was hard and still is sometimes.

There were days I could remind myself that people say sh*t like this for various reasons, ranging from the fact that outright sadness and suffering makes a lot of people very uncomfortable, to the idea that people often want to ‘fix’ the situation, to simply being ignorant or having their own issues. There were/are other days, however, where it was/is very effective in making me feel as though I needed to put a happy spin on a tough situation or, in many cases, simply ‘suck it up’. After all, someone had it worse than me. Honestly, I think this is a big part of where the pain olympics comes from: people feel they need to justify their pain and the complex feelings surrounding events culture often insists should be purely happy. That’s the pressure I’ve been putting on myself, and the pain olympics is all over my last post.

So I’m taking a deep breath and saying it fully: I am really excited and happy to be an aunt. I am really glad that my BIL and SIL don’t need to go through fertility treatment again and that the babies are doing relatively well. I’m sad for them that their lives/pregnancy/birth didn’t go as planned in scary ways. It truly doesn’t matter when it comes to NICU or fertility treatments – no matter the duration of either, they represent some big losses. It’s also not a shame to say that I’m sad and angry for myself at all the losses and the very real fear and sadness that surrounded my pregnancy with E as well as the difficulty of NICU and the subsequent months of taking her to 2-3 appointments a week on average and bringing her home on monitors and oxygen. It’s not wrong that siblings trigger the many unresolved feelings surrounding my own brother’s death and infertility. It’s also natural that all of this brings up difficult memories of messiness that are the events of my life over the past three or four years.

That, I suppose, is reality: some good, some bad, some uncertain.

Just as I knew that we would somehow go on and have lives of beauty and worth if we did not have a child, I know we will likewise have goodness if E is an only child. It won’t happen overnight, and may take years to fully work through readjusting those dreams and hopes but I firmly believe we will get there. I also sometimes have to remind myself that plenty of people are only children – and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. E being an only child would not be the same as me being one of two and suddenly left alone. It’s easier to project my own sadness and insecurities as I’ve barely scratched the surface of grieving and coming to terms with what happened to my brother or to sublimate the memories I need to come to terms with by playing pain olympics.

I’m impatient in many ways. I wanted the battles with my demons done, you know, yesterday. Then again, I have to remind myself that there’s a reason I have the sign I do hanging over my desk:

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It’s something I’m working to remember.

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4 thoughts on “Out of the Shadows

  1. I love it when people are honest on Facebook about when things are hard for them. Not the whingers – the people who complain about everything and never have a positive thing to say – no one likes that. But the people who are just honest about the ups and downs of life. I kept the whole IVF thing quiet on Facebook, but I probably shouldn’t have. (I think it was pride.) Now that I am pregnant I’ve shared a lot more, including when we had a raised nuchal fold on one twin and had to have a double amnio to rule out abnormalities. Sharing the fears and outcomes (it turned out ok) has brought me a lot closer to my wider group of friends. I think you can be real without making people uncomfortable – it’s how you say it. (And you say everything so beautifully!)

  2. I’m loving all you touch-on with this post. The fact that we feel pressure to minimize our pain during traumatic situations. I think you hit the main elements behind this on the head; the discomfort others want to rapidly fix combined with this need for others to suck it up so that they can feel better.

    There are people who live in a cloud of constant negativity. But trauma and chronic pain often get lumped in with general whining simply because people don’t know how to respond and/or really crave a solution. We know too well that it’s a process. One that is not straight forward and can be messy.

    So the only way I’ve found to work through all of this is embracing the messy, just as you have. Admitting that things are scary even in moments of hope. Admitting the sad that comes with the good. All while being mindful that we may not know the full story that everyone views the world through different lenses.

    Glad you wrote about all of this. And thinking of you all as you go through this process.

  3. I love the sign above your desk. I feel like there’s very little that’s real on Facebook, and when people do share the pain, the things that aren’t going so well, everyone feels the need to be a cheerleader and try and “at least” you to death. Sometimes, you just want someone to acknowledge that life is hard and things suck in the moment and you don’t want to think about the silver linings, but nothing makes people more uncomfortable than grief, loss, and sadness for an experience that they may not be able to (or can’t bring themselves to) relate to. I didn’t realize there was a trailer for Miss Peregrine! I’ll have to watch it. I loved the book, but it was creepy for sure. I’m glad that things in reality turned out to be less murky and scary than in thought. And I really think that more people need to acknowledge that dichotomy of happiness/sadness. Silver linings/dark tumultuous clouds. Hope and fear. That’s reality, not the rosy-colored glass version that gets spread on social media and shoved away by the “at leasts.”

  4. Woefully behind on my blog reading, but wanted to drop a quick note to say I agree with you completely. I’m sure sociologists are busy studying what’s behind the”PR” version of lives presented to the world via FB and how out of step it can be with the reality of our day to day challenges. Playing armchair psychologist, I’d guess that we want to promote a sense of well-being and harmony even if one some days it’s only aspirational.

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