Monday, September 20, 2010

On Change

I remember the paradoxes, and there were so many.
I want time to speed up, I can't stand this pain: but I want time to stop, I don't want to move further away from her.
I want people to care about me! I want them to ask me how I'm doing: I don't want anyone to talk to me.
I don't want to do anything, I just want to sit here and be sad: I need something to do so I don't feel only sadness.
I want everything to change: I want nothing to change.

This was the biggest thing, I think. I can remember this urgency pulling me in two directions with equal force. There was one side of me that wanted everything to stay the same. The little paper with her footprints on it was on the mantlepiece, we had placed it there when we got home from the hospital. It was not to be moved. The nursery was to remain exactly the same. Photos of Charlotte went up around the house, but otherwise things were the same: the same phone I had spoken to the midwife on, the same coffee table I'd put my feet up on while in early labor, the same bed in the same room where my water had broken and it had all began. The same staircase I had thumped down in terror, seized with cramps, running for the bathroom (was that when she died?, I always wonder). Things were static for a while.
But then things began to change. The flowers we had been given, simple, direct ties to our homecoming and to our memorial service, began to die. Our black telephone broke, and the jar of mayonnaise I had opened on the day before she was born was empty. Things I had bought at the grocery store on the last day we'd gone shopping together were beginning to disappear from our shelves. Change was happening, and I couldn't stop it.
This was when the dichotomy began, because there was this small, eager part of me that wanted it. I was so deeply wounded, like a fox who has been freed from a trap but whose leg is still raw and ragged, the bone exposed and flesh weeping, and who is emaciated from weeks in that trap. I could barely peer out from under the blanket of my grief, and under there I tried to cling fiercely to the things that connected me to her, and to that time of the second week of May. But as things did change on me, and I did occasionally peek out from under the blanket, there were parts of me that wanted to try to throw it off and begin again. I wanted to throw off the blanket and begin to run, to run and run and run and not look back. The pain was so engulfing that I felt sure in my heart I could never survive it. Clearly the situation was never going to improve, I reasoned, as every day of my life I would still live with the knowledge of my little dead daughter, and how could that fact ever diminish in its sadness? But many people had told me that the wound heals around the edges, and that over time I would not feel that serrated knife thrusting in and out of my heart with growing intensity. So there was a part of me that was feeling urged to move along, to change things as fast as I could, so I could get to that next place where each breath in and out didn't hurt.
But I knew this was futile: I hadn't done my grief work yet. I knew somehow, even though I'd never done it before, that grief was my job right now, and that in order to come out somewhere that I could carry Charlotte comfortably inside me, like a fond memory, I would have to do this job now, and I'd have to do it well.
As time passed, and I found myself continuing to be torn about whether to embrace or reject change, I began to adopt a new philosophy, one which guides me to this day. And it is that with each step I take, I simply ask myself which direction will feel the most healing for me, myself, personally. Is it going to be more healing for me to leave the May calendar on my wall, so I can reflect on the events that happened that month, or will I feel refreshed by seeing it turn to June? Upon recognizing my first instinct, I would take action, and know that was the right choice for me. Will it feel better for me to stay at home by myself today, or do I want to try to go somewhere out in the open, to call Charlotte's name over a field or stream? Which will feel more comfortable to me at the end of the day? Not, what do the grief books say, or not what do I think my mother would want me to do, or not what do my friends expect me to do, but what will be most healing for me.
And over time, I learned that the things around me that tied me to her weren't actual ties. They were physical reminders, yes, but when they were gone nothing changed between Charlotte and I, and so it became easier for me to make little, and then bigger, and then huge changes around me which felt refreshing and light. By mid summer I was painting my dining room, my living room, and rearranging furniture. I signed up for a horseback riding class because when I was a little girl they had been too expensive and I'd always wanted to learn to ride. And I filled Charlotte's nursery with things that were hers: clothing, diapers, stuffed animals, hospital bracelets, locks of hair, and birth certificates. I went in there every night, without fail. Greg and I would sit on the floor and read each other chapters of Charlotte's Web, we would write letters to her in a journal a friend had given to us, and we'd build with her blocks. We'd sit with her, and became more and more comfortable in this relationship, which was strengthening every day.
I was learning to trust Charlotte, that there was a part of her that could not leave me. She has stuck to me like glue throughout this journey, seven years and four months and seven days of it, keeping my feet rooted in my conviction that I will make the best choice for myself every day to make myself more comfortable and likely to thrive. I grieved long, and I grieved hard, and I still do, in those pockets of time where things are still, and quiet, and a soft piece of music comes on that tears at my heart. Or at the times when my family, my joyous, living family is just loving each other so hard, the grief can sink in quite suddenly, still only seconds from the surface of my being.
But Charlotte is kind to me, she's gentle, and she helps me every day. I do walk hand in hand with her now, knowing how much she has taught me, loving her, and feeling her love. I'm still desperately wishing I could bring her back, but I'm also knowing that I've done well with the rotten lot we got, that her little life inside me was not for nothing.
I carry her with me, I carry her in my heart.

i carry your heart
with me (i carry it
in my heart) i am
never without it
(anywhere i go you go, my dear)
~ee cummings


butterflymom said...

I love this post...and am in tears because of it. You put it down so well... Thank you. You make me believe that everything I have done this past year is me doing what's best for me...maybe Kennedy is guiding me just like Charlotte is there with you. I'd like to believe that. We both need our daughters...and thank goodness that there are signs for us that show us they are there. ((Hugs))

Hope's Mama said...

No words today. Just nodding and tears.

Ya Chun said...

Your bond with Charlotte is beautiful. Your words bring tears to my eyes and inspiration to my heart.

Big Love, Big Acceptance - or so I say said...

Oh my. This is truly beautiful.

My daughter's year anniversary dates for her birth and death are quickly approaching (9/25-9/28) and I am struggling with my grief and how to honor my daughter. Your words inspire me to be more present to what I need right now. So far I like to think I've really been present for my grief and do what I need to do, but I've lost touch with that over the last couple of weeks. Guess the year anniversary is feeling bigger than I could have imagined.

I find comfort in reading words.

dude said...


Pietrowski's of North Andover said...

once again...thank you. So beautiful.

Claire T said...

I lost my son Daniel 3 weeks ago today. This post is so beautiful. It tells me what my heart is feeling but cannot say. And it gives me hope that his death will some day make sense to me. Thank you.