Monday, March 18, 2013

Consciousness and Light

Let me start off by saying that I am not a good enough writer (evidenced by the use of the phrase "good enough writer") to properly express what I want to in this post.  But I'll give it a shot....

I was catching up on reading blogs the other day and read this quote in this post:  

"There is no coming to consciousness without pain." Carl Jung

And I thought YES.  

For a couple of years now, I have struggled with how to describe how losing the baby changed me.  How, even though its the worst thing that ever happened to me, I appreciate how it changed me.  I like myself better.  I feel different.  Until I read this quote, I would describe it (to myself) as I feel more "awake."  Awake to the highs and lows.  Awake to the blessings in my life - my husband, my family and friends, the roof over my head, the pedicure I get once a month.....I felt such a deep, awful sadness for a long time after we lost the baby.  Just NOT GOOD for years.  But feeling that low has made me so much more aware of the highs.  So much more thankful for the good.

The whole quote is actually this:

"There is no coming to consciousness without pain.  People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own soul.  One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious."

Now, I'm not sure if I completely understand the whole thing.  The first sentence is what really rings true for me.  But I think the rest of the quote is saying that people will do anything to avoid feeling pain and facing the darkness.  For many years, that's what I did.

Losing the baby and struggling to get pregnant are definitely the hardest things I have ever had to face.  But they are not the only tough events in my life.  I'll describe two other "life-altering" events:  When I was a freshman in college, my suitemate fell off the tenth floor balcony of our dorm and died.  I saw her dead body.  I was drinking with her 5 minutes before she fell.  It was awful.  How did I deal with it?  I drank A LOT.  I made partying my de facto major.  It was so much easier to have fun and drink and be a wiseass.  I got married to my college boyfriend when I was 25.  While he was a perfectly nice guy and on paper, seemed like the perfect husband for me, it was a mistake.  To make a long story short, less than a year after our wedding, I left him.  Going through the divorce - hurting him that way, disappointing my parents and some of my closest friends, turning my life upside down - was incredibly difficult.  Even though I knew it was the right thing to do for me.  How did I deal with it?  I drank A LOT.

Now, I did learn things from both experiences.  Saying I drank A LOT is probably an over-simplification of how I dealt with both events.  I didn't drink ALL the time.  But I made sure I didn't really feel the pain.  I kept myself busy with school and work and partying and going out and taking naps.

When I lost the baby, I had a few moments of thinking "I could just become an alcoholic.  I could drink all the time.  I could move away and start a new life..."  Obviously, I did not do any of these things.  I plugged along.  I felt pretty blue for a very long time.  But I kept living.  And I learned a lot about myself.  And my husband.  And my friends.  And through that grieving process (and there was more pain to come) I think I became more "conscious."  More appreciative of the good days or even just good moments.  More conscious of the good people in my life and more appreciative of how blessed I am to have a husband and family and friends who love and support me.  And I think (hope) I've learned to be more empathetic to other people and their pain.

Moving on to my second "aha".....

Friday I saw a production of the show "Next to Normal."  I have NEVER cried so much during a musical.  Or a play or a movie......I mean, there have been some episodes of Grey's Anatomy and Parenthood that got me good.  But I watch those at home by myself when its a tad less embarrassing to be sobbing and sniffling.  There was one moment in the show where I was literally biting my finger to keep myself from completely falling to pieces.  I don't know if it was the glass of wine I had with dinner (and the glass of champagne before the show started) or the fact that I am still feeling vulnerable and not quite physically recovered from my hysterectomy.  But man, that show got me in a very deep place.

"Next to Normal" is the story of a woman's struggle with bipolar disorder and the effect that her illness has on her family.  I knew the basic premise going in.  I'm on the board of my community theatre and I helped picked the show.  I also knew that one of the characters in the show is her son and at some point the audience figures out that he is actually dead and that his presence in the story is in her mind.  So I was prepared with my little packet of tissue.  I expected to cry and I expected it to be heavy.

I did NOT know that her son died when he was a baby.  And I did not expect to identify so much with her story and her feelings and her pain.

For some reason I went into the show thinking that her son died when he was a teenager.  And I feel like that would not have upset me as much.  Because I have never lost a teenage son.  I've never been a mother to a teenage son.  It seems like something I can empathize with with and feel truly sad about but not really KNOW.  I have never lost a real live, held in my arms and loved for 8 months baby either.  But I have lost a 5 month fetus, who sure as fuck felt like a real baby to me.  And I have had a miscarriage.  And I had lots and lots of trouble getting pregnant.  And I am the mother to a beautiful three year old son who was a baby not that long ago.  Most of the terrible pain and great joy of my life is about "babies."  The loss she experiences feels closer to mine.  Feels more like something I actually KNOW or could know.

Again, her story is not mine.  I don't have bipolar disorder.  I never acted "crazy."  I never tried to burn down the house.  But I can relate to her loss and struggle and pain.  And I think I realized a couple of years ago that I was, in fact, depressed after I lost the baby.  No one ever said that to me at the time.  I never went to a therapist.  I never felt like I needed medication.  I never felt like killing myself.  I only had fleeting thoughts of becoming an alcoholic or running away.  Mostly, life went on in the same way it did before our loss - I went to work, we saw friends, we took vacations.  But at the same time, everything had changed.  And I was very, very sad.  And I was different.  And even after I felt "better," life was just, grey.

I feel like I'm starting to wander here.

At the end of the show, there is a beautiful song (which they sang perfectly) called "Light."

Day after day,
We'll find the will to find our way.
Knowing that the darkest skies will someday see the sun.
When our long night is done, 
There will be light.

And I thought YES.  

There will be light.  Life is inevitably filled with darkness and hard times.  But we keep plugging along.  And someday, there will be light.

For me, Finn was the light.  I've thought and said it numerous times - he brought the color back to my world.  From February 27, 2007 (the day we found out that our baby had anencephaly) to the day that Finn was born almost three years later, life was dark.  Some days were terribly dark - no light to be found.  And others were darkISH - cloudy, foggy, grey.  But then he came into our lives.  And there was light again.

If I were a better write, I would have some fabulous way to tie this all together at the end here, but I'm not, so I don't.....

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for your comment on my blog. It made me feel a little less lonely during this terrible time.