Not about me

September 22, 2009

A little over a year ago, I wrote a post about what I wished I could say to people around me, who loved me, who worry about me.  It’s not about you, I wanted (and still sometimes want) to say.

And, when faced with the grief and troubles of others, I try to remind myself, over and over, that it’s not always about me, either.  One of the limitations of being human is that I see the world through the pair of eyes I was given, that I filter events around me through my own experiences, that I can only understand with my own, particular mind.  Being embodied means, among other things, being limited.

While I’m myopic as hell (seriously, you can ask my optometrist), I like to think I have a reasonably good mind, and that my experiences are worth something, and that I can keep pushing at my limitations, keep expanding my understanding, comprehension, and compassion.  I don’t for one second think that Teddy’s “purpose” was to teach N and me valuable life lessons.  I think his purpose was to grow up and be whoever he would have been, and that this purpose was thwarted.  I’m bitter about this.  I hate it.  But I’d be worse than an ingrate if I didn’t admit that he’s taught me a lot, both with his precious presence and aching absence.

Because of Teddy, I feel and fear more deeply, trust less easily, and hope more fervently.  Some of these changes are clearly gifts: I notice small beauties – the way early morning sunlight angles into the yard and through the kitchen window, tentatively, as though it doesn’t really want to wake us up; or the notes of music in a good friend’s laughter – partly because I keep wishing he were here to know them, too, but partly because it’s still so surprising that there is so much beauty in a world without him.  I keep waking up to the fragile joys around me, surprised and (usually, mostly) grateful that they’re here.

Some of the changes, the distrust and the fear, don’t feel like gifts.  I like to think I learn from them, but often they just hurt, limit my understanding, drain my energy, and make me cranky and angry.  I’m sure I’m learning from this, too, but I don’t enjoy it.

I have to remember that, just as my mind and experiences can broaden my understanding, they can also hinder it in ways I don’t understand.  I know I have new blinders now, new pet peeves and frustrations, new hard places.  And, knowing this, I also know that I have to be able to at least occasionally put myself to one side.  Sometimes I have to work very hard to remember that it isn’t about me.  Sometimes I forget and put myself center stage when I shouldn’t, even in my own mind, or I take things personally that I shouldn’t.

It’s a tough balance to strike.  Some days everything feels personal.  Some days I feel like there’s just so much malice and random hurt in the world that I’m crazy to think I can protect this new life.  We have our “big” ultrasound in very early October.  This is the same ultrasound where, with Teddy, it was seen that something wasn’t quite right with the position of his heart, where the term congenital diaphragmatic hernia was first introduced to my vocabulary.  I’m happy with a strange and tentative happiness, but it feels so ephemeral some days that it’s frightening.  And I feel so very open to being hurt.

Wavering between being happy about my growing belly and being afraid that I’ll pay for this happiness later is tiring, superstitious work.  Every cloud formation and falling leaf feels like a portent I can’t read.  Here again, I try to cling to the idea that sometimes clouds are just clouds, sometimes leaves are just leaves.  Sometimes it’s not about me.



  1. So many times, in this pregnancy, I’ve told myself that being hopeful or even a little excited wouldn’t make it worse in the end if things go wrong.

    I know it’s not easy. Thinking about you and Teddy.

  2. This is so beautifully written. I feel that our children do leave some gifts, some insights behind them. And some other things that don’t feel much like gifts, at least not yet.

    Thinking of you in the run up to the “big” ultrasound. xo

  3. I too don’t like to think Hope was sent here or something like that, to teach us about life. Her life just got tragically cut short due to an accident. But your words “precious presence and aching absence” are spot on, and I do continue to learn from her. She has left many gifts. As Catherine said, not all have revealed themselves yet, but I’m sure they will in time.
    And as with Heather, I’ve stopped trying to NOT feel happy or excited, because I know if anything were to go wrong, it would still hurt like crazy. He grows and my love grows. There is no other way arond it.
    Beautiful post.

  4. *sigh*
    No words, just love. xo

  5. what a gorgeous post, you sum up so much

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