Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A little thing called shame

I had a no-so-nice moment the other day. One of those ugly, bitter moments that you're generally unwilling to admit to anyone that you have - or that you still have (since some people think those moments of bitter jealousy are horrendous and only acceptable right after a loss).

I opened up a Christmas card from an old friend and two small pictures fell into my lap. One was of her little boy who is, I think, 3 or 4 now. The other was a picture of her new baby girl, just 5 months old.

I've lost touch with this friend for the most part. Our only contact is at Christmastime now, which is sometimes just the way it goes. Lives are busy and move in different directions. It happens, and it's okay.

But I was still kind of stunned to see the pictures. And angry.

I sent her a picture of my Thomas in her Christmas card last year with a little note about what had happened. And then I waited to hear from her. The card I got the other day was the first contact she's made with me since, and in it she chose to put two pictures of her living, breathing, smiling children.

I was livid. I snarled and huffed quietly as My Beloved looked quizzically at me, but I was too ashamed of my instant wrath to tell him everything that was swirling around in my head. So I tucked the pictures back in the card and put it in our card holder. And quietly fumed from afar.

Yesterday I took it back out of the holder and read it again - and took a closer look at the pictures. The message she wrote inside was sweet, and I could tell she worked hard to choose exactly the right words from the millions that probably terrified her with their perceived inappropriateness. She asked me to e-mail her. She said she missed me and wanted to reconnect.

I picked up the picture of her baby girl and turned it over. On the back was her name and her age. I started thinking...

When my friend got the news of my son's death along with his picture in her Christmas card last year, she was about two months pregnant. The shocking reality of infant mortality came screaming into her life when she was in the first few nervous months of a new pregnancy. If she'd contacted me, what would she have said? What would I have said?

She must have been terrified.

The last words in her card were, "I know we are so lucky", in reference to their two beautiful children. The guilt in her words broke my heart.

I hate that things that should be easy are awkward. I hate that my sorrow dampens other people's joy. I hate that tentative hands reaching out to me are tentative. I hate that sometimes those gestures are met with hostility. I hate that my first reaction to the photo of that beautiful little girl was anger. I hate so much that I have that in my heart.

I am ashamed.


Catherine said...

Thank you so much for putting into words EXACTLY how I've been feeling.

I hate Christmas cards.

Lisa P. said...

Does it make you feel any better that I was indignant for you upon reading the first few paragraphs, then realized how bad I felt later on?

But Catherine's right... you sum it up well. Hence the reason all our received Christmas cards are sitting in a pile on my table rather than hung around the doorway as I usually do... ugh.

Heather said...

I love how considerate you are. When something upsets me like that, I can't see their point of view. I don't even try. You are so loving and kind. When I grow up I want to be like you.

I bet she was afraid. I bet she was sad beyond words for you. What do you call to say to someone you love so much who is hurting so much? Especially if you just found out you are pregnant. Shitty place to be for both of you. I'm sorry.

Rosepetal said...

I just wrote a post about Christmas cards as well and then read yours. For what it's worth, I don't think you should feel ashamed for your initial reaction. You should rather feel proud of yourself for re-reading and re-interpreting. Not many people manage to do that.

Hating this terrible thing that happened and all of its consequence is, I think, inevitable. :-(

kate said...

I agree with rosepetal that you shouldn't feel ashamed. You did re-read it, and your friend did write the right things -- a rare happening as you know. I am glad your immediate assumption about her behavior was wrong, but it was not an unreasonable assumption given how we have all been treated by former 'friends'.

I hate the jealousy and anger. But i do think it is better to let yourself feel it and move through it, than to stuff it away in shame.

Anam Cara said...

I am glad your friend was thoughtful with her words. I wish she hadn't sent the pictures though.
By the way, you shouldn't feel ashamed at all. (((hugs)))

Aurelia said...

Thank you for posting this, you said it perfectly. And I'm so glad I just found your blog. I'm sorry about Thomas. I'll be thinking about you.

JMB said...

Wow. You just blew me away. The fact that you have the ability to take a step back, re-evaluate, and then have empathy for someone else is amazing. You both were in a bad place at the time, and it speaks alot about your friend in that she appreciated what your reaction might be. I hope that you can reconnect with her, it seems like she would be one of those people that you actually want in your life.

Thank you for your honesty and an incredible lesson in self-reflection, and more importantly, forgiveness. Forgive yourself too.

Samantha said...

I just opened a christmas envelope containing 3 pics of my friends adopted son.(I have been complaining about not having a recent photo) This right after getting off the phone with my dear friend recaping the birth of her little girl on Tues. It was all a bit overwhelming at the time. I had to walk away and BLOG.

I too hated what I felt, these are my friends and I would never want them to feel like they caused me pain. They have been so wonderful to us during our sorrow.

But like they have told me in the past "You have every right to have these moments" and so do you.!