So, given that I am channelling all available creativity into my writing 'offline' once again, I have decided that in lieu of an inspired post today, I am going to backtrack what I believe is a very important interpersonal exchange which I wrote about 12 months ago. It now forms a short, sharp chapter in the first half of my book. When I wrote it, and then posted it here, I had a pang of worry and guilt.... I was writing reflectively, an honest account of what I did and what I said to a complete stranger. What would others think of me for being so brazen in my youth?! Not that I blame youth alone.
I'm interested to see what you think about this one.....
The Woman In The Supermarket (originally posted here on Sunny Side Up)
This is something that has come to me time and time again, in the course of writing my book. On the first sweep through the draft, there was nowhere for it. I left it out.
This morning, I was woken at 4.45am and put to work, writing it out. Strictly unedited and still unsure where it fits (but fit, it will!) in the story, I thought it pertinent to put here too. It is bold-faced, unashamedly Tigger-esque Me. The "me" I was before Ella.
The passage below reminds me so very much of the exchanges I was then forced to endure in the years following Ella's death. Things that were said to me, even after we had brought the LGBB home safely, along the lines of "Oh cheer up, you've got what you always wanted now! Come on, chin up, pip-pip."
One night after work, I was shopping in the supermarket. A woman, not much older than me, was standing nearby. She was selecting fruit and looking rather downtrodden and sullen, as if she might burst into tears at any moment. I felt so cheerful and happy that the contrast was really evident to me. In “getting over” our missed miscarriage – surely just a mindset, one that I determined would not “bring me down” and so, therefore, I had just decided not to be glum about it anymore – I felt at the time that I had just come out of what was surely the worst my life would throw at me. And I felt able to conquer anything with my perky optimism.In all of my youthful wisdom, I smiled as I stood alongside her and said, “Ah, come on, it can’t be that bad!” I was attempting to make her smile. I thought she just needed some “cheering up.”“Mind your own bloody business!” she snapped, hardly able to get the words out and instantly welling up with tears.Immediately, I wanted the floor to open up and swallow me whole. I hastily left the grocery department without further word and spent the rest of my shopping trip feeling ghastly that I had upset the woman even more. Before I had even finished and paid for my groceries, I had already scolded myself countless times and wondered about her position – did she have an ill mother or father in hospital? Did her beloved cat just get run over by a car? Had her husband just left her? Of course, as our miscarriage count rose, over the years the scenarios I pondered (while I cringed) included any number of fertility concerns, pregnancy loss and even infant death. Yes, I had been extremely short-sighted in my delivery of such a well-intended but downright out of line remark.Many years later, I would be reminded that even these sorts of absent-minded runnings off in my mind, about matters which were of no concern or business whatsoever of mine, were not useful or respectful to do to anybody. Nowadays, I diligently practice not thinking this way about others whenever I catch myself beginning to do it because it is really incorrect of me.In her direct delivery, the woman in the supermarket had taught me something huge. Something about a person’s personal space and permitted experiences. And something I would muse about on and off over many years, serving as a reminder to be mindful not to delve into concerns that were not mine.Looking back on the exchange, almost ten years later, I can see how utterly incorrect it was for me to enter into anybody’s personal space in that way (let alone a stranger’s). I am not saying it was wrong to strike up a conversation, more so in the manner in which I did it. Although well intended, there is little doubt that I was not permitted to invalidate someone like that. Especially if I thought that by doing so, I would be helping her to "snap out of it."How did I know the extent of her troubles, the depths of her despair? How did I even assume to know her situation? If I had been apprised of it, did that give me any more right to say what I did? In retrospect, I think absolutely not.I have thought often about this exchange as a model of my Tigger-esque character at the time. It is obvious to me now that I had so much to learn, in terms of relating to people in their time of crisis. Even when I thought all of my positive, all-knowing “twenty-somethingness” would not only see me through, it could also instantly fix the woes of anyone around me (ugh) whenever I spread my feelings of joy, the truth was that I could not truly become benevolent without first experiencing bare-faced hardships of my own. “Hardships” that would send me to the absolute brink of my own desperate despair, some through which I did not even want to live.Somehow, even if it is as simple as deciding not to be miserable anymore (ironically, in my experience, the sentiment is usually delivered by those who have never actually been through a miscarriage themselves), I have to maintain that it is still nobody's business how someone else grieves or carries themselves while they try their damnedest to get through the toughest trial of their life. This extends to any number of personal tragedies or potholes in the road - in no way am I implying that it only fits with anything fertility- or childbirth-related. But these are just my biggest trials in life so far. Trials that have, hopefully, enabled me to extend my rules of engagement with anyone who is going through something tough - be it divorce, death of a parent or other loved one, job loss... Mine is not to measure their pain against any I've experienced and then categorise it as more or less important or worthy. Mine is to simply listen and empathise. I'm still learning this one and being very patient with myself when I trip up (for I do) whilst in the throes of supporting another.If one thing is certain, I am actually so very grateful for my experiences. It has taught me much about humility and respect, honour and empathy for others. If my lessons had not been so overwhelming and persistent, I might not have received the message so fully. I am grateful and relieved that I do see how much I have accomplished in terms of this, particularly when I look back on the exchange I had with the woman in the supermarket.