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Monday, April 21, 2014

Syndication Vindication

Dear Josie, 

In the weeks since you left me I have watched a lot of really bad television.

I blame it on the reality that I had an enormous amount of time to think, and I didn't really want to.  Early on, I was searching for a distraction.  I got several.  

Housewife cat fights and medical dramas provided fleeting moments where I could forget my very real problems, and attempt to focus on something less intrusive.

One particular series has been quite soothing to me, and one evening I found myself engrossed in an episode where there had been a car wreck.  The mother had been pregnant and her baby had to be delivered early in order to save the mother's life.  This baby was a girl, and the doctors did their best to save her.  There were tubes and tears, and in a dramatic ending the little girl survived against all odds.  She was shown several scenes later as a vivacious toddler, her mother proudly watching from a few feet away.

I found it incredibly hard to finish the episode.  Of course I was happy that this beautiful, make-believe little miracle had made it.  Before you, I'm sure this would have been the only emotion I felt.

One week after we lost you I was melting into the couch watching the Academy Awards.  I had tuned in right as Pharrell Williams made his appearance.  I actually laughed out loud at the irony while I mouthed the words, the audience gladly bobbing with the lyrics.

"Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof."
"Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth."

Normally I would be jealous of their toned biceps and Dior handbags,  but this time was different.  I was jealous of their genuine smiles, the joy they were experiencing as he sang.  

Since the Oscars I have heard this song many times.  Through the radio and your father's ipod,  I have watched your brother dance along in the backseat, faking the smiles for him as I fight the urge to change the channel.

Two weeks and three seasons later there was another episode.  This time, a baby born prematurely with a life threatening condition.  I watched as the doctors tried, yet again, to save such a fragile life.  I watched the tubes and the tests; however this time it was beyond their control.  After the boy was taken off the life support, he was handed to his mother, passing away minutes later as she begged,"Please, no!  I'm not ready."  As the baby took his last breath, his mother sobbed. "Your mommy loves you so much.  I love you so much."

Usually this is where I would change the channel, but through my tears I realized something scary.  Somehow, this episode had been easier for me to watch.   I wanted to enter the screen and hold her as she cried.  I could feel her heart breaking.  I wanted to tell her that I wasn't ready either, that we could never be ready for this.  I wanted to hug the writers too.  To thank them for showing that there is not always a happy ending, for the proof that I was not alone.  There are people on couches who need to know that.  

I am not sure that I believe happiness is the truth.  Not always, anyway.  

As a society, we often feel that we need to mask our sadness, our fears.  Most do not want to acknowledge death.  No one wants to admit that babies sometimes die.  It is too painful, too awful to accept.  That is, until you are forced to.

A friend asked me once what motherhood was like.  Instead of the cookie cutter response I'm sure she was expecting, I was brutally honest.  

"It's really scary."  I told her.  

I went on to explain that it's like this huge piece of you walking around outside of your body.  You can't control what happens to this piece of you.   It could be hurt while you aren't looking, which isn't as scary as acknowledging that something bad could happen while you are in close proximity.  Even while it is still inside of you.  

The truth is often ugly and scary.  The truth can hurt.  Really, really bad.   And I don't have the luxury of ignoring it anymore.

The song in my head is no longer upbeat, and I doubt that many would like to dance to it. But realistically, there are some things that can bring you down.  So far down that you don't know if you'll ever get back up again.  There is comfort in that honesty, in the words of grieving mothers hugging me through keyboards and television sets.  For the time being, I find my happiness there.  In the cruel, dark places that accept my pain.  In the arms of those who can no longer change the channel.

I don't begrudge those who can still dance untethered, and there are days where I can feel my lips folding in that familiar way.  Days where a smile feels so good that I wish I could bottle it and stick it in my refrigerator.  But truthfully, some days I just don't have the energy to fake it.  And I can't always hide the scary parts of me under the waterproof mascara.  I've never been a good liar.

Maybe I've had a rough year, but I'm trying.

I'm just really sick of that song.  


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