Sunday, January 8, 2012

I'm Positive, Damn It

This week we got some bad news and while I didn’t make any kind of public announcement I did tell a few friends about it. I then posted the following: “Lately it seems like we sit around wondering what bad thing is going to happen next.”

Of course, what happened next is something that has been happening since Toby died-somebody told me to be positive. Not only did they tell me to be positive but that I might actually be beckoning the bad things to happen to us by not having a positive attitude.

Yes…so…on top of the guilt and sadness that I already feel I am now supposed to feel responsible for Dad’s 4 heart attacks, Toby’s death, my mother-in-law’s death, Mom’s stroke, Pete’s grandparents’ deaths, my preeclampsia, my placental abruption, my hyperemesis, Iris’s genetic disorder, her seizures, and having to move from Irvine because I didn’t have a better attitude about any of those things. Awesome.

This is really starting to piss me off.

For starters, if you can’t express your worry and concerns to your friends then who can you express them to? I can't go up to random strangers and talk. I can't do it to the doctors because I'm too busy asking questions and gathering information. And I can't show it in front of the kids. I'm positive most of the freaking day. To my friends, I would rather be honest.

When I’m in the hospital with my 4 week old daughter because she is having seizures and I have been there for a few days already and I tell my friends about it I do NOT want to hear “Everything will be fine!” Because, you know what, it’s already NOT fine. They don’t know that. I don’t know that. Doctors don’t know that. It’s one thing to say, “I hope everything will be okay, keep us posted.” It’s another thing to say to a person, “Don’t worry, it will all be fine.”

When something like that is said to a person it doesn’t always carry the message of hope. Sometimes, it dismisses their concerns and makes them feel stupid.

Secondly, just because I post a random comment on Facebook about having a moment of worry or concern doesn’t mean that I’m not being positive the other 23 hours and 55 minutes of the day. What I write is usually what I have on my mind at the moment. It’s not always even a reflection of that whole hour.

Thirdly, I think I’m doing okay. There are people I know that can’t get out of bed and totally break down after a break up with their boyfriend. I’m sorry, but the fact that I get out of bed in the morning (well, afternoon, but it’s MY morning) and accomplish things and have been doing that for a year is a pretty good testament to how positive I am.

In the past year I have done the following:
-          had another child
-          been on two vacations
-          attended a writer’s conference
-          nearly finished my novel
-          worked full time
-          celebrated 6 major holidays, complete with full-on decorations and activities
-          expanded my business and raised my rates
-          got settled into a new house
-          played with my kids
-          hung out with my husband
-          did a public reading from my novel

I’ve been Christmas tree hunting, trick-or-treating, hiking, gardening, walking, vacationing, hosted a holiday open house for my town, supported a charity, watched 3 parades, and taken care of household stuff. All of that in the same year that I lost my child.

So yes, if I get a little negative or worry when my kid is sick or in the hospital or if I come down with an incurable debilitating condition I think I have earned the right to do a little complaining.

It has not escaped my attention, either, that the people that usually tell you to be positive are the ones that do the most complaining themselves. These are the people that tell you that everything is going to be fine when something is going horribly wrong yet when they are facing a crisis (or even a perceived crisis) they bitch and moan as much as anyone else. And if you tell them to “be positive” well, that’s a different story of course. They don’t want to hear it, either.

I understand the power of positive thinking. I (literally) wrote the book on it. It’s not under my name, of course. But when you go to your friends about something that is bothering you, you want support and compassion. You don’t want to hear about how you don’t have a reason to worry and you certainly don’t want to hear that you are bringing the things that are out of your hands (like death) on yourself because you’re being too negative.

Another blogger was writing about losing her son and talked about “at least.” You know, when people say to you, “At least…” whenever you tell them how you’re feeling. I mean, really, how is that helpful? We could “at least” each other to death because when you get right down to it the only illness that would ever require sympathy would be something like Ebola. Where does one draw the line? With losing Toby, you would think that there would not have been an “at least” but people still tried to throw them our way. “At least it was fast.” “At least you had him a little while.” “At least…” NO! My son DIED. He’s dead. There is NOTHING positive about that. There is no “bright side.”

There are some genuinely positive people in my life that have been helpful (hello, Katie). But they never make me feel like an idiot for worrying or expressing concern over something. They are positive by offering support.

For the ones that tell me “not to worry” and that “everything will be fine” and that I’m being too negative, this is what I have to say: You have complained about your health, your children, your marriage, your pregnancy, your financial situation, your siblings, your parents, your friends, your emotional well-being, your weather, your city, and your life and I LISTENED. I called you back when you were upset, I texted you to make sure you were okay, and I offered you words of support (until it was apparent that you weren’t going to do the same for me). I have no room here for anyone who isn’t willing to treat me and my feelings with the same amount of respect. 


Katie (LukeGrantsMom) said...

You have been through so much, and I don’t care how one spins it and despite the character building properties one could argue these events have…these events in your life have been tragic and are negative. Not just glass half empty negative, more like ½ the glass’s contents were just shot in your eye with a great deal of force. It doesn’t mean you don’t have positives in your life, which you give plenty of space and time to talk about. This goes back to people’s desire to have everything whitewashed (I think in the USA in general there seems to be a extra high intolerance for sad things, even as there is a fascination of them - as a society most don't want to deal with them on any personal level). Some people have adopted the “it happens for a reason or a greater good”. That is not reality and some parts of life just suck and ignoring it does not make these things go away and I would say that to try is a big NEGATIVE. I agree with you - you are positive.

Rebecca said...

Tee hee. I giggled a little when I read your description. I think you're right about ignoring things being a big negative sometimes. Burying your head in the sand isn't anymore helpful then dwelling.

I was in a bad mood when I wrote that. Not once have I ever said that I am "doomed" for having multiple children or that my life "sucks" or anything publicly against my kids or husband yet the people who have said those things (and worse) tell me I'm not being positive enough when I am facing a real crisis (and you know what I am talking about when I say "real crisis").

I think if we all weren't a little positive we wouldn't be functioning as well as are. Which, granted, on some days isn't as well as we'd like to be but we do the best we can and I dare someone to say they could do it better.

Anonymous said...

People who say that you just need to be positive? That is total non-compassionate, judgmental, hypocritic bullshit. It's especially bad when they complain the shit out of themselves, too.