I read this post recently from Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy about being a lifeline to someone who may not know how to ask for help, and conversely, getting a lifeline when you may not be able to ask for it. It tied in with something I’ve been thinking about lately, about where I’ve been in the past year. And this is not as much an existential “where” as a literal “where.” I’ve been MIA.
When I called Sarah, my closest friend from college, to tell her I was pregnant, finally (she knew I’d been trying for years), I gave her the whole shpiel–IVF treatments in the winter, pregnancy and then miscarriage in the spring, recovery in the early summer, back at the IVF by July, finishing my first trimester in September. As I finished my recitation, I realized, I had barely talked to her this year. I hadn’t mentioned any of this in the few phone calls (at her initiation) we’d shared. And suddenly, I felt self-conscious.
“So, um…so that’s why I guess I’ve been quiet,” I said. It sounded so lame. “I mean, I know I’ve been sort of underground this year. I just felt like I couldn’t talk about what was happening.”
There was a pause. Sarah’s not much of a bullshitter. But she let me have my excuse and said, “I’m glad you told me why. I’ve been wondering. But now I know.”
After our phone call, I realized how much regret I felt at not having included her in what I was going through. I don’t think it’s self-absorbed to say…people want to be involved in your misery. Seriously. If they love you, they want to know. The previous six months I’d been operating under the illusion that I was saving people from my sadness, preventing them from having to deal with my loss when everyone has enough loss of their own. But really I denied Sarah, and everyone else I avoided, the opportunity to be a lifeline. The opportunity to share this with me, and come to understand me better, and come to find new strength in our friendship. I denied myself the opportunity to pay it back to her later. And I lost a year of knowing what was going on in her life.
I think about this last year and the fog I’ve been walking through. I think about my sister’s wedding, which took place in the middle of all of it, right before the 4th of July, how I felt unmoored during what should have been a happy time. I spent her wedding week and weekend on Cape Cod, mainly crying. I cried when I saw my family gathered at a restaurant for lunch and my cousins gathered around me, bewildered and trying to play it off with jokes. I sobbed through the end of the rehearsal dinner when my sister gave me my maid of honor gift. I wept the entire day of her wedding. When I woke up on our last morning in Massachusetts my eyelids were swollen and chapped from the salt of my tears. They peeled and flaked for 7 days after.
Certainly, some of this was from my joy at my sister’s happiness, but I believe most of it was my reaction to being simply lost, to having experienced something deep and shattering, and having tried to hide it away. I’ve spent a lot of time fearing vulnerability and the messiness of disclosure. What I failed to recognize is that life is messy, always, and it comes out one way or another. Instead of being a mess to friends after I lost my pregnancy, I became a mess during my family’s reunion. We can’t avoid the defining characteristics of human experience–loss, for one. The best we can hope for is that those around us will comfort us, and that we will in turn comfort those around us. But we have to be given those opportunities. We have to be, and accept, lifelines.