A Return to My Roots

It’s Monday evening after the long weekend that kicks off the summer. I should be rejuvenated, ready to start the week but the opposite is true. These past four days have been incredibly intense. We hosted a family of four (my friends from London) at my parents house (my parents stayed at our apartment in the city). I thought it was going to be a collaborative weekend where we all pitched in and made things happen but instead Mi.Vida and I ended up buying and preparing food for–and then cleaning up after–four adults and three kids for four days. The almost five year old kept wetting the bed and my friends didn’t want him in pull-ups because they’re “trying to potty train him”. Um, that’s great but I have to clean and launder his whole sleeping set up EVERY MORNING and it takes forever and is a huge drain on resources. Finally I basically demanded they put him in pull-ups and bought a pack for them (SO EXPENSIVE!). The last night he peed so much he still got everything wet, even through the pull-up! I can’t believe they are/were planning on just letting him wet every bed he’ll be sleeping in for the next two weeks. I also let them borrow the brand new car seat from my mom’s car not knowing their daughter gets motion sickness. She’s already puked all over it three times. It will be wrecked by the time they get back from the next two week road trip and I’ll have to get my mom a whole new car seat. So much for being generous, welcoming and kind.

It was a fun weekend, but it’s always hard to share limited space with other parents who deal with their children very differently than you do. It was incredibly challenging but a good time.

So I spent my whole weekend having my period and dealing with that emotional fallout of that, while putting on a brave face for my friends. It was a really rough period too, I was passing a lot of tissue, which I never do. This whole cycle was so wonky, with the weird temps in the first half, my shorter than usual LP and my really crampy, heavy (for me) menstrual cycle. Needless to say I’m glad it’s over and I’m ready to just get on with the next one.

I know I said I wouldn’t be writing about my cycle this go around but I don’t think I can do it. What I can do is minimize my TTC-related posts to once a week. Once a week I can come on here and vent about my cycle, my temperatures, my CM (or lack thereof). I’m not limiting myself to once a week for you all (more on that in a minute) but for myself. My sincere hope is that if I write about it less here, I’ll think about it less in real life. Not sure if that is how it will work but I want to give it a try.

I was writing recently to a bloggy friend who told me she stopped reading my blog because of my current focus on TTC. I totally understand her doing this, in the past eight months I have stopped reading many a blog that turned TTC (or, the ever popular: surprise, I randomly got pregnant without even trying!) I just couldn’t read those posts when I wanted to be trying but was instead sitting on a counselor’s couch trying to mend my relationship. And I totally understand anyone who doesn’t want to read about it here. I mean, let’s face it, even if you aren’t bothered by a TTC blog, they are boring as all hell (no disrespect to anyone, but they are – it’s the same thing every month and none of it is positive). No one should have to subject themselves to that shit day in and day out, possibly for months. Especially if the whole subject triggers PTSD of some kind. I mean, I get it. I REALLY DO.

It’s funny, I was excited to blog during TTC this time, as I missed that chance my last go around. The only place I could rely on for support were the Fertiliy Friend boards but they just didn’t cut it for me. By the time I ended up here, almost a year after I’d started trying and months after my ectopic, I was pregnant within a month. This time I was going to have people to help me through it. This time I wouldn’t feel so alone.

But it’s not turning out that way, and I totally understand why. I was naive to think it would happen differently. Being TTC#2 in this community is hard enough. Being TTC#2 when you’re not even infertile is a whole other über-complicated issue. And being TTC when none of your readers are, well, it’s isolating.

For a while there I tried to leave because I didn’t want to focus on how alone I felt here. But then I realized that I needed to write, for me, to get it out, to exorcise that shit. I don’t think about TTC all the time (although I’m sure it seems that way) but it does consume a significant portion of my thoughts and I need a place to process how I’m feeling. This will be that place, and I’ve accepted that I am blogging for myself again, just like I was back when I was TTC after my loss, when hardly anyone read and very, very few commented. I kept writing then and I’ll keep writing now. But my focus has changed. This place is primarily for me again. I feel very differently about this space now than I did six months ago.

I also notice I feel differently about the other blogs I read. I’m not as inclined to comment now that I feel this piece of my life isn’t (currently) about community or support. I don’t find myself wanting to reach out as much. I’m kind of pulling back, keeping my distance, protecting myself, as it were. And that is fine. Our reasons for blogging grow and change. I’ve accepted that.

I’ll continue to blog at my new space. I’m chronicling our house search there, for better or worse. I might have another project in my sights–I just need to make sure I have the resources to pull it off.

Right now I have a lot of things looming, the final weeks of the school year, packing my classroom, surviving another cycle, accepting that one after is most likely a bust, giving Mi.Vida space to work on his issues and hoping when he’s done we can work on ours, losing some weight (my jeans suddenly don’t button anymore), not completely succumbing to the encroaching depression. You know, fun stuff, all of it.

And this space will get me through it. It’s nice to have this space be for me again. It really is.

Time Warp Tuesdays: A Very Merry Un-blogoversary To You!

It is not my blogoversary but that is the topic of this month’s Time Warp Tuesday so I’m going to write a little bit about it. My blog is only a little over 2.5 years old so I’ve only had the opportunity to celebrate two blogoversaries here. The first wasn’t all that special. It mostly acknowledged that I had considered using my blogoversary as a set date to shut down my blog but ultimately decided not too. I’m very glad I kept this space alive and well, despite the growing pains I felt after my daughter was born.

The second ended up coinciding with my 500th post, which I was very excited for, but ended up happening in the middle of an existential blogging crisis, when I was grasping for a new intention in this space. I wrote a thoughtful post that day, in which I said a few things, among them this:

Not long ago I took a break from blogging as I attempted to rediscover my intention. While I haven’t figured it out yet I feel closer to it. I know it has something to do with forging connections and fostering community, but I’m not quite sure how to accomplish either.

It’s interesting to me that both my blogoversaries fell during times of blogging identity crises, when I was grappling with the intention and future of this space. I know that is something I have struggled with, and continue to struggle with, something I suppose I will always be turning over and over and in my mind. What is my purpose here? What am I trying to accomplish? What makes the time I spend here worth it–for myself personally, for my family? The truth is the answer to these questions changes as I change, as my needs change, as my support systems change.

Recently I created a new space. This space is public, it is associated with my “real” name and I share posts there on places like Facebook. Now, whenever I start formulating a post I consider where I will post it. What do I want to say? Who do I want to read it? I didn’t realize it at the time but that space will dramatically affect this space, not just changing the amount that I write but the topics I tackle here as well. This space will probably become more private and personal, it will focus more on my need for support and less on my love of writing. I wonder how that will affect my readership and even my attitude about this space. I plan on writing more about it here, but I wanted to plant the seed during this post because it seemed relevant somehow.

How do you mark your blogoversaries? How has your blogging intention changed over time?

Grief Appropriation?

Before I write this I want to assure you all that I am in no way trying to co-opt Mo’s tragedy and make it my own. I am not trying to make her pain about me and how it affects me. Mo’s is enduring a loss more devastating than I could ever imagine. My heart breaks for her but I know that my sorrow could never touch her own. Please know that in writing this I’m just trying to make sense of my own experience. I’m sorry if that offends anyone close to Mo. That is no my intent at all.

Last night I got a text from a very good friend, informing me of Mo’s loss. At first I was in shock. I texted back all the sentiments one would expect in a time like this but it hadn’t really hit me yet. Later, when I told Mi.Vida and he came over to hold me, the enormity of my friend’s loss hit me and I broke down into great, heaving sobs. You know, that kind of ugly crying that literally steals your breath and contorts your body beyond recognition.

The rest of the night I was in a daze, communicating with a few mutual friends of Mo’s, trying to determine what we could do to show our love and support. It’s so hard to know what to do when you feel so helpless, when you realize that ultimately you are so helpless and that there is not one thing you can do to actually ease your friend’s suffering.

Mi.Vida kept checking in on me, as I would randomly start crying here or there, for seemingly no reason at all. I could tell he was alternating between bewilderment, worry, and frustration. Before bed we talked a little bit about how both of us were feeling. I told him that I was heartsick, despondent, just so overwhelmingly sad for my friend. The magnitude of what she was losing, what she has already lost in her life, it’s just unfathomable. It’s so fucking unfair. I am afraid for her, for what she will have to endure. I can never know how it feels to lose what she has, simply contemplating it was more than I can bare. How will she possibly bare the reality of it?

Mi.Vida said he was worried about me. He didn’t want to see me taking on someone else’s grief. He didn’t want me giving into the fear that what was happening to her might happen to me one day. I understood his concern; he has seen me react poorly to the sad stories of many a blogger I hardly knew, he’s watched me internalize their tragedy and grief, twisting it into fear of the uncertainty of my own life.

I had a hard time convincing him that this was different. I wasn’t grieving for Mo because what happened to her might happen to me, I was grieving for Mo because she’s my friend and she is losing the most important thing in her life. She is losing something that just a week ago she acknowledged she could not survive losing. I am sad because a wonderful woman, who reached out to me when I felt the tendrils of depression grabbing hold of me again, who sent me Israeli chocolates to make me feel better, who accepted me and my feelings no matter what, is being made to endure a mother’s greatest nightmare, after already having done so three times before.

It isn’t about me, it’s about her, I tried to assure him.

The line between the two is very thin, he countered. I don’t think you realize.

Today I’ve walked around in a daze, unsure how to steady myself. I’m brittle to the touch, I snap easily and find myself staring into the unknowable distance. It’s not that I’m thinking constantly about Mo but the sadness is there, under the surface, always. I can tell Mi.Vida is becoming increasingly frustrated. We’ve talked more about whether or not my grief is appropriate. And if it is, does being a part of this community, which is welded together by loss and grief and struggle, ultimately offer enough light to make up for the darkness?

The truth is, sometimes I don’t know. What I do know is that my heart breaks for a woman I consider a friend, despite never having met her. What I do know is I am inspired by the love and support I see others willing, eager, desperate to give. What I do know is I feel honored to include my own efforts with theirs, to reach out to someone when she feels unreachable and alone.

What I do know is that the women in this community are stronger than I ever thought possible, that they persevere despite insurmountable odds, that they not only survive but thrive in the face of unimaginable loss. What I do know is that I’m incredibly proud to be a part of this community and that I am comforted knowing that they would be there for me if the unthinkable were to mark my own life.

How appropriate is the grief we feel for our fellow bloggers? Should there be a limit to that grief? Is the line between grieving for someone and making their grief our own as thin as Mi.Vida believes? If so, how do we stay on the right side of it? Is a community welded together by loss worth being a part of, or are the costs ultimately too high?

Unrequited Blog Love (Redux)

I little while ago Jjiraffe wrote this post about Unrequited Blog Love.

Today Mel posted this in response. Basically she doesn’t believe anyone ever has any obligation to comment on another person’s blog; comment reciprocity is not something that should be expected. To make this point she uses the analogy of enjoying Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s movies but never expecting him to watch her own homemade YouTube videos in return.

I have to admit, I look at the situation differently than Mel does and I left a comment explaining my disparate point of view. Here is what I said:

I have to admit, I don’t think your Joseph Gordon-Levitt analogy really works here. First of all, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a HUGE movie star. I doubt any blogger who reads a huge blogger, one that gets hundreds of comments, ever expects reciprocation from said big-name blogger. Second of all, actors are in the business of making movies to get paid and there is no community built off of the self-expression in their movies. Also, that self-expression is not of a personal nature in the way a blog post is. Watching Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s movies is not like reading an entry in his personal journal. He is not sharing his inner most secrets. He is not asking for support. And third, your hypothetical YouTube movies have nothing to do with the big-budget box office hits that he stars in. The two are totally incomparable except that they are both, technically movies. Whereas two smaller blogs, written by woman going through similar experiences, and read by a similar amount of people, are very comparable. It makes sense that one would feel hurt if the other failed to acknowledge their existence.*

I guess I do think it makes sense that one small blogger reading the personal thoughts of another small blogger and time and time again leaving her own thoughts in return, might feel somewhat slighted when she doesn’t receive any form of reciprocation, ever. If you know you stand out to that blogger, because you are one of the few people who comments, and you know that blogger doesn’t take the time to read anything you’ve written, well I think it’s totally understandable that you would feel a bit discounted.

Having said that, I don’t think any blogger owes it to their regular comments to become a regular commenter on the other’s blog. I’ve had people who comment quite frequently and when I’ve gone over to their blog (after the third or fourth comment) to check it out, I’ve always left a few comments in return, but if their blog just isn’t for me, for whatever reason, I don’t feel obligated to keep reading. Having said that, I do feel an obligation to go over there in the first place and see who they are and what they are about. That only seems fair.

Of course I have much few readers and commenters than someone like you has, and I certainly wouldn’t expect the same from a blogger who gets 30+ comments on every post.

I think there is third category of blogger that you interact with, besides the “friend that you communicate with outside of your blog (via email for example)” and the “person you just randomly read and comment on” that you mentioned. I think there is a third category of blogger that you wouldn’t consider a friend, but whose blog you read regularly, or semi-regularly, and who you comment on once in a while. I feel like I fall into that category. I don’t consider us “friends” outside of blogging (thought I’d love to!) but I do get comments from you every once in a while and I comment on your blog a good portion of the time that you post. I notice many other regular commenters on your posts and have seen you comment on their blogs from time to time too. I think that is the reciprocation that was being discussed in Jjiraffe’s blog and while you may not think others should feel obligated to participate in that kind of reciprocation, you do seem to engage in it yourself – which I think is awesome! And which I think is one of the reasons you are such a pillar in this community.

I know that it’s dangerous territory when we start declaring there is and is not a “right” or “courteous” way to blog. I’m not trying to espouse a strict form of “commenting etiquette” or to push any set of rules on this community. But this IS a community and we are engaging in a form of communication and, as with all forms of communication, there are ways in which we can be polite and inclusive and ways in which we fail to be those things. I’m not saying that anyone should feel they need to be polite or inclusive here, or that they should feel there are expectations of some kind of them, but it is important to remember that behind every thoughtful comment is a real live human being who has taken the time to reach back out of the ether and say, I’m here, I’m listening, I’m valuing what you have to say. If we have the capacity to do the same, I think it’s a shame when we don’t.

What do you think? If this is a community, should we look to the rules of etiquette in other examples of community to guide our actions here? Should we treat posting and commenting like we would a real conversation, where it is always expected that both parties participate? Or is the point of this (anonymous, electronic) forum for everyone to proceed as best suits their wants and needs? 

* Mel emailed me after I left my comment and said she added this on her post. Evidently her Joseph Gordon-Levitt analogy was actually quite appropriate and my naiveté made me ignorant to that fact.

I picked Joseph Gordon Levitt as the example (instead of, let’s say, Brad Pitt) because he is a someone who does indeed make movies, BUT he also is the blogging equivalent to a movie maker, running the site HITRECORD which is an open-collaborative production company where regular people work together to create art.  He is down there in the writing trenches with everyone, and so it does make sense to have that translate into “I worked on his project and I watch his movies and why doesn’t he take a look at my YouTube vidoes.”  And this is a comment I read about him on a website.  Again, I think if people get something out of HITRECORD, they should do it — it looks like a lot of fun.  But if they’re doing it because they expect something back specifically from him, I think they need to reassess if they’re putting themselves in a position to be deeply disappointed and frustrated.

Time Warp Tuesday: Blogging and Belonging

It’s that time again! Time for the Time Warp!

This week’s theme is “blogging,” a topic I suggested and have evidently written a lot about. A quick search through my archives made that abundantly clear – it we really hard for me to pick a single entry to look back on.

In the end I chose a piece that I really like, and that was actually syndicated on BlogHer a while back (though I did nothing to promote it – I’m not sure why – I think the whole thing kind of freaked me out). It didn’t get much attention here (or on BlogHer for that matter) so I thought I’d revisit it. Especially since I have something to say on the matter.

The piece is called Once Upon a Blog. Why don’t you go check it out. It’s cool. I’ll wait. 😉

I wrote that piece almost six months ago, when I was feeling a bit down about blogging. It wasn’t that I was down really, I was just unsure of where I was going. I’d been blogging for almost two years at the point, I was approaching 500 published posts. I was watching friends get put on well trafficked best-of lists or branching out into other venues on the Internet. As I contemplated the places that people can go with their blogs – and realized I would likely not follow in their footsteps – I wondered what my end game should be. Would I keep writing just for the love of it? Was that even possible? I had tasted the sweet nectar of recognition (200 hits in one day!) and it was hard to keep writing knowing I may never gain a bigger following. When time was so precious and scarce, I just wasn’t sure I could validate my commitment here.

The whole point of that piece was that I wasn’t sure why I was writing anymore. I wasn’t (and still am not) suffering through a great tragedy in my life. I didn’t (and don’t) necessarily need the support of others. While I continued to (and still do) love to write for writing’s sake, I just wasn’t sure it was worth it. I just wasn’t sure what I was doing here.

I’m still not, to be honest. It’s been six months and I still can’t articulate why I return here, day after day, to put myself out there in such a raw and honest way. I honestly am not sure why I continue blogging. I guess the only thing that has changed since I wrote that piece is that I’m okay with not being sure. I no longer feel the need to have an end game, a goal to work towards and accomplish.

I think I starting wondering about an end game in the first place because I still don’t feel like I really belong in this community. If I did, I think being a part of it would be enough. But I don’t feel like I belong. I’m not infertile. I’ve only ever experienced one early pregnancy loss. And while I can wax philosophical about how my mother’s (and by being her daughter, my own) experiences affected me, about how I was shaped by the loss of my sisters, both older and younger, by my brothers who were born dead, the truth is they are really my mother’s story, not mine. I go around writing posts, like yesterday’s, that might ring true with infertiles but they are based on different experiences.

While an IFer might break down at a “whoops” pregnancy announcement because they know that will probably never happen to them, because they had to fight tooth and nail to achieve their own pregnancy (or are still fighting), I would cry at it because if I accidentally got pregnant my partner would be mortified. Our house would be full of anger, resentment and fear, not joy. I never thought a pregnancy would be something we would need to avoid at all costs until a very specific window, during which time we’d struggle to achieve it. I just didn’t think that is what family building would be like. That sentiment might ring true with others in the ALI, but my experience is not the same as being physically unable to get or stay pregnant, of having to spend all your savings on the chance, and not even a good one, of having a baby. It’s not the same. And I’m reminded of it every single day when I read others’ posts and feel like a fake, a fraud.

I often wonder if I would feel this way if I were blogging in a different community, if the simple community would be enough if I were read by mommy-bloggers (god I hate that term) who are chronicling their lives with children. Not that I want to do that. I’m sure I could if I really wanted to, but I don’t. The truth is I feel more a fraud there than here. Actually, “fraud” is not the right term. It’s more like I feel I don’t belong. I have little to say to mommy-bloggers. That which first drew me to the IF community colors my perspective so completely that the “mommy-blogger” arena feels far less authentic to me than this one.

It’s interesting that this discussion about why I blog morphed into a discussion about my blogging community. The two are obviously closely intertwined, maybe even more so than I realize. I guess I went off on this tangent because right now I’m blogging for the community more than anything else. I don’t want to write a book and I hardly ever check my stats anymore, but I look forward to people’s comments on my posts, to commenting on the posts of other people. I guess that is why I decided to stay in the Land of Blog. At least for the time being.

Two Quick Things

Hey you all. I have something to confess. I accepted the copy editor responsibilities at Golden Gate Mothers Group Magazine. I decided that the opportunity to be a part of a community of local women who a are interested in writing was worth the possibility of added stress. And as many of you mentioned, I can always back out if it becomes too much. I went to their family picnic at the beach last Saturday and we have our first meeting next Monday. I’m feeling very positive about it which leads me to believe it was the right choice for me.

My second confession is also a plea for advice. Today I’m set to turn in the paper work (and considerable deposit) for Isa’s preschool for next fall and I must admit I’m wavering. In so many ways this preschool works great for us. It’s Spanish immersion, which is very important to me. We’re basically guaranteed a spot if we apply now, which saves me a ton of stress for the rest of the year. It’s in a decent location, accessible by a simple (albeit long) light rail ride for Mi.Vida and close to a freeway exit for me. The hours accommodate a full time working schedule and we can afford it. I’ve also heard there is a strong parent community. The vast majority of the reviews I’ve read about it are very positive and the few that aren’t seem to be comments about negative experiences someone’s friend has had (which I find strange – why don’t the people themselves give a negative review if they can do so anonymously?).

My few concerns are minor. The outside play space is not great and has very little to offer a two year old (though I would pick her up before the long outside play hour). The room Isa would be in is not huge but it does have plenty of age appropriate toys and dress up materials. There is a 4 to 1 ration of students to teachers but the women seemed very nice and I liked the way I saw them interacting with the children who were there when I visited.

Basically, it is a nice preschool. It isn’t the best preschool in San Francisco and maybe we could find something else that could work for us (though probably not Spanish immersion), but this seems plenty good enough. Is that a bad attitude to have? That I’m going with it’s just good enough? My gut feeling is good enough is just what it is, good enough. Frankly, with the restrictions that our lives put on us, the fact that it’s Spanish immersion, has long hours, is affordable and accessible seems great. It works for us despite our many restrictions! We should jump on it right?

Isa is a very social little girl. I have great faith that she will flourish wherever she is next year. I have little doubt that she will be happy and well cared for at this preschool. That’s all that matters, right? Not that it’s the absolute best there is.

What do you think? Is good enough good enough? Or should I be searching for the best?

Big Girls Don’t Cry

Before I start I wanted to let everyone who commented on the last two posts to know I responded. I might not be able to continue responding to comments that way, as time for blogging will be very scarce once I start grading papers every night. But for now I’m trying to keep it up when I can.

And now, for the post!

This weekend we spent a lot if time trying to convince Isa of what she did and didn’t want to do, expecting more from her than she was able to give because we hoped to see friends and family during our short time in Los Angeles. Not surprising she spent a lot of the weekend upset and after two days we were frustrated, run down and guilt ridden. Needless to say we will not be taking any more trips in the foreseeable future.

At one point Isa was screaming in my arms and as I walked with her I chided, “Nobody wants to hear your crying.” The minute I’d said it I stopped myself, realizing the weight of my words. For the first time in my life I’d communicated to my daughter that her feelings weren’t always important, that she should think of others’ comfort before expressing herself.

I vowed right then and there never to do that again.

The problem is I’m not so sure what I am going to tell her. Obviously we do expect children to control their emotions at some point. A prostrate child rolling in her own snot on the supermarket floor, devastated that her mother won’t buy her Fruit Loops would be judged by everyone around, as would that girl’s mother. People are expected to build filters, people are encouraged to at least temper their most negative (and even positive) emotions, if not hide them completely. As a society we have expectations of human behavior and very few are exempt.

So how do I teach my daughter that her feelings are valid and important when the message she will surely get is, “nobody wants to see you cry”?

Pondering this conundrum this weekend I couldn’t help but see a common thread between what I had said to my daughter and what some mean and spiteful people had expressed in the comment section of some posts. The posts were about the now infamous (in our community at least) Facebook meme that was intended (unfathomably) to encourage breast cancer awareness by cryptically declaring you were, say, 22 weeks and craving fudge. Not surprisingly the meme was reviled by many in the infertility community; we were not only baffled by the meme’s complete failure to incite breast cancer awareness, but also hurt that it did so while subjecting us to dozens of “vague pregnancy announcements” that we may or may not have realized were disingenuous. Somehow people not of this community ended up reading the posts and a few reacted very negatively.

The general attitude of the negative commenters was, “you bitter infertiles need to get over yourselves and stop ruining everyone’s fun.” Some were so wretchedly hurtful as to declare the poster infertile because of her negative attitude and, on top of that, unfit to be a parent.

Now I realize these are very extreme cases of the truly awful coming out in people, and while, as Mel discussed so eloquently in her last post, the anonymity of the internet seems to promote (provoke?) that kind of behavior in some, one could argue that this distilled vitriole in the face of other’s suffering is representative of the way most people feel, at least to some degree. I would venture to guess that the majority of people would rather other people’s suffering not sully their day. Most people would appreciate us keeping it under wraps.

Of course those of us in the IF/loss community know this more poignantly that most. Why else would we band together so fiercely through our blogs and other social media? We know that no one else wants to hear about our pain, our heartache is rarely met with empathy or compassion. We have been disappointed again and again when close friends and even family ignore our loss. We have been asked, repeatedly, to keep our sadness to ourselves, to put on a brave face, to suck it up, to get a life.

Big girls don’t cry, after all.

That’s really it, isn’t it? Big girls don’t cry. Not only are we expected not to cry, not only is it assumed we will bury our feelings so deep that they might never flash across our faces, but it is also presumed that we will conjure elation and joy for those around us, no matter how false and forced it might feel.

What is it about our society that we expect others to share in our joy but not our miseries? Why do we require a one way street of shared emotion? Why is “fine” the only acceptable answer to “how are you doing?”  Why even ask that question at all? It’s as if we think tragedy and sadness are catching. It’s as if we worry we might infect others with our greif, or more terrifyingly, be infected by the suffering of others.

Our culture has created complex and dependable systems to side step the discomfort of others. We have euphemisms to avoid the words and cards and flowers to deflect the eyes. We expect people who have suffered even the most unspeakable losses to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and get on with their lives. Evidently grief has an expiration date and tear are simply not tolerated.

So what do I tell my daughter when she asks me if big girls cry? How do I explain to her that they probably don’t but they should? How do I respect the intense emotions she feels in her toddlerhood while helping her gain control over those emotions? How can I be supportive but not overindulgent? So many fine lines to walk. So many opportunities to misstep. I only hope I can guide her in the right direction, towards a place where she doesn’t feel shame when she sheds a tear, or twenty.