Posted by: Kate | November 15, 2008

Response

I try to respond to many of my comments, often via email instead of within the same post, but Joanna made a comment below that I feel deserves some attention.

Before I reply, though, please understand – Joanna especially, but anyone who thinks or says things along similar lines – I am not angry at you, nor am I unhappy that you said what you said.  You shared your thoughts with me, and that is something I am always, unfailingly grateful for; I am deeply appreciative whenever anyone feels motivated to bring their own thoughts to my ramblings, no matter whether I agree or disagree. I’m even grateful for the occasional snotty, hurtful comment, because at least they bothered to say something instead of seething and internalizing.

Another very important thing: I am quoting Joanna right now because she worded herself articulately and clearly and it precisely captures a type of comment that I have received from several people, to which I have a consistent reaction.  But she is not my scapegoat here, should not be seen as a figurehead for some certain imaginary “type” of person.  My response here is to her words, not to her character; but to her words, words that have come to me in other forms, as well.

In this case, Joanna said nothing that was remotely hurtful or snotty.  On the contrary, I believe, because I have no reason to think otherwise, that her perspective is good-hearted and her intentions well-meaning.  I am not upset with her, not angry, and hope very much that she understands this.

What she said, below, was:

Put it into perspective-no one died or is critically ill, your house didn’t burn down, etc.  You’re smart and have earning potential-another position will come along.  Your family is healthy and happy.  Counting your blessings does work after the initial shock wears off.  I have no doubt that you’ll be fine!

It’s all true.  She’s absolutely right.

But the thing is, I just lost my job *yesterday*.  There was literally 24 hours between that incident and this post.

Eventually, perspective and counting blessings and so on will happen – I’ve actually already started tomorrow’s post to that effect.  But right now, right this instant?  I’m in pain and shock and feeling a lot of hurt, and those are legitimate, worthwhile feelings.  It’s OK, and in fact healthy, for me to live with those feelings for a little while.  To acknowledge them, and express them, and be able to tolerate them even though they are unpleasant.  If I refused to write about them, pretended they didn’t exist, brushed them off as transient or unimportant, then I would be altering – or ignoring – my own reality.  There is a loss here, and that loss needs to be recognized and lived with if I’m going to be able to process and move on from it in any way even remotely resembling health.

Focusing immediately and only on the ways in which my loss wasn’t really all that bad, hearing reminders of just how good I still have it, those only serve to invalidate my experience now.  It is a big deal, it is a bad loss, and the fact that there are other things in the world that would have been even worse has absolutely nothing to do with the reality of today.  I don’t need to pretend that I have it worse than I really do; this is not a competition for the Worst Day Ever. Other people have it worse, and frankly that’s a contest I don’t want to win.

I also don’t have to minimize the very real betrayals and long-term effects associated with being laid off.  I now have to question the correctness of continuing to try to get pregnant.  I now have to accept the fact that we will not be able to purchase my dream house and open a B&B next year, because I will not have sufficient employment history to support a mortgage application.  This is not catastrophizing, this is simple, harsh reality.  My life changed yesterday, and I don’t like it.  The change was entirely out of my control, and I like that even less.

What I’m trying to say here is, I don’t think I’m erring in the direction of overdramatic and woe-is-me.  I think I’m legitimately upset and hurt, and am processing through the very earliest stages of a tremendous, painful shock.  If I do start to become melodramatic and unreasonable, I welcome that feedback, from anyone at all.  If I seem like I’m dwelling a bit too much on my own miseries, to the point of selfishness, then people have every right – in fact, an open invitation – to tell me so.

So, while I appreciate Joanna’s comment and believe that she meant well, it doesn’t make me feel better… in fact, I feel a bit worse, because now I’m left with a sense of shame; a sense that I shouldn’t be feeling so bad in the first place.

I understand that at least some of the reason for this type of “everything happens for a reason,” “keep it in perspective,” “it’s a blessing in disguise,” “it will be fine in the long run” comment is because I’m hurting, and people care about me, and they want to say something to make me feel better.  They want to let me hurry up through the hard part now to get to a happier place, and the best way they know how to do that is to remind me of how it could be worse, how new opportunities will appear, how life goes on.  And I do know those things and appreciate them… I’m just not ready to hear them quite yet.  So I’ll save them, and go back and reread when I can do so with a more open heart and mind.

I wrote this post not to make Joanna feel badly or to slap back at her.  I had a response to her comment, and I wanted to express that response as honestly and respectfully as I can.

Your comments matter.  They help to define and impact who I am and what I write.  I don’t reply to every single one, though I do reply, via email, to many – I’m not yet there, not yet able to sort through the well-wishes and support I have received.  But I am grateful to everyone who has felt the urge to share their words with me.  Every time.

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Responses

  1. I hear you, babe. It happens with any sort of loss… a pregnancy loss, a death, whatever. You’ve been there. You know.

    The most infuriating thing that was said to me after my mom died came from our family doctor, of all people. She’d died suddenly in her sleep from this weird heart/lung thing, and in an attempt to assuage my grief he said something like “Well, at least be grateful she died in her bed, and not while she was driving a car. It would have been a greater tragedy if she’d caused an accident and killed other people.” What. The. Hell?!?! And again, I know he meant well, but to try to make me feel better by minimizing my tragedy is still minimizing my tragedy.

  2. Holy crap, you lost your job! I saw your comment on Facebook and came here to see what was wrong. You must be in shock and kind of cold and tingly.

    I have no words to help, but just know that sometimes these things are blessings in disguise. Perhaps you were meant to be on a different path, one that will make you happier and make better use of your considerable talents.

    I hope this doesn’t make you feel worse. Yes I know how you feel, often when I am getting things off my chest to people I care about (which I do very rarely) I get told to count my blessings and how this person or that person has it worse. Of course they do. Things could always be worse. We can only feel pain in relation to what we know and that pain is real and deserves to be breathe so it can evaporate. I think people say these things to help us feel better, but it usually just makes us feel worse.

  3. I understand exactly what you’re saying. “Would everybody please hold the hopeful comments until I can keep snot from streaming down my face?”

    Just hold on, girl. And keep tissues nearby.

  4. Yep. I get ya.

    I had so many people tell me not to worry…that everything would turn out better in the long run, trying to be reassuring. I couldn’t absorb it because I was too busy thinking, CRAP, how are we going to pay our mortgage? Are we going to lose the house? How are we going to pay for COBRA? Are we going to have to move? If so, how the heck do we sell the house in this market?
    You’ll gain perspective on the back end of things. Right now, lick your wounds and get your ducks in a row. It’s not easy, but somehow my family made it through 19 weeks. I’m still now sure how…but we did.

    Are we better off on this side of things? I’m still not sure, but my marriage is definitely stronger having been through it. On some levels, we learned about true friends as well. The ones who aren’t too uncomfortable to sit and listen and invite you out for dinner without making you feel like a mooch or loser. Others treated the lay off as The Plague and didn’t want to circle too close for fear of it being contagious. Doubtful we will spend much time with them in the future.

    Hang in there.

  5. It has always infuriated me when people have tried to make me feel better by pointing out “it could be worse.” Well, duh. Most people come to that conclusion on their own, but while the wound is still open and bleeding, that is the last thing we should hear from those around us who are supposed to be supportive. Even the overly analytical, like me, know this very basic thing about the nature of human emotion.

    There is no shame in grieving the loss of a job. You grieve (guiltlessly) all you want. You’ve earned it after giving so much to that job and your patients.

  6. I completely understand. Sometimes we don’t need the “it will get better” comment – we just need someone to understand and be angry with us.

    Can I send chocolate?

  7. I still think it bites arse that you lost your job and that they didn’t honor you like you deserve. I won’t give you hopeful platitudes – you need to work through it all on your own timeline.

    I still totally think you’re the Queen of Awesomeness.

  8. I’m sorry to hear all this Kate. Feel what you need to feel. Take advantage of the fact that your kiddies are there for you to swoop in and hug at random moments. Snuggles heal the soul! Or something like that.

  9. […] earlier in the day I’d read Kate’s post, here, and it had stayed with me. How often do we, in our lives, want someone to move beyond their pain […]

  10. You’re completely within your rights to be angry and hurt and all those other things that you’re feeling. They’re valid feelings and shouldn’t be minimized.

    I hate being told “It could be worse…” Of course it could be, but for you, right now, it IS the worst.

    Hang in there, Kate.


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