Tuesday, January 31, 2012

This Is Why I Read The Sad Stuff

Not too long ago I was getting ready to leave my children for a few hours with a friend. 

(I know the nicest people.)

As much as I was trying to focus on the joy of this type of drop off, I had recently started reading a blog about a woman who had tragically lost her son and I found myself a little extra paranoid about safety, in addition to the already constant movie reel of tragedy in my brain which I press play on as soon as one of my family members is out of my sight.  Fear not, I have discussed this with a mental health professional and it turns out this is really common...for the mentally insane. 

Totally kidding, it's common for "normal" people too.

I mentioned the blog and my friend said, "oh Leslie, why do you let yourself read those things?" 

I get this quite often when I relay a sad situation or recent tragedy. 

(Please understand that despite almost every word you have read thus far, I am not Debbie Downer all the time and I will, some day, make a point.) 

I understand the desire to avoid this sad train of thought, particularly for us Moms.  I get it, I do, but I think it's sort of important to read the sad stuff.  There is a lot of good in that sad stuff, particularly for those of us not mentioned in any of it.

Allow me to explain myself. 

I have, without question, an amazing life. I have a healthy, happy family.  I'm mad for my husband.  I love my home and I am grateful for the infinite little pleasures like good books, Starbucks, old Gossip Girl episodes, and fun eye makeup.  I want for nothing. 

Well, I actually want for all sorts of things, new jeans, those microwave tortilla warmers, some heeled oxfords, that $180 trash can...these types of things could fill pages, there is no end, but there is no hole in me for not having them.
I am happy.  I am grateful.  I am blessed. 

Like all of us though, I am still so flawed and filled with bad days of self pity and a deep lack of gratitude.  I get resentful and frustrated.  I feel alone in the role of parenting, and completely abandoned in almost all my relationships, which couldn't be more false.

I don't like these days...but I accept them as a periodic part of my life.  The trick is getting over these days fast, and some times that's difficult for me. I get caught up in it all and sometimes it's tough to move past myself.  I'm selfish and that is never more apparent than when I wallow in my blahs.  I hate it.

It's difficult though, and I've been through those times quite frequently since having children.  Nothing has pushed me deeper in to sadness, or bliss, than my kids.  Unfortunately, the sadness and the bliss make frequent appearances, so I have a lot of experience in learning how to get over the sad, the frustrating, the desperate. 

I read almost all the sad stuff that comes my way. I read stories about children with terminal illness, families ripped apart by addiction, rape, and abuse. I bawl over books, articles and blogs that tell the intimate details of situations that cause me to fall on my knees with gratitude that my family and I have no personal experience with them.  I don't seek these stories out, but I don't turn away from them and I never abandon them until they end...or stop being shared.

I do not relish in knowing tragedy has struck someone, but I find hope and courage in allowing myself to pray for them, contact them, or simply share their story.

I read Anna See's An Inch of Gray whenever she posts, and have done so since I first learned that her son died in a flash flood at the age of 12 this past fall.  I feel like I have been punched in the gut every time I read about the cavernous hole in their family's life that her son's death has created.  I bawl when she writes about not knowing what to do with the every day things like favorite foods or Lego sets that are so painfully present when her son is not.  I hate it, and I love it.

I feel like Anna, and anyone writing about this type of grief, is sharing this amazing gift to all of us.  She's sharing all the things we never get to know about loss until we are in it and it hurts way too much.  She's helping us to know how to be better friends, better neighbors, better people of the world the next time someone in our community is struck with such a horror.  She has offered a window in to something so inexplicably painful and has not shied from sharing it all. 

She's basically doing her own Oprah interview since Oprah isn't doing that anymore.

I could write about this particular blog for a long time, and I am sure there are a lot of blogs similar to it, but I only read hers regularly.  I feel so connected to Anna now that she pops in to my mind at the most random of moments through the day...and I have never met her.   She has no idea who I am and I like thinking that my caring about her matters. 

(Anyone else think those last two sentences screamed, stalker!!!???  How many times have I tried to reassure you of my sound mental health in this post?)

I think of her and her son and it helps me to, sometimes, remember to tread lightly, be kind, and cherish what I have now. It takes me out of myself and I think we all need to do that more.

Quick side note:  This whole idea that I'm nuts for reading the sad stuff has been going through my head for weeks, but I finally decided just to write it out so all the other voices inside my head can get back to work.  You know?

If this is your first time reading, please check out this or this or this or this for my more usual posts. 

I won't tell you to go get sad all the time, just every third Wednesday.

I'm linking up to Shell's Things I Can't Say, Pour Your Heart Out!  Check it out here.


Suzanne Wilson said...

Leslie - this one's for me right? :) I actually had an inpired "the mommy therapy moment" last friday and thought of you in the school parking lot. It's a little segment I like to call "REALLY?" with Suzanne. "I put the kids shoes on, went to get something, came back and they were off "Really??" Put the shoes back on, got in the car and they were off again - of both kids - "Really?" After lunging across the back seat of the tahoe to fetch the lost shoe that I put back on, I turn to see Ellen at the driver's seat locking the doors and for a split second think I left the keys in the car "REALLY?" - see how humor can make a selfish glum situation better - that's why I like you..I also like that you care about the hard stuff to - that makes you real. Really! :) - (cheese I know)

Mommy Inconsistent said...

Wow, you've written what I feel a lot of the time. Had one of those blah days today in fact and I too don't have really any reason to be so blah. I recently read the saddest blog of a mom who just lost her almost 3 year old to a skin disease called EB. Very unfair. I was so saddened by this and felt such immediate gratitude for my healthy children. I definitely get where you're coming from.

Jen@ADropintheBucket said...

Eeek. Could have written this post myself. I have also started reading Anna's blog, along with a few others with sad stories. I feel like you do that they are sharing their story for a reason, and I want to be respectful of that. There is a reason we come across blogs like that, I am sure. Perhaps for me it is because my parents lost a daughter to a drowning just two years before I was born (which was also WHY I was born) and her blog helps me understand what they were feeling better. Thanks for writing this post!

Katie said...

I read Inch of Gray too, ever since you mentioned it on your blog. I cry every time I read a new post and like you find myself thinking of her often. My husband keeps asking why I read something that makes me cry, and I keep telling him it helps me appreciate what I have, no matter how crazy the kids have made me that day.

Jemima said...

I went back and read inch of gray today because you mentioned it and i bawled all morning, omg so tragic, i understand why you read the sad stuff, i do too it keeps me grounded and grateful i guess!

ckbrylliant said...

I read inch of gray too. And you are quite right in your analysis of reading it. I think avoiding these kinds of stories is a real cause for trouble.

Anonymous said...

I usually try to avoid sad news, because I know it can sink me emotionally, but every once in a while (and twice lately) I've come across a blog story that drew me in, and in each case, it certainly did remind me: I am exceptionally blessed. Everything slips into perspective. I hugged my little girl and husband extra hard. I censored some nagging comments that stood on the tip of my tongue. I think you are right, that in hearing and empathizing with other's stories, we are reminded to be present, to be loving, to be thankful. Thanks for sharing!

Annemarie said...

i read the sad stuff too. No one gets it. It's nice to know i am not alone. I found you through Shell

Sara S said...

I try and avoid sad news, heck growing up my parents never watched the news or read the paper in front of us, but sometimes I'll hear about a blog, or an article and I'll have to read it, and it'll stay with me for a while, reminding me to enjoy even the little things.

Robbie K said...

i read the sad stuff too. i am drawn to it and inspired by the strength and raw emotion.

Stopping by from #PYHO

The Semi-Domesticated Mama said...

I could have written this myself. I am always drawn to the sad and tragic stories. I feel the intense sadness for the person experiencing the tragedy followed by overwhelming gratitiude that I have a chance to make up for all the times I am distracted or short tempered. It's a vicious (and somewhat unhealthy) cycle! Visiting from PYHO.

Jenn and Casey said...

I read sad stuff too. And when I post sad stuff, it is my most read stuff (which makes me feel weird when I post happy stuff, but whatever). I think we all are looking for affirmation, for connection, for reminders to be grateful.

Jessica said...

I get this! I have the same issue. I found Anna's blog after her son died, and now I feel like Im connected to her. Reading her posts remind me to be thankful for all I have. The little things that tend to get lost in the day to day grind.

January Dawn said...

I am one of those people that cannot watch the news or read (a lot) of sad stuff. Once in a while I DO because I force myself to. I know how wonderful I have it and sometimes I feel guilt about having such a great life which is when I feel like I must get a 'reality' check. A little different perspective than yours I suppose. (though I too have grey days when I feel overwhelmed and isolated) I have read some of Anna's posts...she is an amazing writer. I will visit her again.

Pish Posh said...

Oh I feel sad all the time. I long for the things you have actually, the things you said make you lucky. Yes, very lucky indeed.

But maybe, now that you put it this way, I can limit myself to just feeling sad on Wednesday, knowing that will be our "sad day" to be moody.

Great post!

Kimberly said...

Anna's posts make me cry my eyes out. Especially knowing she was such a careful, devoted mother and some senseless tragedy still managed to hit her family. I totally understand your feelings. Well spoken.

Shell said...

I read the sad, too. To be there for someone else, to be reminded of what could happen, to be thankful, to give a shoulder to cry on.

And that part isn't stalkerish- it's just blogging.

Marinka said...

I read every one of Anna's posts. Yes, there is tragedy, but there are times when I see her humor peeking through. Motherhood is an incredible bond. Even when the unthinkable happens.

Jenna said...

im grateful to know more about you, and to know that reading blogs like Anna's helps you keep perspective. You have a tender heart, and Im glad you decided to be transparent and pour your heart out and hit publish today *HUG*

Meredith Maczka said...

I read the sad stuff and write about it too.


Kristen said...

I read the sad stuff too. All the time. Sometimes I write the sad stuff and I have to be really careful about how often I write sad.... otherwise I feel like people might not come back - because they won't be able to handle it.

Melinda said...

I guess if that is what you need to appreciate what you have, power to you. I work in the medical field, so I get enough of that sadness at work. Sorta the opposite I guess.

Reis said...

thank you

Katherine Whitlock said...

I know this is more than three years old, but I feel compelled to share that you have explained my feelings EXACTLY. Our family lived in NoVA when that accident happened (It was my own son's 13th birthday) and I remember feeling awful for the family and praying for them. It wasn't until the following spring that I learned about the blog and haven't stopped reading it since. I am still drawn to it for the very reasons of which you wrote and her excellent writing. My children have asked me why I read sad things that make me cry and I could never really explain it well. Thank you for helping me understand myself better!