Wishing you courage

"Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying 'I will try again tomorrow'."
- Mary Anne Radmacher

Saturday, January 30, 2010

One, two, buckle my shoe


The Steadfast Warrior has started a project called The Friday Photo Challenge. The first topic is "Strength".

Work has been all consuming for the last few weeks but I was really looking forward to finding and taking of picture of something that made me think of strength, so I'm a day late but I'd still like to give some thought to "Strength".

Yep, that's a photo of me and a pair of shoes. Honestly I'm not sure if I can find words to explain how this makes any sense but here goes nothing...


In my second post ever I talked about how I didn't like being called strong.

"Friends have called me "strong"; my psychiatrist called me "resilient". Instead of feeling complimented, I feel offended. I don't feel strong, I am not exhibiting behaviors of a strong person. By saying "strong" and "resilient" it feels like people are telling me "you're doing great, keep up the good work"."

During the first year after Toren died I barely made it through many days. During the first 9 months or so I cried everywhere. At work I cried at my desk and spent hours on the forum for A Heartbreaking Choice instead of doing actual work. Nighttime's were spent drinking, smoking, and numbing. It wasn't like living, if that makes any sense. I didn't make any tangible progress in "normal" life.

That year culminated with my husband deserting me and my being involuntarily admitted to a mental hospital after a suicide attempt. Yeah, real strong.

The first 9 months of year 2 were spent in relative isolation. I went to work and went home and rarely saw any friends. Things thankfully improved last summer.

But the point is that I felt so weak and felt like this level of dysfunction and depression meant that I was just one huge fuck up. However, in hindsight the "strength" part makes sense... but maybe not exactly in the way that people throwing around the term "strong", just because they see you dressed and out of the house, had in mind.

What does it mean to be strong after your baby dies? Is it getting out of bed everyday, going to work, paying some bills, buying groceries, smiling when it's socially appropriate, saying that you are "fine" or "good" instead of saying that you don't know if you can make it through another night alone in your empty house? Those saying I was "strong" didn't know that I bought dinosaur pajamas for Toren months after he died and they didn't know that I would drape the jammies along my left forearm, in the place they would have been so that Toren's head would have rested on my left bicep as it did when I rocked his body in the hospital, and that I rocked the pajamas to sleep. It's like you are called strong for keeping the trips to the cemetery, the memory box, the MEMORIES, the ruined hopes and plans to yourself.

Sitting here now, two years, two months, three weeks, and on day later I think I have been strong. Facing your grief head on is being strong. Struggling, crying, screaming through every day while your soul learns how to live without your child is strength. Not believing those who insist that you did not suffer a real loss since you never even "got to know" your child - loving your child who was very sick or suffered a fatal accident before or at birth or just died for unknown reasons - cherishing those too malformed to survive is courageous.


I've always wanted to be taller.

I used to wear platforms and heals almost exclusively - so much so that other people would be taken aback when I wore flat shoes, making me 3 inches shorter then I normally appeared. I used to dance; defying gravity was never a concern. Even while I was pregnant I wore tall shoes, but thought as my center of balance altered with a growing belly some flat shoes would be a good idea. Toren never got big enough for flat shoes. It wasn't until after Toren died that I lost my balance.

For over 2 years I have primarily worn Merrell's or Dansko's. Comfortable, sensible, close to the ground, day after day.

I'm scared of heals. Ease of movement has been replaced by wobbles and clumps. Pretty, healed shoes are showy and don't fit well with being invisible. All of these thoughts made me realize, I mean really realize, that I'm not friends with my body. This body grew a "bad" baby and I'm not sure that can ever be forgiven.


So this week strength is seeing beautiful shoes and beginning to practice living beyond barely surviving.


Beautiful Mess said...

Oh AnnaMarie! I didn't loose a child, but I lost my mom 4 years ago. I "get" what you said about people saying you're strong. My loss doesn't compare to yours, please don't think I'm comparing them, but I felt the same way. You ARE strong and I hope you find your balance in your beautiful shoes.

Bree said...

I never like it when people who haven't had a loss refer to me as strong. It makes me feel as if I'm not grieving enough- that I should be more of a mess if I really loved her. You've had more than a fair share of shit these past two years. I see you as a strong woman because you aren't afraid to share your darkest thoughts and feeling with us. That takes strength. Great shoes! You have great legs girl!

Anonymous said...

I so hear you. I nearly get mad when people describe me as strong. What is strong after a child dies? Getting dressed and going to work? Not killing yourself and simply surviving...? I don't know and wish one day I can see those remarks as a compliment.

Love the pictures.


angie said...

I always think of strength as being a choice, like I chose to be strong, when what I really would have chosen was a live child. Beautiful photograph. It is magical. The description is gorgeous too. XO

Amy said...

This is a powerful post, thank you for writing this. I had received a comment on my blog last week from a non-babylost person who over used the word "strong" and other meant to be compliments about me. I felt so angry and frustrated!

I love the first photo! Great shoes too! I am a Dansko kind of girl myself and those heals you chose are fabulous!

Dave said...

What an incredible post. I have never experience a loss of this nature, but I have watched those around me, and wonder when it may happen to me.

I used to be one of those "Look at how strong you are" people, but have been discovering lately that when someone needs help they don't need propping up. Just being around, to do whatever is needed and whenever, is more help than two adjectives could ever bring.

Cheers to your heels! Enjoy them as you step through each day, living instead of merely surviving.

Catherine W said...

The image of you holding Toren's dinosaur pyjamas just breaks my heart.

I agree, I don't like being called strong. It always makes me flinch a little. Because I suspect what people perceive as strong is simply an ability to carry on as though nothing ever happened whilst screeching my head off internally. As you say, just keeping it all to yourself.

The sort of strong that you describe here, that is true strength. ' . .cherishing those too malformed to survive is courageous' it is. That takes guts and kindness and gentleness.

Despite the fact that I really shouldn't want to be any taller, as I'm 5ft8 without any extra assistance, I love big shoes. I have masses of tall, tall shoes in a box in my wardrobe but I don't wear them. I hadn't even really thought about the fact that I don't wear them any more until I read your post here. Strange. I think it is so many of the reasons you've articulated so well.

Beautiful photographs. Enjoy your shoes. Sorry about the long comment xo

Anonymous said...

Amazing post. Interesting how going through so much can make us feel so weakened. Looking at you, I know you must be strong to have made it through so much.

I love the photo.

Rebekah said...

So well put. The labels people put on us so rarely reflect how we're feeling inside. We often find that strength on our own but by then people expect us to be back to normal anyway- even when we know what a struggle each day can be and normal is a word that no longer makes sense. I'm glad you're finding yourself wearing heels again- though I'm a flip flop girl myself :)

BluebirdSinging said...

This is a beautiful post. I totally get what you are saying and your photograph portrays the idea perfectly!


Liz said...


I read every single one of your entries in the last week and a half. I am enthralled by your journey and your garden.

I would like to follow your blog, if you wouldn't mind. I only say so because I do have a child and because for me there has been struggle in that --- that is the topic of my newly created blog.

The Steadfast Warrior said...

Wow! Where to begin...

First of all, your photo is STUNNING!

In many ways, you've articulated what I have felt but never knew how to express. It's the old "appearances can be deceiving" bit. I do truly believe there can be more strength in NOT being okay and not being afraid to let people see that. As you make tiny steps in your beautiful shoes, I hope you find ways to truly *live*, over and above simply existing.

Thank you for taking part in my photo challenege and I really hope you continue to.

Barbara said...

Wonderful photos.

I've never been able to wear heels without falling off them, which at 5'7" isn't such a problem but I always wanted to. Now I have arthritis in my toes and it's comfy shoes all the way, so I'm taking some sort of vicarious pleasure at your first brave steps in heels!


CLC said...

I couldn't agree with you more on the "strong" part. I used to want to punch my friends in the face when they called me that. It's not like we chose this path. We just had to deal because there was no other choice.

Love the pix.

Reba said...

wow, so true that when people say you are strong, they really mean you've been keeping all your feelings to yourself lately. my parents say to me sometimes, you are doing so well lately! i say thank you and they ask do you still go to the cemetery? and then they say oh when i say yes, i was just there this morning.
i could not survive in those shoes.

Sophie said...

Strength implies choice and from where I was sitting there was no choice for me to make other than to function. I hated people using that word too.

Oh my god you have great legs! xx

Kathy said...

I just discovered your blog through Bree. I had to comment on this post b/c it really really resonated with me. People always tell me I'm strong. I think it's b/c I show them what they want to see. They don't know those deep dark secrets about me either! But I like what you said about looking back on the two years and realizing the dealing with it all head on, and grieving for someone NO ONE ELSE WILL GRIEVE FOR is strong. That I totally agree with. It takes more strength to stand up and proudly (if that's even the right word) deal with something that so few have to deal with.
You go girl, for being brave enough to even try on the shoes ;-) As for the photography - brilliant work (I'm also a photographer!). I pray for your peace - you have dealt with a lot.