Thursday, August 04, 2005

Failure or deliberate avoidance?

A while back, I posted about My Bucket. Here lately, I've been asked to get in other people's buckets and I'm finding that I just can't. Or maybe I just don't want to, so I won't. I really don't know which it is. There seems to be this piece of me missing. Where there was once empathy and compassion, there is now only sadness and anger. I've become so self-absorbed that there is no room for other people's sadness and anger. And I'm wondering if this is something that happens naturally as some weird defense mechanism? Or if this is something that I've chosen to become (as some weird defense mechanism)?

Quite honestly, I don't have the least problem being selfish for a while. It's not even been three months since I buried my baby. In the grand scheme of things, I think I'm doing remarkably well. I've found people to "talk to" who understand the mess my brain has become. I'm functioning, albeit on a much reduced capacity than before. I manage to must all my energy each morning to haul my fat butt out of bed and shower and clothe myself...when all I'd really like to do is lay in bed all day and eat Oreos and watch soap operas.

But at what point will my personality recover? Can I expect my empathy and compassion for others to come back? Or do I have to go out and seek it out...actively work to replace it?

If it's going to take work, I'm too tired right now. I can barely stand on my own two feet every day, let alone crawl into someone else's bucket and feel anything for them. Maybe that makes me a monster. But I would like to believe it just means I'm barely hanging on and I'm doing my best. And if my best isn't good enough, then the people who love me will be patient with me...and the people who don't...well...who gives a crap about them anyway.

It is somehow an attractive thought to think that I've failed in grief. Hell, I've failed in just about everything I've done for the past year or so, so why should this be any different? But intellectually, I feel like it is unreasonable to expect anyone to grieve the way you want them to. I can't possibly fail at something like this, unless someone else imposes their own requirements and guidelines on my grief. And I'm not in the mood to play by someone else's rules.

I do care. I just can't take care of anyone but me right now. And even that is proving to be too much. I feel completely beaten down, as though I've been run over by a bus and left bleeding on the side of the road. I can't get up and tend to someone else. I just want to lie there and let the world keep spinning on without me. The old me would have gotten up, patched up my own injuries, and helped as many people as I can. This me can't...or won't. I miss the old me. But the new me hates her and wants her to stay gone.

Maybe it's not failure...maybe I've chosen this new me. Maybe I am a monster.


¡P! said...

Well, we're all monsters, to one degree or another. That's just how it is.

Anyway. The thing about grief is that it's universal and unique unto the individual: we all know what it is, but we experience and deal with it in different ways. You probably already knew that.

The downside to that is that there isn't a manual, no matter how badly B&N or Borders would like to sell one.

The upside is that, being relative to the observer as it is, there's no wrong perspective. Ergo, no failure in it.

So no, if you've failed at anything, it isn't grief.

Having made my requested (by you) comment, I retire now to finish laundry before getting on a plane tomorrow morning for grad school...

Lisa P. said...

I don't know who is expecting more of you, or why they would be. You are doing your best. We all are. And no one should judge whether your best is "good enough" because it's no one else's business, frankly! Whatever we can handle on a given day is the best we can do and if someone doesn't like it, well, that's just too bad. (I've had my Wheaties today, no?)

You are definitely *not* a monster. Whether you've chosen to change or not, there is no way you could possibly be that.

(And I loved "My Bucket" and copied it that very first day I read your blog, so maybe *that* was the reason you needed to post it, not that you needed to be doing something about someone else's bucket. So there!) ;-)

holley said...

You're not a monster. You are hard on yourself.

People do understand.

gabesmama said...

I know how you feel. I feel like such a monster. I have no smiles, no laughs, nothing to give. I secretly hope bad things happen to other people. But mostly I want that so that they stop happening to me. I feel like a horrible person. People tried telling me that I will grow from this experience. I've become mean--is that growth? If Gabe were alive I would more creative, happy, and able to give to my family and friends and now I'm just bitter.

Jill said...

Catherine, I don't know who you used to be and I know I will never meet her, but quite frankly, it is who you are now that I have come to really like - monstery warts and all:)

Like everything in life is broken down into phases, so is grief. Me - I am just glad things are still such that you could make this post. Mainly because I have noticed your absence and wondered/worried about your well being. But you are still here, even if only hanging on by the fingernails.

And maybe you could do with a day when you have arranged someone to take care of Sam the night before and you CAN stay in bed with Oreos and soap operas.

Anyway, people gain support just from a feeling of similarity, not necessarily by you purposely jumping in buckets. Someone will have read your post and these comments who is hating the world and feeling like it is the end of theirs because of it. And now they will know that being that way is ok and normal.

So stay out of buckets for a while. They are not big enough to put your foot in, let alone anything else. ((HUGS))

MB said...


It seems that your managed to be compassionate and empathetic to many of us bloggers, I am no exception. You have not become a monster. If you are, you're my kind of monster.

I can tell you that in my "real" life I have become less tolerant of bullshit. My fuse is much shorter. It's been almost a year for me, so I don't see it improving. We've had a horrible experience. It's traumatic. The fact is, we're not the same. The person we were has evolved into someone else. In my mind, that doesn't have to be a bad thing, but it might take some getting used to.

At the end of the day, we all love you here and if you need to be a nasty shit, then get on with it, we can take it and we'll love you anyway. You know why? Because we know you'd do it for us.


lauralu said...

"...all I'd really like to do is lay in bed all day and eat Oreos and watch soap operas."

ahhh, it's like a beautiful, elusive dream.

no, really, i believe we all tend to "fake it" way too much; we put on these nice, pleasing ways to get other people to like us but it's not who we really are.

i know hans's death has stripped away my tendency toward artificiality or doing something *just* to be nice. it's stripped me down to the essential me, the more genuine me. i have a sense that alex's death has stripped you of some of your usual guards, too, and that the person revealed is more authentic.

and wouldn't you prefer having a few people like you because you're authentic to having more people like you or feel comfortable with you because of something they think you are but you're not and frankly won't be ever again - not that you were ever *really* that person in the first place? and wouldn't you prefer i get my run-on sentences under control???

Sweet Coalminer said...

Forget everyone else's bucket. Carrying around your bucket is all you can do right now. And, to be truthful, I think you've climbed into plenty of buckets.

Julie said...

And here I've been wearing a bucket on my head, that's why I keep running into shit.
Some people's buckets are more like troughs, don't get in them if your own is too full, you'll be smothered.
I think you are doing just fine, monster or not. Just picture our community here as Sesame Street, and we're all furry muppet monsters. I call dibs on Oscar.