I have many good friends and family members who have been through terrible tragedies. I think I have too. I can’t even begin to dare to measure degrees of suffering in this world, but I believe that there are some events that top the list. One day, years after a personal tragedy that some friends went through, I sat with them one night and talked about all of the things people have said to them over the years since it happened. One thing they found particularly stupid was when people said, “I don’t know how you got through it. I couldn’t have done it myself.” My friends were incredulous:
“How did we get through it? How did we get through it, you idiots? What were our other options? It’s live or die.”
Plain and simple, you go on or you don’t. Most people go on.
It is overwhelming for me to think sometimes about how people get through suffering. I once read a psychologist say that heartbreak for most feels worse than when someone dies, at least on a temporary basis. Their reasoning was that with heartbreak, you get the frustrating sensation that what you want most in the world is in this world, but you can’t have it. With death, there’s a finality that you do accept. It’s not a rejection. It’s not something you can’t have that is going on without you, happy without you, with someone who isn’t you. And I’ve had my heartbreaks and seriously, how did I get through the suffering? It’s easy to say from this brighter side of things, “Well..maybe it wasn’t that bad. Yeah. I could do that again.” Maybe your memories get slightly erased. Like with birth! When you’re giving birth, you may be swearing or yelling or crying or wanting to die, or in my case, looking your nurse in the eyes and saying, “Yup! Won’t be doing this again!” And then it’s over and it’s glorious and the next day, you look your husband in the eyes and say, “I could do that again!”
But birth is just a day. Or for an unlucky few, 2-3 days. I’ve been thinking about individual suffering and how fast time can pass when you’re not suffering in any way. And you may see other people suffering, but since time passed quickly for you, you may assume time passed quickly for them. “Well hey,” you may say. “They’re strong. I couldn’t go through that.”
Oh, but you could. You can. One day you will be standing on the other side of your suffering. Whether standing as tall as you once were, or hunched over just the slightest bit, whether permanently or not. Standing, just the same.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my first pregnancy. I’ve been thinking about my friends’ pregnancies, because I have a few pregnant friends and they’re all a month or several months ahead of me right now. I’ve been thinking it was really easy for me with Scarlet. I’ve been thinking it’s really easy for my friends. I’ve been slowly learning it isn’t true. The middle and end of my pregnancy with Scarlet were quite wonderful. The beginning was fearful and snowy and icy and queasy. It passed. It’s easy from this end of things to forget how hard it was. It was nowhere near the levels of tragedy and suffering I referenced above. It’s a different level. It’s a happy occasion that is marked with a hard beginning. For most. When I finally get around to talking with my further-along friends, I hear their horror tales of fear and morning sickness and fatigue and anxiety. It’s not easy for them either. Their days have been long and painful and nauseating and anxiety-ridden too.
I wanted this. I planned this. It’s amazing and I’m blessed and overwhelmed with good feelings. But there’s still the end of fall to get through. There’s still winter to get through. There’s still the fact that I feel like I have mono all the time!
Every day is filled with pitfalls and obstacles. The smell of this, the thought of that, Scarlet peeing on the floor, the 3:00-5:00 pm slump, the fear of pregnancy loss, the darkness, the hunger, the thirst. Oh, the thirst.
One foot in front of the other. Painfully slow days. We all want time to pass slowly and time is passing slowly for me. Yet, it’s passing. Every night is a gift of a day over, a day closer to this baby. And then time will speed right back up for me!
I forgot how it feels to feel consistently normal and not like a Mack truck hit me. Yes, I chose this. That doesn’t mean I’m not having a hard time sometimes. I enjoy every non-suffering day and those non-suffering minutes of suffering days. I know this particular load will get lighter and I’ll stand tall on the other side. Time will fly again.
It just made me think. It’s not easy. We all just get through to the glorious other sides of our personal sufferings, eventually, because we have to. That doesn’t mean every second on the clock isn’t watched all the while. Isn’t hard all the while.