There are times when I feel like a bad person. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not evil at heart, but I have gone through times when I just can’t be happy for people experiencing happiness, or celebrate for others when my heart is low.
Like at work, when someone brings their baby in for the first time. It’s a moment of such joy, sharing and showing off that tiny person. I’m happy for them, I honestly am, but I just CAN’T go over and talk, cooing at the infinite preciousness and feeling softness bloom in my heart at the obvious love on their faces.
At those times, it feels like I’m a brittle, delicate vase. Just a touch and my heart will break right through and I’ll be shamefully crying at their happiness. It may have happened before, and let me say it’s not a proud moment to be confronted by my essential selfishness! That all I can think is “why is that not me?” instead of “how wonderful for them!”
I’ve been known to crouch cravenly behind my computer screen, pleading great busyness, fingers tapping away frantically at what I later find out was gibberish.
Or when I see someone I know on the street who is obviously pregnant. It happens more and more these days as we’re getting married off and settling down. If they haven’t seen me, I’ll duck away. Especially in the dull days of winter it’s easy to camouflage among the suits in my black corporate coat and high heels.
I’m dressed up for work, dammit. I look great. No fat tummy for me. Screw you guys. Oh no wait, someone has! And you’re pregnant now? How wonderful for you! That must be so exciting!
Those thoughts come from a bad place. So of course I don’t say them out loud. They’re so horrible they make me want to cringe away from myself. My therapist advises me to notice my thoughts without judging them. To notice them with a spirit of compassionate curiosity. Like “aah, hello, here’s the thought that I feel like yelling at my colleague for complaining about her morning sickness… that’s ok, I wonder why I’m thinking that?” Easier said than done!
To introduce a note in my defense, some people ARE a bit insensitive. One of our friends is a particular culprit. Newly pregnant herself, she knew that we had been trying fertility treatment unsuccessfully for several years, and that my husband had recently been diagnosed with cancer. Yes, that’s right, cancer. Just another element thrown in there for a bit of extra challenge.
I sat rigidly through their visit as she stroked her belly tenderly, explaining to me how she’d felt that she wasn’t ready to face motherhood, but now she was pregnant, it felt like it was the perfect time. She was completely ready to be a mother. Did I know what she meant?
Yes, I knew what she meant.
My friendship with other people went the other way, deepening and broadening as we discussed things and feelings that we hadn’t talked about before.
A word I’ve grown to love is ‘grace’. When we found that my husband had cancer, one of the cards I received wished me ‘the grace to live through this terrible time’. For some reason the phrase spoke to me. If terrible times must be lived through, then how better to live through them with a warm spirit that can smile and be strong although acknowledging fear and sadness, accepting the things that can’t be changed while working to change what you can.
Another friend whispered into my ear as she hugged me “thank you for the graceful way you’re sharing my joy about my baby.” It still hurt as I hugged her back, but somehow her pregnant belly wasn’t getting in our way, and it didn’t hurt so much.
Blogger: Louise Dougherty