People who equate truth with fact are missing the point.


For context, you might want to read this first.

You know what sucks about being sad? Besides the sadness, I mean.

It’s the all-consumingness of the thing.

(Spell checker doesn’t care much for the word consumingness, to which I say get over yourself, spell checker! I have bigger problems than you!)

No, what really sucks about being sad is the way it uses up all my energy to live my life around it. Do the laundry without getting overwhelmed by the fact that none of Jacob’s and Abbie’s clothes are here to be washed. Make dinner without crying into the soup because Jacob and Abbie are almost never here to eat with us. Watch TV/read a book/go to the movies without becoming despondent because I don’t know what Jacob and Abbie like to read and watch. Enjoy the family who is here without succumbing to obsession over who is not here.

That’s a whole lot of withouting.

The thing is, when life goes really, really wrong—when it diverges dramatically from even the vaguest expectations—the disorientation is powerful. Up? Down? Where? Who? Gravity works sideways and the sky turns bile green. Eating makes me hungry and sleeping makes me tired.

But then, worse, is sometimes I’m OK. Or worse yet, I’m happy.

What kind of mother is happy when her children have rejected her so violently?

I won’t answer that. I won’t touch the question, because I know it’s OK for me to be happy. I know I won’t save my relationships with Jacob and Abbie with my misery, but some primitive part of me rebels. The same mother-instinct that compelled me to respond when my babies cried; to protect Abbie from the girls who bullied her in 3rd grade; to find Jacob on that awful night last year when no one knew where he was; insists that I must stay unhappy. That instinct is hard-wired, fundamental, and very, very hard to resist.

Worse, what if writing brings me joy, but I believe I don’t deserve joy? What if I think I deserve to be punished?That instinct is also a piece of what keeps me away from my computer and the stories I love to write. How can I write about the latest news in pediatric mental illness, or that funny thing Brian said, or my grandma’s story of the time her sister was hit by a car, if I can’t think of anything but Jacob and Abbie?

What a tangled, ugly knot. The woman with the letters after her name says I should try that thing people in 12-step programs do: act as if.

Does it hurt that I’m alienated from Jacob and Abbie? Fuck yes it hurts. But what if, for part of everyday, I acted as if it didn’t? What if I just set the pain aside for awhile and let myself think about something else?

Do you think the sky would be blue again?

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7 comments to Withouting

  • Oh sweetie…I’m sorry you’re suffering so much. It’s not fair. I hope that someday they realize what they are giving away and come back to you. I know that doesn’t help now, though.

  • Editdebs

    Yes, the sky will be blue. Yes, you can be happy and still be a good mother.

  • One thing I know for sure, Adrienne, is that life – and people – are always changing. This is the way things are right now, but that doesn’t mean it will be this way forever. It hurts, it sucks. You have to honor and process the grief and sadness around your circumstances, but it is also OK to be happy. It is more than OK to want to learn how to be happy more than you are sad. And when the sadness comes, its also OK to acknowledge that, and occasionally give in to it so that you can avoid the pitfalls that come along with bottling up emotion.

  • There was a time when I didn’t think I would have a relationship with my mother. Then I grew up, got wiser, forgave the past and now just love. I believe your kids will come back to you, the waiting is the hard part.

  • I have been sitting here trying to come up with something for you.


    but I don’t have advice.

    and I don’t have anything funny to make you chuckle.

    and I can’t even sympathize because I have not been there.

    but I do know we all need at least a few moments of happy each day…even if we have to pretend other things are fine to get them.

    Start small. Eat an Oreo and just enjoy it for what it is. Tomorrow you can add more.

  • When I read your posts about Jacob and Abbie, I keep thinking of you as the father, and them as the younger son, in Jesus’ parable in Luke 15:11-32.

  • There is a guilt around my children that can suck me out of a moment and into an unreachable hole in the ground. Sometimes I crawl out. Sometimes I lay down in the mud and wish to die.
    What I can offer is: the times I set it aside, I don’t necessarily feel better, but I know that I am better.

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