Thursday, November 5, 2009

Ugly Truth: I Get Jealous

I was talking with some friends tonight about how there are aspects of God that don't seem to go together, but they just do. You can't understand it, it's totally mysterious, but it's true. We were talking about this in the context of the book of Lamentations, a book about suffering, and it got me thinking about our situation. I've written before about how so many parts of our experience with Collin don't seem to go together. We feel disappointment and excitement at the same time, happiness and grief simultaneously. This made me remember a paragraph in When Bad Things Happen to Good People that I have often thought about since reading the book, since it rang so true with me. In it, the author describes the jealousy of a suffering person. It isn't a vindictive jealousy that wishes bad things on other people or even necessarily wants others' good fortune for themselves. It's more like this jealousy recognizes the difference between a life with and without their particular grief or challenge and feels the pain of that difference. When I read this, it felt like he was putting words to something I had been ashamed to admit even to myself - that I see the difference between our situation and many others and it breaks my heart.

It is hard for me to see babies developing at a 'normal' rate. It is hard to hear them babble, watch them take the world in through open eyes, touch their mother's face. It is hard to see a baby breastfeed or suck down a bottle or gobble up food from a spoon. It's hard to see moms who get to take their babies home from the hospital right away, who fear shots at the pediatrician instead of another discussion of unattained milestones, who run errands and have playdates with their babies instead of doctors appointments and therapies and seclusion because of a compromised immune system. It's hard to hear other parents complain about spit-up and crying and shots - NOT because their complaints aren't legitimate (they are legitimate) and NOT because I look down on their complaints (I don't) - just because I wish that those were my complaints, too.

I don't want anyone other than Collin and I don't wish Collin's challenges on anyone else. I don't love the children of my friends any less or more because of their lack of challenges and I don't begrudge my friends their experiences. But I can't help but look longingly sometimes at what I wish both we and Collin could have.

I'm writing this as I watch Kyle play with Collin, getting him so wound up with smiles and squeals that he's not going to want to go to bed. It is so beautiful. And, true to the complexity of life, I can't tell whether this knot in my chest is from the difficulty of admitting my jealousy or the overwhelming love I have for my son.


  1. I'm thankful that you are my daughter and that Collin is my grandson. In my mind, the rest of it is just details - it really doesn't much matter.

  2. Annie, in my humble opinion it's important to share this, with all others who care for you, and especially those who are also going through the process of raising a child that seems different from the quote on quote normal stories of child-raising. I know that my sister couldn't be in a store, or a starbucks, or a restaurant if she saw a pregnant woman there past 7 months, with those full giant bellies...she would run out of the store. She felt that an important piece of her mother-life had been taken from her that she had missed experiencing. And it wasn't that she hated those women or wanted them to go through what she did but that she felt pain and loss when she saw them. And I'm not sure that the feeling has gone away but she talks about it now and she recognizes it as a full feeling, a feeling that she is allowed to have, that she can't or shouldn't be blamed for, and one that MUST be felt in order for her to look at her daughter honestly.

  3. I seem to have spent most of my life qualifying emotions as good and bad. And I'm slowly coming to realize that It is a ridiculous practice. As humans, we are blessed to have complex emotional lives, and I've begun to realize that each emotion plays its part. Sadness allows me to relish happiness, as well as being cathartic in and of itself. Anger helps me recognize my own limitations, spurring me towards empathy. My experiences with jealousy (and i must say the green one rears its head frequently) have helped me to appreciate the blessings in my life.

    So you feel whatever emotions come your way without doubt or judgment. They are what they are, and ultimately, they make you a complete person. And i must say, I think you're pretty wonderful :)