I had planned to be out of town this weekend. My lovely sister in law and I had intended to immerse ourselves early in Christmas festivities and drive to the nearest excuse for a city for some shopping. As it happens, winter got the best of us, and despite chinook winds and serious melting, we’d heard the roads were treacherous and decided to stay home.
I headed to town instead, loaded up on groceries and jaunted into our local coffee shop to grab a freshly baked pastry for the SIL’s birthday tomorrow. As I waited in line, I glanced around. Teddy bears everywhere. The place was packed. I saw a few familiar faces. Waved at a coworker, frowned at the lack of cinnamon buns.
Suddenly, my eyes came across a familiar face, that of a person I’ve only met online. A woman who has suffered two tragic losses in recent months. A woman who is much braver than I.
I remembered that today she had organized a Teddy Bear Picnic, an event to honor bereaved parents and collect teddy bears by donation with the intention to gift them to parents in need. There she sat, smiling brightly, bubbly and cheerfully chatting. I realized that this place, at this moment, was dedicated to women like me. Women who have suffered near insurmountable losses that have shattered our worlds, women who are here now, in hopes of helping the next hurting parents, to honor the lives of their lost little ones.
I admire this woman’s courage and willingness to speak aloud about a topic so often buried and ignored. I, too, have felt the pull to stand up for the little guy, for the wounded women, for the broken hearted parents.
But, instead, when the realization hit me that I had suddenly found myself, unprepared, in the midst of this wonderful event….I panicked. My eyes hit the floor. I waited impatiently for my carrot cake to go, and breathed a huge sigh of relief as my phone rang and I was granted a distraction. I essentially bolted.
I talk a big game online, bearing my soul, pouring out my feelings and screaming to the proverbial internet heavens of my pain and struggle. I shout from blog rooftops of the injustice of our silence, of the stigmas we must overcome, of the wounds I’ve bound with gauze and walked on in spite of.
But, in person, I am small and meek, and afraid.
Internet me would have walked up to this familiar face, introduced myself, and given her a hug, maybe even cried over our shared tragedies. I would’ve commended her on her admirable event and the way she’s standing up for others in spite of her own pain. I’d’ve sat down next to her, met other local parents who understand where I’ve been, and maybe reached out a hand to someone else who needed it.
But the real me bolted. The real me panicked, couldn’t face the thought of five minutes of unknown discomfort and awkwardness. The real me, afraid to cry in public, afraid to face myself, afraid to be exposed, kept her eyes on the floor, failed to embrace an opportunity. The real me waited for her carrot cake and refused to publicly face herself, as the mother of a child not born, of a child who ought to be a week old now. In person, I refused to show my scars, to note my weaknesses, to speak up in honor of my lost baby.
When caught unaware, when I cannot prepare my words on a screen, when I cannot articulate smoothly and with the ability to delete, to compose, to insert a pretty highlight photo, I am not loud.
I am not strong.
I am not brave.
“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”
― Anaïs Nin
Today, I shrunk my world a little bit, because I could not be brave.