I have a confession.
Once upon a time, before all “this”-
…back in the days that felt most muchless to me, when I’d stopped thinking or caring about myself, when I’d given up on the entrepreneurial dreams I’d held since childhood, when I rode the bus exhausted to work day in and day out, wondering what had happened to the excited and colorful girl I’d used to be. …back in the days when I felt so blessed to have an amazing husband and to be a new mom of my first beautiful healthy daughter, and didn’t really believe I had a “right” to ask for more.
…back in those days when I wore my attitude on my sleeve, when cynicism and snarkiness were defenses I wore to keep my insecurities at bay….
…back in those days, I was also pretty fierce.
I was working as the art director at a clothing and accessory company. I’d built the business basically with the owner, starting as the only design or production employee in a company of 3 people, (myself and the boss included.)
I was on the ball.
I made shit happen.
I had an idea and I could execute it, knowing all the answers before the questions were even asked.
I created stuff and stored mountains of detailed information neatly and precisely in my head. My boss could wake me from a coma-like sleep at 3am, ask me about the velour pajama pants that were made 3 months ago by such and such factory in china and I could spit the details out to him as though they were the names of my children.
Together with my former boss, who himself was a very creative man, I built that design and production room into a team of amazing creative people. I taught my team members how to do things, and how to do things smarter and quicker than anyone else could teach them. I taught them how to think about products more intelligently. I taught them how to come to work with a positive attitude and a strong work ethic because we were all working towards a common goal, and that was to make stuff that we could be proud of. And I loved it, and was really, really good at it.
And then, everything changed. My babies died, and with them, every ounce of strength in my body. There is simply no way to hold yourself up when the bones in your body can’t even stop you from melting into a puddle on the floor.
8 weeks after they died my boss pulled me aside and told me I was carrying a lot of anger. I needed to let it go and get back to work. He said my loss was a result of doing something that pissed God off, but now we were “square” again and so I could get back to business.
I stared at him, willing myself not to cry, yet somehow afraid I’d burst into laughter.
I then dismissed the entire conversation as something that had absolutely no significance to my life whatsoever. He was a man. A man who had no idea what he was talking about and saw the world in an entirely different way than I did.
Three years later I finally left that job. It was hard. I felt like I’d built what was now something like a $250,000,000 company. I’d imagined being there for a long, long time. It was like family (dysfunction and all) I made a great salary. I worked 27 hours a week. I had great insurance.
But I couldn’t stay.
I’d changed and I needed to honor the person I was becoming.
I remember a conversation I had with my boss shortly before I pulled the trigger. He told me I’d gotten soft. He said I used to be so incredible. That I was worth the salary of two people (which some may suggest I was earning) because even at part time (I left at 3:15PM and didn’t work fridays) I was able to accomplish more than two other people would be able to accomplish working full time. He said I owned that town (The NYC Garment District, an industry I grew up in) He said they just don’t make them like me anymore.
But I wasn’t incredible anymore. For years I’d been less than incredible. I’d been lazy, distracted and unreliable.
And part of me knew he was right. Another part of me, the part connected to my face, told him to go screw himself. (We had that kind of relationship. It was like a marriage. Except I got no alimony)
The truth is I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t deal with the pace, the details. I couldn’t care less about a pair of velour pants that were being made in China and sold to the lowest bidder when my babies were dead and staying optimistic and sharing my happy shoes on social media and making other sad women happy was the only way I could get through the day.
It’s been almost 4.5 years since they died. I miss the part of me that kicked ass like that. The me that was focussed and detailed. The one that knew the answers and made quick, smart, confident decisions. The one that could look at a to-do list of 25 things and know that I could cross them all off by 3:15 and remember exactly what I had accomplished that day.
Now I feel lucky if I get 3 things done and swiped off my list…. and that’s often only if I can even find my effing list.
Even at my most Muchless I suppose there was some level of Muchness in me. Muchness of a different kind.
I miss my bad-assness. I want it back- just a hell of a lot muchier. I think it’s time for the best of all of the “me’s” to hit the ground running and do what I was put here to do.
What parts of you do you miss? The good parts that were hiding in the background of the bad parts, or maybe even the bad parts that were hiding in the good parts? I don’t know. Us people, we’re pretty complex, ya know?
Thanks for that great post. I love that you are seeing that helping other women move through their pain is just as valid as working in an office and making a butt-ton of money. I want to address the idea that God would take your beautiful girls as some sort of cosmic tit-for-tat. I am deeply offended by that notion. Why would anyone inflict that pain on another person? As if you had done something different (like not flipped that guy off in traffic) then your babies would be with you. 1. You could not have done anything different 2. The God that I know and love isn’t a 13 year old girl just waiting to get back at you for an imagined slight 3. The God I know and worship does give us difficult lessons but not out of spite or reciprocity. It is our job to learn from the lessons as evidenced by your tuning tragedy into Muchness. 4. That guy may have been a fashion genius, but he was a tool.
Keep kicking ass!!
Sparkles and Glitter, Kirsten
Oh, of course his comment was nonsense. I learned pretty quick that people say some pretty stupid stuff when they think they might know what to say to a woman who has lost a baby. It wasn’t my job not interest in sharing my opinion that his opinion was absurd. He believed if he got a good parking space it was because he did something good and if he circled for hours or got into a fender bender it was because he was being punished… on a much lesser scale than people like me, of course.
He was human, that was the comfort level through which he feels like living his life, that’s his choice. I didn’t take on an ounce of it. xox
“The God that I know and love isn’t a 13 year old girl just waiting to get back at you for an imagined slight.”
BRAVA!!!!!! That may be the smartest thing I’ve ever heard said on this subject.
My mom is going through a cancer/chemo experience now and I have the opportunity to be with her as a caretaker. The fact that she/we have to go through this is shitty, but I wouldn’t have it any other way than doing it together. But the stuff that other people say is truly unbelievable sometimes. A woman actually asked her the other day, “Did they catch it in time or are you going to die?” WHAAAAAAAAT?!?!
The most frequent response is “I’m sure you’ll discover that everything happens for a reason.” And you know what? I do believe everything happens for a reason, and I live that philosophy every day. But that doesn’t preclude the fact that it feels shitty in the moment, and there’s really nothing anyone can – or SHOULD say – to make that different. Allowing myself to FEEL the shitty feelings is what helps me get to the other side of them each day so I can keep finding the Miracles & the Muchness in the midst of the Stinky Pile Of Poo.
I keep coming back to the one response that feels like it’s both empathetic and gives people the space for whatever they’re feeling: “Wow, that really sucks. I’m sorry you have to go through this. How are you feeling?”
Or, ya know, on my crankier days, “Wow, you really must have pissed off God and now He’s getting even.” Or not! 😉
Ohhhhh! Something landed on Leah’s hot button today!! 🙂
There is SO much to say on the topic of the stupid shit people say… and yet- I must admit- even after I went through it and know, sometimes, stupid shit just falls out your mouth. (Never as stupid as stupid as “it’s payback, bitch” but, ya know, stupid.
The awkwardness of that silence and wanting to help is still a heavy cloak to wear in a moment of sincere attempt to help.
I do say “that sucks, I’m so sorry.”… but I’ve read posts from women who are like “I told this woman my baby died and she said “that sucks”—- WTF!!! how insensitive can you be?!?!”
blech. It all sucks.
Great article Tova!!!? As usual.
I remember you at UL, you were on fire for sure and very intimidating to me;) but that was then. I always admired people who could get 25 things crossed off their list by 3:15, I’m just not built that way, but my genius lies else where.
It’s always the quantity but the quality and life has a way if teaching us that.
I just want to express to you that you Are Muchy and now also a Mama. You got nothing to prove to anyone, especially in an industry that cares nothing about quality or people ( for the most part). Everything is replaceable.
You, however, are so blessed – to be a Mama and a wife and a creative person and your transformation is phenomenal.
Keep looking forward, not to repeat a glory of the past but to invent a genial tomorrow.
I believe in You!
Thank you so much for sharing.
I could never explain to anyone why I felt so lost, confused or flustered, I couldn’t focus on one task. I’d sit wondering what to do during the day then lay awake at night thinking of all the stuff I needed to do.
My daughter was born Dec.30.2011 with a very bad heart and trachea. She needed multiple surgeries to live, but after a traumatic hypoxic birth she never got strong enough to endure even one surgery. She died Feb 18 2012 at 52 days old. I died too. I, like you was a go getter, I was always in control, always had everything done before even been asked. Now I am lost. I cannot explain to my husband why I cant remember what to do or why a pile of laundry overwhelms me. Reading your article I feel not so alone.
Ps. I hated it when people told me my daughter was “with the lord” people need to respect other peoples belief’s and just say I am sorry for what happened, or something along those lines there is no need to refer to “reason” as in- “everything happens for a reason”-BS- or “god needed another angel”- just tell me your sorry and keep your religion to your selves.
Thanks for sharing Sheri and I am so sorry for your loss.I’m trying to apply my go-gettingness to things that matter now, like helping others. I think that may be, in the end, what it always comes back to. right?
Thank you for sharing your story. You seem pretty bad ass still. I lost my baby on New Year’s Eve and feel that I have lost most myself as well. Writing about it helps as does connecting with others through blogs and other online communities. I just don’t know how long I’ll be in this dark place. I just want my baby back.
I think I am getting back to being pretty bad-ass but I certainly wasn’t for a very, very long time. You are so early on in your journey. I had to completely let go of any preconceptions about what it was going to be like and “who I was” or what I thought “a person like me” feels and just roll with the punches… and they were some severe punches, I won’t lie.
I stayed in the depths of the dark place until I was ready to see light. Until the pain of staying in the dark was scarier than refunding the light.
You can’t rush it and you can’t force it, but you can believe and know that you’ll see it when you are ready.