The other day one of those supposedly inspirational quotes popped up on my Google+ page, among the many well and truly inspirational stories that populate it on the daily basis. The real inspirational stories are there because I am subscribed to a bunch of science-related feeds. Just recently, there was a story of recreating martian clouds in a giant lab structure on Earth, one about using a small 3D printer to print objects of any size through the use of an ingenious after-printing folding technology (no, really!), and one about a new discovery in astronomy that implies that life on planets outside the solar system is a lot more likely than we previously thought. Oh, and right above the inspirational quote, one about a possible vaccine against malaria. You know, malaria, disease that killed about 660 thousand people in 2010 alone, most of them children under 5 years old. Inspiring, no?-- to think that some day soon we may take that 660, 000 right down to 0.
And then there was the quote. Because for some reason Google likes to throw me those little nuggets of Hot on... Perhaps it is worried that I'd miss the really important stuff, what with my tragically unhip collection of subscriptions. Anyway, the quote. It was by a woman I haven't heard of before, though she is supposedly fairly well-known, Barbara De Angelis. "You never lose by loving. You always lose by holding back." it said, accompanied by a picture of an intertwined couple looking like clothes are about to start flying, if you know what I mean.
It chafes me, the quote. At first I think it's the carefree couple in the illustration that is making the quote profoundly one-dimensional. And while it certainly does that, maybe that's not the whole story, since I can't seem to mentally walk away from this one-- the quote and the post keep bugging me. So I keep thinking about it. So maybe it's the absolutism of the quote itself, the lack of gray zones. Is it really true that you just can't lose by loving? What about an abused spouse-- shouldn't they be pulling back, walking away no matter if they still love their abuser? Or how about a teenage crush? Or, you know, those budding feelings at any age-- can you really never lose by plunging right in?
But eventually I realize that my internal issue is not about the intricacies of intimate relationships. It's about-- DUH-- me feeling like, again, the babylost, the childlost, the grieving, are cropped out of the conversation that is meant to be had. Our situations, our stories are not hallmarky enough for short quotes. Our stories illuminate what is, sometimes, really risked, by loving. Imagine for a second the same quote accompanying a picture of a small grave marker, a tiny coffin, or those impossibly small hand or footprints many of us have. Instead of wise, doesn't the quote suddenly sound cruel? Or, at least, impossibly sad?
Look, my personal blog's title, a quote from Sarah McLachlan, is the promise to not fear love. I think about that too, together with the quote, and wonder why the quote bothers me so much. And I come to think that perhaps it's because the quote makes it seem so plain and easy and obvious when it's none of those things. It's an impossible choice even when it feels like it's not a choice at all. We chose to try again, knowing what we can lose, again. Or we try again because not trying feels worse than trying, even knowing what we can lose, again. Or we chose to not try because we know what we could lose, again. Or the choice is made for us, and we are left to pick up the pieces. And no matter whether there's another round, no matter how the next round shakes out, a child, or children, we love is-- are-- still dead. We still love them, and they are still dead. And it's impossible for me to say that we haven't lost.
I've said for a long time, that I see grief as a mirror image of love. We grieve because we love them. We grieve because there's nothing else to do. So does it follow that if we didn't love them, or didn't love them as much, we wouldn't grieve (as much)? A friend has been known to occasionally pine for a lobotomy-- a way to forget the whole thing, pregnancy and on. I see the appeal, I do, though I can't, even this many years later, want it for myself. It used to drive me batty that nobody but us knew A, that he just doesn't matter to most people. It doesn't hurt as much anymore, this particular part, but I still can't wish for the memories to go-- it feels like wishing to diminish what little is left of him in this world. Of course, I realize that this is circular reasoning. It hurts me that he is invisible to most. With a hypothetical lobotomy I wouldn't remember, and so it wouldn't matter. I know, but I still can't wish for it.
All of this is theoretical, though. In this universe times moves in one direction, and sometime in our past, a child, or children, died. And now we are here, having loved them, still loving them. We are here and they are not, and we still love them, but have we not lost? Could we have avoided losing, or maybe lost less by holding back? Theoretical again, I know. Except our experiences inform our choices going forward. Which is why I called my blog what I did-- it was a note to self, writ large. I tried to be prudent, to hold back for a while, and I do think it helped keep me sane in the early months of the next pregnancy. But eventually I leaped. And I got lucky-- that son lived. He almost didn't, but he did.
I think this is why the quote bothers me so-- it makes a hard choice seem easy and it promises a reward that is nobody's to promise. Choosing to love is hard. And nobody, but nobody can say what will happen if you do. Choosing not to love, not loving, is often also hard. The choice takes your breath away. Sometimes, you make the choice despite yourself. Sometimes, you don't get one. Life is messy, and heartbreaking, and beautiful. And too complicated for simplistic prescriptions.
How do you feel about the quote? Do you agree with me or do you think I am overreacting? Or tell us about another quote that may seem innocuous to others, but bothered you because of your babylost experience.