a reply to a comment

Late in the day yesterday, while trying to do a bit of gardening—about twenty minute's worth—I became overwhelmed with frustration over an irritable, whiny, impossible, leaning-out-of-his-stroller, staring-at-the-sun, probably-about-to-have-a-seizure Calvin. My mind and heart sunk into that viscous black of despair seething with anger and annoyance. The familiar feeling of being trapped, perhaps for the rest of my life with no way out—no way to do the things I used to love doing like traveling and camping, no way to do the things I dreamed of doing with my child like enjoying the park or the beach or the movies or a favorite restaurant—consumed me. I yelled and spat and stomped and slammed and cried and thought terrible thoughts.

This morning, after a somewhat decent night's sleep, I felt better, and when I sat down to my computer I read this from my friend Elizabeth's blog, (which you can read more of here.) I wanted to share it with all of my readers who may, as I did, find some solace in the words of the commenter and in the wisdom of the reply:

A Reply to a Comment by Elizabeth Aquino

Here's the comment:
I was just reading your post from yesterday and from today. Got me wondering. Are we, most of us, destined to carry the weight of guilt and anger our entire lives? I feel often that I will. I read so many blogs and that is the recurrent theme. I speak to friends who have kids with severe disabilities and the theme pops up.
Got a question for you and I want you to give it some thought and maybe you can answer it, maybe you can't, because lately I have been wanting to drive my car into the local reservoir, and I'd like a reason not to. Not sure that the answer will be a reason, in fact it won't be. But it gives me something to look forward to.
Why can some people seemingly have circumstances similar to our own, and I'm talking some really heavy shit happening in their life, or to their kid or kids, and they don't experience that same reaction? They actually seem to go the other way with it...a way of somehow nuking the negativity of all the bullshit that surrounds them and always finding something positive about every single thing that they encounter?
What is their secret? I need to know. I've always been told how negative I am. I stopped blogging last December, partly because I was told by people close to me that all I ever do is talk about negative stuff. But to me, this life can be SO FREAKIN' NEGATIVE sometimes that I do not know how to be positive anymore. And I am only in year five. My fear is that I am going to forget, particularly if I cannot get my son's violently aggressive behaviors under control and things just keep getting worse and worse.
Sorry I hijacked your blog for this, but it has been eating at me, and I promised myself not to write in my own blog for at least a year. And you have the ability, like a few others, to sometimes be both positive AND negative. Or to at least write beautifully about feeling negatively, if that makes any sense. Your insight would be tasty...
Here's my reply:
First, a big hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. My first impulse is to wish that I were Bob Dylan or at least had an encyclopedic knowledge of Dylan, because I'm sure there's an answer to your question in one of his songs. Next, I thank you for taking the time to comment, to pour your heart out and for your kind words. I've missed your visits here and, more importantly, I've missed your voice on your own blog. I think that I have, actually, a simple answer to your question and that is that I don't fear the "negative" emotions any more or less than I welcome the "positive" ones. As I get older, I find myself more and more drawn to what are, I guess, Buddhist principles, and my daily practice of mindfulness helps me to shift my thinking self into some semblance of equanimity. That sounds like a whole bunch of mumbo-jumbo when I read it, but it's the truth. I, too, have been accused of being negative -- relentlessly so -- and the accusations have come from close relatives. When I feel beaten or defensive, I might think "Fuck-em," but I more often stop, pause and reflect on the negativity that I might have let fly and then observe it. I don't judge it. You ask why some people are "always finding something positive about every single thing that they encounter?"  I actually don't think there's any secret to that at all, and, frankly, I don't believe them -- there's no ring of truth -- for me -- from those who deny or suppress valid emotions, and I believe the "negative" emotions are as valid and real as the "positive" ones. You ARE only in year five, as you said, but I can assure you that in year five (nearly twenty years ago!), I wouldn't have written the same reply to your comment. I might, even, have contemplated joining you in that car into the reservoir. I think it was actually during year five that I took an MBSR (mindfulness based stress reduction) class and began really sitting with my grief and anger and loss and just observing it rather than fighting it. I don't want this reply to sound like some sort of infomercial, though, and I remember your posts over the years that I read them as being far from relentlessly negative but more often brutally honest, filled with humor and love for your family. It sounds to me that "promising yourself not to write in my blog for at least a year" is self-punishing -- and I don't fully understand it. When I look back on the early years of parenting Sophie, I realize that if I had known where the future would lead, I wouldn't have been able to handle it. That being said, I AM handling it, and there is much that is beautiful in my life, so I have faith that at some future date, things will be all right, I will have learned to "handle" it, things will evolve, there will still be guilt and anger, loss, rage but there will also be acceptance and love and things gained and laughter. I will always work to hold all -- and that work for me is lightened through my connections to others, above all, but also through reading, through practice, through art and through writing.
To read more and to see a video of Bob Dylan, go directly to Elizabeth's blog post, A Reply to a Comment.

photo by Michael Kolster


  1. I sure am glad that you like our post and hope that some of the comments it engendered were inspiring as well.

    As for the rest of your day, your frustration and grief and feelings of entrapment -- well -- I'm with you, sister.

  2. Thank you so much for this. I often feel in my blog I'm just recording all of the crap going on in our family and my guilt surfaces when I consider how others have things much harder. I want to "turn that corner" but it's hard. This is really exactly what I needed to read today.