Sunday, August 20, 2017

How have I got here and where do I go

I used to read superhero comics.  I used to live for each Wednesday when the new ones came out and I devoured them. I read them quickly and with passion and excitement and an eye for continuity and character development and then I wrote about them and reviewed them and discussed them online and in person, if I could find anyone who would listen.

Then my son died.  He died unexpectedly with no warning (that I could recognise) and my life as it was ended.  Everything for me stopped.  My basic bodily demands of eating, sleeping and toileting continued but my mind and my soul felt like it had been destroyed.  Life was divided into a before and after and comics became something that was in the before.

Starting to read them, going back to buying them, left me numb.  It felt like a betrayal, and I felt empty.  I didn't want to give up my relationship with the comic shop, I didn't want to drop everything I had loved before, but I felt numb and powerless and on automatic when I bought them - doing so because that is what I had done for years.  I would buy them and they would sit ignored on my shelf for 2 months at a time.  I would halfheartedly pick them up and start to read them because I felt like I should, because I'd spent money on them and that is what was expected of me.

Reading them was at first an eerie experience.  I found some glimmers of enjoyment in some of them.  Others were flat and I could see the poor writing and plotting and bad art and I had no interest in them.  Slowly I began to enjoy more and more of them. Yet still they sit unread for a month or so, but now, when I pick them up, some made my heart soar.  I felt thrills at the stories of adventure, derring-do and heroism and friendship that these stories depicted.  This is what I used to feel and now I was feeling those feelings again..

Yet it still felt like a betrayal.

I would pick up a Superman or Supergirl story.  And it would often tell their origins.  And it felt like my heart was being ripped in two.  I felt the anguish of the parents like I was there, like it was my child I was sending away.  My son has a Superman themed name.  I always, always knew that if I had a boy he would have this name somewhere, and when we found out we were expecting a boy my partner didn't even try to suggest anything else, he smiled at me and said of course, because he knows how important the Super family is to me.

So now I read a story with that name, and I can feel the anguish of these fictional parents, I can feel their pain and I am insanely jealous of them, because I would have done the same.  If I was given the choice to keep my boy and let him die or to send him away somewhere to strangers, to people I judged to be kind but who were oh so different to him, then I would do it in a heartbeat.  Because bringing up kids isn't about what is best for the parent, it is about what is best for the child, and in the fictional world of the DCU, when your planet explodes and you can send your child somewhere safe, choosing life is best for the child.  In my world, if I had been told that my son would only live if I had to give him up, I would do that.  His life is more important than my sorrow.

For a while, in-between pregnancies, I still blogged.  I felt I had to do something, I had to carry out the daily activities of life, even though life to me was a facsimile.  We were just going through the motions, not even trying to survive, but trying to cope, to not break down every minute of the day.  So I posted pictures, and wrote inane things, and commented on inane things.  And it felt cheap and hollow but it was repetitive and it meant I was doing something.  But I no longer had the energy, inclination or ideas to write a proper post.  Then I fell pregnant again and blogged the pregnancy, and that helped stop me from screaming every day.

Then my second son was born, and I didn't have the time, energy or hands to be able to read.  So I watched telly.  Lots of telly, constantly for 6 months and prolly close to a year.  And after that I watched telly in the evenings, not in the day, but it was always telly over reading.  And it was general sci-fi rather than superhero telly.  And where it was superhero telly it was Marvel, not DC.  Telly is easier to take in than reading, it requires less active participation. I experienced some unexpected trigger points, two Star Trek Voyager episodes were particularly painful.

Writing still felt like it was part of before.  This post is the longest thing I have written since my second was born and it has taken me months to pluck up the courage to write it.  I still needed something creative and public facing to do.  I use twitter and facebook differently now - another change between the before and after. I have an instagram account. I started doing Outfit of the Day posts.  I started taking an interest in clothes, as something new, as a way to work out what I liked after 2-3 years in maternity and breastfeeding clothes.  I started crochet - I love it, it gives me something positive to do, it keeps me busy (I've never been good with not being busy), I get to learn new things and I get to make things.  I started drawing too.  I don't care that I have little technical skill, I enjoy doing it and I enjoy learning how to improve.  Some of my pieces I am genuinely proud of.  All this stuff goes on my instagram, not here, because here is part of before.

I have started reading prose book again.  They allow me to get lost in another world, to explore new perspectives and enjoy the well constructed prose.  They allow me to enthuse about things, to recommend them to others, to make me feel human again.

I still feel cheated.  I feel cheated out of my first year with my rainbow baby as I spent it trying to negotiate grief and the conviction he would die.  I feel cheated out of everything I should have had with my first.  I feel cheated out of my love of comics and certain fictional series,where the associations are just too strong to ever go back to.  I feel cheated out of being able to introduce my family calmly and without sadness and without navigating other people's shock and pity.

I'm not sure how I will be able to write comic reviews again.  I feel pressured to write on here and on New readers..., but I cannot get motivated enough to write about comics.  I don't know what I have to say about them, beyond what will fit in a tweet.  I don't think I'm enjoying reading individual issues, I'm thinking about cancelling a lot of my standing orders and just buying the trades instead.  Maybe that is a way to enjoy them once more, to make it manageable.  I don't think I'm very good at piecemeal reading any more, I think I need large chunks of story to read, to lose myself in.  And I frigging hate adverts in the middle of my comic.

So where do I got from here?  The idea of promoting what I write, or other things I do, makes me feel uneasy.  I'm not sure where my place in the online world is anymore.  I've become more private, yet I still feel like I need a connection with the outside world, hence my instagram account.  This piece feels important, but writing about comics themselves, that is not something I am interested in right now.  Which makes me sad as I used to be so passionate about it.  Oddly, I'm feeling a lot more positive (in general) than I probably sound.  I've come a long way in 3 years, but even so sometimes life still feels like a struggle, each day I feel bruised and fragile.  Writing this, I feel focused.  I miss writing, but I don't know what to write about.  Maybe something will come to me.