Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Afraid of Celebrating the Good

Jessica wrote a beautiful post about why she doesn't regularly post her baby bump photos.  Of course, being an occasional baby bump photo sharer kind of gal, I was intrigued.  Her reasoning for not showing pregnant photos of herself is because she is very sensitive to the fact that other women (even her sisters) have such struggles with infertility that she doesn't want to hurt them.  A very noble and compassionate outlook, indeed.  But, I have to say I don't feel the same way as Jessica (can we still be friends?).  I understand her point of view, and I appreciate it, yet I think it's okay to celebrate the good things in life, like new babies or loving marriages or happy children or a successful career without feeling guilt that someone reading may not have those blessings in their life.

Are we not allowed to be thankful and joyful in what is good in our lives?  Perhaps, only if we do so in private?  I know that misery loves company, and I can see it so clearly in social media when a mom of many littles complains about how hard her day is, or a wife implies that her husband is driving her crazy.  We sympathize with them, we might even empathize with them.  We feel like they let us in on a little secret in their life and it draws us closer together.  So sharing the bad can be good, but does that mean sharing the good is bad?


We all have our own hangups and sensitivities, we're human.  I know I am overly sensitive when someone says they had a "panic attack" using the dirty public restroom or shopping in a crowded store.  After having real panic attacks that sent me to the hospital, I don't like when people equate being nervous or stressed to having an actual panic attack.  To me, it's like saying they broke their arm when in fact they just bruised it.  But, like I said, I'm overly sensitive to this phrase, because it affected my life so deeply.  This is why I can understand that someone who is suffering from one of the greatest crosses I can imagine, infertility, may be sensitive to seeing pregnancy photos or baby news all the time.  While we should always try to be nice and courteous and loving, we are still probably going to offend someone who is suffering.  You show me photos from your vacation?  I'm sad because we can't afford to take one.  You write about homeschooling victories?  I'm feeling guilty because I have to work.  You pin handmade decorations, and I berate myself for not being crafty or having a beautiful house.  

So what's the answer?

I think the answer is knowing who you are dealing with and in what capacity.  The problem with blogs, Facebook, twitter, or any other social media is that you never know who is reading and who might be sensitive to what you are writing.  This is simple in real life.  I would never sit face to face with a friend and brag about how romantic my husband is if I know she is going through a divorce.  That would just be rubbing salt in her wound.  However, if I wanted to write about my husband's romantic gestures as part of my online scrapbook, even if I knew that same friend reads it, I think that would be okay.  They aren't stuck in a conversation with me, they are free to read or not read, and I wouldn't be the wiser.  It's like my husband says in his role as a Catholic high school teacher "I would never teach a theology class about the immorality of abortion in the same way that I would talk to a woman frightened and alone and considering an abortion."  You have to know your audience.  


And when authors don't always "know" our exact audience, and readers don't always "know" the author, that's when we have to realize that it's okay for people to talk about their life, spread their joy, and understand they aren't doing it AT us.  They aren't trying to make us feel bad.  If we could give everyone a little benefit of the doubt and try and overcome our own fallen nature then maybe selfishness and jealousy and materialism would eventually be sins of our past.  Maybe we could see their happiness and feel their joy and truly be excited for them, without turning it back onto ourselves and comparing what we don't have.  As Blessed Pope John Paul II said "Do not abandon yourself to despair.  We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song."


In a world where spouse- bashing is a typical conversation, and babies are treated as commodities, and horrible news stories are being reported daily, I think the world could use a little more celebrating.  A little more of the good stuff.  So, this little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine.



18 comments:

  1. Very well said, Colleen!

    I read her post yesterday and thought about it for most of the day. And by thought about it, I mean I struggled with it. As someone who reads a lot of Catholic mommy blogs and as someone who is pregnant with a baby who most likely won't make it, I need to celebrate my little one and the time I have with her. And if that means posting my baby bump (or mountain as the case may be) then that's what I'm going to do!

    I also have the perspective from the other side of things. I know how it feels to go to blog after blog, day after day and see people with happy,healthy babies and normally progressing pregnancies knowing mine won't be the same. But I have options - I don't have to read those blogs, or I can read them without commenting, or I can comment that I am truly happy for someone and their joy which I do most of the time.

    Just because I'm going through something rough doesn't mean I can't be happy for someone who isn't. Whew! I feel MUCH better now! :)

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  2. Good stuff Colleen. I remember, Mary at 'betterthaneden' wrote about not doing things or writing things, 'at' a person. I thought it was a really good point. Still, I think we can remain sensitive in the posts we write, particularly when we know our audience. I refuse to not celebrate the awesome (because there is, a lot of awesome) and talk about the not so awesome (because there is a lot of not so awesome)...because of who might be reading my posts or blogs. An example? The ol' husband and I, on social media, often leave little sweet things, or silly things to each other. It really bothers some people, but I won't stop, because they don't have to read it and I think it is good to celebrate love publicly. My blog is the same way, I am not forcing anyone to read it. However, I do try to be gentle about certain topics (infertility, finding one's spouse, sexuality, etc...) because I know my audience and I want to be gentle with them. I think that's a good thing to do. :)
    Anyway, great thoughts.

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  3. Excellently said, as per usual. The best part of the internet is that you don't have to see things you don't want to see. I am all for being sensitive to various topics, but on a public blog, it's hard. I'm right there with you that personal conversations are far different than the public sphere. I try not to focus on my pregnancy at work because I work with a never married 55 year old woman (who recently told me she had wanted 6 kids) and another 55 year old woman who married late, suffered infertility and in the end, adopted 3 children. It really is knowing your audience. Big time.

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  4. I read and re-read this, and I totally agree with everything your saying. I think that maybe I know my audience has some people who struggle with IF, and that makes me blog a little differently. But yes to celebrating joy, yes to sharing the good, yes to different people being overly sensitive to different things. Plus, I love that your baby bump photos frequently involve sweat stains, which I find motivating.

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  5. I totally agree with everything you are saying. Social media and blogs are hard, and I will admit to feeling pangs of jealousy when bloggers who are thinner/prettier than me post pictures or talk about vacations we can't afford or have more kids (when I always wanted to have more than I have). But, that doesn't mean that people SHOULDN'T post those things. They have a right to their joy and sharing it is good, and MY job is to come to a place where I can share their joy too and not feel jealous. Social media is a great way to practice that virtue;. :)

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  6. I think there is a big difference between being afraid of celebrating the good and being careful of how you do it. As you said, "know your audience".
    None of my close family have dealt with true infertility, but a few of my friends have dealt with it for years. I cannot pretend to understand or know what they are feeling, so I don't try. I offer my support and my prayers. When I have had to tell them about my pregnancies, I do it as tactfully as possible.
    But, do you know what? Most of my friends and all of my family do not know what it is like to cradle your fullterm baby who has passed away. To count her sweet fingers and toes, and trace the contours of her face, knowing that you will not see that face again until God reunites you one day.
    There was a period of time that I couldn't even handle hearing a baby cry while I was in the grocery store, much less see the babies who had been my baby's due date buddies. I was angry and jealous and grieving. At that point in time, I so very much appreciated people who were careful about my feelings. The people who were thoughtful, even as they were rejoicing in their own good fortune.
    I didn't begrudge anyone her joy, but I sure didn't want to see, hear, or smell it.
    I think this is where Jessica is coming from..... She is surrounded by close family members who have been so very deeply affected by their crosses, that she wants to be one of the "safe places" they can take refuge. When your heart and soul are in constant torment, it is good to have those people who choose to be that refuge.

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  7. This is really great, Colleen. I can relate to Jessica's feelings on posting pregnancy pictures because I'm the ultimate people pleaser to the point where I can sometimes be paralyzed with fear about how some random person could possibly react negatively to something (this is why I've never written about my childbirth experience). Also, I'm not a pixie when not pregnant, and while pregnant I'm a bit of a whale! Anyway, you're right, though. Happy, joyful things should be celebrated. We should be mindful of how we share, just because it's easy to fall into humble brags or flat out boasting on social media, but we should never be afraid to share good news.

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  8. Great thoughts. This is why virtue and prayer are so key to not only using social media well but also just being a compassionate person in everyday relationships. We should always be discerning our intentions and motivations and thinking before we speak and/or write and let Him use our hopefully well chosen words for the good.

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  9. I enjoyed both your post and Jessica's. I fall into your camp personally, but both of you writing about the "why" behind it I think can really open people's eyes to how we Catholic bloggers are motivated by different, good things.

    You've come to opposite conclusions, but both from places of love. So we can all officially assume the best of everyone.

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  10. Thanks for your thoughts Colleen.

    The bottom line is when you have a loved one dealing with infertility it changes everything about how you view pregnancy and sharing good news. It's not that you don't celebrate, but you become very aware of timing and tone.

    Being sensitive isn't a bad thing and if you haven't dealt with this personally (as your friend whose sisters have struggled with infertility) then it simply won't be on your radar to be "extremely" sensitive.

    You certainly have the freedom to share the way you want and celebrate the gift of life. It's wonderful! Just know that you might have some readers who will need to take a break from your blog. Not that they won't celebrate your joy, but infertility is an especially painful cross to bear -- far worse than an out-of-budget vacation or bruised arm. Once you've seen it up close, you can't imagine anything but erring on the side of extreme sensitivity. God has a special place in his heart for these couples and when you see what they walk through you just want to be as supportive as possible.

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  11. Yes, thank you for your thoughts.

    Being from the other side...I can say that Mary@BetterThanEden and Rachel completely and eloquently sum up what is in my heart and head but have a hard time to put it into words.

    The excruciating emotion and spiritual pain of bringing a child into the world that would never breathe an ounce of air was suffocating . It can be a very sensitive subject. By the grace of God, I made it through the dark times, but so many others I know haven't or are still trying to figure it out. The experience has made me very sensitive to others who may be out there.

    At the same time, the baby bump shots of you and your little one are not just beautiful but very tasteful. Absolutely enjoy this time.

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  12. I have recently had two miscarriage (am actually waiting for the second one to physically begin right now) and I have to say that I absolutely believe that you can share whatever you want. It's up to the person experiencing the pain to shield themselves from social media that hurts. I've deactivated my facebook for a time and unfollowed all the blog of bloggers due within a month of my May due date (and will do that again once bloggers start announcing their September due dates). It's not so much jealousy for me, but just reminders. I don't begrudge others for what they have but sometimes it's too hard for me to be reminded of what I lost. In this way, I think you are right.

    But I also think that Jessica is right in that she has family and friends who suffer from the pain of miscarriage and/or infertility that she knows reads her blog and she's being sensitive and kind and compassionate, and at the same time is offering a safe space for others on the internet that suffer like those she knows personally. And I think it's nice that there are those places. Not all blogs and online spaces need to be those spaces, but there are those who appreciate those that are.

    I felt exactly the way you do until I had my first miscarriage. I thought it was ridiculous that people got so upset about pregnancy announcements and the like - why couldn't they just be HAPPY for the other person. Now I realize that emotions that surround loss and infertility aren't that simple and that you can be happy for other people while being deeply hurt at the same time. And though you better believe I'm going to be excited if we ever have a successful pregnancy again, I'm also going to be very delicate about how I share the news and the joy with others because I want to minimize the pain as much as possible. But to some extent, I think you have to experience it yourself to really get it.

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  13. I agree completely with Mandi. She expressed my feelings/thoughts about the subject that there is nothing left for me to add.
    Well, I will add that I think you look great in all of your baby bump shots. :)

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  14. I was in the infertility camp for a long time before conceiving twins and I was very nervous about discussing my pregnancy because my main audience was mostly the infertile community. Some chose to stop reading, others embraced my joyous news. I've been on both sides and I truly don't think there is a right or wrong answer. Thanks for writing about it so honestly.

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  15. we love celebrating in this house, anything to justify eating something with sugar! (btw, thanks for your post on my blog today about school, it was just what I needed to hear.)

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  16. This is an interesting post. Blogging is hard because you should be able to blog what the hell you want and not worry...yet I do. I dont want others to think I have it all perfect in my life. but that is what I post...my pretty pictures. I love pretty pictures...who wants to look at all my stupid laundry and dirty floors....and all my other problems?..but that is just ME!

    but there is a huge support group out here and if you do hang out your dirty laundry...man oh man..do the prayer warriors come out and they are there for you. That is what I love about all the sweet bloggers out there.

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  17. Lots of food for thought…Even with 3 kiddos…after a decade of miscarriages and struggling with male factor infertility baby bump news still makes me catch my breath. I just try to remember…it is my cross to bear. Can't wait to talk it over with God… ;)

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  18. Excuse my ignorance - do people really use Facebook to make snarky remarks about their spouses? That seems pretty off-colour to me.

    (Context: I'm 23 and I've never been married, and the vast majority of my friends are never-marrieds, so I don't see a lot of spouse-related FB statuses).

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