knowing a place


a few weeks ago one of my stories was published on the blog our stories untold. it was a moment where i felt like i was living out one of my favorite quotes: 

i now see how owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do. -brene brown

as i do the dance of feeling the pain in order to let it go, i am grateful for all the people who remind me of love.

tomorrow marks 12 years since i miscarried when i felt and tasted and heard the love of people. i wrote the following piece almost two months ago and it seems fitting to give light to it today.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – –

knowing a place 

by kristin neufeld epp, august 2013

we drive through a town in missouri and the carload resounds:  oh, remember this place?  me: no, i don’t.  them: yes, look! that store with half the sign missing? me: nope. them: okay, look: that’s the parking lot where we saw that puppy?!?!  me: nnnnnope. them: yes! there’s the place we ate! you don’t remember? me: well…kind of.  yeah, i can imagine i’ve been there. them: but you don’t really remember? me: no. i don’t.

passing the restaurant, the parking lot, the place we ate, the tended empty park, the gateless ball diamond, the open funeral home, the closed bank, the flowers planted in an old bathtub, the worn houses spreading further apart at every moment, we approach the edge of town.

a seemingly nondescript building that might have housed a fix-it man back in the day is on the near horizon.

me: oh yeah! yes! now i remember this place!

them: what? now you do? why now?

me: i don’t know, but i do. 

:: :: :: ::

this morning i walked the same road my feet have hit at least 100 times before. i’ve felt every emotion on this road. and today i remembered the place. the place where joy and pain mingle. the place where peace and turmoil, like magnets, repel each other until turned. the place with post-funeral-like laughter through eyes relaxed from a work-out of grief. the place that is uncomfortable and dishonoring to itself. the place that is so compounded that the only way to know it is to hold it and work the layers. i know it. i’ve been here before.

this is like miscarriage. perhaps even more, this is like birth after miscarriage.

the relief of knowing it was felt in my throat, my belly, my heart. my mind gifted me with parallels.

the invisible loss. my smiles and jokes balanced with secret tears and wails. the body betrayal. the quiet knowing that i’m stronger now. falling into the holy of seeing my baby’s face and doubling over with grief of the dream buried under the apple tree. scrambling to keep the ties on everything untangled. the heightened awareness of what other people think and want. this is like living with an open wound hidden in plain sight.

i remember telling people, almost everyone who would listen.

i remember the stings: at least you weren’t that far along…at least you have a child already…it’s so common…at least you didn’t need a d&c…at least you have a supportive husband…it was probably for the best (if you know what i mean)…god has a plan.

i remember nodding in agreement…knowing the threads of truth. and behind the nods with gently raised eyebrows and slightly cocked head were screams that i would have given anything to be farther along so i could have felt my baby move. screams that i wasn’t sure how to love my other children in the face of such loss. screams that it being “so common” didn’t comfort me, it just added to the shame that i couldn’t get over it.

i remember the replies where people owned their tears…the salt staying off me: i’ve been there…i know…time will pass…it’s not your fault…there’s nothing you could have done…i’m different now…i’m stronger now…you can’t change the past, but you can heal…the answer may never be known…sometimes bad things just happen…every day is a choice…welcome to the club you didn’t want to join…you’re never alone…

i know this place.

i’ve traveled here for a lifetime with a heavy load on my back, one whose straps had familiar positions dented in my shoulders. a baby strapped to my chest crooning and perfect, giving and taking life, pulling sweet warmth from my chest, relieving pressure. a child holding my hand looking back leading me as often as i’d let her. a tree planted that we would eat from in the coming months. a body bleeding out memories, the red too shocking to look at.

i remember the landmarks of smiling to hide defeat, embracing the prickly mystery of god, cushioning it with a blanket of fear, dabbing the wounds quickly so no one would see them, stumbling to respond to “how are you?”, wanting to make the story worse to solidify it, wondering what lesson i needed to learn, what flaw was being showcased, swallowing deep gratitude with betrayal. i stopped at all those, i knew them without knowing how well i knew them. i had known them most of my life.

this is like that.

i want to tell…almost everyone who will listen…and there have been awkward spurts of sharing when the eight and nine and twelve year old in me took over.

i’ve already told myself the replies that sting:  at least it wasn’t rape…so many kids had it worse than you…at least your parents believe you…at least your offender apologized…you have everything any victim would want…look how amazing it made you…this is why you’re a great preschool teacher…god knew what he was doing…all things happen for good.

i’ve been here before, I know the truth in those statements…but this time I choose not to just nod. I give voice to the screams that all lead back to angry, sad, complicated, confused, scared, shame filled, bone deep grief. 

i remember how it was.

so i’m taking a different route through town. finding new landmarks, noticing places worth hanging out at, places worth walking past, folks to wave at, some to sit with, all to learn from. i could ramble and wander forever here or sprint a shortcut through yards ferris bueller style or walk slowly and pay attention. no matter.

all routes will lead to the main drive, the one that approaches the seemingly nondescript moments, the one that creeps to the edge of town.

the edge where i finally recognized where i was.

and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. – t. s. eliot




4 thoughts on “knowing a place

  1. I love the metaphorical maps and all the other tools you find to navigate your emotional landscape and make it accessible to others. Thank you.


  2. Your narrative allows people to walk with you in your pain, your frustration, your anger. Thank you for making this palpable enough for people to understand what this experience has been for you.


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