Minipost: The Story of Us

You guys…

I owe you all a post because I have things to saaaay. Nothing too terrible exciting, just some massive realizations about life and stuff. You know, the usual emotional vomit I’ve made the very cornerstone of my blog.

But I’m busy. And last night I got 5 hours of sleep between a fitful baby and a brain that could not stop obsessing over this terrible anniversary party I have to throw for my in-laws this weekend that I’m convinced they are going to hate. Maybe they’ll hate it so much, they’ll stop talking to me? I feel alarmingly ambivalent about that outcome.

In the meantime, I’m still reading your posts. And I’ve just got to say… I love us. For serious, guys. I love our stories. I love the relative honesty we have about our lives, our struggles, the tiny triumphs of putting our lives back together after grief, loss, frustration, and disappointments.

Thanks for letting me follow along.

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Acts of Granola

Since my mother passed away, I have been downright shocked by the kindness and support that has come from everywhere. Some people knew my mother. Some only know her through my vivid stories about her. I’ve heard from childhood friends who have such touching memories of her. I’ve heard from friends who I haven’t spoken to in years. And of course, I have heard from so many of you.

I’m back at work this week, and one of my coworkers left me a huge jar of exquisite homemade granola and the following note:

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Some might think granola as a gesture of sympathy strange, but honestly I adore it. it’s a small token of kindness, and I will take it in any form it comes.

I’ve been fixated on this idea of kindness lately. Not only because I’ve been on the receiving end of it so much lately, but because it is a trait my mother intentionally and persistently taught me to value.

One of my strongest memories is from when I was 14. Oh, that awkward, weird age… I was stuck between being a child and scrambling my way toward adulthood. It wasn’t pretty. But adolescence rarely is.

Along with school, I was a dedicated Girl Scout. At the time, I was riding high in my troop. I was a patrol leader, and generally liked by all the girls. I had two best friends who were the appropriate mixture of responsibility and mischief. There was one girl in the troop, Scarlet, who didn’t enjoy my same social standing. If my adolescence was awkward, Scarlet’s was ten fold. She was overweight and pimply. She had frizzy hair, and a desperate need for braces. Worst of all, Scarlet was aware of all of this and tried, perhaps too hard, to overcome it. She was too eager to please anyone, which is the first and deadliest way not to make friends with teenage girls.

At some point, I was telling my mom about Scarlet. How she was a little weird, no one wanted to hang out with her or wanted her in their tent on trips…

“Then you have to show her kindness. You have a responsibility to be kind to her.”

My mom went on to explain that I was a leader. The older girls respected me, and the younger girls looked up to me. More importantly, I was a human being and so was Scarlet. We are obligated to be engaged in our world and community, and extend people every ounce of compassion we have.

Obviously, I thought my mother was out of her mind. But then again, I was 14 and she was suggesting social suicide.

I would love to tell you this story ended with Scarlet and I becoming best friends. This would be untrue. All the superficial differences aside, Scarlet and I had nothing in common and didn’t get along. But from that day forward, I always made sure that there was room for her, that she had someone to talk with, that she wasn’t forgotten or left out.

My mother loved the outsider. In fact, it wasn’t unusual for me to come home from school to discover a new face at the dinner table. Perfect stranger or not, we welcomed them to our house, and showed them warmth and hospitality. I don’t mean to imply that she pulled people off the street– she had an open heart, not a delusional mind. But if someone was new to town, low on friends, or had no where to go on Thanksgiving, there would be an extra setting at the table.

A warm meal, a jar of granola, or a comment on a blog. These may be small in the grand scheme of things, but they accumulate. They make us feel less alone. Knowing that someone cares takes the edge of things in life that are hardest.

I started this blog because I needed to let out all the frustration, disappointment, and deep sadness I felt at being infertile. I never expected anyone to read it, and certainly never expected the support I’ve received from all of you.

To those of you who have offered your sympathies, I’m so appreciative. I’m sorry if I haven’t always commented directly. Know that I am grateful beyond words.

We’ll take a cup of kindness yet

I am a fighter. I am relentless. I’m like one of those pop up Bozo punching bags. On the list of attributes I like most in myself, my resilience is number one.

However, there comes a point for me in every struggle when I need to regroup. Sometimes, I get so mired in whatever I’m working through I can’t see clearly. Or I’m so focused on pulling myself back up that I don’t stop to think why or what’s knocking me down to begin with.

It is in this spirit that I have taken the past two weeks off. Not just from blogging, but literally from everything. I was so tired, physically but also emotionally. I had a bunch of vacation days to use or lose by the end of the year, so spent the last 12 days of 2014 holed up in my apartment.

It was exactly what I needed.

Just days before, my family learned that my mother’s heart was failing. It would spontaneously stop… then start up. Logically there would come a point when it wouldn’t do that anymore, and we made a decision to put a DNAR on her heart. It is what she wanted and what we wanted for her. My father, sister, and brother sat by her bed every day. I facetimed with her when she was feeling okay.

Since then, my mother has been fine. I don’t mean to paint this in some miraculous light. Given how compromised she is, there is little likelihood she’ll get home. Her heart is beating now. She is here on this planet now. And every day she is still here feels like a surprise. This is as much as anyone can commit to.

My mom has asked that I focus these weeks on a healthy pregnancy, not on worrying about her. I’ve tried to follow her guidance to the best of my abilities. I spent the end of 2014 napping, reading, and desperately chugging Metamucil (pregnancy constipation is a REAL THING.) I’m slowly allowing myself to believe that this pregnancy is real. There is a tiny thing inside me with a tiny heartbeat. We’re in this together, and I have to take care of the both of us.

These two weeks have been so important to me. Not just to make peace with my mother’s passing (which I feel is sadly a question of when) but also to begin to celebrate a new chapter of my life.

2014 was so incredibly hard for me. It taught me that nothing is all good or all bad. Life refuses to give us such easy answers. At best we achieve balance by finding joy and kindness where we can and honoring every struggle. It isn’t about winning, it is about finding peace.

To 2015, my friends.

Lobotomized by Infertility

It may come as no surprise that this isn’t my first blog. I’ve had a few over the years: one about politics, one about my professional industry, another one about books and reading, and then this one here about infertility.

For a few weird reasons, I recently visited two of those blogs. I’m impressed with myself. No, really… I’m a smart, articulate, thoughtful person who has an array of interests. Or at least I used to be.

I have not posted on any other blogs in well over a year. I was reading one particularly good post on The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, and I almost didn’t recognize myself. I was making cogent arguments! I linked to smarty pants articles! I used big words!

I honestly can’t imagine writing or thinking anything like this anymore. Because now my life is all IF all the time. I was once really passionate about what I do for a living. I read because it fed my brain and my heart. Now, I work to pass the time between treatments and read to escape from my own heartbreak. Even while trying to be a functioning member of society, I’m still thinking about IF in the back of my mind. 24/7. It’s like I have been lobotomized by infertility.

So… when do I get back to there? Because I liked that part of my life. I liked the time I spent reflecting on art, literature, and the crazy pendulum-swings in my industry. Basically, I miss having that part of my brain and I want it back.

Yeah, I can’t keep doing this shit, can I? I really do have to figure out how to be a whole person again…


Bookclub: Stumbling on Happiness

This whole IF thing really messes with you, amiright? When you isolate the problem, it seems fairly straightforward: you’re not able to physically have a child.

But really it isn’t that simple. It isn’t simple because it makes you question your entire life. That sounds so dramatic when I see it written out, but it really does. For me, it’s made me question the very path I wanted and believed I was headed down. I live so much of my life in the future tense, and now that’s a big, stinking pile of Question Mark. Let the crisis ensue.

So I did what any nerd does at a time like this. I read. First I read some Dalai Lama. That man is the shit. Seriously, get on that. In this same vein, I’ve also started reading Thich Nhat Hahn. Also good, especially if you’re working on mindfulness. (Which is something I’d strongly recommend, if you’re piling on fear and anxiety to your IF-related grief. That’s no way to live. You gotta shake it out, folks.)

All this reading of Buddhist monks made me wonder if I was becoming a cliche. I mean, come on… I wouldn’t exactly be the first white western lady to hop on that bandwagon. I worried I might start burning incense and wearing Free Tibet t-shirts. Bring on the patchouli!

Before I dove off the eastern philosophy deep end, I decided to pick up Stumbling on Happiness. Contrary to what the title may imply, this isn’t about how to find happiness. It is about how human beings are wired to pursue happiness, how we predict our futures, and how delighted we think we’ll be once we get there.  And I LOVE IT.

There is a whole lot that speaks to me in this book. Here are a few quotes that slapped me in the face. It’s like the author, Daniel Gilbert, is living in my brain.

On my new-found peace with living childless:

“It is only when we cannot change the experience that we look for ways to change our view of the experience, which is why we love the clunker in the driveway, the shabby cabin that’s been in the family for years, and Uncle Sheldon despite his predilection for nasal spelunking. We find silver linings only when we must.”

On my feelings of having “unexplained” IF:

“People expect to feel equally bad when a tragic accident is the result of human negligence as when it is the result of dumb luck, but they actually feel worse when luck is dumb and no one is blameworthy.”

On why I cannot feel good about anything. Like at all:

“We cannot feel good about an imaginary future when we are busy feeling bad about an actual present… When we try to overlook, ignore, or set aside our current gloomy state and make a forecast about how we will feel tomorrow, we find that it’s a lot like trying to imagine the taste of a marshmallow while chewing liver.”

And of course, I’ve saved the best for last…

On why blogging about all this just hurts so gooood:

“When experiences are unpleasant, we quickly move to explain them in ways to make us feel better… Indeed, studies show that the mere act of explaining an unpleasant event can help defang it. For example, simply writing about a trauma– such as the death of a loved one or a physical assault– can lead to surprising improvements in both subjective well-being and physical health.”

 

In summary, I’m chewing on an entire plate of metaphorical liver. But if I blog about it, it’s all a little less bad?

Yes, if only by degrees. A little less bad.