The Golden Ticket.

March 4, 2014 at 2:27 pm | Posted in Moving On. | 13 Comments

So I have a draft saved, an update post – all about how infertility has affected my body image, my parenting, and my marriage. And every time I go back to it, I keep tweaking things here and there… but I can’t seem to press the “publish” button.


I’m not actually sure I can blame IF for the way I feel about myself, my parenting, or my marriage.

What I know: Right now I seem to be in a place that’s bleak and dreary. Maybe it’s the awful winter, or maybe it’s knowing we’re done with family building, or maybe it’s because I’m coming up on 40 and am realizing that the horizon is NOT wide open for me anymore.

I feel as if I’ve spent my whole life, up until this time, looking for the Golden Ticket, always looking ahead for that next chocolate bar – the bar which might actually hold my ticket to lasting contentment and happiness.

My whole life has looked like that. Wow, I’m in kindergarten – hey, next year I’ll be a first grader! Wow, a fifth grader! A middle schooler! And look how old I am now, I’m in high school. Cannot WAIT until college. Wow, I’m here, in college. What will I major in? Crap, I am graduating college in May. I need a career. Nope, that career isn’t awesome. I’ll go back to graduate school for a practical career. Except, wait, I hate marketing. Another graduate degree – accounting would be recession-proof! I’ll never have to worry about being out of work. Now what? Oh. Pick a partner. Marriage. Let’s start trying for kids. Oh, no kids yet? Okay, fine, let’s look for a house. Found one? Great! Wow, I’m pregnant, finally. He’s two, we should start trying for a sibling… all right, well, that didn’t work out so well, but thank GOODNESS it’s over. Shit. Now what?

I never did find that Golden Ticket. And I feel like I’m standing outside of the Chocolate Factory gate, looking at all the lucky kids who DID get their Golden Ticket – the people that completed their families AND work a career they love AND qualified for the Boston Marathon AND can actually be photographed in a bikini.

At some point, we enter a place in our lives where we run out of milestones yet to meet. My education: complete. My family building efforts: complete. I have a husband, and a son, and a house, and a dog, and a job, and many responsibilities. There are options open to me, of course, but all require sacrifice and energy and time I no longer seem to have.

And all of a sudden, it’s my kid who has the milestones ahead of him: my kindergartener, who is turning 6 in two weeks. It’s his turn to search for his Golden Ticket.

But wait! I want to scream.  I didn’t imagine my life like looking LIKE THIS!

And so it’s easy to get mad, and blame all sorts of things for why this wasn’t the life I wanted. Infertility robbed us of our second child. My body is to blame for why we can’t complete our family. My husband is to blame for why we need to struggle with doctors and IVF in order to get pregnant. My parents are to blame why I ended up in the career I’m in. If my cousin hadn’t committed suicide 20 years ago, I wouldn’t be such a perfectionist who is worried about making sure her friends and family get the support they need all the time, to the detriment of my own life.

Et cetera et cetera.

But the thing is?

*I* made the decisions on the paths I’ve walked. Not infertility, not my parents, not my body, not my husband, or son, or Amy.

And if I was making choices mindlessly, because I was focused on looking for that Golden Ticket?

It’s really no fault but my own.

I acknowledge that “fault” is a bad word here. It implies that I was wrong somehow, that I made bad choices. But I made those with knowledge and experience I had at the time. Which means they were just choices, not wrong or bad.

What I’m struggling with now is how to change my ingrained habits: Focusing too much on the future and forcing choices upon myself because I need to get out of where I am today. I am realizing that it’s a control thing – this idea that I have to DO something when I’m not as happy as I expected to be. I have to change up SOMETHING, I have to structure a new goal for myself to work towards, because THAT’S my Golden Ticket to happiness!

Why wouldn’t we try again, since our doctor recommends another fresh cycle? Why couldn’t we take another break and then do a fresh cycle, maybe in the fall once running season is over? Okay, if we don’t do that, why wouldn’t I focus then on running the best marathon EVER and qualify for Boston so I can prove to myself that my body doesn’t suck? Or maybe I can totally change up my careers, because accounting doesn’t really make me happy even though it’s pretty flexible and I make good money, it’s just not what I wanted. I think I want to [insert a new career here].

These are all goals for the sake of making goals. If I can’t find the Golden Ticket to Happiness, then maybe I can create happiness by looking for multiple mini-tickets. More is better, and I’ll DEFINITELY be happy when I meet all of my goals, right?


So here’s what I need to be doing, instead of all of this mindless goal-making.


Do nothing, Serenity. Just focus on the path you are walking right now.

Running-wise, I am training for a marathon in the spring. But my goal is ONLY to run the whole thing. I’d LOVE to have a comfortable marathon experience, since my last two marathons had a LOT of walking in them, a factor of injury and then starting way too fast and not being able to sustain.

Family-wise, We are done with family building. No matter how much the idea of trying again – maybe the next one will work! – niggles at me, we’re done. We’ve spent enough time and energy on family building. We’re done.

Career-wise, the more I think on my current work, the more I wonder if I’m selling myself short. I am a good accountant, and I actually really enjoy the work I do as treasurer of my running club. I love doing budgets and discussing options with people. Why COULDN’T I stay in the field in which I work – except go and get my own clients, maybe small businesses that might need some reporting/budgeting/accounting help? It won’t pay as much as the corporate work for sure, but I bet I could make my own hours.

Marriage-wise, I need to rediscover the man I married without the pall of procreation fail hanging over our heads. It’s so hard to carve out the time and energy to do this when you have the incessant, unceasing needs of an almost 6 year old only child competing with your marriage. There are days where all I want to do is enjoy the SILENCE of my house when Lucky is in bed. But that’s shortchanging Charlie and my marriage, and we really need to tend to it right now.

And maybe, just maybe, when I can figure out how to be still, I’ll find that my Golden Ticket has been in my pocket all along, and I never really noticed it before.



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  1. Here’s to what you’ll find when you turn out those pockets.

    But I do think you’ve touched on something important here; something you’d be dealing with even if you were exactly like the people inside the factory gates. (Who probably aren’t even really there. THEY all believe they’re outside the gates too.)
    We all enter a point where we have to just live our lives. We’ve built them and now we need to live in them, without a lot of exciting future events on the horizon. And how do we remain happy in the happily (or not so happily) ever after?

  2. I think this is a really powerful post. And I agree with Mel- all the people who look like they’re inside the gates probably feel that they’re outside too. They’re all just fakebooking to make things look perfect.

    I feel what you are feeling too. I’m starting to realize (turning 35 this year) that I can’t just keep re-inventing myself, that I can’t start over again, that I have made a number of irrevocable decisions (not bad ones) that have made me who I am, and it’s too late to change that. That said, my youngest sister, who just turned thirty, has a life where she has no dependents, no mortgage, can pack up her life at a moment’s notice to move somewhere else (and she’s done this more than once). I admire her bravery, but I am happier with my quiet, settled existence than I would be with her freedom. When I start to feel stifled, I remind myself of this.

    I have never, ever, had any success whatsoever in living in/embracing the present. If you manage to get there, I would absolutely love to hear about how you did it.

  3. What I was going to say echoes what others have said and that is that, no matter what hand we feel we’ve been dealt in life or even how we’ve played that hand, there does come a time, and it happens with aging, where we find ourselves settling into ourselves, who we are and what we have. Yes, there is always learning and growing and becoming to do, but the goals and milestones of youth give way to a circumspection that life is finite and being present in it IS the goal.

    And, while many things color who we are and how we see our place in the world, even when life doesn’t unfold as we dreamed it with our minds eye, we can learn to peacefully co-exist with the things we don’t have and long for.

    A friend, who has two boys, one through birth, one through domestic adoption, decided to expand her family through international adoption and adopted an older girl from the Ukraine. As I watched her journey unfold, I was jealous of it, that she was adopting a girl, that she would have the daughter that I thought I so desperately wanted. I texted with her at length trying to conjure a way for us to do the same thing. I even went so far as to talk to my husband about it (what I said to him was, ‘under what circumstance might you consider adopting an older child, a girl, either domestically or internationally?’ His answer, quite succinctly? “Under no circumstance”.) And, poof, with that, all of my mental maneuverings ended. And, yet, as I watch the story of their transition to a family of 5, with the shift in birth order unfold, I wish, wish, wish that could be me, be us. The fact is, I LOVE being a mother so much (not so much the daily grind of being stay at home but the joy and fulfillment that comes with parenting and shaping beings) that I want more children. But, at 48 and given the financial constraints of where we live, that just isn’t going to happen and I get it.

    Now that I feel like I have lived half my life, it is easier for me to be with my longings AND know that I am right where I am supposed to be. My plans are more for my sons and my family than for myself, per se, and my measure of success is much more about how ‘we’re’ doing than how I am doing. And, I know that life is sometimes fleeting, so I am much more content to live with the gratitude of waking up each day and moving of my own volition especially as I know others who can’t, some of whom have recently died or know they are going to. How I spent my mental and emotional energy is up to me and I know better than to be frivolous about it.

  4. While looking for a thanksgiving quote-I ran across the quote below-I spent the holiday season coming back to it. I almost don’t like the word “gratitude” it sounds like grateful/groveling. Like you’re making a mistake-but not groveling-if that makes sense.

    To me-I read it like-finding the silver lining in your life and accepting it as it is. It fits with the notion-“stress is the difference between the way things are and the way you want them to be.”

    Nor do I really like the notion that if we all just were grateful of what we did have we’d somehow be freed of all hurt and despair-oh were it that easy. Actually-that’s kind of pissy to me-it’s as though you’re not being grateful somehow causes/contributes to your sadness. Maybe it’s more about the acceptance.

    It occurred to me that I hadn’t accepted ‘truth’ of my life and stressed that it wasn’t something else. So I accepted the fact-I am a lawyer-I can be happy and be a lawyer so I should focus on finding the way to be happy with my work. I can (I work for myself-may not be possible for others)No more job dreaming. Yes, it’d be awesome if we had a house in a better school district but we don’t. We live in a beautiful house-it’s where we live-where we are going to live. Either our kids get into school via school lottery or they go to private school and we figure it out.

    Biggest deal in my life-I wish I didn’t have to take so much medication to get out of bed. I wish I didn’t have to go to trauma counseling to get over what happened in my life 20 years ago-to be able to leave the house. He screwed up the first part of my life-why do I ‘let’ him continue to effect my life? I don’t know-but I do it because doing so makes my life 100X better-indeed make it livable. And the list goes on-my mom just isn’t into being a mother/grandmother. Not that none of this wasn’t/isn’t sad-it just is. I live where I live, I am married to who I am going to be married to, I am a lawyer.

    Anyway-it may not even make sense to you-but really ingesting the quote brought me some amount of peace in my life.

    Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. -Melody Beattie.

  5. You are channelling my very thoughts here, except replace accountancy with medicine, and nearly 6 year old Lucky with nearly 3 year old Thandi. I hear you, and I wish I knew what to say, because then maybe it’d help me too…

  6. Ditto.
    I was going to write a huge reply but the long and short of it is this: it’s hard. I’ve been there and made it to the other side. Just allow yourself to go through the process and realize that there will always be triggers – not just the IF but all of it – and there are days you will be wistful but that’s ok. It doesn’t mean you appreciate the here & now any less. It just means you are human.

  7. Well, you know what happened to 4 of the 5 kids once they were inside the factory gates. : ) Granted, I often feel that I’ve won a Golden Ticket with having healthy twins from the first IVF cycle, when we only wanted 2 kids and didn’t have IVF coverage (and I have strong reason to not want a third if two are twins, because I am that third in my family and it kind of sucks). I’m very grateful for that. But I feel very overwhelmed and unaccomplished in terms of career (what career?) and natural/developed abilities. I’ve spent more time freelancing than in the workplace; I’m not as “present” a parent as I would like to be; I feel that my dad prefers my brothers (see: “it kind of sucks,” above) and strongly dislikes our choice to live in the city; our neighborhood is not as nice as it was when we bought the house in 2003; other school parents’ complaints bring me down… and so on. When I get in that “and so on” frame of mind, it just feeds on itself, and sometimes it takes awhile to swim out of the depression. I’m thrashing around and can’t even tread water to stay afloat. I think that’s what it is — clinical depression and anxiety.

    So I try to limit my sense of shortcoming by writing it all down on paper. Pros and cons lists, outlines, cause and effect, whatever. Just 10 or 15 minutes can be really helpful. (Journaling doesn’t seem to work well for me, as evidenced by my lack of blog posts… pure angst or forced cheerfulness.) The last few months have been rough, and my planner is accordingly full of post-it notes on my own moods and anxieties. And I call my best friend, who has lots of insight and can recognize patterns when I don’t see them in myself. My husband is pretty mellow about most things, so he helps me quite a bit. I have a long new Post-It note about what works for me and what doesn’t. If I’m annoyed or feel jealous of a post on Facebook, I block that particular post so that I don’t dwell on it. This is the only way I can stay on good terms with some of my relatives. : )

    I hope you like doing “nothing.” I think you’ll find it is something to be proud of, even if it isn’t as tangible as your older goals. (hugs)

  8. Oh wow I feel for you. But life is not something you can “control”, really. When I read the bit you wrote about guilt I just have to say that you probably need to find a way to release yourself from that guilt, from that way of thinking. It will hold you back and make you feel bad. Instead, I suggest taking time to reflect and ponder your life as you have just done, only this time you must look only for the positives. If all you look for is the negatives (and they are often easier to remember) then that’s all you’ll see. Hoping you can find peace with this issue and I encourage you to try and mindfully think in a positive manner about your accomplishments, because your list sure does sound amazing and admirable to me! 🙂 Kia kaha

  9. Sorry I’m late to comment on this, I wanted to be in front of a computer, with some time to do so (both unusual occurrences these days.

    Sadly, the most I can do is say I very much know what your saying in this post. I’ve written versions of this myself, on my blog, a few times now. Of course my circumstances are different, so the way this feeling manifests in my life is distinct, but isn’t that always the case? Two people can never have exactly the same experience, even if they do.

    I wonder if anyone ever feels like they’ve found the Golden Ticket. Actually, I do feel like I’ve found the Golden Ticket, or better said, I feel like I SHOULD feel like I’ve found the Golden Ticket. I have the life I hoped for. I have so many things so many people want. But there are so many ways in which I feel incomplete. As you know, my job is a big part of that. I also feel disconnected from my peers, with very few good friends to fall back on (and who I hardly ever see). I’m starting to wonder if I’m too abrasive to make lasting relationships; I certainly don’t believe it’s everyone else’s fault that I don’t have many friends. And I wonder if those parts of myself that I view as faults–my inability to keep my house presentable (and believe me, my standards for what “presentable” looks like are much lower than most people), my complete failure to eat like a responsible adult, my dependency on prescription drugs to function at a productive level–are large enough, and faulted enough, to keep me from ever really being content.

    And yet, I feel like an asshole, because it seems to me like all those things are details, icing on the cake, as it were. That by wanting those things to be as perfect as the rest of my life, I’m asking for entirely too much. I mean, NO ONE has a perfect life. Is that what I’m hoping for? Is that what I need to be happy?

    I have no idea. I really don’t. I’m hoping I’ll figure it out, as I get older and wiser (and chill the f*ck out a bit). If you figure it out before me, will you let me know? 😉

  10. Almost a year ago, I wrote a post on the concept of the Hedonic Treadmill, which is basically a principle stating that no matter how much we have, we will always be unhappy as long as we’re striving for more. I was really intrigued by this, because like you, I have always been looking ahead, and working on achieving my next goal. I really do believe that the golden ticket can be found in stillness and in being present in the moment, but those old habits of striving for more, more, MORE, are so tough to break. I wish you all the best in your efforts- I have been working on this for a while, and I suspect that I will be a work in progress for many years to come.

  11. I can relate. I’m calling it the “is that all there is” syndrome in my case.

    Modern society is built for the milestones: falling in love, wedding, birth of kid. And then what? We wait for our child/ren to repeat? If we’re lucky and don’t deal with scary illnesses. And we will deal with aging parents, probably.

    I’m not good with stillness, yoga or being in the moment. I try.

    I guess it’s being in The Middle.

  12. A secret to happiness is never to compare yourself to other folks negatively. Use people who have what you want as inspiration, not as a reason to feel bad about yourself. Infertility is something that can be impossible to change, but career, body image, fitness… those are all things that can still be worked on. I guess that’s what your next post is about. 🙂

    Personally it’s not in my nature to stop striving for more, but even so I can still appreciate what I’ve already done and what I’m doing and what I’m trying to do. I’ll get there some day, and if not, then I’m still getting something out of trying.

  13. I absolutely relate. I’ve written about this and I’m seeing similar themes in many of the blogs I read…maybe its an integral part of this phase of life—when we are done (whether we are happy about it or not) with family building and all the other milestones that our society makes so much of, we are left with “what now”. And its a struggle to move from striving & climbing and building to simply…accepting and living. Its foreign. All our lives we’ve been told to work for this and that and the next thing and now we are at a loss at how to just enjoy all these things. Several years in, I still haven’t figured it out.

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