Ah, the irony of writing a post where I say I’ve been writing every day since I started vacation, and I have a goal to write every day… and then not being able to write at all one day.
I did not write anything yesterday but review notes for the person that is helping me test controls. The woman I work for wants me to step up and manage this new person, which is fine, but it also really kind of sucks. I was envisioning a situation where I could do my own work and the other person does hers, end of story. So far from feeling as if I am extracting myself from my current work situation, I feel like I am getting more and more entrenched.
I keep reminding myself that nothing is forever, and really, it takes only a conversation to alert her that I cannot work this project next year.
* * * *
Anyway, so here I am, sitting in my kitchen, stealing time to write while I wait for the babysitter to come so I can work for the day.
Mel had a great post yesterday.
Show up and write.
So here I am.
I have to admit I’ve had a hard time writing in my space because I feel like there are SO many blogs out there, with so many people who have much better things to say that I do. This idea wars with my other idea that there IS space for me in this community, the infertile who made it to the other side but remains one of the few that is working to accept that the family she was given is her complete family.
It’s hard sometimes for me to read other blogs, too. Where are the people like me?
I see all these posts with people who are done with family building, and the general theme is that they feel like their family is complete. I usually see those posts where they see their older child playing with the new baby, or they post a picture where the kids are interacting.
Those posts are written with such warmth and thankfulness and happiness that it used to make me ache with longing.
And here’s where I confess: I would get angry at a lot of those posts. I was jealous and bitter.
Of course it’s easy to feel like your family is complete when you get what you want, I’d think.
I know, I’m awful. I used to hate those feelings.
But for so long, I felt like I was MISSING something. There was a piece missing, a part missing. The baby I didn’t get to have. And though I had the very same thankfulness whenever I looked at Lucky – because, really, how LUCKY we got with him, it’s nothing short of amazing – it never lasted.
I wanted more.
I wanted my baby, the one I lost. The one that made me feel sick and who had a beating heart. I wanted her, the one who didn’t make it.
I wanted my arms and heart and belly to be full again.
I wanted to be able to post on my blog, looking at Lucky and our new baby, how complete I felt.
And I have still have days where I long for that baby, still feel that expansion and contraction of pain in my heart and belly whenever I see an infant; a visceral want that comes from a deep, deep place inside me whenever I snuggle with my nephew, or hold a baby. And it’s still hard for me to see pictures of siblings, because my heart hurts when I realize that Lucky will never know what it’s like to have a brother or a sister.
I think that’s the hardest part for me to accept; that Charlie and I have siblings who are such a big part of our lives, and Lucky will never get to experience that kind of love.
Whenever I tell people, or say out loud, there will never be another baby, I now have this deep, unshakeable sense of peace. I sometimes look at Charlie and Lucky and Happy, and I feel that same warmth and thankfulness and happiness that I see in those Complete Family blog posts.
Our family IS complete. There isn’t anything missing, no piece we need to find and fill into our family. The four of us (and yes, I count the dog, who is quite decidedly NOT the same as having another child… but oh so wonderful a companion.) make a unit that’s distinctly ours.
Acceptance. I haz it.
This acceptance is not at all what I thought it would be.
Over the years of fighting infertility to bring home the family we had dreamed of, I saw acceptance as a mirage, an oasis in the far distance. It was so hard for me to say the words, We may never have any more children.
Even with the “may” in there, it was hard to think about.
Even as I was giving away clothing and baby gear, I never really thought I’d ever look in the mirror and admit that we’d never have another baby in our house.
Even as we walked away from treatments, I had the idea, maybe. Maybe we’ll get lucky again, this time with a surprise pregnancy. Or maybe we’ll adopt. Maybe we’ll change our minds someday and go back to treatments.
I needed that maybe. I needed the hope that our walking away wasn’t final, that we were leaving the door open a crack just in case we changed our minds. I needed to sit with the decision, the hope, the fear, the fail, the bigness of the decision to stop trying. I needed time and distance from the cycle of hope and fear.
I don’t need the maybe anymore.
Our family is complete; we will never have any more children. And yes, it hurts to say that.
But it also feels right to say it, too.
It’s really hard sometimes to write when you have all this STUFF swirling around in your head and heart.
But it’s been like this for a while now, and I don’t think it’s going to stop anytime soon, so I really want to try to make sense of things.
So that’s your fair warning: this post will likely be disjointed and maybe won’t have a point. And it might be boring or ridiculous. But I’m going to write it down, because I really, really, want to start writing more.
And the only way to write more is to write more, right?
* * * *
I’ve been working with my current therapist now for three years. Three years of weekly appointments, and I’m only JUST feeling like we’re getting below the surface anxiety into what makes me tick.
One of the things I’ve been noticing lately is that I am very closed off in my marriage. I spend time DOING things for Charlie to show him I love him. Whenever the gas in his car is low, I fill it. I create our weekly dinner menu with his preferences in mind. I will run at 4 in the morning or 10 at night in order to get more family time in on a given day. I take care of as much of the family stuff as I can – vet and doctor appointments for Lucky, school stuff, making lunches, bus dropoff/pickup – so that Charlie has one less thing to stress about.
But when it comes to showing my husband love and affection, I am a freaking Scrooge. I hide behind stress and anxiety, I keep myself busy so I don’t have to take time out to hug.
I’ve JUST noticed it, quite honestly: the way I am clipped and stressed whenever he arrives home from work, or how I find things to get annoyed over, like lights left on, when I arrive home when they are home. How I bury myself in my task list, the computer, my phone, laundry. It’s like I find excuses and justification to stay closed off, ways to avoid connecting with him.
I think it’s because I’m afraid. I’m afraid that Charlie, with his high blood pressure and ridiculous stress levels, is a heart attack waiting to happen. What happens if I really allow myself to love him, to rely on him, and he dies suddenly on me? How will I survive?
Or maybe I’m afraid of relying on him too much, where my need becomes another stressor for him, and all of a sudden he realizes he can’t deal with the energy suck of his wife anymore.
Or maybe I’m worried that he’ll disappoint me. What if I rely on him and he can’t be there?
Or maybe it’s none of these things. I don’t honestly know why I’m so scared, why I am so stingy with showing love and affection.
What I know is that it needs to change.
* * * *
I listen to audiobooks on my long ass commute into Boston; I download them to my phone from the library. It’s a great way to pass the time stuck in traffic, provided the book is a good one.
The one I’m listening to now? It’s a good one. It’s this one – a true story about the chaplain of the Maine Warden Service. Listening to her story, told from her viewpoint, I can only marvel at her openness and love. And her faith, or non-faith.
How is it, after losing her husband in an accident, and working search-and-rescues and seeing all facets of death, she can be so enthusiastic, open, and loving?
And if she can do it, can I as well?
* * * *
Written in Athena for the month of August is this: Cultivate Love.
I’m starting simply.
Next week we are heading to my happy place – the cabin on the lake. I’m going to disconnect from the internet. No Facebook, no email, no running board, no Myfitnesspal. I’m bringing paper plates and bowls, and bottles of wine and board games and cribbage and royalty. I’m going work on cultivating a connection between us and with the three of us as a family. And when I find myself getting stressed or anxious, I’m going to stop what I’m doing and hug someone.
And when we get back, I’m going to kiss my husband goodbye and hello every day. I’m going to take a moment every day, when he walks through the door, to greet him and welcome him home.
When Lucky tells me he’s cold and wants to sit on my lap, or wants me to stop what I’m doing to watch him do something, or he wants me to sit with him and watch a TV show, I’m going to stop what I’m doing and be with him, in the moment.
THIS is my family, right here, right now. And I love them so much and am so grateful I have Charlie and Lucky and Happy in my life.
And I need to learn how to open up more.
I have three separate drafts sitting in my dashboard right now. All of them are untitled. All of them relate to my last post about how I wish I could quit my job. Which I wrote more than a MONTH ago.
About halfway through writing those posts, I’ve just had to click away. Partly because I can’t deal with thinking and worrying and obsessing any more. Partly because I’m mad at myself that I can’t just walk away from a job which I have spent the past decade trying to talk myself into liking.
I wish it were that easy. I wish I was the kind of person who could just quit, walk away, be happy and free, with the wind blowing in my hair and daisies dancing and fairies flying around me, playing beautiful music.
I wish I was the kind of person who DIDN’T stay awake at night worrying about money.
I wish I could walk away and deal with the reality that in not working, I take resources away from my family; resources that are just as important as my time and energy.
I wish my headspace wasn’t so exhausting.
I wish I didn’t feel like quitting was WRONG.
I wish I knew what the hell I wanted to do with my life.
The thing is. I make 40% of our total family income. Working my dreaded part time hours. And yes, if I subtract out self-employment taxes because I’m a contractor, it’s not nearly as much as it seems on paper. But it’s significant, and we’re still paying for student debt, and I have family that’s strewn about the United States, and already I haven’t seen my sister and brother since March 2013. Oh yeah, and did I mention that I needed a new car imminently because mine had a crack in the head gasket that couldn’t be fixed because the head screws were frozen?
I just can’t justify quitting outright.
And I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, so it’s not like I can even plan my exit strategy and ramp up something ELSE in the meantime.
But clearly my work schedule was not working for me anymore. This summer has just been too crazy.
So what I did instead of quitting was email the woman for whom I work and tell her I could only manage 20 hours a week this summer, and that we needed to bring in another resource, because that wasn’t going to cut it with all the changes the auditors wanted the client to make. I told her that things were different this summer because Lucky wasn’t in full day daycare and Charlie wasn’t working from home. And I told her that I couldn’t give her more than 20 hours a week, and that was BEFORE vacation plans, since Lucky and I were just about to head to NC for two weeks to visit my sister and niece and nephew and my brother and new nephew and niece and friends and other family.
And I knew it would not go over well, because she is not the kind of person who handles changes from her expectations without reacting. This was a HUGE change from what we’ve always discussed: that I am the person who is responsible for this project, first and foremost, and I need to be willing to work whatever hours necessary to get the project completed on time.
If I’m being honest, I had kind of hoped, in a faint way you hope for these sorts of things, that she would be pissed enough to replace me altogether.
She was pissed, yes. But she did not replace me.
Instead she made it clear that I needed to cancel my trip to North Carolina and honor my commitment to her and the client by getting our project back on track.
And I caved. I cancelled our trip to North Carolina.
I don’t like disappointing people. I have taken the term responsibility entirely too seriously, for what I’m realizing has been my whole life. I don’t like telling someone who counts on me that I’m not up for the task.
There is so much of this entwined in who I am as a person, I can’t make a decision that, when you step back and look at it on paper, seems like it should be easy.
I can’t quit my job. But I can’t keep working in this situation, either.
In the meantime, I have been formulating my exit strategy. I recently had a meeting with a family therapist – a friend of a friend – about helping her come up with an accounting system for her business. But it’s clear from me from our discussions that it’s not necessarily going to be a profitable endeavor for me. It’ll be money – a little bit. But not exactly what I’m looking to get from investing time into doing more accounting.
I’ve also had coffee with the closer-to-my-house equivalent of the woman for whom I work – a guy who owns his own accounting firm and could always use extra help. He’s not interested in hiring a contractor, would want to hire me as a part time employee, but wouldn’t tie me down to a yearly hours requirement like the woman for whom I work now. He also nodded in agreement when I told him that ideally I’d work mother’s hours three days a week, and mentioned that he and his wife decided when they had their third child that they were going to try and make it work on just his salary. It’s important to be present for your children, he told me. I can’t say I’m excited about the idea of doing what I’m doing for more years – even closer to my house AND on better hours! – but I guess I feel strongly that I cannot walk away from the money without having some idea of what’s next.
That’s where I am right now.
And I haven’t pressed “publish” on any of these posts before now because I’m bitterly disappointed in myself for not having the courage to walk away from something which clearly brings me no joy. I can see it so clearly: it’s my own damn fault that I feel stuck and miserable and tired and joyless. I not only CAN do something about it, but I SHOULD. I have always felt that if you have control over something, and you choose to do nothing, you forfeit the right to complain about it.
I choose to do nothing, therefore I have to deal with the reality the way it is.
So that’s why I haven’t posted in more than a month. I still don’t know what I’m going to do. And I know there are so many of you reading this blog who want to scream at me “JUST QUIT THE FREAKING JOB!” I mean, hell, *I* think that to myself, too. Just quit the job, deal with the fact that we lose 40% of our household income. It’s just money, Serenity. Get out of there.
I wish it were that easy.
(And I’m going to press publish on this one.)
Since my post about not knowing what I want, I’ve gotten a whole lot better about sitting and listening to myself.
And when you listen to something long enough, you inevitably find one.
It’s a doozy.
I think I need to quit my job.
And the idea absolutely, unequivocally terrifies me.
Let me back up and tell you how I got here first.
Ever since I put out there that I wanted to go into business for myself, I’ve been talking with people and telling them that I’m thinking about trying to do something new, to go out on my own. For me, it’s been a way to try in the idea of running my own business and communicating to people that I’m interested in getting business if someone knows someone. Plus, talking about it helps me suss out my own feelings on the whole situation.
This weekend was the end-of-school bash for Lucky’s school. My running friend from town and her husband were there. In one of the first times we ran together, I asked my friend what her husband does. Not being a business person, she told me she wasn’t quite sure, but that he had worked in consulting for a bit and now was working for a company. And he was very, very busy.
So I assumed that he was in sales.
Except I was wrong. Turns out, he’s in the SAME INDUSTRY AS ME. We bonded over shared frustration about where the industry is headed, how we feel like our jobs are spent covering the auditor’s asses instead of creating real value for our companies and clients, and how hard it is to work for the industry right now.
And he told me that he knew a guy close to home who was in the same business who always needed help; he had contracted for him before his kids were born and stays in touch.
It was perfect – I could stay doing that I do, without having to commute! Perfect, right?
I went ahead and requested to connect on LinkedIn on the referral of my friend’s husband, and for a bit, I dreamed about the idea of not having to commute into Boston anymore and still keep money coming in. I mean, really, it couldn’t be more perfect!
I’d still do exactly what I’m doing now, except I wouldn’t have to spend 3+ hours of my day in the car.
And then, Sunday night into Monday morning, I was up most of the night with insomnia.
(The insomnia. Oy, the insomnia. I have had some pretty bad nights since my marathon on Mother’s Day. I might have slept more than 3 hours at a stretch once, maybe twice. Most nights, I pass out at 9, then am up from midnight until 3 or 4am, with some ‘naps’ here and there. It’s awful and torturous and I have done almost everything physically possible to manage it: melatonin, turning off my devices, going to bed when tired, avoiding caffeine, meditation when I DO wake up, white noise, allergy medication.)
I didn’t really make the connection until my therapy appointment yesterday, when my stress levels were through the roof. I sat in my therapist’s office, and, trying not to cry, told her I could barely breathe sometimes when I think about going to work.
My insomnia started right about the time I went back to work after my two month hiatus.
It’s not the commute. It’s not the schedule.
It’s the work itself.
I haven’t LIKED the work in a long time – since before Lucky was born, quite honestly. But see, I don’t HATE it ,either. And I think that’s what gets me: I don’t hate my job. I just don’t care.
And the more I start to focus on the things I want, the more I read about living the kind of life I value, the more I am realizing that there’s something missing as it relates to my work right now. It’s never more clear when I’m sitting in traffic on the Tobin Bridge; in those moments I have a clear existential crisis, where my entire being is screaming, THIS IS WRONG! THERE HAS TO BE A BETTER WAY!!!!
I thought it was the commute. I thought it was maybe the kind of work I’m doing. Or maybe the company. Or maybe it’s just because I’m tired, because, you see, I CANNOT FREAKING SLEEP. I have been telling myself for years now that I can’t leave this job, it’s good and flexible and I don’t hate it and it’s good money, and it’s irresponsible to leave a job and take away resources from my family merely because I don’t CARE about my work. I tell myself to find something else instead – that I can’t leave until I have a good idea of what I want next, because really, it’s money and money is good.
But the thing is, I don’t know what I want to do next. I spend a LOT of my time and energy casting my thoughts around, trying on careers, researching the next steps and realizing that yeah, I don’t have the time or money for more schooling that would be required.
So here I am. Still no clue of what I want to be when I grow up, but realizing that my current situation is fast becoming untenable, emotionally, for me.
Yesterday, my therapist asked me, So what will it take for you to leave your job?
I don’t know. I really, really don’t know. Leaving is terrifying for me. I don’t know what I’m going to do next. I don’t KNOW what that life will look like. I’m scared of the sacrifices I’m going to force on my family if I decide to leave. And man, I feel SO selfish in saying, well, I don’t HATE my job, but I don’t like it, and therefore I’m leaving it.
I mean, really, who gets to do that?
But I can’t keep living like this either. I feel stuck, and anxious, and I consciously have to force myself to breathe when I think of all the work I’m going to have to do in August, while paying a nanny to take care of Lucky because there’s no more camp. Instead of being home with him, getting ready for first grade, I’m going to be juggling commuting into Boston and Charlie’s traveling for his summer meeting and making sure the dog gets enough exercise and all the work I need to get done.
I don’t know if I can do it.
I feel stuck and scared and tired and sad and anxious and I wish I knew what to do, really DO about the whole thing.
I’m hoping that by putting it out there, writing it all out, maybe I’ll figure out some way around it.
So here’s the thing about my last post.
The homework my therapist gave me is based on the idea that if I am in the process of actively creating a life that makes me happy, I might not care so much about what people think of me – or at least I wouldn’t base my own happiness on someone else’s arbitrary definition of success.
Because I care too much right now.
I care that I have no answer to “what have you been up to?
I WANT to say something like this: Oh, 3 MORE years of fertility treatments, two miscarriages and realizing that the family we dreamed about will stay a pipe dream. But it’s okay, because I can devote time now to wasting HOURS of my life commuting into Boston, where I spent my time on the Tobin Bridge regretting my life choices from years ago. Because, hey, lots of debt in student loans and no time or the energy to change careers right now. So instead, I’ve been focusing on running marathons – ah, yes, you’ve seen on Bacefook. Annnd, you think I’m obsessed. Maybe I am, because it’s the only time I actually FEEL like a success. Except not really, because my marathon times are getting slower, not faster, and I’m pretty sure I won’t actually qualify for the Boston Marathon anymore. But it’s okay, I don’t REALLY want to run it anymore because I hate being cold and running in the winter sucks. And plus, it’s not like I love marathons. I just like feeling hopeful, that with hard work I put in I can actually see results.
I say nothing instead. And I walk around the people who used to know me best, feeling lost and alone. Which is stupid, because I know for a fact that a lot of them have had loss in their own lives. I mean, shit, the couple who hosted the party just recently had a baby after a lot of struggle – miscarriages and trying for some months.
I am NOT alone. Not ever.
It’s just situations like parties where I feel in sharp relief, the missing pieces from my life. I want to feel fulfilled, and connect with old friends, and feel full and happy and not at all like I’m missing something.
And I think I’m realizing, as I stumble over writing down some simple wants in Athena:
I’m not sure I actually KNOW what makes me happy.
My life, up until this point, has been a series of Happiness Experiments, a try-something-out-and-see-if-it-sticks kind of approach. I’ve been a kind of happiness chameleon – always up for something new, but trying on the stuff that friends like to see if it’s something that makes me happy.
I’ve always been like this. And I am pretty sure that’s why I’m having a hellish time writing down what I want.
(And by wants, I mean the kind of wants that make a like me person happy. Not the “I want to be a better parent” or “I want to be better at running marathons” or “I want to walk the dog so he’s not a butthole.” I can be capable and make my life easier for other people, and I want to be a better kind of me, but that sort of stuff is the surface things. I’m talking about the wants that fill up my soul, the ones that help make my life whole, and the ones that bring me some more moments of contentment which might outweigh the lost and alone feelings I seem to fill myself up with.)
So of course my therapist is right; this homework is a really good thing for me. It’s good for me to sit and think about the sorts of things I CARE about. Because I tend to be one of those people that has a hard time prioritizing the things I want to do based on my values or what makes me happy. So having a few items to focus on when I have free time, it’s a good thing.
It may have taken me forever, but I was able to write down three things on this week’s list.
You want to know what they are?
1. Try a new recipe. I don’t talk a lot about my love for cooking and making good food, but I LOVE to cook. I love trying new things, finding quick and healthy recipes that taste good. We’re also currently on a budget since I didn’t work much in March and April and we had some out-of-the-ordinary expenses those months, so the very best new recipes are the kind that either a) use what we have in inventory, b) take advantage of a sale at our grocery store, and/or c) all of the above.
This weekend, mussels were on sale. Shockingly, Lucky LOVES them and I know he’ll eat them. So I made an Ina Garten recipe for steamed mussels that was out of this world. Charlie actually drank the broth at the end of the meal and looked at the leftover broth somewhat sadly, saying, I probably shouldn’t get a straw, right?
And then we went and got ice cream at a local creamery. It was awesome.
2. Finish a book. I have four books going right now – not counting the audiobook I borrowed for my long ass commutes. I pick at each one here and there, but I feel spread too thin. My plan for tonight is to include a full HOUR of reading. (An hour! Luxury!) I’d love to finish one of the books I’ve started this week if I can.
I love everything about reading; the escape it provides – and the opposite, depending on what I’m reading. I love to learn about something new. I love to see the world through a different view. I love getting lost in a book – and finding myself. I love books, and I don’t spend enough time with them anymore. It’s time I change that.
3. Visit with a good running friend before she moves to North Carolina this weekend. I have already taken her out for a night AND we’ve driven together to a race a couple weeks ago, but we have avoided saying goodbye. I want to see her and hug her and tell her how much I’ve loved having her live nearby and how much I’m going to miss her. Even though Lucky and I are going to see her in July when we visit my brother, because she’s moving literally a town over from where he lives.
Still, though, I’m going to miss her. And she needs to know how much she means to me before she moves.
So that’s my list of wants for this week. It might have taken me WAYYYYYY too long to write these down, but I feel like it’s a good first step.
We went to a Memorial Day gathering with all my college friends last weekend. And I’m not entirely sure why, but I felt awkward and uncomfortable the entire day.
Which is really odd. My BFF was there. Her husband. Other friends who we see pretty regularly.
And then, too. These people were my family at one point in my life; closest to me. I’ve known some of these friends for more than half of my life.
I couldn’t really explain why it was so awkward, though I feel like it was the question: What have you been up to?
The answer, really, is not much. And I felt like I had some secret, again – like I was hiding some kind of dark failure from everyone.
I was surprised and taken aback to feel this way.
And my therapist suggested that maybe if I wasn’t so focused on what people thought of me and my life; whether I met some kind of external criteria of “success,” I might not feel so gawky and awkward and bumbling. And she challenged me to spend some time writing down what I want from a week. Not the overall, arching LIFE GOALS – just a few simple things I want from my week.
I left her office feeling excited, because OMG her homework dovetails precisely into Athena and what I want to get out of her.
Except. I’ve spent EVERY DAY since then with the open book, on a page called “Wants…”
And I have nothing to write.
Quite literally, my mind goes blank.
What do I want from this week? From today?
I have no idea.
It’s scaring me a little, the idea that I really have no idea what I might want in a given week. Or maybe it’s really the fear of writing something down because I’m afraid I won’t get it.
Either way, I’m not sure what to write.
And I’m not really sure what to do about it.
Man, I do not KNOW why I haven’t been able to write lately. I feel as if my thoughts and feelings are all swirled around in a murky mud puddle – the kind you get in March in New England. They freeze overnight, are full of sand and dirt and melted snow and slush and if you step on it, the thin ice will break and you’ll end up ankle-deep in cold murk.
Writing is complicated lately.
So much easier for me to close out the “New Post” screen and do something else. Like budgets, or chatting with friends, or dishes. Or nothing; anything that requires no thinking or feeling. Something where I’m skimming along on the surface.
My truth is that I’m both okay and not okay.
It’s freeing, empowering even, that I don’t have a Plan. This, right in front of me, is The Rest of My Life. Charlie and I are watching Lucky (and Happy!) grow up right in front of us, and we’re a family, and in SO many ways we have such a good life.
But I have many moments, too, where I think, This is my life? Wait!! I DIDN’T SIGN UP FOR THIS!
I’m trying to decide if my expectations were unrealistic, or I’m just really unhappy with some facets of my life, or some combination of the two.
What I know: I am still full of self-loathing. I cannot put words to how much I hate my female parts. They utterly failed me. And then I struggle with this feeling. Because, I mean. I have a CHILD. You’d think that I’d have at least some measure of thankfulness that I was able to carry Lucky to term AND nurse him when he was a baby. My girl parts did just fine then, right?
But then I remember how, when I was pregnant with Lucky, I felt like we had snuck one in, came in under the radar. I never felt comfortable being pregnant; I felt like I was faking. And we really did get incredibly lucky – he managed to avoid the scarred, dead, unhealthy parts of my uterus which killed countless embryos; the part of my body which was responsible for so much loss over the years.
I’m thankful – so thankful – he’s here with us.
But I also cannot shake the unrelenting anger at my body for failing me so many other times.
And that anger is hard to manage, sometimes. For a while, I’ll be fine, and happy, and I’ll think things like, Wow, isn’t it a blessing we didn’t end up having another baby! We would have given up so much freedom! and I’ll go for a run and feel strong and happy and listen to the birds chirping and feel the sun on my face. And I’ll come home completely content with my life.
But the Beast will rear up and catch me completely off-guard, and I’ll flip the fuck out over a perceived slight from Charlie, and I’ll throw it all on him, because obviously he’s not good enough or fast enough or doing any of the right things and he doesn’t even KNOW ME. Because that’s what I do – I get pissed off at other people instead of looking into the black pit inside me. But while I’m yelling and pushing him away and trying to get him to hate me as much as I hate myself it’ll all come crashing down on me.
I’m the fucked up one, I can’t make any more babies, I’m a loser and a failure and I loathe being an accountant and I’m a crap mom to boot. And I don’t know what the fuck I want, so what’s the POINT of all of this shit anyway?
And I go to therapy, and talk through it all, and hear my therapist tell me I’m doing all the right things by talking it out and recognizing it about myself.
But nothing changes.
I still feel stuck. I feel gypped. I feel like the life I imagined when I was stuck in my room as a teenager with no social life and controlling parents isn’t at all close to what I have.
And intellectually, I can SEE that I’m doing this all to myself, that this is life, baby, and no one said it was fair, and good god Serenity, don’t you realize what you HAVE? There are people out there who are barely making their bills and cannot have ANY of their own children and are working jobs where they don’t have the luxury of disliking because it’s the only way they won’t DIE. This is a first world problem, your inability to have more children and the life you dreamed about when you were stuck in your room as a teenager with no social life and controlling parents. And anyway, teenagers know NOTHING of real life, which means that your expectations were probably too fucking high. Just let it go.
Let it go.
Why CAN’T I let it go? Why can’t I keep those moments of contentment close to my heart? Why do I keep spiralling back into pain and anger and fear and sorrow? What the fuck is WRONG WITH ME?
My truth is so complicated. I can’t hold onto the happy for long enough, and I keep trying to run after it, and it keeps eluding me.
And I KNOW, I KNOW that I need to sit down, really stop MOVING, in order to find the long lasting contentment I seek. Intellectually, I get this.
Sometimes, it’s just really hard.
When I decided to run a marathon back in 2011, I signed up for a running clinic through what is now my running club.
The first workout – 200 meter repeats – I was struck with the strongest feeling.
I was made for this.
Over the years, I’ve wondered about my focus on running, mostly as it relates to me emotional, mental, and physical health.
Charlie put it best, recently, on a day where I was getting antsy because it was late and I still needed to get miles in that day.
Always, the running, he said. Obsessed.
I am NOT obsessed, I replied. I do things other than running. Swimming, for example. Weights. Yoga. Cycling.
… So you can run MORE! he replied, laughing.
We both laughed, knowing that he was exactly, 1000% right.
My silence these past couple of weeks has been a function of processing through layers and layers and layers of emotional baggage.
It’s like I finally decided to go up into the attic to clean it out… and was confronted with a room, packed to the brim with 37 years of hoarded Memories and Denied Emotions. There’s been little space to even navigate. So I’ve just been sorting through, processing, moving things around, letting go.
And with all the work I’m putting into sorting through all the crap I’ve never managed to get through, patterns are emerging.
For example, I’m starting to see that I have very little clarity about what really makes me happy.
Said another way: the person I am now is a function of many, many years of trying to fix my many weaknesses. I’ve found gratification in working around the faults my parents found in me.
I’m an excellent Finder of Lost Things, for example. Because I ALWAYS lose stuff.
I’m also an amazing Project Manager. Because I hate being overwhelmed by everything I have to do and not knowing where to start. I also know that if I think a task will take me, say, 2 hours, I should budget 4-6; even more if it’s something I don’t actually like or want to do.
Because I’m easily distractable, you see, and will end up using that extra time.
Last night was the second week of my spring running clinic.
The combination of weight loss and consistency in weekly mileage for the past few months has turned me into a very different runner than I was last year. And I’m working with a coach who has always told me I was capable of more than I’ve done thus far.
One of the benefits of hiring a coach is that it takes ALL the guesswork out of building a training plan. He’s stayed on top of my weekly mileage in the weeks where my ankle has flared up and I couldn’t run through it. He’s scheduled me for strength training when I mentioned my IT band was becoming bothersome again, way up at my hip.
And a couple of weeks ago, he planned a speed workout for me. And this time, he told me to hit a certain pace for each interval. I hit them, easily.
And when I got home and plugged in the distance and time into the computer, and saw the average pace, I was completely gobsmacked.
I never thought I could actually run that fast.
I WANTED to, of course. But wanting and actually DOING are very different things.
So last night the workout was three miles of intervals. I ran them strong and fast – at the pace I never thought myself capable of.
I don’t know how running does it, but the act of running somehow distills me into my very core. Everything falls away, and I’m left with just my essence, my hrdaya – heart center.
My runs lately have been moving meditations, where all I have to do is listen and something will well up from deep inside me. They’re generally phrased as questions, and they’re said with a voice that is quiet and full of knowledge; so much different than that nonstop chatter voice of my mind.
Last night’s thought? The universe has given me a gift.
A good friend of mine asked me yesterday, just before clinic, if we were definitively done trying for another baby.
She knows about our struggles, and she knows that I was pregnant last fall and lost it.
So I told her the truth: that I was 99% sure we were done, really done, but I was having a hard time closing the door completely. We don’t have any hope left. I can’t even consider walking back into that clinic, doing the shots, the medications, the transfer. And the life I have now is pretty full; I get baby time through my family and friends, and I am starting to wonder if that’s the universe’s plan for my life – if I’m just not meant to have more than one kid. And if I can’t have a house full of kids and chaos, maybe I should focus my energy into finding a career I love and making the life I have NOW better.
She asked me if we had considered a surrogate. We have, I said, but the cost is staggering and I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it.
Late last night, she texted me and offered to be a surrogate for us if we wanted. I know it’s a huge thing and surrogacy isn’t like a simple fix. But, I know it’s really expensive, and if a uterus is the thing you need, I mean… I don’t know, it just occurred to me.
I don’t know what’s next.
I think we are done with trying for kids, even with my friend’s generous offer to act as a surrogate for us.
I think I might quit my job for a bit so I can allow myself the space to think and feel, in the hopes that my next career might spring up organically.
I think I might keep sorting through the room of emotional baggage in the attic and let go of what doesn’t help me anymore.
I think I’m going to try my best to qualify for the Boston Marathon when I run my marathon in the fall.
I think I am finding out that no matter what is next, the life that I have now – my friends, my family – EVERYTHING that has led me to this point – is a gift.
All I know is that last night, I felt THANKFUL. Thankful for infertility, because without it, I wouldn’t be in this place I am today. Without infertility, I wouldn’t have met my friend D on a TTC board and I wouldn’t have been introduced to the idea of running a half marathon.
Because of infertility, D is one of the most important people in my life. Because of infertility, I found running – and my therapist. And ran a marathon. And found the motivation to lose 35lbs.
I have always tried to find the good in our IF; it’s been really, really hard on days.
But last night, it struck me.
Our IF is a gift, too.
It was a random thought that struck me yesterday.
If I had stayed pregnant, I’d be close to hitting my third trimester.
I don’t know why it came as such a surprise – the idea that I’d still be pregnant. Maybe because I feel like so much has changed since the D&E. Maybe because being pregnant was only a couple of weeks, and months have passed since then. Maybe because I have no hope of having another baby left. I don’t know.
What I do know is the emotion: I was surprised to think that if things had been different, I’d be pregnant. I’d be feeling our son or daughter move around inside me. (I’d probably be uncomfortable and tired and short on patience and achy, too.)
It’s interesting; my grief seems to ebb and flow with my cycle. Each month when I get AF, I’m struck by the passage of time. Another month gone by; a reminder that there’s no hope left of things being different than they are now.
I know, it sounds morbid and depressing and awful. And on CD 1 and 2, it IS enough to make me ache.
But honestly, the idea of being pregnant seems so foreign to me. It was a long time ago – 5 years now – where I was pregnant with Lucky.
And yes, I’ve been pregnant twice since then, but never for more than a few weeks.
It’s just different somehow, now. I’ve stopped planning for the next baby. I’ve given away most of my maternity clothes and Lucky’s baby and toddler clothing. I’ve donated all of my own clothes which are now 3-4 sizes too big, whereas before I used to hold onto it, you know, just in case.
I can’t imagine my life being different than it is today.
And where most of the time I am used to this reality – the idea that this IS our family, there’s no real hope of having more children – it’s hard those first few days of a new cycle. For some reason, whenever I’m about to get AF, I dream of babies; in them my heart is full with thankfulness that my deepest wish has been granted. On those nights, I grieve when my alarm wakes me and I realize, it was only a dream, Serenity.
Ebbing and flowing, the grief comes and goes.
And my therapist tells me that it’s possible to be happy, overall, even while grieving. Always, when she says it, I wonder how it is possible.
But I’m curious to see if it’s possible for me to feel that way someday.
Because the one thought that has popped into my head recently, too, is this idea. Maybe I’m supposed to find fulfillment elsewhere. Maybe I’m not meant to have more than one child. My nieces, my nephews, my friends’ daughters and sons – they’re all part of my life.
So maybe, for me to heal, the definition of ‘my family’ needs to change.
I don’t cry very much.
I DEFINITELY don’t cry in front of people.
You see, that would mean I’m being vulnerable.
No, it’s far more easy to be angry, to develop a hard shell over the soft places, to never show anyone how bruised and battered those places get.
When Amy died, I couldn’t let myself cry in front of anyone. I told myself that I had no right to cry, because my aunt and uncle and cousins all lost far more than I had. So instead, I crept off into the funeral parlor bathroom to cry – I snuck off because I didn’t want anyone to know I was off crying. And I sobbed into my pillow at night, muffling my grief as best as I could until the burning of my eyes hurt too much to continue.
Eventually, I stopped crying over Amy. Because I was choking on my grief, and I didn’t know how to get through it without dying myself.
So I buried it. And over time, it got easier – the not crying. I turned them around – made tears into motivation. I was going to SHOW someone I wasn’t weak, I would prove to them that I was strong, and capable.
And, eventually, I went on the offensive, pre-emptively turning those tears into anger or criticism or annoyance before I could get hurt enough to cry.
And here I am. Nearly 20 years later. When I cry now, it’s mostly from anger – when I’m impotent with rage and my throat closes up and there’s nothing I can do but let it out.
It’s rare, though.
I can count one hand the times I’ve cried about losing my pregnancy last fall. Even when I felt completely shattered, even when I was being kind to myself, even when I told myself I NEEDED a cry – it was never for long, and never in front of anyone.
Never the release from the pain I hoped it would be.
I am now part of a family of criers – my sister in law, mother in law, and even my father in law will often cry when telling a story that moves them. Charlie’s cousin S, going through treatments, told me, tearfully, I cry all the time now.
I am so CURIOUS about it. I’m amazed by their ability to open up and allow themselves to be vulnerable in those moments when their eyes well up. I wonder if crying is a release for them, or if they’re embarrassed by it.
And I’m envious of the freedom in which they feel their emotions. I wish, sometimes, I was as free with my emotions as they are. I wish that when I cried, it wasn’t entwined with anger. I wish I wasn’t angry so much, come to think of it. I wish I hadn’t spent so many years building up this shell around my heart.
Dismantling it is such hard work.