(Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.)
I have always hated the question, What do you do for a living?
I’m embarrassed to tell people I’m an accountant, because they immediately assume I am good at math and love numbers, and that is a BIG lie. I was a solid C average math student; the girl who wrote poetry about how much I hated my math class in high school. The girl who took Intro to Linguistic Theory in college to satisfy my “math” requirement.
I feel fidgety and uneasy when I talk about my chosen career.
And until this summer, I’ve been telling myself I really don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.
But I do know.
I don’t know how I’m going to get there, but I know what I want to be.
When someone asks me what I do for a living, I want the answer to be this.
I am a writer.
Well, my plan to de-stress at the lake worked. Enough that my MIL actually commented to me, You seem so much more relaxed this year.
I journaled, and I disconnected from social media, and drank coffee and watched the stillness of the lake in the early mornings, and ran relaxed vacation miles, and sat in an inner tube in the water, and ate and drank and SLEPT. After the first night there, anyway – since I don’t sleep well the first night anywhere – I slept pretty damn well.
The week was gorgeous – the one day where it rained buckets even ended with a brilliant double rainbow.
By the Saturday morning we had to leave, I felt calm and centered and balanced. It’s been so long since I’ve felt STILL, where I haven’t felt that tightness of anxiety in my chest and stomach. It was wonderful. I sat outside, in my pajamas, with my cup of coffee, and savored the stillness – both in the lake AND inside me.
And then we came home and unpacked and I did 50 loads of laundry and made a menu and had to go food shopping and went to a birthday party for our friend and cleaned and Happy came home and Charlie mowed the lawn and I went through mail and put out all the bills that need to be taken care of this week.
So by last night all that calm, that stillness I remembered was gone. Poof.
Rainbows don’t last, and peace is fleeting.
I want to find that stillness again, though. In my everyday life.
* * * *
I’m not sure where I heard about the book, but when I saw the title I knew it was something I needed to read. The title alone made me want to read it. The Great Work of Your Life: A Guide To The Journey of Your True Calling.
For someone like me, who is struggling with career and happiness and wanting more out of my life and wondering if it’s even worth trying to find another career or stick with the one I’ve got… it’s a great book.
And as I was reading, a quote jumped out at me:
“If you don’t find your work in the world and throw yourself wholeheartedly into it, you will inevitably make yourself your work… You will, in the very best case, dedicate your life to the perfection of your self. To the perfection of your health, intelligence, beauty, home, or even spiritual prowess. And the problem simply is this: This self-dedication is too small a work. It inevitably becomes a prison.”
YES. Holy crap, yes. That is my life right now – improving myself, my marriage, my parenting. I’m the worst kind of perfectionist – not believing I can ever BE perfect but trying to be better than I would be if left to my own devices. It’s like I have too much energy and am looking for ways to expend it.
I want to love what I do. I want to feel like the work I do MEANS something.
I have long said that I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, that I don’t really know what I want out of my life. I’ve also said that the reason I got my MBA and CPA was because my father challenged me (no joke, when I told him I was trying to decide between getting my MBA and going to law school he laughed and said to me, You? With a MBA? You can’t get a MBA. At least, that’s my memory of it. It’s likely he never said that I couldn’t get a MBA; because wow, that would be a mean and awful thing to say.), and I wanted to prove him wrong.
Last week, in the stillness I felt, when I really looked inside myself, a thought struck me. When I was younger, I loved playing music, reading, and writing. And my father told me that none of those three loves were practical for a career, too.
So why didn’t I take that as a challenge, like I did with his comment about the MBA?
The only thing I can come up with right now is that it has to do with fear. I didn’t care about law school or getting my MBA the way I cared about writing or playing my clarinet.
I think I was afraid of failing at something I loved to do.
* * * *
So I came home from this week with a renewed commitment to writing more. I started a journal last week, and I’ve decided to get up an hour earlier every morning so I can write in my journal. I want to post more here, too. But I think I’m also going to register for a creative writing class at the local community college this winter, too.
The fact is, though I loved writing as a child and teenager, I know nothing about the craft of writing and I’m not at all certain about whether or not I CAN write anything worth anything.
(I do know, though, from some of the books I’ve read/listened to, that you don’t actually have to be a good writer to get published, though.)
Practically speaking, I’m definitely not in a place right now where I can just quit my job and leave. I think that I’ll have to keep doing what I’m doing until another path becomes clear to me. Maybe it’ll be with writing, or maybe it won’t.
But that’s okay. Because right now I’m listening to what my whole self is telling me, instead of allowing my mind to convince me that I’m being selfish and ridiculous and just be quiet, Serenity, you have a great life.
I want more from my work.
I know that rainbows – and the stillness and clarity of vacation – isn’t long lasting. But I have the idea that if I keep listening and not judging myself for the way I feel (and others, too), maybe I can find a place where I can reach that stillness no matter what’s going on around me.
It’s worth looking for, at any rate.
That’s it, isn’t it.
The path to happiness is going to have good days and bad. And the only thing I can do is keep moving forward, until one day I realize that the good days outnumber the bad.
Which. Actually, if I’m being honest, they do now.
The flip out: a perfect storm of the fallout from spending a week at my parents’s house, hormones, the end of my marathon training cycle, and money stress.
The trip to Texas forced me to confront the reality: my parents are alcoholics. Highly functioning ones, but alcoholics nonetheless. They pose no danger to anyone but themselves; they have a strict rule that there is no driving after ANY alcoholic beverage. Period.
But they are drunk every evening. My siblings and I cannot call past a certain time in the evening because we’ve had actual conversations which my mother and father have not remembered we’ve called. Their routine: 4 or 5 or 10 (I lost count, honestly) martinis until they pass out on the couch in front of the TV.
Lucky was spared this; the bulk of their drinking was done after he went to bed every night.
But I was not.
I know I cannot control it, that this is their choice, and quite honestly, I don’t have the energy to fight them in order to make them see that their drinking is a problem. Maybe it’s only a problem in MY eyes; they certainly aren’t hurting anyone else, and I don’t really even KNOW that they’ll die younger because of their drinking.
Still, though, it was really hard to watch. There were multiple nights where I went to bed early and put on headphones because I could not deal with the ridiculousness of my mother while inebriated.
Hormones: well, the day I posted my rant, I got AF. And no matter how far away from treatments I get, ovulation and AF signify a waste of yet another egg, another cycle.
Also – I run my marathon next Sunday, so I’m in what’s known as the taper phase of training right now. Basically, I’m running much less mileage as I was even three weeks ago. And as the fatigue from my cumulative miles lifts, I find myself antsy and on edge a lot more.
And I haven’t been working much the past couple of months. Combined with the month of April where we paid some money to the government in taxes, I had to pay my Q1 estimated taxes, AND we had to replace an exterior door (which was surprisingly much more expensive than I thought it would be!)… I’m not feeling as secure with money.
I’m really struggling here; we’re trying to get to a place where we just live off Charlie’s income so we can pay down the little debt we have (student loans, our HELOC and our mortgage) so in the future I don’t HAVE to work.
The problem is, I kind of hate working anyway, so living like we have no money AND feeling like I have to work makes me resentful.
Anyway. That’s where I was coming from in my last post.
It really isn’t all that bad all the time – it just was yesterday. And when it’s bad, I get scared and panicky and I want to beat myself up for not being different. I mean, really, Serenity, just deal with what you’ve been given. You’re LUCKY. How come you can’t just freaking MOVE ON?
And that’s the thing. I seem to have this idea that moving on means I won’t ever feel sad or scared or panicky or beat myself up.
But life is made up of BOTH the good and the bad. And I need to accept – maybe even embrace – it all.
Six years ago, he made me a mom.
In some ways, it feels like he’s been with us forever.
But I remember the day he was born as if it were yesterday.
He makes my heart full, even when the whining and negotiating and “Not FAIR!” and the Not-Listening.
It’s funny. Even when I believe have found a lasting peace in walking away from treatments?
Any reminder of how much time and energy and suffering we spent on treatments brings on a flare of grief and anger with a depth that scares me.
We couldn’t have known how things would turn out, though. I mean, I was able to carry a baby to term. Why wouldn’t we think we could do it again?
Whenever I get mad at how much time we wasted on treatments, I keep reminding myself: We couldn’t have known.
We didn’t know. We thought that all the struggle would be worth it when we brought home our baby.
But the fact is, we did not bring home a baby. We are done.
So what now?
I don’t want to use this space to mourn my lost chances anymore. I need to change the way I think and feel about our infertility.
I used to refer to it as making lemonade. Back when we were trying for Lucky, I had hoped that it would being good karma to our cycles; that if I looked at things in a positive light, it might help it work.
The fallout from my last miscarriage scared the shit out of me; it took me months to claw out of that dark hole of hopelessness.
Changing the way I view our infertility and the End of Treatments is more than just a way to make lemonade or create good karma now.
It is essential – so we can move on. And heal.
So. What now?
I have always been the kind of person who looks ahead and changes up my life when I feel like I am unhappy. Hate my career? No problem – go back to school for a new one. Can’t have a baby? No problem – go to a new clinic and try a new protocol.
I need to learn how to change my feelings without changing my life.
I am considering learning mediation. I have the idea that creating space in my life for stillness might be a good thing for me.
I am also still working with my therapist. After three years of working together, I trust her to help me get down into the heart of the real issues: 38 years of mental and emotional habits are hard to break.
I know that healing is not linear. I also know that I need to take this a day at a time.
And I do know that we will all be okay in the end.
That is something, for sure.
I show up in the usual ultrasound department this morning at 6:30, knowing that the first blood draw starts at 6:45.
At 6:45, I’m directed upstairs to the OB/GYN department – apparent there are too many monitoring patients, and for bloodwork only you are seen on the 3rd floor.
I am the first there. They call my name at 7:00 sharp, and I walk in. There are two phlebotomists in the office, one all business, the other quietly waiting by the chairs.
What test? The business one asks me.
Pregnancy, I respond. I nearly choke on the word in my throat.
The quiet one asks me, How are you today?
I admit: It’s not one of my better days. As I roll up the sleeve on my left arm, I point out the pinhead scar on the vein from so many other draws. Think you can work around this? Or do you want to draw from my other arm?
She confirms she can work from it, there’s another vein in that arm that looks good.
And as she’s putting the needle in, she asks me, so kindly: How many is this?
I pause. I have no idea. I don’t know, I say. I’ve lost count. But we did get lucky once – I have a son who is going to be 6 next month.
She finishes my draw, gives me the pad to hold to the vein, and then tapes me up. And she says something which I can’t remember now. Probably empathetic and sweet and nice, because she was the first person who has taken my blood that has really asked me how I am. And I really have the sense she CARES about my response.
But all I can hear, as I’m putting my sweater and coat back on, is her question.
How many is this?
I really have no idea.
How many cycles, how much hope lost, how many embryos squandered?
How much suffering, how much loss?
The tears come unbidden. I can’t stop them – it’s all I can do to get down the three flights of stairs to the main lobby so I can escape into the winter air. I manage to get to my car before completely breaking down.
We started this second round of treatments almost 4 years ago. Of course we’d get pregnant again; after all, we fixed my uterus with surgery and then got pregnant and had our son at term – 37 weeks. It was resolved – we fixed Ute.
But here I am – however many cycles later. With no baby to show for it.
I know it was a fight worth fighting; it’s our FAMILY, after all. But if I had known that we’d lose the war, I would have stopped a long, long time ago.
Because this time around, it’s affected everything. My marriage, my happiness, my identity, my dreams, my hopes, my fears; the very foundation of who I am and what I believe.
I used to believe that if you worked hard enough, you’d succeed. I used to believe that there were battles worth fighting. I used to believe that infertility might bring me and my husband closer together. I used to believe that infertility helped make my heart bigger; it gave me a huge reservoir of empathy and gratitude for where I did get Lucky. I used to believe that if you put something out into the universe, you’d get it eventually, even if it wasn’t in the form you expected.
Today, though, I don’t know that I believe in any of it. I loathe my body. There’s a chasm between my husband and I that I’m not sure we can ever bridge. I have so little control over anything in this life.
And I sometimes want to smack the little girl inside me who thinks that by wishing on a fucking star, I’ll make my wishes come true.
We worked so hard to make our dreams come true.
So hard, we lost count.
I’m not sure if any of you even reads this blog anymore.
What happened last spring: I was heartbroken, tired of writing about heartbreak, and I had a falling out with someone over a post I had written in this space.
I felt like I couldn’t write here anymore, I felt as if I needed space. And time. And distance.
And I had another blog anyway – using my real name. It was about running and parenting and I linked it to Bacefook and thought maybe I’d try my hand at writing as the REAL me.
I’m not sure if it’s surprising to any of you, but I have a really hard time writing there. Mostly because I use my writing as a way to work things/issues/problems out.
And in that space, when I’m writing something, I have this question I can’t shake. Who cares?
Really, who cares?
SO many people post to Bacefook about their plans and hopes and dreams, only to have people “like” and move on. There are so many voices out there, all yelling to be heard.
What then, is the point, of putting my point of view out there?
And over the past year or so, I’ve had people comment here, wondering how things were for me, wondering about our leftover embryos, wondering how me, Charlie, and Lucky were doing.
So last fall I ran another marathon. I had an amazing training cycle, nothing hurt, it was wonderful and amazing. And on race day, I finished with a 45 minute personal best. Our dog, Happy, is growing, and aside from the times he’s a complete butthole, is turning into a wonderful, stinky, goofy, happy dog. Lucky started kindergarten, is learning how to read, and incessantly tells us stories about the amazing things that Bear can do.
And we used up the remaining three embryos we had left in two separate cycles. Both cycles were BFNs.
In fact, I got the last BFN this very morning; at 14dpo, after a night of insomnia where I just kind of KNEW. So this morning I made it official: I photographed the snowy white HPT, and threw away all my meds.
We have reached the very End of Family Building. We are done. There are no more embryos. There will be no more treatments, no what-ifs.
In a lot of respects, the end of treatments is a relief. This last cycle, in particular, was a pain in the ass. It was delayed by nearly two weeks because my uterine lining wasn’t thick enough to meet the clinic’s minimum criteria. And my clinic had a flood, which meant that they weren’t doing transfers and retrievals at New Clinic – instead they leased space at Old Clinic. We ended up back at our old clinic for our last transfer. In fact, we had a bit of a run in with our old doctor, Dr. Hang-In-There, on the day of transfer.
Full fucking circle, indeed.
I’m not surprised it didn’t work. I’m not even heartbroken. There was no more heart to break, no real hope left for us, not really.
And I’ll admit it: I have spent much of the past number of months feeling alone. I am one of the few bloggers left who was able to have one child through treatments, but not have any others. It’s an in-between kind of hell, honestly – when you have a child, you can’t escape other families, all of whom seem to have multiple children, very easily. You are forced to confront lots of pregnant bellies at daycare, at school, at playdates. There are always questions, Is he your only? or How many kids do you have?
And there are people in the grocery store who have actually said to Charlie, when seeing how good he is with Lucky, You are a great dad, and you need to have more kids.
Seriously, people? SERIOUSLY?
So to cope, I’ve been searching out people in my real life who have older kids and have announced that they are done with family building so I’m not taken by surprise when they are pregnant again. I have actually sought out people with one child, usually older, and have asked them how they feel about having an only child, in order to suss out whether or not they want to have more. It’s been kind of ridiculous.
But what I’ve discovered over the past few months, too?
The more I talk with women who HAVE completed their families, the more I’m starting to see that I am NOT alone. My grief over the End of Family Building is shared by so many other women – even the ones who have completed their families. I talk with so many women who STILL, even now, look at babies and sigh in longing, remembering what it was like to have a little person so completely helpless and dependent on you.
It’s intimacy on the most pure level, those first few months with your baby.
And it makes sense that all women would feel strongly about letting that go; regardless of whether or not they feel like their family is complete.
The more I’ve talked with women, and discovered they feel similarly to me, the less alone I feel.
The less alone I feel, the more peace I feel about The End of Family Building.
Because instead of seeing it as a choice I was forced into making, I can see it as the natural progress of being female. At one point or another, we ALL come to the point of the End of Family Building, and we are forced to start a new chapter in our lives.
I feel like maybe by focusing on what I DO have – an amazing almost 6 year old, a good man as a husband, a loving dog, a career that affords us financial security and opportunity – that the next chapter will be full enough that I won’t feel as if we are missing something.
So that’s where I am, right now. And though I can’t promise anything, I think I’d like to use this space again for working things out, particularly as it relates to this new chapter. Because I am left with so many questions, after nearly 9 years of trying to complete our family.
Who am I? What will this life – the one I have right now – look like? What do I need to do to find lasting contentment in what I have, and how can I make our life as full as possible?
I hope you all are well.
I suppose I’m having a mini-blog identity crisis right now.
It’s not that I have nothing to talk about.
But it’s that I have nothing, really, to TALK about.
Lucky’s accidents are still present. We had a wonderous weekend when he turned 5 with NO ACCIDENTS AT ALL! Fairies danced and sang and his watch buzzed and he actually LISTENED to it and there was not ONE pee stain on his pants.
For two glorious days, I believed that maybe, MAYBE he had decided he was done peeing in his pants for good.
… and then reality set in.
He hasn’t figured out that he actually has to WORK at this Keeping His Underwear Dry thing. And Charlie and I, quite literally, can do nothing to help him. He has a watch that buzzes at set intervals during his day. And it’s his choice as to whether or not he uses the bathroom.
I cannot do the wet underwear/freakout/power struggle/frustration cycle any more. Yes, we’ve tried pretty much everything. And no, it’s never worked for long.
So we’re basically doing the preschooler equivalent of tough love.
Figure it out, kid.
Work is fucking busy. I like this client but there’s WAY more work than I can get through in a 40 hour week, much less reduced hours. So I’m basically adding hours to my weeks with work; instead of a day off I end up working a couple of hours. I feel like I’m juggling and juggling and nothing gets done. Not bills, not chores, not anything.
Running is great. Like awesome great. I’m back at the gym doing strengthwork. I’m running in the double digits comfortably. I am squeezing runs in whenever I can – and it’s no matter if I leave my house at 4:30 in the morning with no food, or 6:15 after a day of family parties where I ate WAYYYY too much and hydrated far too little. My runs are consistent, and pretty good. And I had my first speedwork session where I hit a pace I never thought I was capable of. And it’s only MARCH!
I’m getting plenty of baby time; this weekend I got to put my BFF’s 5 month old son to bed. And I cannot tell you the utter happiness I felt the moment he looked up, his eyes heavy with sleep, and cooed and smiled around his pacifier. I swear, I burst into a million pieces from happiness from one little coo and a smile.
Babies are so awesome.
I did have a moment this weekend at a family party where I realized that my new nephew and Charlie’s cousin’s new baby would have only been a few months older than mine, had I stayed pregnant. It made my eyes sting with tears.
But then I went home and ran 4 miles and remembered the moment my BFF’s son smiled and cooed at me around his pacifier.
This life is pretty damn good, too.
Busy, but good.
I used to think that if I had a magic wand I’d wish myself a baby.
I need more time. I need another 6 hours in any given day.
With 6 more hours, I can create a budget for our family to know whether or not I can stay home next year if Lucky doesn’t get a full day kindergarten spot. I mean, we’ll figure it out if I CAN’T stay home. But I’d like to. I just have no idea if it’s even an option at this point.
With 6 more hours, I can blog more. About what? I have no idea. But with more time, I might have more ideas percolate up and the time to sketch them into the computer.
With 6 more hours, I can actually FOLD the laundry that’s piled up in the laundry room and change Lucky’s sheets (we’re going on, what, 3 weeks now) and have them washed and folded and pay all the non-routine bills like my speeding ticket and Charlie’s parking tickets.
With 6 more hours, I spend time figuring out what it is I actually want to DO with my life. I have some ideas, but no TIME to develop them.
With 6 more hours, I can catch up on the sleep I lost do Daylight Savings Insomnia.
Alas, the days are not 30 hours long.
So here I am. I am sorry I’ve been an awful blogger. I AM going to do my best to be around more. Promise.
Not the best way I wanted to welcome you all in to my blog, but it is what it is, eh?
Shockingly, this is my first time participating in IComLeavWe. I am a long time blogger – been blogging since 2006. We have an awesome son, Lucky, who will be five in March. And I just got the news last week that my pregnancy (FET #6, I think?) for who we call Mythical #2 was not viable. I stopped my meds on Wednesday night and am still waiting for this to be over.
So. Um. This will likely be a doozy of a week.
Anyway, welcome to my little corner of the world.
He will always be my baby, no matter how big he gets.