The War on Negativity

I’ve decided to issue a moratorium on bitterness, resentment and fear.

I know I’m far from alone in having been subjected to these terrorizing emotions for so long, it seems they’ve taken over every waking second of our lives. I know we’ve been struggling, grappling, trying to make sense of it all and desperate to regain some sense of our former, happier, selves. Like a wounded animal, we retreat to solitary confinement as it feels like our hearts become blacker and shrink with every month, every year, that goes by without our most fervent dream becoming reality: motherhood.

I feel like I keep slipping and sliding around in the muck that my emotional, mental and physical “well-being” has become – a misnomer, at this point, because I obviously DON’T feel well. I haven’t felt well in a really long time. I don’t sleep well, I don’t eat well, I’m angry all the time. I’m jealous, bitter, resentful, sad, scared – all the time. I don’t do anything I used to enjoy doing. I don’t go anywhere. I avoid people. I avoid leaving the confines of my little cocoon of self-imposed isolation because it’s too scary “out there”. I feel trapped in a prison of my own making.

And I’m so sick and tired of feeling this way.

It’s easy for me to blame it on my circumstances, on infertility, on my ensuing isolation, on the words and actions (or lack thereof) of others. I’ve been stewing in a sense of failure, of self-loathing, for so long that I apparently stopped fighting back. At some point, it felt like everything got to be too much; my world caved in and I got buried under all the rubble. I lost my sense of self, I lost the belief that I have skills, talents, and that I’m a good person. I let the actions and words of others define who I was, who I became, because I felt like I was fighting a war on so many fronts that I just got too damn tired to swim against the stream. We have no support, no one to turn to – so I convinced myself that it was all our fault: our fault that we couldn’t get pregnant; our fault that people we put our trust in deceived us; our fault that we’re hurting, angry, sad and alone.

The truth is that I’m at a crossroads, and I have a choice to make. I can keep feeling like crap, I can keep beating myself up, I can let my inner critic convince me that it’s my fault we don’t have any children yet, it’s my fault that we might not be able to, it’s my fault this, that and the other. I can get angry at the world, angry at everyone else’s fecundity, IVF coverage, supportive relationships. I can throw in the towel and just exist in a vacuum of misery that will become a never-ending pity party. I can wait for my marriage to disintegrate because I can’t snap out of it, I can drag my husband down with me as every ounce of love is drained from my heart because everything is dark, angry and bitter – and watch him blame himself for not being able to help me, to make me feel better. I can keep beating myself up about my shortcomings and comparing myself to others with the end result that I feel bad. I can let things I have no control over make me feel like I’m weak. I can despair to the point where I stop getting out of bed altogether.

OR…

I can stop fighting with myself. I can stop pretending. I can stop lying to myself. I can stop comparing myself to others, berating myself for the choices I’ve made. I can stop thinking, and feeling, like not being perfect or not having the same way of doing something as someone else makes me worthless. I can stop hating myself for the fact that my life isn’t exactly the way I thought it would turn out. I can stop judging others just because they’re not having to walk a mile or three million in my shoes, because they haven’t had the same experiences, because they don’t care, because they don’t get it, because they’re doing/saying things that hurt me.  I can stop blaming myself for the things others say and do because, really, it’s not my fault and it’s not something I can change. At the end of the day:

“Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die.”

Some days, I feel like I’m dying – both emotionally and physically. I feel raw, I feel beaten down to the point that I don’t even want to try to get up anymore. I just want to tap out. I know those feelings won’t just go away. I know I’m not suddenly going to wake up tomorrow, a reformed pessimist suddenly chipper like I’ve had a lobotomy or a Walt Disney makeover. But I realized, with strange clarity, that I’ve been playing the victim – instead of actually remembering that I’m not weak; I’m not pathetic; I’m not hopeless, hapless, stupid, or a failure.

I’m human.

A few days ago, I got really worked up about a site that I felt had a bunch of posts by women who’ve clearly never had their reproductive abilities called into question. I was so angry at what I felt was a set of completely insensitive, selfish posts that showed absolutely ZERO consideration for women who struggle to conceive. But then I thought – hold on a minute. Why am I getting so angry? This site is clearly run by women who don’t have these problems. Why should they think about infertility when it obviously hasn’t touched their lives? I mean, you don’t see me writing posts about Asperger’s, to throw out some random medical condition. It’s my choice whether or not I read these types of things – so getting angry about something that, technically, I’m not the target audience for is just plain ridiculous. It’s also pointless, because the end result is inevitably detrimental to ME.

I feel like having a family should be considered an inalienable, constitutional right – and that, consequently, all 50 states should be required to carry mandatory IVF insurance. However, the fact that this isn’t actually the case and that the current state of affairs makes me angry does absolutely nothing to change MY situation. I don’t live in a state that has IVF insurance, nor is IVF covered by our medical insurance – not even a portion of it, no cap, nada. But this doesn’t make my situation unique at all – I know there are many others who are in exactly the same boat. It also doesn’t mean that I should get angry at other IFers who do have IVF coverage – it’s not their fault that, apparently, our society considers it more important for a guy to be able to have a boner than for a woman to be able to get pregnant. 

I realized, these past couple of days, that I am so incredibly lucky to have had some wonderful experiences in my life, to have choices and freedoms, to have a roof over my head. I have a husband who loves me to the end of the earth. My life is far from perfect, and I myself am definitely a work in progress. But I know I’m not alone – even if it feels like it. I know that there’s hope, somewhere, out there, for all of us. We can’t know which bend in the road will lead to the next chapter in our lives, but I’m tired of feeling consumed with negativity. I’m tired of getting worked up, seething silently and letting all this crap fester as it chips away at my very soul.

So I’m just going to keep working on ME and try to change my perception of the world around me. I’m going to try to remind myself that I have a choice of how I’m going to receive information and how I’m going to deal with it. Instead of focusing on all the things that make me unhappy, I’m going to focus on the things that make me happy – and work on finding more positive ways to deal with the things I struggle with. Because, at the end of the day, I don’t want to end up being a mother who can’t find the good in small things, the sunshine in spite of the rain, the proverbial silver lining.

Carpe Diem, my friends!!

PS: It goes without saying that reserve the right to occasionally think that someone is a total a$$hat and deserves to be poked in the eye with a really hot french fry rolled in ghost peppers. I’m not bucking for sainthood.

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Craving Contentedness

I’ve had one of those days that doesn’t exactly leave me brimming with happiness, but I feel content as I sit down to write this post. 

Nothing special happened today – in fact, I actually spent most of the morning with a headache that required self-medication (which I hate, of course). But I did quite a few typically housewifey things:

  • left the house early to get groceries (and tried not to bawl when I passed the three million assorted schools and the ubiquitous yellow school buses on the way there)
  • had some really yummy coffee at home, which was great because I saved both the gas and surcharge that a coffee house concoction would’ve required (and tried not to worry too much about whether or not this indulgence keeps me from getting pregnant – I’m pretty sure it’s not but the guilt is still there); 
  • did several loads of laundry (and tried to ignore that there’s still no maternity or baby clothes in the hamper)
  • made the usual meals throughout the day (and tried not to think about what I might be doing if we had kids – such as PBJs with the crust cut off, or a fresh smoothie because soda is just a no-no in our house)
  • took out the trash (and tried not to notice that there are no broken-down diaper boxes in our recycling)

Yep, all glamour and glory for me! 

Still…I tried not to let myself get too sad and upset today. The old adage that idle hands are the devil’s workshop seems very apropos to me lately, as staying busy obviously gives me something to think about that’s not the constant whine of WHERE THE HELL ARE MY BABIES? 

Ahem.

At different points throughout the day, I thought about how incredibly lucky I am. I have so much to be thankful and grateful for. I have freedom. 

Of course even staying busy can’t quite keep those thoughts completely silent. When I made myself a sandwich at lunch, my hands moved as if guided by automation as my thoughts traveled to the inevitable. What would I be doing, right this minute, if we had children? In my mind, I heard a little voice calling “mooooooom!” – and I flinched a little, because it’s just in my head. I imagined a child that came into the kitchen, hugging me, maybe looking for something or hungry. Of course – I’m a mom-in-waiting. I’m a SAHM* – I’m just missing “my” kids. Are the back-ordered? Out of stock? I don’t know, no one is telling me anything. I know I ordered them; I even checked with my husband. He’s just as mystified as I am. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be a complaints department; no 1-800 number we can call to check on the status of our missing children. We’re supposed to keep throwing money at the problem, but no one can tell us if and when our missing children will come home. 

Sigh.

Still, today has been a pretty decent day. I decided that I’m going to make truffles next week to give to my Valentine (let’s face it, he deserves some laborious chocolates that were lovingly prepared by his wife in an attempt not to think about babies every second of every hour of every day of every week of every month of every year). I’ve never made any before – they always seemed like such a messy hassle and, how can I say this? I’m not that good at following directions. <chuckles> 

We never go out on Valentine’s Day. I know my husband would if I really wanted to. He’d put on a suit and take me out to a fancy restaurant – well, if there were any around here (which there aren’t – not unless you reaaaaaally stretch you’re definition of “fine dining”, and even then the closest “real” restaurant is at least an hour away). We’ve actually never gone out on Valentine’s Day. It’s not that we have some kind of objection to it – we write each other cards, there’s usually a box of decent chocolates (no Walmart cheapos for me, thank you very much!) and flowers. Unless it happens to be on a weekend, he has to work that day anyway – so we just cuddle up after dinner and I force him to watch a cheezy chick flick with me (totally evil, I know). 

This year, however, I’ve decided that I want to do something special for him. He’s been such a rock for me – these past few years especially – and I think he really deserves a special effort. Even if it means that I might be smeared in chocolate, cocoa, dusted with confectioner’s sugar and wearing coconut flakes in my hair.

I flipped through the different culinary tomes in our house to find a recipe and make a list of things I need to get. One of my absolute favorite books is one called Crave – literally all about chocolate. I’ve only made one dessert from it so far because it’s a pretty big, heavy hardcover book, which makes it a little cumbersome to use. Last year, my husband actually made me a birthday cake from one of my Barefoot Contessa cookbooks (I’m sure I don’t even need to mention how totally jealous I am of her life in the Hamptons – all that amazing, fresh, local organic produce…and the cheeses! Oh, for the love of God!) – and let’s just say that I was not only impressed but I haven’t forgotten that he made such a loving effort for me.

So I figured, who doesn’t love truffles? I think that I’ll probably keep it simple and not too decadent for my first foray into the art of making chocolates – though it’s something that I could probably learn to enjoy. Incidentally, that’s one many, many, many of the reasons I kind of wish we lived in or near a big city (that and having a choice of REs. Yeah, that would really help right about now) – that way I could just take a bunch of classes and become a culinary genius, pottery expert, cheese connaisseur etc. You know: if I’m going to throw money at a problem, why not for something that’ll endure no matter where this winding road takes us?

(Sidebar: I also like watching the Pioneer Woman sometimes – but omg, I really just could NOT live in the middle of nowhere like that, I’d go bat$hit crazy. And while I’m on the subject of PW, what’s with the driving to a different building to cook? Also, how much, exactly, is “a good amount”? Mmmmm? Because I don’t have any measuring cups or spoons that measure in good or bad amounts. But aside from that, I think she should have another show for child-rearing advice – her kids seem really well-behaved and well-rounded. Of course that might have something to do that they’re probably too doggone tired at the end of the day to cause much of a fuss.)

Anyway.

Of course this is yet another occasion where I lament my fossilized social life. I mean, how totally fun would it be to get a bunch of girls together around my big farm table, with lots of laughs, and make an assortment of truffles for our hubbies together? It’s times like these that I miss having girlfriends the most – well, you know, aside from those times when I have a meltdown because my babies are still MIA. (I know, I know – stating the obvious again.) But the truth is that, more than just craving the sort of basic contentedness I miss so much in my somewhat self-imposed isolation, what I want most is to be around other women who struggle with primary infertility. I want to be able to dole out support and encouragement, get advice – and, most importantly perhaps, feel understood. Where is THAT reality tv show??

Sometimes I read about these women who met as teens or in college – and decades later, they’re not only still friends, but the actually make the time and effort to get together regularly even if they all live in different states. I totally envy that – but the truth that’s never discussed in those articles is what kind of resources that takes. I mean, you need to have some disposable income to begin with – and enough to pay for things like airfare, hotel etc. You know, unless you want to cram half a dozen people into a single room and pretend it’s a sleepover LOL Somehow, I just don’t think sleepovers are quite as exciting in your 30s and beyond as they were when you were a tween/teen.

Well, either way, I’m calling today a winner: I didn’t feel like screaming at anyone; I didn’t bawl; I didn’t feel like putting a fist through the tv (which, btw, would be completely out of character for me – I don’t believe in or condone violence – even against inanimate objects that totally have it coming); I didn’t hyperventilate or have a panic attack. I wish I had more days like today, so here’s hoping that tomorrow will be at least this good. 🙂

 

* SAHM = stay at home mom. Can’t remember where I read that – must’ve been in another lifetime. It all seems so unreal to me these days…

Get Healthy Challenge 2014

Ah, Sunday. This most conflicting day of the week. It’s the day before you have to go back to school as a child or to work as an adult. It’s the day where plans for the week ahead are forged – but also the day where you sleep in with your sweetie and have a nice, leisurely breakfast or brunch. Steaming waffles, a nice strong cup of coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice, and maybe a newspaper or other weekly item to peruse at length.

For me, it’s one of the few days that I can spend some quality time with my husband. It’s also a day where I sit down to make a lot of lists – for the week, the month, and just general bullet points on my endless list of things to do, ever.

The first item on today’s agenda is my desire to participate in a fellow blogger’s Get Healthy Challenge 2014. I’m still trying to figure out exactly how it’s supposed to work, but one thing I do know is that it couldn’t be more apropos for the things that I desperately really, truly want and need to get done this year. I was especially drawn to her contemplation about the mind/body connection – in so far as “getting healthy” isn’t just about losing weight but also about tending to your emotional well-being. As I’m rather flailing in both areas, this challenge is just what I need to keep me focused on the big picture by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable bite-sized tasks.

In the past, I’ve been rather…ineffective at enforcing my own New Year’s Resolutions. I actually happened across an old list from something like 20 years ago just last month – and it was both laughable and shocking that I still, unbelievably, want to get many of the same things done. The ubiquitous “get healthy/lose weight” is an obvious one – that’s pretty much been the headliner for, oh I don’t know, 25 years (sad, I know). Coming up behind it is the whole carpe diem, goosfraba deal – meaning my perennial desire to dissolve my negative feelings and accept myself and those around me with more grace and calm (you know, without resorting to a super-size helping of narcotics).

I decided to write my updates – to see how the week has treated me – and weekly goals on Sundays instead of Fridays: what challenges I faced, overcame (hopefully there won’t be too much drama as the result of the inevitable setting of lofty goals until I actually figure out what I can, realistically, tackle and accomplish inside of a week), and what’s on the table for the next week.

So as I am preparing to launch myself into a goal-driven challenge to help me keep my eye on the proverbial ball (instead of, you know, constantly freaking out about the mountain of things I should do but am too petrified, worried, anxious and cranky to deal with), I received a message from a cantankerous family member with whom I have not spoken in some time. Said person has caused a great deal of heartache in our lives and was therefore expedited to the emotional version of Siberia – because, honestly, as I’m approaching 40 in the next couple of years, I really have less and less desire to deal with emotional vampires and people who constantly act like your heart is their own personal trampoline. I’m still smarting from the tone and wording – clearly designed to aggravate and guilt me into a response, which I have decided is not only beneath me but not worth the time and effort to compose.

Of course there’s a little “secret” behind this – a confession that pains me to make but that, in light of preparing for this challenge, I know I have to own. The truth is that I hate conflict of any kind. I hate arguing. I hate the mere fact of not getting along with someone. I’m the product of many unpleasant experiences that involved being yelled at, beaten, chastised, humiliated and otherwise being generally treated like the square peg that wouldn’t fit in the round hole. The overall message was that I wasn’t pretty enough, smart enough, skinny enough, to be loved without some major “renovation” and caveats. Needless to mention, I’m still trying to rise above things that happened a long time ago – and even just admitting them in the first place makes me want to run away and hide under a rock while meekly pleading to be informed of if and when the storm has passed.

Because of all those experiences, I always tried to be nice to everyone. I tried so, so hard to be pleasing, to be “good” – whatever such a subjective term can ever mean. And I fell for promises and assurances over and over. I trembled and walked over metaphoric eggshells for years and years – always tacitly trying to maintain the frail balance for whatever period of time was granted until there was another blow-out. Each time the tears came, hot and salty, I swore to myself that it was the last time: the last time I would try, the last time I would believe, the last time I would let someone else treat me like I wasn’t good enough.

But reading the experiences by so many others in the last few months, I’ve realized two things. First, Eleanor Roosevelt was right: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” – and that consent has just expired, been revoked and will not be renewed. Second, I am done with trying to please and appeased people who do nothing of the sort for me. I won’t bore you to tears with the tedium that has been almost my entire life – with family members who treated me like garbage, or who were nice just long enough to get what they wanted and then went all Jekyll and Hyde on me. I AM DONE. I’m not going to placate someone else insecurities that they chose to abuse on me. I’m not going to be conned into trying to maintain relationships where I’m the one always trying to be nice, trying to do the right thing, trying to help and put myself out there for people who – clearly – by their words and actions have long since demonstrated just how little they truly care about us. And while I know that this will be an uphill battle for me, that I will struggle with conflicting emotions, that sadness and regret will wash over me periodically, I know that it’s time I actively work to overcome this lifelong struggle.

So, without further ado, here are my Get Healthy Challenge 2014 goals for this coming week:

  1. No tv during the weekdays (and only 1 hour per weekend day).
  2. Make the phone calls and appointments I’ve been dreading for months.
  3. No caffeine on weekdays other than in herbal tea (meaning no coffee, chocolate etc).
  4. Deal with emotional turmoil and/or adversity through creativity (writing/journaling) and diversion (chores, bubble bath, walk the pups)
  5. Do some type of physical activity each day, even if it’s just for 15 minutes.
  6. Try or do something new.
  7. Take my supplements every day.

I decided to pick 7 items to correspond with 7 days in a week – not because I plan to do those things only on one day (some obviously apply to the whole week) but because I wasn’t sure how many goals to pick…and this seemed like a befitting number. I think #3 is going to be the hardest because, omg, I love my coffee. Did I say love? I meant I’m mildly obsessed with it. I mean…just opening a bag or can of the current favorite and deeply inhaling the scents wafting up…it’s like nirvana for me. It’s the thing that I relate to relaxation the most – the one thing that makes me feel like I can get through a tough spot. But I also know that (a) I’m consuming way too much caffeine (which is especially ironic given that I absolutely never have or do drink sodas); (b) I might as well ween myself off it before we even find a new RE because, eventually, when (yes, my instinct wasn’t to write if for a change!!) I get pregnant, I’m not going to be able to guzzle the stuff at the current rate anyway.

In line with the whole challenge idea, DH and I also agreed to make time to have lunch together once a week. It the past year, it’s been more like once a quarter – partly due to his hectic schedule but also in consideration of the added expense of eating out. We used to love going out for dinner – the dressing up, the ambiance, maybe a cocktail if it was appropriate. But in recent years we’ve all but become social recluses, as we both recoil from anything that could open us up to questions about our continued childlessness – not to mention the inevitable heartache of thinking we’ll have a nice, quiet and romantic dinner – only to be surrounded by families. (Sidebar: I can so, totally relate to this blogger’s post about almost crying in the grocery store – because I’ve had those moments in virtually every. single. public. location. It’s unbelievable and shocking – even when it’s happened more than once – how gut-wrenchingly painful some of these moments can be; and how hard you have to fight the tears. I’ve had moments where I tasted bile in my mouth and seriously thought I would actually, no kidding, vomit in a public venue. NOT something I would like to experience, e-v-e-r, if I can avoid it.)

Of course this brings me to an issue that I keep meaning to address and that I keep, ahem, failing to deal with in a – shall we say – “mature” way: I am way, way too stressed out. I mean, I have anxiety in the capacity of a medical condition. I’ve taken anti-anxiety medication and anti-depressants at various points in the last few years – until I decided that I didn’t want to live a life where I had to rely on medication for anything that wasn’t immediately life threatening. Of course the truth is that, at this point, my ticker is decidedly unhappy with me – and the heart palpitations have become disturbingly frequent, so that when I lie in bed at night, I sometimes have a hard time falling asleep just because my heart is pounding like a jackhammer, thundering in my ears to such an extent that I’m tempted to yell “keep the damn noise down!”. 

It goes without saying that I know what’s to blame. I know I need to get out more. I know I need to stop worrying about things that I can’t do a darn thing about. I know I need to think less and act more – which may sound like a bad idea, if you weren’t someone like me who has a propensity  slight tendency to overthink, like, everything. If you’ve ever seen the movie “I Don’t Know How She Does It”, you’ll probably know what I mean: lying in bed, staring holes into the ceiling and making lists. Only – I completely disagree that this is something particular to the working mom. I think it’s specific to a type of person – someone who (a) worries too much and (b) isn’t that good at prioritizing actionable items on their to-do list. In other words, I know that I need to work very hard to overcome my tendency to worry rather than tackle.

Rather than worrying about the nastygram I received and the fear of whatever may be lurking behind it, I’m going to write it off. I’m not interested in maintaining the relationship’s status quo; and since I know for a fact that trying to have a frank, honest conversation with this person is simply not possible, there is just no avenue to address or redress the issues between us. Which means that, as hard as it is for me and as frustrating as I find it to be in this situation – I have more pressings things commanding my attention and I simply WILL NOT waste my brain power on this, anymore.

Toodeloo! 🙂