Saturday, February 24, 2024

Doing Things Differently

The past couple of weeks since my last post have been a bit of a whirlwind. 

I spent my first full week alone at home, although I stayed in communication with my ex.

I went out on Valentine's Day with a friend. She and I celebrated a belated Galentine's Day by splitting an amazing charcuterie board at a cute little wine bar. I don't like wine and had a cocktail. My friend ordered a non-alcoholic beer. We had so much fun.  

I worked a lot. I worked probably more than I should have considering the energetic demands of the last couple of months but work needed me and I needed work, so that's how that went.

I saw my ex-boyfriend when he came by to pick up something he needed.

And I got covid for the first time.

Seriously. 

I don't know if I caught covid while working, playing, or seeing my ex. But after two years of quarantining, a third year of masking, and a fourth year of staying up to date on booster shots and overcoming the mental blocks I developed over the aforementioned three years... I was pissed I got covid. I hate being sick. I did so much for so long to avoid it.

My ex-boyfriend stayed and took care of me. I'm really grateful. He kept me on a regimen of food, fluids, and over the counter medicine. He didn't feel well either but never tested and didn't get as sick as me. We assume he had it too. I didn't get terribly sick, but I didn't feel well for four days. As of this evening, I'm starting to feel a little better. We are still isolating though. There's not much information, but the CDC still recommends a five-day isolation period. So we're doing that.

This too shall pass.

I didn't do anything for the first three days, and it felt weird. I just ate food, drank fluids, took ibuprofen or acetaminophen, and tried to sleep as much as I could. 

I thought about how if I had kids, I would still have to take care of them even when I'm sick. But I don't have kids, so I don't have to take care of anyone else when I'm sick. Different lives, different problems. Different advantages and disadvantages.

I thought about facing my fears. How you think you could never deal with something but then you're forced to deal with it. You don't have a choice. I really didn't want to get covid and spent four years trying to avoid it. Now I have it. In the bigger picture of my life, I really didn't want to be childless. But here I am. 

I thought about how there's so much I want to do, and I don't take my enthusiasm for granted. There's so much I want to learn. Changing careers mid-life is challenging. I knew my old job extremely well. I had a lot of knowledge and experience. But with a new career, well, I am new. I have a lot of knowledge and experience to gain. Plus, I love what I do. I want to know more. 

I thought about quilts. There are so many quilts I want to make. I know of three quilts I definitely want to finish this year. There are two more on the forefront of my mind that I look forward to starting. And then there's all the rest of my fabric and patterns to keep me entertained, haha.

But I digress... Those were just some thoughts I had. I got sick and couldn't do anything, but I had some time to think about things. And things have been different.

I didn't have a post in mind. I just wanted to write something and check in. The last couple of weeks have been out of the ordinary. But other than being sick, things have been pretty good. Well, different. And even though I'm a creature of habit, different can be good.


Artwork by Pink Shark Scales

Saturday, February 10, 2024

A Valentine for You

The last time I celebrated Valentine's Day was in 2009. It was the last Valentine's Day before my then-boyfriend (now ex-husband) and I got married. He wrote a very thoughtful letter, and it is one of the most memorable gifts I've ever received from a partner. A handwritten letter doesn't cost anything to write and it came from a man of few words, so it was priceless to me.

After we got married, I figured we had our anniversary, Xmas, and our birthdays. I didn't need Valentine's Day too. It was easy not to celebrate a holiday that was never very important to me. After we divorced, even when I had a boyfriend, I never picked the holiday back up. Valentine's Day isn't on my radar screen much. 

But don't get me wrong, I LOVE chocolate and stuffed animals. 

Now that I think about it... Maybe I *should* be celebrating this holiday every year. Maybe I'll start next year. Maybe I'll host a drop-by snacks party for friends to remind everyone I love them.

Ooh, I actually like this idea. Maybe I'll start a tradition for Valentine's. Decorate my house, fill the table with food, and maybe even give away stuffed animals as party favors, haha. I have a lot of love to give. and I might as well share it with my friends. Make some food and invite them over. Valentine's 2025.

Until then, we will celebrate right now. Ourselves and each other.

A Valentine for You. You are loved by me. Be where you are and enjoy the little things.




Tuesday, February 6, 2024

This Anonymous Blog

I've stopped doing Word of the Year. I did it for several years, but my interest in it and feeling connected to the whole idea just decreased. So I let it go. That said, I still love SelfLoveRainbow's word of the year for 2024. You can see the graphic she created for it at the end of this post.

How is your February going?

Mine is okay. A pre-holiday breakup when he is still living here almost two months later is very challenging, but it has also given us time to support each other, communicate, and let go. That all sounds very nice, but it has been very messy and hard.

But infertility taught me to deal with reality and this is my reality right now.

I've always shared honestly here. I've written about my shame with infertility, my embarrassment, my jealous thoughts, and my dark feelings, in addition to my realizations, changes, growth, and renewed enthusiasm. I've tried not to share too many details when writing about others and their stories as I'm writing about my own experiences. I've written about sooo many loved ones (family and friends) and not always in a positive light. For me or for them. But I didn't know how else to deal with infertility. I was at a loss and I was trying to save my life.

I really want this blog to remain anonymous.

(Side note: Does anyone else have a problem with the word hope? It makes me cringe. I went to write, "I really hope this blog remains anonymous," but I am no longer on friendly terms with the word "hope" and it is very difficult for me to write or say it. There's a blog post for another day...)

I really want this blog to remain anonymous.

I have awesome news to share. My proposal to present my research at a national conference was accepted! This means I will get to talk about the international study I got to do about the lived experience of involuntary childlessness after infertility. I am excited to share my research with others, but the best part is this will lead to the research getting published! Then other people can find it, cite it, and build on it!! I am ecstatic. And so, so thankful for the opportunity to conduct research for our community.

So back to my anonymity...

My research is tied to my name. I am the primary author. There is no mention of the blog, but it would not be hard to put the two together if you know of one and discovered the other.

So... If you ever recognize me out there in the world, please protect my blog's anonymity. Feel free to share it as a resource because I have written very honestly and it may help others feel less alone, but please do not connect it with my real name. 

And if my mom or one of my sisters or one of my friends ever does find my blog and read an unfavorable post, I will own up to it. And they will probably give me grace. They all saw me when I was walking death. I'm sure they will allow me this space to grieve and grow.

But it's fine if that never happens! :) I'd like to stay anonymous.

Thank you.



Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Unexpected Moment of Grief

I feel compelled to state the obvious: it's the last day of January 2024. Is it just me or did that month seem to go by pretty fast? I wasn't even having that great of a time and it still flew by. February tomorrow. Huh. How about that.

I've written so much about how far I've come from my devastation of not being able to raise children. I like to share what changes I've made and what makes me happy. I like to share that I like my life. But I also like to be real. And the truth is that I still grieve. Something will trigger my pain and then I feel the losses that come throughout life when you're involuntarily childless.

Someone showed me a picture the other day. It was someone I know very well that showed it to me. I thought they'd know better. The picture was of a baby of someone else I know very well that is now grown up. I'd never seen a picture of them as a baby. I burst into tears. 

Whoa. Didn't see that coming... 

But, I know I'm low on emotional resources these days. Plus, I'm in my season of grief, that time of year where I was undergoing IVF nine years ago. The body remembers. I give myself grace. 

You know what I did. I felt my sadness, and I let myself cry without judgment. Then the moment really did pass. It took an hour or two, but that was it. Things like that no longer incapacitate me.

But I want to acknowledge that the moments of grief still happen.

And time marches on.





Thursday, January 18, 2024

Keep Reaching Out

Support is rarely a one time thing. During hard times, we need continual bursts of it.

I'm in a mood where I feel less-than-great. I think I'm feeling anxious, uncertain. Sad.

So I reached out to two different friends via text. One friend is my most recent best friend from where I used to live. I've been lucky to have her in my life for 11 years now even though we actually met for the first time by chance back in 1998. The other friend is my best friend from high school. We lost touch for many years but reconnected through mutual friends, and I am so glad we did. Both these women are awesome! And they knew what to say to support me this morning.

Gahhh this time period of my life sucks so much AND I am feeling very thankful. I have cultivated great support in my life. And also?... This is, by far, NOT the worst thing I've been through. 

So there's that.

But it can be hard to reach out. We feel annoying or like a burden or a broken record. Whatever. Reach out anyway. We need the support and our loved ones want to support us.

*****

Here's something I finished a couple of days ago. It's my first quilt top of 2024, and it's flannel.

This quilt top represents a lot to me because I hadn't been sewing as much since the summer.

One of the significant issues in my most recent relationship was his young adult son who lived with us as an opportunity to save some money but did nothing to contribute to the household or move forward as an individual in society. I don't want to say too much because my experience involves other people's stories, but I will say this: it was driving me crazy!!! As a former teacher and current healthcare professional, not to mention as a childless not-by-choice woman, it was extremely difficult for me to live with someone in my own house who was given multiple opportunities to move forward in life and chose not to.

Plus, he was staying in my sewing room, which is why I had not been sewing as much. I sacrificed my creative space for six months to give him a place to live, which I was glad to do... When I thought he was going to go back to school or enlist in the military or do some job training, all things he said he was going to do. Folks... He did none of the above. 

Did I mention that this was the third time I'd lived with this young man in the last five years?

O. M. G. Living with other people's children (and parenting) is so hard. 

So, anyway, long story short (and I am really abbreviating this painful story)...
I wanted a family. I thought my boyfriend and his son could be my family.
But I realized they are not. They are not my family. 

So the kid moved out and I got my sewing room back. I've been sewing so much more. And reorganizing my fabric. It's healing while my life goes through yet another transformation.

*****

In summary, text your friends. Call your family. Send an email. Write a letter. It's whatever you choose. Just reach out. We don't have to go through hard times all alone.

Also, be honest with yourself. Especially when it's hard. This is where reaching out to a loved one can also help. We can hear ourselves think when we talk to others.

And finally, find an activity where you can get lost in the flow. We can't think all of the time.

*****

Here are some more blocks for the international sew-a-long for my Alice in Wonderland quilt:

The Dormouse at the Tea Party

&

Some Cake for the Tea Party.


Friday, January 12, 2024

Coping with Trauma Anniversaries

Yesterday marked nine years since my first IVF did not result in pregnancy. I woke up very groggy and dragged myself out of bed. I felt out of sorts and had a rather short, yet cathartic, cry. I had plans to do something fun by myself, but I didn't feel like doing it. I made myself go do it anyway, and I'm glad I did. (See last pic below.) I still didn't feel great but it was better than not going. For a lot of reasons. Out of the house, fresh air, exercise...

Today I woke up, and I didn't feel groggy. Didn't have to drag myself out of bed. Didn't cry and didn't need to. Ran a couple of errands and completed a couple of tasks. Functioning was easier.

It's so interesting how the physical body stores trauma. 


What do you do when you don't know what to do with yourself?

I've been doing a lot of coloring lately. By the end of the day, it's all I can do. It doesn't require thought and it's colorful. It relaxes me and cheers me up at the same time. However, I don't recommend the coloring books that are marketed for adults. Those pictures are too detailed. I prefer the coloring books that are mass produced for kids (but not any kinds related to commercial characters). Those pictures are fun without requiring too much detail. A crayon will do. No need to bust out a sharpened colored pencil.



Where do you struggle? 

Laundry? Dishes? Errands? (Give yourself grace; we all struggle somewhere.) 
For me, it's cooking. But I want to make more meals at home. I was happy when I made this simple dinner this week. I boiled and drained Fettucine noodles. Then I added a jar of pre-made Alfredo sauce and some freshly grated Parmesan. Baked it in the oven at 350 for 30 minutes. Topped with more Parmesan and served with Caesar salad made from a salad kit. Easy, delicious, and affordable.


What activity makes you feel at peace?

What can you do where on even your worst day you can think, "Well, this doesn't totally suck."
Do more of that.

Sunday, January 7, 2024

Getting Through & Reaching Out

I am going to get right to the point. I am going through a breakup. And it sucks. I hate it so, so much. I love companionship, and I don't love change. Plus, we aren't breaking up because we stopped loving each other. We are going our separate ways because of a (kinda long) list of things we could not work through together. It's really sad and hard.

So that is what I am going through. That is what colored my holidays. And it's what is affecting me on a daily basis right now. In some ways, it feels harder than my divorce.

But I'm not here to talk about the details of my relationship or its breakup. I am here to share how supportive my friends and family have been.

It is the complete opposite of what I experienced with infertility, failed treatments, and divorce.

When I didn't let anyone in.

During infertility, I was so embarrassed and ashamed. With failed treatments, I was devastated and hopeless. With divorce, I didn't know what to say. I was always private about the big stuff.

But now? I am struggling. And I have learned that I don't have to struggle in shame or silence. 

I don't even have to have any words in the moment. I can make a phone call and say "hello." I can send a text and say "hey." And when people reply, I can share what I am going through: a very, very painful breakup. That allows my family and friends to know what's going on and to be there for me.

I don't fault myself for not being open about infertility and failed treatments when I was going through it all. I couldn't be open back then. But I can be open now. And it is providing the much needed support that I deserve and that my loved ones want to give. 

Not to mention, several people have opened their homes to me. So if I had unlimited time and money, I'd be able to take some pretty nice trips, hahaha. But even though I can't travel all over the country right now, it's nice to receive the invitations.

I will get through this. And, yes, I am tired. I am so, so existentially tired. It's the last mile of a 12-year marathon, but it won't be the last challenge of my life. 

I'm proud of myself for reaching out. Even though our loved ones love us, it can be really hard to reach out for support. I am lucky to have the people that I have in my life. But that's also a testament to my hard work in maintaining relationships with people over the years. I am both lucky and hardworking.

I keep reminding myself of different phrases people have told me over the last month. My dad said, "You can do this. In fact, you are the only one that can," which really resonated with me. (I mean, just like with infertility, no one can go through a breakup for me.) I also have several girlfriends that are single, live alone, and love it. They have been encouraging without invalidating my pain. But the one thing that I really keep coming back to came from a fellow childless not-by-choice woman. She told me, "Be where you are." So throughout this whole process, I have been trying to do just that. Be where I am in that painful moment.

Reaching out and getting through...

Whatever you are going through, you will get through it. You just have to go through it to get through it. We all know you can't bypass the hard stuff. But if you can, reach out to someone. People want to support you.