Saturday, December 26, 2020

The Day After

Well, that was a weird holiday.

I'm happy I spent time, money, and energy preparing for it over the last couple of months. I enjoyed my decorations this year, got my grocery shopping done, and cooked at a leisurely pace for three days to make snacks, desserts, and the holiday meal. I wrapped a couple of presents and stuffed stockings for us. We listened to Xmas soul music all day and I felt warm, loved, safe, and content all day long. And full! Very, very full. :)

But the weirdness of the day is worth noting.

*****

I woke up sad. Very sad. I wasn't anticipating it, but I immediately recognized it. And I allowed it. I didn't know what else to do. So, I felt it. It was Xmas morning and my kids weren't here. I didn't wrap presents or stuff stockings for them. I wouldn't make them breakfast. It's not that they weren't little kids anymore; they simply were never here. I don't have any memories of any Xmas mornings with them. And that's sad. So I honored that (while also honestly hoping the feeling didn't linger all day).

I lied in bed and thought about everyone around the world spending the end of the year differently than how they are used to doing. I thought about families separated for the holidays, with people staying home to be safe. I thought about parents spending their first Xmas morning without their children. I thought about how they are alone like me on Xmas day. But they're not really. They have their kids. They're just separated this year. But I still feel bad for everyone in the world for how this pandemic and our atrocious reaction to it worldwide has altered everyone's way of life in less than a year.

And I thought about all the people that have died. (No, it was not the most cheerful Xmas morning I've had.) So many people have died. Why are our flags not flying at half-mast? Our nation should be in mourning. So many people are spending their first holiday season without their loved ones. 

These were all the thoughts I woke up with on Xmas morning.

I thought them, I felt them, and I sat with them a bit.
Then I acknowledged them and tucked them away into a pocket of my mind.
I redirected my thoughts to be about what I wanted to cook for the day and when and how... 

*****

The other weird part of my day involved talking to my mom. It was just weird. It's normal to call your parents and visit on Xmas morning, right? To forget your current worries and stresses and just visit about the holidays? 

I called my parents to wish them a Merry Xmas. They had a nice morning, just the two of them. They liked their presents from my sisters and me, and I shared with them what all I had made and was preparing to make for our meal. It was nice holiday chatter.

Then my mom got really adamant about me watching her church's children service online. She was telling me how she coordinated it all, how different kids did different parts and then the video editor put it all together. I told her that it sounded wonderful and that I know she did a great job. But she kind of would not let it go. She kept telling me I had to watch it. I know my awesome counselor from years ago would have told me to just vaguely ignore it or something like that, but in the moment I responded. I said, "Thanks mom, but I'm not going to watch it. I don't enjoy things like that." And she took that as me not wanting to watch something church-related. I was just annoyed and tired and said it had nothing to do with church. I stopped there. My mom really does not get my childlessness at all. The last thing I want to do is watch a cute video of other people's children that I don't even know. Weird. 

Don't worry. She changed the subject. She started talking about how sad it was that she and dad were alone on Xmas but how a lot of her friends were in the same situation. Then she starts listing her friends who are home without any of their children. Please allow me to repeat: my mother really does not get my childlessness at all.

My sister and niece are going to visit later this week. My other sister visited earlier in the fall. I haven't visited in the last 9 months because of the pandemic. I offered to drive five hours for a porch visit back in June before I moved further away, but they didn't want a visit unless it was going to be a "normal" visit. I didn't see them last year for Xmas because I was working two jobs, seven days a week. So I now haven't seen my parents in a year and a half. It's sad. After wrapping up our Xmas morning conversation my mom ended it by saying, "Well, see you someday!" And I replied, "Yes, looking forward to it! I love you. Merry Xmas!"

It was just weird.

*****

But back to my food and decorations... 

I did what I could to prepare for Xmas 2020. I managed what arose in the moments. Weirdness and pandemic aside (yes, that last one's a biggie), it was an enjoyable holiday. I really liked making all of the food and having the tree, lights, and ornaments up for the past month. I'll plan to do the same next year.

I'm glad I've reclaimed the parts of Xmas that I enjoy. πŸŽ„


    

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Less Demands

Not raising children when that's what you felt like you were meant to do in life is a devastating loss that never goes away. As I was reminded this morning.

I woke up and immediately remembered part of a dream from my sleep where someone important to me looked directly at me and stated, "You don't know what it's like to be a mother."

Ouch. 

It hurt hearing it in my dream and it hurts thinking about it now.

It's true.
And not true.
But that's not what's important here.

Obviously, I am depleted. I've been giving more than I've been replenished. I need to take a break. I want to make a conscious effort to do less, think less, expect less. When I do find myself thinking, I want it to be reflections on all the ways that I kicked ass this year, showing up and not shying away from life.

But overall, I want to wrap myself up in all of the quilts I've made, drink some hot chocolate, and watch some mindless tv or movies that I enjoy. I need less demands, preferably no demands, and so that is what I am going to try and give myself for the rest of this year. What's left of it and me anyway...

I hope you had a nice winter solstice yesterday.
I'll share a few pictures of some little things that I'm enjoying right now. 
Feel free to join me in giving yourself the gift of less demands for the rest of 2020.











Saturday, December 19, 2020

Knowing When To Quit

Please excuse me, but a huge congratulations for myself is in order, thank you very much.

Drumroll please...


(Image above found on SineadBovell.com)

I QUIT MY JOB! πŸŽ‰πŸŽ‰πŸŽ‰

Yes, I am celebrating, but, no, I am not doing so flippantly. 
I didn't WANT to quit my job. In the middle of a pandemic. Without a backup waiting in the wings. 

But I needed to quit my job. And so I did. And now it is done. And I can finally write about it.




*****

At this point in my life, I've made many super huge and major decisions. They are never easy, but I've distilled a process for myself that I'd like to share. Using this method, I don't rely solely on my feelings to make a decision. It's a very practical method, but it still allows for my value system to be at the heart of every decision.
          First, I go back to my values. (Make a list. You can do an internet search to get ideas.) 
          Next, I make t-charts of my concerns. (List the pros and cons of potential decisions.) 
          Then I look at my data and see what conclusion makes the most sense. 

*****

Quitting my job was a super huge and major decision. 
It also wasn't. It was just what I had to do.

I took off from work the week before Thanksgiving. For the first week, I went easy on myself. I knew I was stressed to the max, emotional, exhausted, and depleted. Then during the week of Thanksgiving I just enjoyed myself, the holiday, and the time at home. But as the weekend drew to a close, I knew I needed to figure out what I explicitly needed. So I determined three things I needed to feel safe at work. 

I returned to work. Things inevitably came to a head. I stated my three things. They conceded to one. And I knew I had to resign. 

I did the same thing with my divorce, which was probably the hardest decision I've ever made. But again, with my process, it wasn't really a decision I had to make. It was just something I had to do and get through. Once I looked at what I valued versus what my reality was... Well, facts are facts. Even when they're sad or hard or traumatic or devastating.

Like IVF. I went through that whole process twice. I'm sure many people can relate when I say I haaate needles and injections and blood draws. Just the smell of rubbing alcohol makes me anxious. But I did it. And then it didn't work either time, and I had a decision to make. Except I was done. There was not a whole lot left of me, of my personality, of my spirit. There is no other way I know to describe it: I was an empty shell. Facts are facts. I quit fertility treatments.

So, while it was not as difficult as knowing I had to get divorced or knowing I had to quit fertility treatments, it was still really hard to realize I had to quit my job. It was only a handful of months, but I put a lot into that job. I thought it was going to be my new career. I was growing very passionate about it. I envisioned retiring from the position. I invested a lot of time and money into training and materials. I quickly grew attached to my students and co-workers. Not to mention, I liked the paycheck and health insurance.

But it wasn't safe. And my concerns were not handled well. At all. 

And I had to walk away.

I cried a lot. A lot, a lot, a lot. In a way that maybe only fellow IF survivors will understand, it was a tremendous heartbreak for me. I know I'm not going to raise children. I know I'm not going to be a mother. But I was really, really excited (in the most healthy and healing way possible) to be able to build long-term relationships with students and to watch and help them grow throughout their 
K - 12 school experience. 

So quitting this job hurt in ways that I expect nobody but you all to understand.
It was sad and devastating. I have let myself feel all of my feelings so I could move through them.

Which brings me to where I am now. And right now I want to recognize that quitting my job also opens up a whole hell of a lot of time and space in my life. Perhaps there will be better ways for me to serve others. I will keep my heart and mind open to the possibility.

*****

So THAT is what has been affecting everything. I was very stressed about the lack of precautions being taken at work. In addition, I wasn't being treated well by my boss or HR. I was bringing a lot of fear and stress home. My boyfriend was an important support as he listened to me process everything out loud. It was extremely frustrating for him too. He and I are tired from the whole experience. For the past month especially, I really needed a whole team of people to help keep me grounded in reality (my boyfriend, his sister, a couple of friends that texted me validation, and three different doctors who all shared my concerns). But realizations had and decisions made, I submitted my resignation, waited out my two weeks, and quit my job.

And now it is done.

πŸ’œ




Thursday, December 17, 2020

Not a Good Time

I am not having a good time. I want to write something, but I don't know what to say. My thoughts and feelings are all jumbled and I'm probably just going to sit with them for awhile. Let them figure themselves out on their own; I'm tired of doing all the work.

My job situation is horrible. I asked for three things. They conceded to one. (Trust me, I wasn't asking for much. You would be appalled if I told you the details. Everyone else in real life is shocked when I tell them. But I don't want my anonymous blog to go viral for the wrong reasons.) My employer's treatment of my safety concerns during a pandemic doesn't make them look good. I probably even have grounds for a lawsuit in there, but that's not my style. I just want the whole thing to be over.

My boyfriend is depressed. Understandably. This pandemic sucks. But it's hard. It's really hard for me. I have already been through so much, fought for so much, faced all of those existential and even morbid questions. Please believe me when I say I empathize with those fighting depression. I've been fighting depression since I was 8. Now it's more of a management situation than a battle, but the war within still rages every now and then. But overall, I have found my mental resting spot. I am okay. To put it tritely, I know everything sucks but I still choose life anyway. 

So I'm not saying it's easy. And I'm definitely not saying you have to fight it every day, that's too tall of an order. But you do have to fight depression overall. 

Or don't. It's your hole to choose.

Yesterday I was trying to engage him in conversation so I could feel connected to him or something, but he was so exasperated with my efforts he just snapped, "I have nothing to give!"

Oh.

Ok...

I get that. I really do. I sooooo get that. 

But.

It just didn't sit well with me. I haven't had a lot to give either, but I've given anyway. Yes, that's a choice I made. I don't just give, give, give all over the place like I used to (Thanks again for the boundaries, infertility!), but I save what goodness I can for my home. 

Anyway, that's just my approach. To each their own I suppose.

I've been giving A LOT lately. In several different areas. And I haven't gotten much back. I think it's important for me to be reflective about that. Why? Why am I making the choices I make? What do I need? What am I receiving? What do I want? I don't expect to have answers now or even soon. I'm taking the rest of 2020 off.

I'm not having a good time. However, unlike my younger years, I have a great relationship with myself. That's how I know I'm okay overall. It just sucks really bad right now.

I thought my life at 41 would look much different. I thought I'd own a house. I thought there'd be a family. I thought there'd be stability. Ha! Hahahahahahaaa. At least I can still laugh.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Sitting With Anger

I'm tired and I'm angry and I'm tired of being angry.

But here we are...

I'm angry. 

I'm angry that I haven't eaten in a restaurant since mid-March, I haven't seen my parents in over a year (by FAR the longest time we've ever gone), and I don't even feel safe going into work. Yet, co-workers are having potlucks and going to parades while friends and family are traveling for the holidays and weddings. (A wedding? Really?? WTF?)

I don't do anything. I don't go anywhere. I read, write, sew, shop, cook, clean, and watch tv. All at home. I go to the grocery store at 5:30 in the morning every 2 - 3 weeks and that's because we don't have any pick-up or curbside delivery service here. I go to the post office but only when there isn't a line. 

That's... It. 

I hate this pandemic and I hate people's selfish reactions to it.

I am angry. I am tired. And I have nothing original to say.

So, I'm sitting here with it. Feeling my feelings. Knowing they are more than valid and justified, even though feelings don't have to be "valid" or "justified" to be felt. Knowing there's nothing I can do about the pandemic or my job or other people's choices. There's nothing I can do at all.

I've been here before.
All of us in this community have been here before.

Angry. Sad. Unable to do anything about any of it.
I remind myself what I've already been through, what I've already survived.
I choose to keep going.

But I'm still mad.

*****

I'll share with you a couple of quotes I've come across recently.
Remember to enjoy the little things. πŸ’Ÿ


A good find on social media (sorry it's a little blurry):



A pleasantly surprising text from one of my sisters, saying "Just like you!" with this pic:




Saturday, December 5, 2020

Comforting Fertile Friends

I am somehow, miraculously, at a point of my recovering from infertility process where I can provide genuine comfort for my stressed out and/or sad friends that are parents. It's fine that I wasn't at this point before, and it's nice that I am at this point now. Just to state the simple and obvious, I like being able to be a good friend to my friends.

Remember this guy, my young friend from graduate school? One of the many reasons we became friends was because we both planned on moving our families to the same state after graduation. (At the time, his family of three and my family of two) 

So we got through school together and we both moved and we are still in touch and, although we live many hours apart, we are still friends. But things change as life goes on. I got divorced while he and his wife had a second child. We text occasionally about work or just check in with how are you and your loved ones doing, that sort of thing. 

I appreciate the friendship so I was glad when he reached out the other day when he needed a friend. It turns out that he and his wife are going through a rough spot. They both know it, but they don't know what to do about it. Bless my young, male friend as I reminded him... Your wife just had a baby!!! (Exclamation marks for emphasis among us. I did not text him exclamation marks.) 

But seriously... They both work full-time. His wife is a teacher and just had a baby. We are going through a pandemic. They just bought a house. We are going through a pandemic. They have a toddler and a newborn. We are going through a pandemic. I texted him, "You do realize how many major stressors you both have in your life right now, right? Please allow me to validate HOW HARD this time period is. As my friends, my hope for you both is that you go easier on yourselves and on each other. Life is not normal right now."

I empathize with parents. It's a 24/7, no-instruction-manual job. Yes, it's a job I wanted and a job I didn't get to have and a job that would have been so freaking awesome for me for so many reasons, but I will still acknowledge that parenting is a hard job too. And it's also hard to see things when you're in the thick of it all, at least it is for me. This time period in my friend's life? It will be gone in a couple of years and it will feel like a blink of his eyes. But that's not what he's experiencing right now. Right now it is freaking hard and he is doing the best he can and that's what I can validate for my friend. (I also asked him what he and his wife are doing for fun these days, no matter how small, because it's crucial to enjoy the little things especially right now.)

Then I had an awesome, awesome phone conversation with a girlfriend yesterday. I don't do it often like we all used to back in the day, and it felt so good to talk to a friend on the phone. She's a co-worker from my job last year and she's just a really cool, really wonderful person. 

We had a lot to catch up on. She had several pieces of good news to share, which felt So Good to hear good news from someone. Her job was going well. She was working hard toward a certification that she finished and earned. She's going through some medical stuff, but she found new doctors that she likes and trusts so that's awesome. It was all just so nice to hear. 

I shared with her how happy I was in my new place, how I liked the actual geographic location. It's so pretty and I finally got away from traffic in my life. I told her I was still totally in love with my boyfriend, that we made the whole Thanksgiving meal, and that we laugh a lot. She said you know you're with the right person when you can be at home all the time with them during this pandemic and you still like them. 

That prompted me to share how relieved I have felt throughout the whole pandemic for getting divorced when I did. I told her that I knew I'd be so lonely and wouldn't have the warmth that I have in my life now if I hadn't gone through with all of that. Unfortunately, that's when she shared that things were not good with her marriage. I listened and noticed how much of what she said sounded like my marriage during the last couple of years. I told her that I felt like I could understand because so much of what she was saying sounded so familiar.

Then she said, "At least you didn't have kids with him." And I wasn't even mad. It's interesting to me who can say what to me and how it makes me feel. I didn't feel slighted by my friend. She has listened to me talk about how badly I wanted kids. She knows I wanted to be a mother more than anything and that I've recreated my life in the last several years. But she's right, at least in my opinion. And I said, "I agree. I think by not having kids I just sped up the divorce by 18 years. I knew what I was signing up for. I knew I'd be with the kids all the time and he would join us once a week because I told him to. I just wanted it anyway. I wanted kids so bad." She listened and I felt understood. And then we went back to talking about her current situation and I listened and I hope she felt understood/accepted/supported.

*****

I didn't sleep very well last night. And that says something. I'm proud of my sleeping ability haha. I woke up in the middle of the night so angry with my employer and I was like, Whoa, I am awake in the middle of the night because of this... So I was lying there, listening to my boyfriend's breathing, keeping my eyes closed even though it was pitch black, and trying to redirect my thoughts to other topics since I was awake.

And I thought about talking to my girlfriend yesterday. And my other friend a week or two ago. And I love these people. And I'm glad I could be there to listen to them, even though they were both talking about their children/stresses of parenting. I am glad I am moving toward being able to be the kind of friend that I want to be.

Oh! In addition, I just remembered right now that I texted my two best friends from high school to ask how their Thanksgiving went. They both texted back pictures of their kids. And it was cool. I was happy to see those pictures. And I can't believe it's already been 2.5 years since I have seen them.

So yeah, something that was important to me—being able to be a friend by being able to genuinely listen to and support my friends when they're not having the easiest time parenting—is happening. I celebrate that.



Sunday, November 29, 2020

Sweet Sunday


I used to play this board game (pictured above) as a kid with my grandmother and also my cousin. Because of it, I often think of the phrase "Sweet Sunday" on Sundays and I try to take the day as a time to both prepare for the week and also to rest.

My nerves are all over the place today. Sweet Sunday is more of an idea than an accurate feeling at the moment. I go back to work tomorrow. I don't want to, but I'm choosing to go in. I don't feel safe, but I've got a game plan for what I can do tomorrow to be productive while minimizing my contact with others. I will take it day by day. 

Really, I'm just waiting for the lag in reporting covid-related data to catch up from the holiday weekend. Surely, by the end of this week or next the numbers will unfortunately show massive spread. Then maybe we will all work from home.

Maybe.

So that major worry and brain dump aside, I am doing my best to enjoy my time off.

*****

Thanksgiving was a success! Well, Thanksgiving was weird and sad, but we made the best of it. It was also good and enjoyable. After two years of eating a vegetarian meal at his sister's house, my boyfriend and I were determined to cook a turkey this year with all of the traditional sides. We were also determined to make enough food to have leftovers. And we did! Delicious mission accomplished. I didn't take anything about the holiday for granted—the food, our health, the roof over our heads, and the love in our home.

I even started a new tradition for us: leftover cranberry sauce turnovers. As you all know, starting new holiday traditions as a childless woman can be a big deal! So I am definitely celebrating that. Last night I enjoyed the whole process. I mixed thawed raspberries with my leftover cranberry sauce. Then I added some sugar and vanilla and a little bit of cream cheese. I used frozen phyllo dough that I brought to room temperature. After brushing melted butter on the layered sheets of dough, I put two big spoonfuls of the cranberry mixture in the corner and folded up the dough into medium-sized triangles. They baked in 15 minutes (pictured below). It was fun and easy and festive. And delicious! Next year we are going to try making savory leftover turnovers as well.


And on Friday I bought us an artificial Xmas tree. We didn't put up a tree last year and I missed it. There wasn't any room so I just put up stockings. This year all of my stuff is still in storage about four hours away. But I got online, found something cheap, and it will be delivered this week. I bought some inexpensive lights and ornaments too. Just when I told myself I was going to stop spending money... :) But I see it as an investment in our mental health. These pandemic holidays are weird and hard and I think we will enjoy the Xmas tree and lights all month.

And speaking of my plans to stop spending money... There were so many online fabric sales on Friday! Aaaahhh. Hahaha. So I was strategic. I didn't buy *everything* I wanted. Instead, I bought fabric I needed to complete a couple of patterns I already own. I bought a quilting ruler and a quilt kit I wanted. I also found some fabric that will be perfect for my mom. So, you know, I shopped. 

But now I'm done. ;)
I will await my riches (Xmas decorations and fabric) in the mail. 

*****

So I'd say I'm doing a fairly decent job of distracting myself from what's really looming over me. I am extremely stressed and scared about going back to work, but, you know what, I was extremely stressed and scared about going through fertility treatments. During my treatments, I reminded myself that I didn't have to do anything I didn't want to do and that I would take everything one step at a time. I will apply the same advice to myself with regard to my current job situation. I will get through this. 

I'm thankful for all of the hard lessons I've already learned from all of the awful shit I've already been through. I'm thankful for my inner punk that will never let me forget that nobody is the boss of me.

I'm thankful for Sweet Sundays where I can do what restores me.


Work In Progress: My latest quilt top! 
(In The Woods fabric collection by Loes Van Oosten,
Josh's Star block design by Missouri Star Quilt Co.)

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Missing My Children

I woke up missing my children today. The feeling was unrealized, lurking just below the surface. 

I was scrolling through posts on my phone and saw a cute picture of someone else's toddlers in a blanket fort in a living room in Somewhere, USA. It wasn't anyone I knew. It was some repost from a children's author or an artist or some account like that... 

But suddenly, I felt a visceral longing in my heart and being that will never be filled. My son or daughter never got to be a big brother or big sister to my other son or daughter. They didn't get to build living room blanket forts, play together, and antagonize each other. I didn't get to hear them laugh and bicker. And I felt profoundly sad. 

It's true. I never got that and I never will.

At the same time, I know if things had gone as planned my children would be way past that stage now. As their mother, I know I would still be sad. I know I would still have that longing in my heart for those days, those times. But I would be comforted by my memories and photo albums and the joys of the new little things in the present moment. It would be bittersweet but not tragic.

*****

It's important that I recognize these moments when they happen. It's important that I let myself feel the hard stuff when it surfaces. My losses are significant. I am allowed to grieve.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Mental Respite

I took the whole week off from work. 

I had to use PTO and get a doctor's note, but getting a break from having to be around unmasked people has done wonders for my mental state. I get next week off too. Then I'll reevaluate. I've decided I will no longer work around unmasked people, but I don't know what happens next. 

I'm lucky. Fortunate. Privileged. I've never felt unsafe at work before.
But I definitely feel unsafe now.

I travel across the district in my position. I work at multiple campuses, constantly in and out of classrooms and meetings. As of three weeks ago, the district had no way of contact tracing me. (When I realized this, I immediately submitted a lengthy list of my weekly contacts.) Currently, half of the students and staff at one of the elementary schools is quarantined. Overall, ten percent of my caseload has been quarantined at some point this semester. There have been documented positive cases at the preschool, the middle school, the high school, and most of the elementary schools. Did I mention they don't wear masks here? It's not safe.

And yet I got yelled at for requesting a zoom link for a meeting last week?
Insanity. I cannot trust these people. We live in different realities.

I'm mad.
I'm sad. 
I'm scared.
I'm tired.

I succeeded in doing almost nothing this week. On Tuesday I fell asleep at 4:30pm and slept for thirteen hours straight. Let me explicitly state: "That is NOT normal."

I don't know if I'd feel so resolute in my decision to no longer work around unmasked people if it weren't for my experiences with infertility. It sounds so basic and obvious, like, absolutely not--nobody should be forced to work with unmasked people. But... It is so easy to feel intimidated by an employer. It involves money and contracts and control. I remember not speaking up during my recent horrendously toxic experience in graduate school. There was a power differential. I didn't want to fail a class or get kicked out of the program. So I stayed silent.

But now? Well, unlike my younger self, I still try to keep my comments to myself haha, but I definitely no longer live how others expect. I no longer bow down to what others think I should do and how and when. My life is so fundamentally different from everyone around me. If I did what everyone else thought I should do, well, I wouldn't be living MY life at all.

And if I listened to my current employer? Well, I might not even have a life to live...

*****

Please be kind to yourself. 

Give yourself lots of grace and lots of breaks. 

For so many reasons, enduring this pandemic is really, really hard.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Before My Brain Breaks

I am in a mental space I've never been in before. 

For someone who's learned to manage pretty intrusive anxiety and depression over the last several decades, that says a lot. I don't take my mental health for granted. So when I felt like I was at my breaking point last week, I listened to myself. And when I say breaking point, I mean it literally. I felt like my brain was starting to crack. I felt like it was only a matter of time before I just... Broke.

I was processing slower, not comprehending as much. My head hurt. I was dizzy. I wasn't hungry. I was teary. I couldn't think straight. It felt like I couldn't get anything done at work. What I did get done wasn't that hard and took much longer than usual. I felt like my brain was slowly... Shutting... Down...

I don't want to get covid.
I've spent enough energy in my life on a chronic illness (infertility). I'd like to avoid another.

I don't want to spread covid.
I don't want to cause others' suffering, especially when I could've just stayed home. 

Hell, I don't even want to have an accident!
I can't need to go to the hospital because the hospitals are getting full!

The fact of the matter is they don't wear masks here. They say they do, but they don't. I sit in meetings all week and I am the only person wearing a mask. (They think it's fine if everyone is seated and not moving around. I do not share this belief.) My younger students do not wear them and I'm not allowed to ask them to wear one while with me. (Yes, I asked and, yes, I was told no.) My older students do not wear them properly (they're almost all under the nose) and a lot of teachers wear bandanas or neck gaiters (ineffective coverings) and pull everything down to talk. All the while, the number of cases in our county climbs. 

There was a community parade a couple of weeks ago, a potluck at work last week, and my boyfriend and I walked by a packed (standing room only) restaurant this weekend. I'm incredulous and I'm angry. How can people continue to live their lives like things are normal when I'm scared just to go to work? I asked my boyfriend, "Am I overreacting?" He immediately replied, "No. You're not overreacting."

I wrote about living in The Twilight Zone last June before I moved. I wrote about feeling gaslit two months ago. It's only getting worse. The Twilight Zone, the gaslighting, the virus. I know family and friends with travel plans. I see so many people around me living in denial of covid's existence, of how contagious it is, of how varied and potentially long-lasting its effects can be. This will not end well.

The bottom line is I don't feel safe at work. The risk of exposure is too high. The stress of being hypervigilant and monitoring my every interaction with people because I'm the only one consistently taking precautions has started to take its mental toll. I can't do it anymore.

I'm using a sick day to not go into work today. I feel like I'm doing something radical when all I want to do is stay safe. I don't know if I will get in trouble or what will happen. I'm taking it one day at a time. I'm hoping they move school off campus and fully online. I provide a valuable service to my students, but it's not like I'm saving lives here. In fact, I could actually be saving lives if I just stayed home. 

I'm angry I'm even being put in this position. It is their choice to not wear masks. It is my choice to not be around them. However, *their* choice is going to cost *me* money or maybe even my job.

In one way, it's a really hard decision about whether or not to go into work.
In another way, it's not hard at all.

I need to stay home to protect myself, to protect others, and to preserve my mental health. 

Going through infertility really drove home the fact that nobody is living my life except me. 

I can get another job. I can't get another life.


*****


And now for a brain cleanser on a completely different topic...

I finished another quilt. I used precut strips for the quilt top (so easy) and a furry fabric called minky for the back. It has my favorite colors, it's soft and furry, and I love it.

Time to start a new one! 

Below is a picture of the new quilt and a couple of quotes I enjoy. 

Stay safe and take care! πŸ’šπŸ’™πŸ’œ






(Art Credit: The plate is by UK anarcho-craftivist artist Carrie Reichardt, 2018.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Surviving Right Now

I'm still here; I just haven't had much to say. More precisely, I've had plenty to say but haven't felt like saying much. I feel like I am cycling through the same tired topics in my head. It's much like... Y'know... Infertility...

Some things don't have a definitive ending. They happen over time and change your life forever. It can take years to figure out how to live again within your new reality.

I think that's how I'm surviving right now. I'm relying on what all I learned while surviving infertility. Establishing boundaries. Practicing acceptance. Cultivating gratitude. Enjoying the little things.

None of it is easy, but what is the alternative? If I'm miserable enduring something and I'm miserable while working to change it, well then, sign me up for the work. I may not be able to change anything that's happening around me, but I can always work on myself.

And I say "work on myself" lightly. I don't have much left over these days. I go to work, I run my limited errands, I do my laundry, and I sleep a lot. But that is enough. Especially right now.

 


Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Mental Health Day

I took the day off. I've done nothing productive. I'm writing this from bed.
I woke up, thought Nope, wrote an email to my boss, and went back to sleep.

I got eight hours of sleep last night and I went on to sleep another three. That is not normal.

I've been in bed all day: reading, online window shopping, and watching murder mysteries on tv. I have exerted almost zero energy. I feel a nap coming on. This is not normal.

I'm keeping up with my blog reading, but I notice I'm not writing or commenting as much.

I make sure I sew at least once a week (and it's often more), but it's smaller tasks for shorter amounts of time. And that's okay.

Simply feeding myself several times a day feels like a lot.

I am so tired. Which I've written about a lot on this blog. Enduring infertility is exhausting on every level. Surviving infertility requires a strength on every level that you never knew you had. Plus, there's everything else life throws at you because it doesn't all just stop when you go through life-altering trauma. And now this. 2020. As if the majority of us didn't start out exhausted already...

I can't do much of anything that is affecting me right now. There's too much to list and there's hardly anything I can do about any of it. But I can put myself first. That's something I learned from infertility. I can ask myself reflective questions and do the best I can to meet my needs. I can decrease my expectations and increase my acceptance. Or try to anyway. 

But first I shall nap.



Sunday, October 18, 2020

Happily Ever After

Two recent occurrences reminded me that my life is not an acceptable narrative to some people.

I wanted kids and I don't have them?
Well, it must be my fault. And I'll never be happy without them.

No and no. But I refuse to explain anything to satisfy someone's fleeting questions about my personal life and trauma. It took me years to get where I am today physically, emotionally, spiritually, socially, and geographically. Why should I and how could I possibly satiate their curiosity in five to ten minutes? Especially when my life doesn't have the "right" ending for them.


Instance #1

A co-worker questioned my decisions about adoption and foster care. Regardless of the fact that she barely knows me and knows nothing about my own experiences with adoption and foster care, she not only asked if I had thought about either but she also seemed to pass judgment on the fact that I had done neither. Gross. I just briefly said something along the lines of, "Adoption is a lot harder than people think and the primary goal of foster care is reunification of the biological family." 

"Yes, but, if you really wanted kids..." (Yes, she really said that.) 

I'm done with conversations like that, with people like that. I wasn't there to correct her. We weren't in an educational or therapeutic setting. We were at work where such personal discourse is neither appropriate or likely to be well received. "Yes, but..."

No.

Or rather, I think I gave a dead end, "Hmmm..." out loud.

Conversation over.


Instance #2

My mom asked me if I wanted a Halloween box this year. I'm so glad she asked. She likes to send holiday themed boxes throughout the year. Not to my sisters and me. But to my niece, nephew, and me. It always makes me a little sad because I know she would be sending them to my kids. I like the candy, but I don't know what to do with the little toys and holiday trinkets. 

This year she asked me if I'd like one or if she should give mine to the little girl down the street. I immediately texted back, "Give it to the little girl down the street! She will love it." I also said those boxes always make me a little sad so it's okay to always give them to the little girl down the street. I wasn't sure how my mom would react, but I wanted to be honest.

She wrote back, "I miss sending them to you! But I understand. Phoenix, we love you more than life. You aren't too old to adopt, especially a toddler or a preschooler."

πŸ˜‘

First of all, I think it's weird that she formally addressed me by name in a one-on-one text message. But secondly, I AM too old to adopt. That process takes a long time and, as we all know, it isn't guaranteed. However, thirdly, and most important to me, it is not the responsibility of a baby/toddler/preschooler to make me happy! Putting that expectation on a child is unfair, twisted, and cruel. And I feel like that's what people are saying when they say, "Just adopt/foster!" Adoption and foster care can be extremely wonderful, but they involve very complex issues involving many people's lives.

This is not up for discussion. Definitely not with co-workers. And apparently not with my mom. I'm tired of explaining it to people who don't listen. Why can't people accept my life as it is? I do.

I did not reply. I never brought it back up and neither did she.

Conversation over.


*****

That sucks. Five and a half years after ending fertility treatments and I still get questions and assumptions thrown my way. I understand I'm in a population that's misunderstood and not often talked about, but that doesn't mean it's my responsibility to educate everyone at every encounter. Especially if it's a waste of my time or leaves me feeling drained. 

Not everyone's story ends with motherhood.
But I know you all know that. 

I've been sharing my most private thoughts here for the past four years so I know you all know that I've been working hard, both through grief and also through moving, grad school, divorce, and starting a new career.

It annoys me when I feel like people question my life without children. It makes me mad when they assume that their idea for me to foster or adopt a child is easy, a solution, and something I haven't already put a great amount of time, thought, and research into. I don't like it when people don't let me have my ending to my own story. 


*****

I endured years of infertility. 

The adoption agency I decided on went bankrupt. 

I used to work for a foster care agency and have had extensive training on trauma-informed caregiving strategies. I would have needed an equally committed partner to engage in foster care. My ex-husband did not have that desire or skill set and that was okay and perfectly understandable to me. 

After wanting to be a mother for as long as I could remember, I realized I was not going to be raising children in this lifetime.

Since I didn't have the life I wanted, I decided to want the life I had.
I decided to create a life I wanted to live.

So after taking full advantage of what it had to offer (e.g., in-state tuition, opportunities for clinical rotations), I moved out of the city like I dreamed of doing. I embraced all of the changes, expected and unexpected, that came with that. And I graduated, passed the board exam, and now practice in my new profession. 

I love it. I spend my work days helping others. I live in a warm home with good food and a great boyfriend. And after a lifetime of searching, I finally found my medium as an artist: quilting. 

It may not look like what others expect for me, but I worked hard to create this life for myself.

I like my happily ever after. 



(Picture from The Paper Bag Princess, Story by Robert Munsch, Art by Michael Martchenko, 1980)


Sunday, October 11, 2020

Four Years Here

I started writing this blog because I needed an outlet. I also needed connection with other women like me. I read TTC boards for many years. Then I switched to reading IF blogs for a couple of years. Then I decided to start writing myself. 

I was very nervous about writing on the internet, especially in a public space. But I was also out of ideas and I desperately needed an outlet where I connected with women whom I understood, who understood me, and who helped me understand myself better. 

It is more difficult than anyone can ever imagine to be a woman in this world who wanted to be a mother and raise children but didn't get to.

So, four years later, this little blog and I are still here... Chugging along... 

The immense personal and global changes that have occurred since my first post here were unpredictable. For me anyway. I did not foresee my divorce or the pandemic. However, my experiences with infertility helped prepare me to deal with both. Life sure as shit doesn't go as planned.

So in reflection and celebration of four years of blogging my innermost personal thoughts and experiences in what I hope always remains an anonymous, yet relatable, space, here are four of my favorite posts from my first year of blogging. None of these posts garnered very many reads, but I like them anyway so I am resharing.

*****

This super short post ends with an all-time favorite quote of mine. 

This post recaps my 2016 and reminds me of how far I've come.

I just plain like this post. I hope I never stop running my mouth and speaking my mind.

This post about an article I read on resilience really applies to the present moment.

*****

If you are a reader, thank you very much for reading.

If you are a fellow blogger, thank you very much for writing.

Thank you, thank you, thank you all. From the bottom of my healing heart.

πŸ’œ

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Taking Things Down a Notch

I need to slow down, do less, and rest more.
I don't want to maintain the level at which I've been operating. So I'm going to stop. :) 

I am going to lower my expectations. For myself and for others.
We cannot all be operating at 100% like everything is normal.

If I am this stressed out and tired, how do my students feel? Their parents? My co-workers? 
We are all freaking exhausted.

Yes, my bills still need to get paid. Yes, I need to go to work. Yes, I am thankful for my job. 

But no, no, no to most everything else and to anything extra right now. I can't do it. I cannot.
There's already too much to process on a daily basis. 

So here's my daily intention for this week:
Wake Up. Show Up. Be compassionate. Give 70%. Go Home.

I woke up early this morning to go grocery shopping before the store got crowded. I didn't really feel like it, but I am so glad I went. Now I have food for the week. I have housing. I have a job.
My basic needs are met. 

For this week, I am going to wake up and show up.
But I will not give away all of the energy that I have. I need a lot of it for myself.

Thank you, infertility, for my hard-earned understanding of how to take care of myself.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

An Announcement at Work

I was at work a couple of weeks ago when a teacher stopped by my office to let me know there were donuts in the break room. It was good timing because I was hungry. 

(Disclaimer: I'm not eating food indoors with other people at the moment, but I decided it was low risk to go grab a donut and eat it outside real quick.) 

I went down to the break room and saw several boxes of a variety of delicious, decadent donuts. I was surprised because I was expecting glazed donuts, maybe chocolate iced at most. These donuts were fancier than your usual box from the grocery store. I surveyed the situation and decided on a cake donut with chocolate icing topped with pecans. Then I read the sign on the table: "You 'donut' have to ask; Baby Smith is due in March."

And you know what my first thought was? Honestly?

"Oh, that's a good way to do that."

That was my first thought. My first thought was so practical. I thought, well, that's a good way to let everyone at work know at once. Cute even. Considering we're at an elementary school. And it really was a good selection of donuts.

I thought for a second about how much an announcement like that would have caught me off guard, hurt me, and ruined my day just a couple of years ago but now it didn't. I'm glad for that. 

I don't even eat donuts all that often, but I definitely enjoyed that one. 


Sunday, September 20, 2020

Roller Coaster Living

 I've got a lot on my mind. Unfortunately, not much of it is positive. Let's jump in, shall we?

  1. I had a very upsetting phone call with my mom yesterday. We were talking about books and recipes and whatnot. I try to keep the topics pretty neutral because I don't need her criticizing me, lecturing me, or otherwise invalidating my thoughts, feelings, and/or experiences. But I couldn't do it yesterday. I couldn't do the surface stuff anymore. When she asked if I had any upcoming time off, I asked her if she was asking whether I had any upcoming time off or if I was going to be traveling during the pandemic. That was the opening into a conversation about what is really going on in the world.

    Long story short, we have completely different ideas about what taking precautions looks like and I don't think I'll be seeing anyone I'm related to anytime this year or even next. It's angering and sad. I thought it was a decent enough conversation and that she was listening as best as she is able to, but then she texted me later in the day about needing to see me for Thanksgiving. In her exact words she wrote, "There are worse things than Covid--like not seeing your kids!" 

    Pause. Pause.
    Let that sink in.

    My own mother disregarded my entire experience with infertility with one single statement. 

    I am so pissed. I can give her a list of a lot of things that are harder than not seeing your kids THAT YOU GOT TO HAVE AND RAISE. (And, yes, getting Covid IS one those harder things... So is not getting to have and raise your children at all.)


  2. My next point is somewhat related. It's about Energy Vampires. Unfortunately, I have a new co-worker that prompted me to find an old book I'd read, pull it from the shelf, dust it off, and begin reading it again. The book is wonderful and it has helped me a lot. It's entitled "The Empath's Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People" by Dr. Judith Orloff. She starts chapter 5, called "Protecting Yourself from Narcissists and Other Energy Vampires," by stating, "Energy vampires are attracted to the openness and loving hearts of empaths. Sensitive people need to be prepared for them." Yes, yes we do!

    I'm encountering a new-to-me phenomenon: people who are jealous of my hard work and want to steal my happiness and personal peace of mind. But again, I have infertility to thank for my new awareness of these predatory behaviors. Now I can see it happening before I'm already entrenched in a friendship. I know the counselor that I saw for a year and a half during my failed fertility treatments and my subsequent recovery from them would be so proud of me and my hard-earned progress.

    I noticed the "energy vampire" activity because I didn't feel good when I was around this person. Like, my stomach physically hurt. Then I would be extremely tired after being in the same room with them for an extended period of time. This person was constantly questioning my life choices (not having kids, not adopting, getting divorced, moving to this small town, etc.) and I thought it was extremely weird. I mean, I just met this person! Fortunately, I am so confident in everything I've done in the last 5.5 years of my life to get to this point that my confidence in my life decisions is unshakeable. Maybe this is the first time I have actually felt secure in my lifetime... Whatever it is, her questions began to really annoy me. They were tinged with judgement and I wondered if her obvious unhappiness was just as obvious to her. Regardless, I'm keeping this co-worker at a safe distance and reviewing protection strategies for myself from this wonderful book that I'm revisiting.


  3. I'm having surgery tomorrow. Yes, the saying is true. When it rains, it pours...

    (But I had to have a covid test before I could be approved for surgery, so I'm happy to know that I am not, as of this point, an asymptomatic carrier walking around and spreading the virus. I am really glad to know that.)

    It's not the hysterectomy procedure that I scheduled for early this summer and then canceled due to covid stress and moving across the state. I met with my new doctor. He's male, which was not my preference, but I instantly liked him so I decided to stick with him. He has a great bedside manner, listened to all of my concerns, and answered all of my questions. Together we decided that a LEEP procedure would be the next best step. He will receive a pathology report after the procedure and I will either be all clear or then we will schedule a hysterectomy. Hopefully, tomorrow's procedure removes all of the unhealthy cells!

So, in my humble opinion, that's enough for now. A somewhat estrangement from my family (Is it an estrangement if the other people don't even realize?), majorly negative vibes from someone at work, and a full blown procedure with general anesthesia tomorrow. 

It's all right. I'm not going anywhere. I'm resilient and strong. 
This world can't knock me down. I'm along for the ride!




Sunday, September 13, 2020

Feeling Gaslit Again

Hello and Happy New Week. How are you? How are you really

Don't judge; just notice. Then reflect.

How are you taking care of yourself? How are you being productive? How are you having fun? 

(Yes! Getting out of bed, taking a shower, feeding yourself, and watching tv all definitely counts at this moment in time. You don't have to accomplish anything major. We cannot save the world right now, but we can somewhat save ourselves.)

*****


Please let me draw another parallel between my experience with infertility and this pandemic:

I feel like I'm going crazy.


With infertility, it felt like a constant barrage of judgment from others. What are you sad about? You have all this free time! Think of all the money you will save. You can travel! Kids are a lot of work; you don't really have a clue what you're asking for (despite the fact that I had spent almost 10 years in the classroom working with everyone else's kids all at the same time, not on an individual basis like parents get to do). So many people refused to tolerate or even allow space for my sadness; it felt like no one was acknowledging my loss. I was being gaslit by friends, family, and society as a whole. 

And now we are all enduring a pandemic. And society is gaslighting me again. If it weren't for my boyfriend and fellow bloggers, I would think I was the only person taking the pandemic seriously. 

I am currently going to work because my school district is providing classes and services on campus for students who choose in-person school. That alone freaks me out. And I will be honest, I am one of the few that consistently wears a mask all day. Everyone else takes them off as much as they can. (District policy is you can remove your mask if you're more than 6 feet away from students. This lets teachers lecture at the front of the room so students can clearly see their mouth and facial expressions.) I'm starting a new job in a new town and I am the Weird Mask Girl. It's not that I think I will get it here. It really is a small town in a remote area. It's that there's a GLOBAL PANDEMIC going on and the virus doesn't care about anything. The virus just spreads. I don't want to get comfortable because, quite frankly, it's just not safe yet. But I definitely feel some hater vibes from a couple of co-workers and random strangers around town when I venture into the grocery store (I've been twice at 5:30 in the morning) or the convenience store (more expensive, but more convenient so I've been going once or twice a week).

Then I call my mom for our weekly chat. (It's a new thing and it is working out well. For those of you that don't know, my relationship with my mom is challenging but I want her in my life.) And I learn that my aunt is there visiting. Even my family is living like there aren't more than 6 million infected Americans! My oldest sister went and visited my mom two weeks ago. Her visit marked the FOURTH state she had been in in the past month. And two of those states have high positivity rates. I mean, she voluntarily got on a plane for a vacation ffs!! And then I call my mom and learn her sister/my aunt is now there visiting. Way to contain the potential spread, everyone...

What the hell is going on? Why is my own family disregarding basic precautions? Why do they think I am the unreasonable one for going to the grocery store at the crack of dawn and for refusing to go eat at a restaurant? For my family, this is typical though. I'm the cRaZy one, the overly cautious one, the one that's "too sensitive." But damn, in the middle of a pandemic??

I feel like, yet again, my family and society are gaslighting me. I feel like the world around me is trying to operate like it is pre-March 2020 and it dumbfounds me. It blows my mind. People really, really don't get it. And then I remember enduring infertility with very, very little support.

I guess people just can't stand to be uncomfortable.

*****

I didn't know the skills I learned while figuring out how to cope with infertility would serve me so well during this extremely stressful time in our world. It's hard to say I'm thankful for infertility because it took from me what I desperately wanted: parenting and motherhood, but now that I am many years removed from the direct experience and I have worked incredibly hard on grieving and creating a life I want to live, I can appreciate who I am and what my life is post-infertility. 

*****

As for me, I am doing... Okay. Pretty well probably. I require a lot of sleep these days so I go to bed early. But I am trying my hardest to learn my new job and do a good job while I'm at work all day. Then I come home, eat, and rest. On the weekends I sew. I am so grateful I found something that puts me in the flow where I can forget about the world for a bit. And then when I'm done, I have a comfy quilt to use while reading everyone's blogs. :)

Enjoy your week everyone! πŸ’šπŸ’™πŸ’œ

Take care of yourself, ignore the gaslighting, and do something you enjoy no matter how small.


    I finished my fifth quilt! 

I used: 
      • 10" squares, Lucky Day by MoMo for Moda Fabrics
      • 10" squares, White Paper Grunge by BasicGrey also for Moda
      • Miss Rosie's Quilt Co. Cake Mix Recipe #6 piecing paper
      • Quilters Dream Orient quilt batting. 

The precut fabric and piecing paper make it so easy! 

You put a piece of paper on top of two fabric squares and literally sew on the dotted line and cut on the solid line. You end up with great looking quilt blocks! For quilting, I did basic stitch-in-the-ditch around the blocks and tried decorative stitches on the borders for the first time. 

I just learned how to quilt last year so if it's something you are curious about, you can totally do it! It's not a hobby that requires perfection. Well, not the way I do it. I'm a sloppy quilter and will be for years because I am learning. ;) But quilting can be very relaxing.


Sunday, September 6, 2020

Then Someone Asked Me

Haha it's been an interesting several weeks at my new job... 

I told you how I moved to a remote, small town and everyone here seems to have a lot of kids but that I met a co-worker who is also new to town and also does not have kids. Well, I had another interesting conversation with another new co-worker this week, and this time it was her asking me THAT question. It did not go as I would've predicted... In a good way. :)

Last Wednesday I went to meet a teacher in her classroom to help her figure out some paperwork stuff for her teaching license. I had recently gone through the process myself and, knowing how much new information she had on her plate as a fellow new employee to the district, I wanted to help relieve any stress I could. So, we were going through what she needed, making lists, and just casually visiting. 

Another teacher stopped by her classroom before leaving for the day. He looked extremely young. After he left, I jokingly said, "How old is he?? 12?" She laughed, said he was 24, and asked me how old I was. (It's even harder to tell ages when people are wearing masks.) I told her I was 40 and she said, "Oh good, I was afraid I was going to be the only person around my age but it turns out there's a lot of us. I'm 44."

Then she immediately asked me, "Do you have kids?" 

And of course I said no.

But it was what she said next that surprised me.

She said, "Me neither," and then she went on to share more. "For a long time I didn't meet anyone I wanted to have kids with. I never married. And then I was diagnosed with MS so I decided not to have kids. I wanted them, but I don't have them."

What. The. Hell.

Where were all these women during all of the years where I was severely depressed and constantly asked if I had kids and when I said no the conversation. Just. Ended. ???

Do I put out a different energy now? I'm sure getting older is one big contributor to the shift. Whatever it all is, I gladly welcome this change. I will never forget the trip I took to Las Vegas (of all places!) where it felt like every store I went into the person working there would ask me if I had kids and it would stab me in the heart. 

And now I've got women spontaneously sharing with me that they don't have kids even though they wanted them. Here and here. It's just incredible. And it's one more thing I don't take for granted.

πŸ’œ


Saturday, August 22, 2020

I Asked THAT Question

I started my new job this week. It's interesting. I am grateful to have an income to say the least. And I am glad to have a full-time position in my new career. I'm still working in schools, but my role is no longer as a classroom teacher. I spent all week trying to shift my mindset from teacher to student service provider. I was also adjusting to both wearing a mask all day and hearing co-workers' chatter about their kids and parenting.

I moved to a really small town. This is the kind of place that must be brutal for someone who is going through infertility. Everyone has kids and it seems like they all have a lot of them too. The majority of my co-workers are from here, left for college, and came back after graduation to get married, start working, and have kids. I'm really interested in starting an in-person support group here. I don't know how that would work with covid precautions and also with getting the word out to the community, but it's definitely an idea that's simmering in the back of my mind... Infertile women are everywhere. I would like to be supportive for anyone suffering here.

So far, the best part of my new job happened at new employee orientation. We were all in a gym, sitting two to a table to physically distance, and there were often short activities where you discussed things with the person at your table. I was sitting next to a woman who was very nice and friendly and I enjoyed talking with her. 

When we first introduced ourselves she asked if I had moved to town with my family and, not even thinking, I said, "It's just me and my boyfriend but we're glad to be here." Then later she asked me my age as she shared hers. If I was being more perceptive at the time, I might have realized that she was already scoping out my mother/non-mother status.

The morning session of orientation was several hours long, including a half hour for everyone to go around the gym and introduce themselves to the whole group. As I listened to everyone introduce themselves, I realized there was something unmentioned in both my table partner's introduction to everyone and in all of our table discussions with each other...

I couldn't help myself. I had to know. So, yes, I asked THAT question. (But I apologized first, if that helps.) I said, "I'm sorry, I never ask this, but you haven't said anything about them if you do. Do you have any children?" She said a simple no. I replied, "Me neither." Then we both smiled big smiles (you could tell even though we were both masked) and our excitement was palpable. 

And that is how I met my lovely new co-worker, who also doesn't have kids. :)

Thursday, August 13, 2020

They Grow Up

Since my last post I've been thinking about how much pregnancy announcements used to upset me and how little they usually do now. Mainly, I've been thinking about why that is. And I think it's because kids grow up. 

I don't want to be pregnant anymore. (Well, truthfully, I was never thrilled about the idea of being pregnant in the first place. The whole thing sounded scary to me. And now I've been through IVF, ha! I'm so brave I don't recognize myself. Except I do. Because I am damn proud of my growth.) But back to pregnancy, I was willing to go through it for the outcome: being a mom and getting to raise that little person. But not now. Not anymore. I resolved to create a life I want to live after surviving infertility without my children.

Had I become a mom through pregnancy or adoption, I would be way past the baby stage now. I love the human lifespan. That may sound weird, but it's true. I am probably the most people-loving, extrovert-presenting introvert you'd ever meet. But out of the entire lifespan, babies interest me the least. They are a little bit fascinating, but at this point in my life I'm not having one and they aren't part of my job so I just really don't care. Sorry not sorry?

I wouldn't even be in the toddler stage anymore. 

If things had gone as planned, I'd have two kids in elementary school. 

My kids would be growing up. 

Kids grow up. It sounds so obvious, but it's easy to forget when you're in the thick of it. Trying to get pregnant, hearing others' pregnancy announcements, watching your friends and sisters and cousins and well, at the time it feels like everyone but you, have babies and then toddlers and then more babies. But then that's it. A decade flies by. They're little kids and then big kids. They're pre-teens and then teenagers. And before you know it, they've become young adults, regardless of whether or not they've achieved financial independence. It's true. They grow up so fast. 

My years spent teaching and then my years spent in agonizing infertility limbo gave me perspective. Time goes on even when it's standing still. It's just like the saying goes: the days are long, but the years are short. I think that's why pregnancy announcements don't usually hurt now. I know how fleeting everything is. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Another Pregnancy Announcement

Pregnancy announcements used to REALLY bother me. It was so hard to manage my feelings of jealousy and sadness. Now that I'm not trying to get pregnant anymore, they bother me less. Usually.

I was texted the news of someone's pregnancy recently. In the past I appreciated being texted this information. That way I could feel my feelings without masking my initial reaction. Then I could set my own feelings aside and express a genuine congratulations. Well, that's how it was for me in the past. Like I said, pregnancy announcements just don't bother me like they used to.

But leave it to my family...

My sister texted my other sister and me to tell us that her oldest stepdaughter is pregnant. Just typing that brought a lump in my throat. Because it's remembering the text. She didn't just tell me privately (which I would've preferred) and she didn't just tell us the news. She sent the cutesy pictures that the couple used to promote, er announce, their pregnancy and she also texted a video. I did not watch the video.

Dammit.

That was my honest first reaction. This totally changes the family dynamics now. This changes all of the holidays. In my jump-to-extremes mind, this changed EVERYTHING.

But it doesn't. It just means that my sister is becoming a grandmother and my parents will become great-grandparents. Hopefully, all goes well with the pregnancy and delivery (something only fertility-challenged women think about with every single pregnancy announcement we hear) and then life will go on. 

I already vented to my boyfriend, saying I had no interest in spending any holiday this year with a pregnant woman. Then I complained about how googly-eyed my parents get nowadays when they're around a baby or toddler and how it makes me sad and uncomfortable. I got annoyed ahead of time and told him that my sister better not text me any newborn pics. I basically just said every ugly thought I had.

I don't like my feelings. They're not nice. But I accept them. I'm not going to hate myself for having them, which would only make me feel worse. I know these feelings come from a place of deep pain. I can practice having patience and compassion with myself as I continue to heal. I know I am happy for my sister's stepdaughter. I don't wish infertility on anyone.

Also, there is a pandemic and what I'm complaining about already (the holidays and time spent with family) may not even happen this year! So as soon as I complain about a not-even-planned-yet holiday season, I remember how lucky and fortunate we will all be if we can even get together in just three and a half months.

Anyway... 

I don't feel like I'm writing very clearly, but there are a couple of points I wanted to make here:

  1. Pregnancy announcements no longer bother me like they used to.

  2. Except sometimes a particular announcement will still catch me off guard apparently.

  3. I don't like that I have not-nice feelings about it all still, but I also don't judge myself for it.

  4. Pregnant family members or no pregnant family members, we should all be so lucky to be able to travel and gather with loved ones again this year.



Thursday, August 6, 2020

Back to the Doctor

Since I decided to cancel the hysterectomy surgery I had scheduled for June, I was due back to the doctor for another check-up. I really like this doctor I'd been seeing for the past two years, so yesterday I drove four hours into the city to see her one last time. She prescribed a valium for the procedure so my boyfriend drove us the four hours back home. Does it get more fun than an eight-hour roundtrip to see the gynecologist? ;) Needless to say, it was a long, tiring day after a long, tiring week.

Other than that, it really was fine. We didn't encounter too much traffic. We didn't have any car trouble. The hospital where my doctor works has free parking. We got there on time, everyone was wearing masks, the doctor was running on schedule, and my appointment went smoothly and quickly. I'm still covered by insurance from my previous job, which greatly lowers the cost of the visit. It wasn't a fun errand, but there's just so much to be thankful for. Plus, it's over!

The reason for the check-up is I keep getting bad test results. Combined with my family history and a couple of other risk factors, I need to frequently monitor my health. It's possible that I will need to reschedule the surgery, but my doctor said that if she doesn't see any changes in this sample compared to the others then we'll basically call it my baseline. 

She also gave me the name of a doctor friend in the next town over from where I moved to, so now I have a good recommendation for a new gynecologist nearby! I love this doctor, so I will probably like her colleague as well. I also take an anti-depressant medication and she was able to give me the name of a general practice doctor too. Both doctors are women, which I prefer, so there's just lots to be thankful for.

So, really, I walked away from that appointment (that I'd honestly been dreading) with some good information. And I will continue to monitor and take care of my health and do all I can to stay healthy.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

My Unsolicited Advice ;)

That was an extremely difficult move. All moves are difficult but throw in a pandemic and a rental truck shortage and you've got yourself set up for a very, very not-fun time.

But we made it. Two truck loads and unloads and twelve hours of driving later, my boyfriend and I now live in our new rental place. Absolutely nothing is unpacked. It took us two whole days just to recover from our soreness and exhaustion.

I have been extremely anxious throughout this process. Moves are stressful. Change is hard. The pandemic makes everything harder. In addition to the usual stress of moving, change, and unfamiliarity, there's an added layer of fear for me. Stopping for gas, getting food, stopping for a bathroom break... Every decision made is a calculated risk. It wears on your nerves.

Kind of like... Infertility. Yes, seriously. This is all way too familiar. I recognize that I am living and operating in a compromised, heightened state. Like I've done for years now. I just do the best I can with each moment, balancing rest with productivity, while trying to be patient with myself...

So, no, I did NOT want to do that move. I had anticipatory anxiety for weeks and then the whole thing sucked just like I thought it would. Ha.

But... What was the alternative?

Stay where I was? It wasn't where I wanted to be. None of the last nine years have been where I wanted to be. So I just keep moving away from what I don't want and moving toward what I do want.

And today, while still hot, exhausted, and surrounded by boxes, I know I am on the right track.

*****

So that's my unsolicited advice: move away from what you don't want and you will inevitably head toward what you do want. You don't even have to worry about where you are going. You're on your own timeline and there is no rush. And you don't even have to know what you want. (That would be a tall order!) Just pay attention to when you feel good, when you feel bad, when you feel peaceful, when you feel anxious, when you feel happy/excited, etc. Don't judge your feelings. Just notice them and use them as information as you move toward what feels right for you.



Monday, July 27, 2020

Won't Stay Stuck

Moving sucks, but I can't stay here. I know it's not where I want to settle, which is why I started updating my resume back in December. I started applying for jobs in January. That seems so long ago now, way longer than it's actually been.

I just won't stay stuck. I refuse. I mean, I can stay for awhile. Geographically, emotionally, etc. I can definitely stop and honor wherever I am for an extended period of time, but, ultimately, I always move forward.

I couldn't stay stuck in the house I bought for my children. I couldn't stay stuck living in the city where I planned to raise my children. And I couldn't stay stuck in the lonely marriage I was in.

And so I continue to move forward, albeit at a slower pace than I'd like. That moving truck I was waiting two weeks for? Yeah, it isn't available... Apparently, the company can only fill their reservations for one-way truck rentals within 48 hour windows. My turn was up yesterday and there were no large trucks available for today.

Oh a two week wait that ended with an undesired outcome? I've been here before. Lots of times.

Moving forward!

Luckily, there was a truck available for tomorrow. It's not a large truck, but at this point I'm just relieved to have a truck. Moving during a pandemic sucks an extra lot. I just need to get moved.

So, it might take my boyfriend and me two looong roundtrips to move, but we have a truck! I'm not stuck here. Which is good, because I don't like to stay stuck... ;) I like to keep moving forward, one small step at a time.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Remembering My Old Way of Thinking

I had a small experience yesterday that reminded me of how much I've changed.

I went online to reserve a moving truck for later this week. I was hoping to move on Wednesday or Thursday, but I quickly learned that wouldn't be possible. Oh... I mean, I thought I might be cutting it close trying to rent a truck at the last minute, but it turns out... I was right. There were no available trucks near me all week.

So I reserved a truck for the first day available. For two weeks from now.

Big sigh...
I thought...
What in the world am I going to do while I wait here for two weeks...

I started going through a mental list of what still needs to be packed and where I am in my various quilting projects... I was also telling myself to take a break and just take it one day at a time. There are plenty of things I can do on my To Do list. Or not. :)

And then it hit me. Two weeks! I remember years of my life being dominated by the Two Week Wait and I had honestly completely forgotten about that whole entire concept (TWW) and all the millions of other TTC-related acronyms.

I had totally forgotten.

I loved it. It made me smile. A concept/time period that used to always be on my mind has totally slipped from familiarity for me. It made me happy to realize that my thinking has naturally changed over time. I no longer feel controlled by a two week wait. I no longer even think about it.

I decided to give myself a break. I'll be productive or not. I'll get bored or I won't. The fact of the matter is I'm not moving for two more weeks. I have to wait for an available truck. For two more weeks I will stay safe and stay here. For two more weeks I will wait.

But I can do that.
I did that for years.
But now it's so much better.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Slowing Down while Moving Forward

Summer is definitely here. It may not be the summer we planned or envisioned, but it is here nonetheless. The days are long and the heat is intense. I keep thinking about the summer solstice last month, the pop articles that I read about it, and the concept of slowing down for the season. It makes perfect sense and I've been putting it into practice.

I'm no longer employed by the school district or the hospital where I was working. My new job doesn't start until next month. So these days I've been waking up without an alarm, drinking coffee, and easing into the day at a leisurely pace. Then I eat breakfast and pack. After several hours of that, I'm tired and it's hot and it's the perfect time to take a nap so I do that. A siesta, if you will. Every day this week. Then I wake up, do some laundry/dishes, and pack some more. Or I don't and I just sew, read, or watch tv.

That's the excitement you've been missing over here. So much to write about, huh? Haha. :)

Speaking of reading, there were two well-written posts that really resonated with me this week: one about living on the periphery of others' lives as a childless woman and another one that very honestly captures what it's like to lose your dream of motherhood. I will return to both of these posts to read them again.

But back to moving, this one is different from the others. It's smaller. In so many ways. Less stuff, less emotional baggage. Don't get me wrong, moving still totally sucks, but I'm grateful that every move I've made in the last four years has been an improvement. I keep moving forward.

I don't know how I will make friends though. Making friends as an adult can be difficult. Making friends as a woman without children can feel almost impossible. And now I'm moving to a new place in the middle of a pandemic. I'll just keep my expectations low and look for friendly faces when I start working again. I also found a place where I want to volunteer so I can check that out and see how they are operating under current precautions. One day it will be safe to congregate again and I look forward to meeting people in my new town. Over time, it will happen.

Right now it is a time to slow down. Well, for me, it's also a time to pack up and move lol, but overall... It's summer, it's hot, it's easy to get overheated, and it's easy to get overwhelmed.

Speaking of feeling overwhelmed... Current events are causing me to live with a constant, not-so-low level of stress. I've noticed that I'm slightly agitated and a little more anxious than usual. It's easy for me to think about how much I hate the pandemic, to ruminate over what it has already ruined, and to ponder the devastating long-term consequences of it all. So I allow myself time each day to read news articles to stay informed and then I read other topics or work on other tasks. I also noticed I was talking about the pandemic a lot, so I am making a conscious effort to talk about other topics instead. Basically, I'm doing what I did while learning how to cope with infertility. I firmly believe in dealing with reality, but I also believe in balancing traumatic experiences with enjoying the little things (or at least giving myself breaks).

Honestly, I didn't even want to write that paragraph above. I didn't want to mention the pandemic, but it is so pervasive in our world and in my thoughts that it would be a huge omission of my current reality to not talk about it at least a little bit.

So, reality acknowledged, I'd like to return to the message of the season. Summer can be an exciting, energetic time, but it's important that we pace ourselves. Don't overly exert yourself during the heat of the day. It's summer, it's hot, and it's time to

S  l  o  w     d  o  w  n     .  .  .