I once quipped to someone that I don’t need to be zen, I’m sarcastic. This was mostly to cut off further conversation about finding my inner peace and balance which I was nowhere near finding – and had no desire to confess exactly how far I’d managed to get away from doing so.
But of course, I do need balance and in a long term struggle against depression and anxiety, I had to learn to look for it as a matter of survival. Especially after infertility provided the tip of the scales that threw me back into the pit I thought I’d finally clawed, sweated, and bled my way out of. Before I knew it, I’d fallen flat on my back in the dark, staring at the tiny opening far above me, wind knocked out again.
So, with much grumbling and eye-rolling, I started working on achieving some of that calm, where even if I am not pleased with how things are going, the darkness and pain are not entirely overwhelming. I’ve made some progress thanks to therapy as well as some other adjustments and while there are still plenty of Very Bad Days, they are sometimes a bit less extreme than they were.
The other day, I was having a Surprisingly Good Day. I got out in the evening for a run, and it was a crisp, amazingly cool evening for August with a nice breeze blowing off the lake. The sun was beginning to set, and it was that magical hour when everything seems touched by just a little bit of gold. I ran, and ran, and felt as though if my life were never any different than this moment, I would be happy.
Then I got home and went on Facebook.
If the saying is true that comparison is the thief of joy, and I suspect it is, then sometimes Facebook is like leaving the door to my metaphorical house unlocked. As one might guess, there were pregnancy announcements.
Like any infertile person, I have a complex relationship with pregnancy announcements. I am glad for anyone who has struggled with infertility and gets to announce a pregnancy. I don’t say that to be all mature-sounding and nice, either. Anyone who has stared down into that particular hole, whether they got pregnant on the first IUI or took several IVFs knows the ache and the fear and I wish them joy. It doesn’t mean that those announcements don’t sting a little – I’m not a saint – but I am really, honestly excited for those people.
Pregnant fertile people, though, make think of a comment I once got on a piece of writing I did several years ago. I had written a short fanfic story about Sept. 11, pouring all of my own fear and grief into the character. A woman who lived in the Middle East wrote to me that she had struggled when she read it because she responded to what I’d written, but that it was hard for her to read the naivete, the enormous sadness because this sort of terror, this sort of fear, these sorts of atrocities were such a huge part of her life. Terror attacks and bombings weren’t something out of the ordinary for her, they were part of the fabric of her existence. And then she said something else. She pointed out how angry on one hand she was at how I took such security for granted and my privileged existence, but also stated that she had to sometimes remember that she didn’t wish her own experience on anyone.
While obviously my infertility is nowhere near as tragic as much of what goes on in various parts of the world on a daily basis, that comment has often forced me to pause and think. I have to remind myself sometimes that it is a good thing that most people don’t have to go through the hall of mirrors, sharp edges, and misleading reflections that is infertility. That I would not actually wish my own experience on anyone, no matter how clueless and blithe the overly cutesy pregnancy announcements.
Okay, I made a couple of sarcastic remarks to Arthur. Sarcasm, I’m discovering, is sometimes a very useful coping tool in the moment. It is not a good long-term strategy.
So instead of doing my usual, which is to brood about the whole thing for hours which turn into days and feel bad and then feel even worse, I closed the web browser. Took a few deep breaths. Allowed myself to feel really, really pissed off that most people get to have babies without tens of thousands of dollars and all the attendant sh*t that goes with fertility treatments. Because you know something? I get to be pissed about that. It’s a f*cking horrible situation that I’m not going to minimize.
And then I walked away.
In my head. In real life.
I always had this misguided belief that finding balance meant that I was going to have to be positive and happy all of the time. The more I work on it, however, the more I realize that that’s not balance either. Balance, in my world, is finding that place where I can stand between many complex emotions without falling over. It’s that place of acceptance where I no longer find myself needing to make comparisons, to jealously measure my life against other peoples’. It’s the place I get to throw away the scales, the rulers, and just live.
Needless to say, even though I’ve made progress, I’m SO not there yet. I may never quite find that place, especially not with my own competitive nature and in a culture that endlessly finds ways to make people feel discontented and less-than.
I’m realizing, however, that it’s worth looking for.