I knew when we started the home organization project that it was going to involve a lot of cleaning out. I started with my closet and clothing. I was ready to clean out my clothing, tired of having it spill out across the floor, tired of holding on to aspirational pieces, tired of not being able to find the items I actually wear. The low hanging fruit as it were, and when I got done I felt an immense sense of relief and accomplishment.
Then our organizer came.
Holy h*ll. I knew, somewhere in the back of my mind, that we had been overdue for a clean-out about three or so years before we moved – right about the start of the whole infertility nightmare. I didn’t want to buy any new furniture because who knew what we’d need if we managed to have a baby or not? I didn’t want to throw anything away because I couldn’t deal with sorting through boxes or letting go when I was already struggling with treatments, loss, and so much of life seemed up in the air.
Well, the organizer waded right in. It’s precisely what we needed her to do, because there was no way I could have managed it on my own. She gave me permission (essentially) to let go of things that I had some sort of warped, misplaced attachment to but really no longer wanted. She helped keep me on task. It was definitely an exercise in asking myself over and over again “why?” Why did I want this or that item? Why did I feel guilty letting something go? Why had I acquired it or kept it in the first place? It was far more difficult than I’d thought it would be and took longer than I wanted.
Our house is now clean and full of things I actually enjoy, things I actually want there. The clutter, the items I kept storing out of guilt, out of sadness, out of a misplaced sense of ‘value’ are gone. I can walk around the house without tripping over things. I can get out the decorating items that only seemed to add to the mess before. We bought a few new furniture items that fit our lives and are exactly what I eventually want to add to when we buy a house. I find that the strict “one in, one out” system we’ve adopted helps me buy less on impulse.
I recently read The Next Happy by Tracey Cleantis about letting go of dreams and the notion that “if you try hard enough, you can do anything”. It’s an apropos book as I’ve let go of various items in the physical world, found freedom in that letting go, and have realized that it’s time to perhaps start the process on some of the things in my head. I’m a packrat by nature both with physical objects and emotionally, so I knew this was a bit of a step.
When Arthur and I got married, we always talked about having three children. I planned a huge chunk of my life around that idea, from schooling to the jobs I’ve taken. Even the fact that we started trying when I was 29, a bit before I was truly ready was done in service of that dream. I figured I’d get pregnant within six to eight months, have the baby, wait a year, get pregnant again when the first child was about 18 months, and then if we wanted that third child, I could fit in that last pregnancy all by the time I turned 35 or 36. We’d buy a house somewhere in there and then I’d get my master’s degree.
Infertility, high risk pregnancy, and premature birth shattered what our dream family life looked like in my head. The house? The down payment was spent on IVF. The master’s degree? Probably much later than I’d hoped if at all, and the money for it also spent on IVF. Three children? Only if something truly unprecedented (and largely out of my control) happens. I can’t do anything more beyond a few natural cycles (unlikely to work) and FET of whatever we have left once the two embryos thaw to make that dream come true. We are out of emotional strength and money to do so.
When my brother died, I wondered why that situation – seemingly so different and separate from infertility – often tended to trigger strong memories of the difficult losses of the infertility and high risk pregnancy and vice versa. I figured initially that it was because trauma is trauma, perhaps thinking of one made me think of the other. Recently, I realized that they’re both linked in one very critical area.
I always thought I had an amazing family growing up. I really do both love and like my parents. I don’t call them out of a sense of obligation or family, I genuinely enjoy them. This isn’t to say there weren’t issues or we were the Waltons or anything like that, but I always felt that my parents, my brother and I made a pretty good bunch, especially in the last few years.
That’s a really sh*tty part about suicide as opposed to a different tragic death – it colors and permeates everything for me. It taints so many of those memories, leaving me wondering: were we really that happy? Were we okay? Were the seeds of this tragedy sown somewhere in all of that? Where? Basically, it completely dynamites everything I believed about my family of origin and leaves me reexamining all the pieces through a completely different lens.
I’ve lost both the dream of the family I planned to create with my husband and the family I grew up in. No wonder the two things twine together so often.
I’m slowly starting to work on letting go of what I firmly believed my life would look like, particularly in regards to family. The first step has been reaffirming the decision not to pursue further fresh IVF. I’d said it over and over again, believed it intellectually, but there’s a sense in which I’m finally truly closing that door emotionally. It means working to ignore the nagging voice that keeps telling me “just one more round! You could still make it happen!” Or the other voice that tells me that I am somehow stopping short although objectively I can see that we went through h*ll and had a couple of extraordinary, unprecedented – and out of our control – breaks in our favor to get where we are today at all.
One of the other steps has been slowly letting go of the residual denial that probably kept me functional for a bit after my brother’s death. I knew, of course, that he was dead. At the same time, some part of my mind kept imagining him going out for a run along the city streets, going to work, generally living his life. We didn’t talk all the time on the phone and lived several hours apart, so reality didn’t intrude constantly. I went about my day, I imagined him going about his.
Over the last month or so, I’ve done that less and less. The ache of the loss seeps in more and more as I begin to fully acknowledge that he is not in the city, not living, and that he is really and truly gone from this world. No matter how hard I try or what I do, I cannot make that fact change.
It’s hard. Really f*cking hard.
At the same time, the anxiety is a little bit less. Instead of feeling hugely overloaded emotionally all the time, I’m finding that I’m closer to just being maxed out more often and hope that at some point it will reach a reasonable equilibrium. There is so much good in my life, but needing uncovered and brought out. It’s what keeps me moving and working, the idea that this massive and painful letting go will eventually be worth it, allowing me to fully embrace the whole of my life as it actually exists.