Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Misery Test

Allow me to describe someone that exists somewhere in your life: they are eternally negative, always seeing the downside of everything. They often make passive agressive comments, seem to always have negative thoughts and simply have a downright rotten outlook on life. They are miserable.

You know someone like this, right? Maybe she's the co-worker who gives you nasty looks and gossips behind your back. Perhaps he's the man who screams something rude from his car as you walk through a parking lot. Often, we feel as though these people have the capactity to ruin our day. Or, they cause us to have a negative outlook on ourselves or feel a sense of guilt about our position in life.

But here's the thing we tend to forget: you are only as miserable as you allow yourself to be. Those people, the ones who try to ruin your day? It's not your job to figure out why they are angry or what you did to deserve their wrath. It's your role to understand that they cannot steal your joy.

I heard someone say something recently that was a Oprah-aha-moment-worthy-experience: when someone says something to you, they are simply making an observation. It is you who gives that observation meaning, who strengthens it into a moment that is capable of ruining your day. As we all know, everyone has an opinion. Some, naturally, are just more harsh than others. However, I like to think of those moments as a test.

The Misery Test goes something like this: you are having a perfectly fine day. Someone, perhaps like that person I mentioned earlier, says something incredibly nasty to you. They give you a backhanded compliment like, "You know, you look nice when you actually try." or "You looked better as a blond." You get the point. My real point, however, is this: you are being tested. You can become miserable too, if you so choose. You can re-trace your steps and try to figure out what it was that you did to deserve such harshness or feel obligated to figure out why that person is so angry.

What you will likely discover is this: it's not about you. It's not your job to figure everyone else out. It's your job to live your live with purpose, to find the good in awful situations and to understand that words are only as powerful as you let them become. So often, we blame ourselves for someone else's bad day. We think we ruined them, or their life in some way that only we can obsess over or try to mend with our own words.

I say this: don't let your life be about anyone but you. The things you wear, the voices that plague your outlook on yourself, they really mean nothing. Listen your heart. Allow your voice be the strongest one that ever speaks to you.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I Wish I Had Known...

I was recently asked to be part of a video series in which women record themselves, explaining something they wish they had known about infertility back when their journey began. I seriously considered recording a video, but realized I just couldn't do it. Why play this awful game with myself again?

I already play, actually: I think about all the things I wish I had known before, in the interest of having that knowledge now. It's a tricky wish. Think about it: if you had known then what you know now, would you still be standing here, in this place, today? Does wishing away your former lack of knowledge minimize the strength it took to get to today?

When I play this 'game' I remind myself of something important: sometimes, ignorance leads to your life's greatest lessons. Sure, it's easy to wish we could change something or pine for the chance to have a do-over; one where we say all the right things and have all the answers, thus allowing us to avoid heartbreak. But really, what would that mean for your life?

If you had known how things would turn out, would you change your behavior? Would you risk ruining everything just to avoid one thing? It's hard to know, really. I can't say if it is a risk I'd be willing to take, even knowing what I know today.

I would not wish my experience upon anyone---even myself, if given the option. But that does not negate the fact that it happened and I can't change that by wishing knowledge upon my former self. I lived in ignorance--and bliss--for years before facing my life's most painful truth. It's changed me for the better, and perhaps also for the worse. But I can't pick out the parts of who I am that I want to keep and throw the rest away; my life isn't trail mix. Neither is yours.

Maybe I do wish I had known something all along: that I would be OK. Really and truly, the dust would settle and everything would be alright. I'd live through the experience and the waiting and every shred of major disappointment. I would have the opportunity to crack open every piece of baggage I carry. Hell, I would live through having surgery--twice. And I'd still be standing, stronger and better than ever.

Maybe that's what my wish would be.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Nothing Has Changed

We're still waiting---still no word, no phone call, no movement. With nothing to show for what I have come to know as our mental endurance. Sometimes, I wake up in the middle of the night in a panic. I sit up, gasping for air, drenched in my own sweat. I'm caught in a nightmare of my own making.

 Has the adoption agency forgotten about us?

What if they lost our application and all this waiting was for nothing?

My heart races, thinking about how I might react to the loss of our place in some imaginary line we've been waiting in for fourteen months. I play out my reaction in my head, wondering if I would cry or get really angry or maybe we'd just give up altogether. Would more waiting--after this waiting--really be worth it?

I strain to understand that this is worth it. The ugly truth? Some days it feels like it isn't.

Maybe we could just live without children instead; wouldn't that be easier?
But this has never been about doing the easy thing.

It's a tricky line to walk: the one between being OK without children and wishing you could have them---we have to have a foot planted securely in both worlds. I have a heart that has hardened itself to the dream of biological children, but still holds a soft place for an adopted one. Or, maybe a biological one if some miraculous-divine-intervention-biblical-event-thing could happen. Maybe. Perhaps. Probably not.

This is what my head looks like, which is probably why I struggle with what to write in this space sometimes. I feel like just posting this every day:

We're still waiting for adoption. We haven't heard anything. Just like yesterday. The End.

It's true, but that really can't be everything, can it? I feel compelled to understand why we are in this place together. What is God trying to tell me--teach me--by allowing me to live in what feels like limbo? I don't think I'm being punished, but I do believe I am being taught an important lesson, one that has the potential to change everything. I think about this constantly: I am trying to decode the secret message buried deeply beneath a pile of garbage and rusty junk.

I have to protect my heart, but I also have to leave it open to possibility. When this thought plagues me, I let my mind drift back to a parking lot.

We sat in a parking lot, together, after being told that IVF was the only way. The day was dreary: cloudy, rainy and overcast. We sat in silence for {what felt like} an eternity. Then, we spoke in unison: This doesn't feel right.

This is what I believe to be the most amazing thing about life: you don't have to justify every decision you make. You have the explicit right to blindly follow your heart without explanation. How many times have you done something just because your heart told you to? Sure, people will question you. Maybe they will think you're missing out on something or that you are setting yourself up for failure. But here's the amazing part: your heart tells you that for a reason. And you don't owe anyone an explanation for that.

I can't tell you why or how we chose adoption instead of a medical procedure. We didn't do any research. We didn't talk to friends who went through the process. We didn't consult another doctor. We didn't do anything to gain any further medical evidence. We just walked away---put that part of our lives back out into the universe and let it drift away.

It was the right choice: both decisions were. I know this because following my heart has never steered me in the wrong direction.

What is your heart telling you to do?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Stopping for Roses

We went television shopping {and buying} yesterday. In essence, it meant dropping a large sum of money and spending four hours in the car. The latter is due to the fact that we overestimated the capacity of my midsize sedan and underestimated the size of a 55-inch television box. The nearest *big box* electronics store is approximately a 50-minute drive from our rural locale---and we made two round trips because the television box didn't fit in my trunk.

Spending all that time in the car was frustrating and meant that we didn't have our typical Sunday filled with around-the-house-accomplishment and cleaning. Well, unless rearranging our living room and installing a television counts toward a sense of accomplishing anything. The house was a wreck anyway, which always drives me into a state of anxiousness; I truly despise clutter with every shred of my being. But like everything else, things found a way to their proper home and all was right again in our little corner of the world.

After an early dinner and a walk with the dogs, I headed into the basement to work out. Fifty minutes later, I returned upstairs to find that my husband had cleaned, cooked, canned tomatoes and gathered roses--from my amazing double knockout rose bush -- and placed them all over the house. They are breathtaking.

I realized something, in that moment: I had forgotten about the roses. I had once fawned over them, admired their resiliency. Then, I forgot about them entirely. As I leaned over to take in their fragrence, and he said:

"They were too beautiful not to notice."

He was right: they were. But somehow along the way, I had stopped noticing. I had forgotten to take stock of my surroundings in my haste to clean up the clutter and make sure everything looked perfect. It was as though I had become some sort of strange walking oximoron. I was literally not stopping to smell my own roses. It was nice to know there is someone in my life who notices when I stop noticing things--and gives me a gentle reminder.

Maybe there are other things I have stopped noticing in my haste to live my life, do my job, and be the best version of myself--I just don't know.

What I do know is this: there's always time for roses.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The End of an Era

We live in a world that tells us that things are important. Technology is always changing---companies re-issue the same products over and over again with a new spin to convince us to shell out $199.99 every six months. We usually fall for it; the trends, the technology and really-- the need to impress our friends. As someone who owns The Oldest Television In History that does not have a screen that is flat in any sense of the word, I can't say I really get it.

Things are just things--you can't take them with you and in the end, they really aren't important. However, like everything else, there is an exception to this rule.

You see, my husband and I have never (and I really do mean never) purchased a television--either of us. Every television we have ever owned was given to us by a sympathetic friend or family member who recently upgraded to a superior model. Ergo, we have always had a terrible television in our home. Actually, I stand corrected: we have three terrible televisions in our home.

The primary television was given to us by a friend and it is incredibly large and in charge {see photo above for proof} and recently, it left this world in the most dramatic fashion possible. I was watching the new FX television series, American Horror Story, and during a particularly tense scene, the television began doing some bizarre things. At first, I admired the great skills of the show's creators for a realistically horror-filled experience. Then, I quickly realized I was witnessing the death of my television.

It began with a strange white blur on the screen, followed by darkness. Then, there was a high pitched chirping-squealing hybrid that made the dogs howl. Soon after, there was a burning smell and smoke. Ol' faithful had left for that big garbage dump in the sky.

{RIP, Big Guy.}

My husband groaned loudly when I recalled the story with large hand and arm motions--we need a new television. After all these years of living with terrible picture quality and friends that would rather never come over to our home to watch the game, it was time to actually buy our first television.

Soon after, we pulled the dead TV out to the garage and he went into the basement to pull one of our "on deck" televisions from the basement. Not long after, he yelled:

"OK, so do you want the TV that is 21 years old or the TV that is 17 years old?"

My response?

"Well, I'd prefer the TV that is still learning to drive properly rather than the one that can legally drink alcohol in all 50 states."

We're going shopping for a new TV this weekend.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

It rains, then it pours

Ever notice how awful things tend to happen at the worst possible time?

Not that it's ever convenient for something terrible to happen, of course.

Last week, I was getting ready to leave for work in my super fabulous black sheath dress, gray patterned blazer, faux snake skin pumps, red lipstick and curled hair. Then, I realized there was approximately 2.5 inches of water in the basement. So, I added some chic snow boots and rubber gloves to said outfit. Then, I freaked out, said some awful cuss words and reached my entire arm (up to the armpit, in case you're wondering) into the hole in the floor of our basement where the sump pump resides. To turn it back on so it could start sucking again. {Pun intended.} After five minutes of using a push broom to direct the water toward its destination I realized there wasn't much else I could do. So, I went to work.

I've heard the saying, "Water knows how to make a decision" before, and it is true. It usually decides to seep through every crack and crevice and soak into every shred of carpet nearby. It's just logical, really. Our 'semi-finished' basement had some random carpet scraps that were destroyed in the process. And the shoddily hung drywall? It's toast.

So, as I stood in the backyard using the weight of my puny body to pull a large roll of musty smelling, water-soaked carpet through the basement window that is like THIS big in the aftermath of our water-filled basement, I realized something: this was not a big deal. Water in the basement, in the grand scheme of all things, is nothing. Of course, it seemed like the biggest deal in the history of Mankind at the time. Because that's how these things work.

When it comes down to it, water always dries eventually. Our basement is actual drier and cleaner than it was before---because we were inspired to clean up the mess left in the wake of the standing water. And perhaps this location in our home had become a catch-all for a large amount of junk. Perhaps.

Maybe we all need a little standing water in our basement to remind us that it could be worse. Or, that sometimes something has to snap us out of it so we can understand that there will always be those moments--the ones where we feel like everything is put together perfectly, only to be derailed by minor disasters.

I believe you should never take yourself seriously, and in that moment where I was looking fabulous and everything was in order, the Universe reminded me of this. I was put together. I was ready to arrive at work early. Instead, I threw on my double-insulated-rubber-bottomed snow boots and rubber gloves so I could wade armpit-deep into a hole in the floor. I cussed. Then, I laughed.

This was no time to take myself seriously. Then again, when is?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

What to Reveal, What to Hide

Is there something in your life that you'd rather not tell people about? Something that you are ashamed of, or that makes you feel like you are less than adequate? Maybe, deep in the protected parts of that heart of yours, you think telling people about yourself will cause you pain or ridicule. Or, maybe you just think the world would think less of you if they really knew--deep down--how you felt or what you hid.

I feel the same way. Which, if you have read anything I've written, you probably already realize.

You see, I reveal myself here--in this little corner of this world where it feels safe, warm and still just a bit protected. {I know, the Internet isn't safe, protected or any other word that elicits the same feeling, just stick with me here.}

What I mean to say is that we all have something--maybe it's big, perhaps it's small--that we hesitate to speak about. Or, we try to protect and hide until it is no longer an option. We make little choices to hide or big decisions to reveal each time a social interaction requires this of us. Sometimes, we do it with purpose. Other times, it just simply happens that way.

I live my life in such a way that I assume all the people that surround me know my story. They have heard me tell it or they have heard it through the adult version of The Telephone Game. Or, they have read it here. One way or another, my inability to produce children into this world has been brought to their attention---or so I believe. I operate in this world with the understanding that everyone knows, or has heard, this part of my story.

Recently, a co-worker made a comment in passing that made me realize I might be wrong. He jokingly said he would wait to retire until I was pregnant. In that moment, that split second where I needed to make a choice, I decided to say something.

"Well, I hope you're good at waiting. You got another 40 years or so in you?" I asked.

The subject was quickly and awkwardly changed, but I realized that I was assuming too much--that everyone knew my story--and I was incorrect. I think it's easy to take just about anything for granted, including that people know things we never actually tell them.

Maybe you have something to hide, maybe you don't. Whatever it is, I believe that showing people who you really are is the only way to set yourself free. Those who hate you for it don't belong in your life. Those who admire you for it only stand to show you what you already knew: you are stronger than you think.

As for me, I have decided to never hide this part of myself (trust me, there are others I'd rather not show) but at the same time I do that story injustice by taking it for granted in any way. It all means something, and I believe it's best framed as something that gives me an opportunity to stand up for myself and never waiver from what I believe. I'm not an advocate for adoption as much as I am for myself--and my ability to endure something traumatic and make a solid choice. If that prompts a conversation or even a nod of understanding, then I have achieved my goal.

People should take you at face value--all of you--and love you anyway. They should see through your attempts to hide your faults and tell you that you inspire them. In those moments, I hope you realize that you are strong--and showing people who you really are is the best possible thing you could ever do for yourself.


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