Before you read too far looking for a quick fix to being happy or a guide on how to be “all good” no matter what happens in your life, I should tell you right now: that’s not what this is. I don’t know the answers for that stuff, and to be honest, I’ve been pursuing them my entire adult life.
I’ve had many happy moments, many funny, many poignant, many frustrating, many hopeless. And I’ve had precious things that have been taken away. Who hasn’t? There’s this saying that I’m sure you’re familiar with that goes something like “your character is defined not by your actions, but by your reactions”, and I believe it to be true. I’d like to take it a step further though, and say that your character is defined by how you react when something precious has been taken from you. Right now, I’m coming to terms with my ideas of a family of my own being taken away. Not by another person, or the government, or God or any of the typical people it would be easy to blame: just by life.
I remember one time I lived in a building in a dodgy area of New Westminster. I borrowed my Mom’s bike so I could ride with my husband and his new bike. I chained the bikes up in our laundry room to some big wooden pillars. The next day I went to do laundry, and the bikes were gone. I managed the building at that time, so I didn’t know it was someone in the building who’d taken them or if I’d accidentally left a basement door open. Whether it was my fault or someone else’s, I got so angry about it. I looked at every stranger differently for weeks, wondering if they were the ones who’d taken something that was not theirs to take. I’ve always been a sunny person, but I realized during that time how easy it was for me to slide into suspicion, anger and bitterness. A crappy thing happened, yes: but the worst part of it was how I let it change my thoughts and my spirit, even for a short time. I made a decision then to take charge of my mind with more force. I didn’t want life to determine my reactions, I wanted ME to.
This conviction has served me during my divorce, the death of my brother, and bad experiences with friends, jobs and various situations. Until now, it’s served me very well. This latest struggle is getting to me in a way none of my previous struggles have, and I thought I’d experienced the worst of it already.
The dreamboat and I were told last Thursday (our fourth anniversary, no less) that our chances of conceiving naturally are about as low as they can get without being impossible. I was told previously that it was a different, more fixable issue, but when we met with our new doctor at the fertility clinic, he had a different take based on the test results and what he sees every day. People in our situation tend to go for IVF (in vitro fertilization), a course that we never wanted to resort to. We want kids: to meet them and watch them grow. To discover who they are and guide them as they navigate their own lives, and enrich our lives by just existing. To see the product of the two of our bodies in a little person who is just his or herself. I have wanted this ever since I fell in love with the dreamboat. But now with this new information about our fertility, we’re faced with some choices about how we want to proceed. If we want to proceed.
I’m still reeling from all this, and trying to keep our family and friends informed because I know people have been praying and hoping for us to start a family for years. We were, too. No one ever thinks they’ll be the ones affected by something like this, yet people are all the time: that’s life. But I’m angry. I’m incredibly sad. And I’m tired. I’m angry that all I see on social media are peers getting pregnant so easily, and expanding their families and living the life the dreamboat and I want, without a real thought about the possibility of it not happening because it has happened for them. I’m sad that when I see a pregnancy or birth announcement, I’m happy and incredibly bone-sad at the same time. I’m sad for the dreamboat, who has been dealing with a sad, frustrated wife for far too long, as well as his own dreams for a family. And I’m angry at our misfortune: because this is no one’s fault, there is no one to blame and no way to obtain justice. It just IS. I want to blame someone and I just can’t. I’m tired of having all these feelings, and of watching everyone else (it seems) get what I so desperately want. I’m tired of knowing too much sadness, and wanting to go back to when I didn’t. I’m tired of feeling like a disappointment to the people who want to see us have kids, and of being gracious when people tell me “you guys have to have kids soon, get on it!” or the dreaded “just relax and have a glass of wine!”. ***On a side note, please don’t tell anyone who has fertility problems to just drink more. Most of us understand how sex works (and have had a lot of it with wild abandon), so this comment is rude, thoughtless and condescending.*** Most of all, I’m just tired.
So now I can see my options, but they’re so foreign to me I don’t know where to turn. I always was firm in which direction I would take in the case that we couldn’t have natural children, but now that I’m faced with the actual choices I really don’t know what to do. I may not know for a while. And the choice to have joy in the face of this huge injustice? It is TOUGH. Yesterday though, I met someone who has battled this same battle, and come out a stronger, even more beautiful person than before. She and her husband weren’t given what they wanted in terms of children, and she’s ok with it. Of course there must be days when she isn’t, I’m not naive enough to think that it’s ever easy. But she told me that she’s glad she tried for the family she wanted. She tried incredibly hard. So the real question for me is: am I strong enough to try, fail, and move forward with my life? Whether it’s adoption or IVF: can we give it our all, not come out with a family after all, and still have joy??? If at the end of my life I can say yes to that question, I think that nothing will make me feel more proud of myself, or more stretched.
There is always the financial part too, and this seems impossible (and terribly unfair) to me at this point. I have always said that money problems are the easiest problems to have. I suppose now it’s time to find out if I really meant it 😉 And of course, this is not the only area of our lives that is not going so well right now. What IS going well? I love my husband, even when we’re in an impossible situation, we’re in it together. I love my family, and right now everyone is healthy and relatively happy so I count that as a huge positive. I love what I love: blogging and image consulting and clothes and being creative, and I get to do that stuff more and more lately. We may never have the fattest bank accounts or the fittest bodies, but we have each other and that makes all the difference!
So my answer for how not to be bitter when life’s just not working? So far all I know is that you have to choose joy every day, all day long. I don’t feel all that happy lately, but I have found joy in little things: my dogs cuddling each other while they sleep, a good book, some rays of sun through the January sky and the smell of woodsmoke in the fog. It has to be small right now, because this is a dark time. I know it won’t always be, but for now it is. And I suppose that has to be ok. And it is.
2 thoughts on “How not to be bitter when it’s Just. Not. Working.”
Brianna, I’ve had this post sitting in my reader for a few weeks because I knew it would be heavy, and I wanted to read it without distraction. I am so sorry. I have friends and family who have traveled this journey, and it is so tough. I think choosing joy in suffering feels impossible, but you are doing it – finding the small, daily joys that keep you moving forward. Praying you have peace and comfort and that you continue to find joy in your days.
Nicole, thank you for that. It’s only when things go very wrong that we understand the support in our lives, and I truly appreciate yours 🙂