Category Archives: ponderings

hope is a terrible thing

I heard this piece yesterday on NPR and the following lines hit me in a very deep way:

“Living in hope is a really terrible thing.  People speak about hope most of the time as a very positive thing, and I understand why…But if you stop and think about the state of living in hope,  it’s a very dispossessing thing, it’s a very difficult thing to live with. When you’ve been living in hope for a long time as I have, suddenly you realize that certainty is far more desirable than hope.”

Of course, I thought about my people in the ALI community.  And I thought about myself back when the ex and I were actively trying for a baby, back when that felt so possible I could think of little else, when my arms felt so empty, partly because it felt possible, yet just out of reach.

Hope gives us reason to get up in the morning, but it is also that Terrible Gray, that not-black-not-white space that won’t allow you to let go of the dream.  You’re left in the hospital waiting room indefinitely, never knowing, just hoping.

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new post

Believe it or not, I have tried to blog.

This is probably the fourth or fifth time that I’ve opened up a “new post,” hopes flying high that my writer’s block “blogging break” could be declared officially over.

I have things to say…I think.  Getting them onto the screen feels something like pulling my heart out through my skin—pulling teeth would be much easier.

I’m not completely sure what it’s all about.  I do know that I’ve been hiding in the cave again.  I’m feeling pretty happy, but I’m hiding.  Staying safe.

Safe from what exactly, I’m not sure.  People, I guess.  People are somewhat scary to me these days.  Not the perfunctory interactions of work and small talk and family gatherings (I try not to get too deep with my family).  Opening up feels scary.  I realized not long ago that my heart is no longer as open as it once was.

And yes, I want more in my life.

And yes, sometimes I’m lonely.

But I don’t think I’ve quite reached the point where the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of changing.

So I’m hunkered down in my solitary cave, safe, warm, cuddling the dog, and pondering when and how I’ll make my way out.

But I’m healthy, I’m content (hence the not changing thing), and I am confident that I will figure things out.  Someday.

in the woods

Today my younger sister gave birth to her fourth daughter.  Yes, you read that right, girl number four.  (I posted about this last summer when I first learned of her pregnancy.)

I had complicated feelings about it back then, and though I’m excited and happy, there’s still a twinge of something there.

My sister and her husband have, if not more money than G-d, then they’re at least in the ballpark.  Partly because of this, I was at a loss about a gift for this new arrival.  In addition, as this one is the fourth girl, they have everything they need, and really don’t want very much more “stuff.”  I decided to do a cross stitch project (this is the crafty project I had mentioned before) to welcome my new niece, as the value isn’t really in the price-tag, and it’s not something they have already.  Now, as I decided to start on it rather late in the game (sometime last month, ahem), it’s not finished yet, and I’ve been spending every spare moment working on it.  This is what I’ve got so far:(The baby’s name and birth date are to go in the big blank spot above the bear.  Here’s what it should look like, more or less.)  In the middle of working on this I learned of Wiseguy’s loss.  The thought has kept returning to me throughout this project—what if the baby dies?  What do I do with all this stitching if something goes wrong?

Some would call this morbid.  The thought wouldn’t even occur to others.  Thanks to my own fertility struggles and to getting to know so many in the ALI world, I no longer take it for granted that pregnancies happen easily, that they all progress without incident, and that all babies who are born survive.

This does two things to me.  I stand in wonder sometimes that people get pregnant and have babies and nothing goes wrong.  I also stand in judgment, a bit, of those who still live in the world where nothing ever goes wrong, and the thought never occurs to them (at least it seems to me) that anything ever could.  I’m not especially proud of that last one, and I don’t feel it all the time, but it’s definitely there.

The main thing that all that knowledge leaves me with is a sense that we’re never quite out of the woods.  And, of course, we’re not.  Miscarriages happen, and babies die, and children die, and adults die and all of us get hurt and sick, some much worse than others.  It is a dangerous and unjust world we live in, but it is also a world of beauty and hope and love.

I am not proud of the part of me that gets haughty and self-righteous in the face of others’ blessings.  At the same time, I don’t want to live in that world where I am in ignorant bliss of others’ pain and loss.  What I want is to take this feeling of fragility and lead it in the direction of appreciation and thankfulness rather than anger and judgment.

what I’ve been thinking about

I’ve been thinking about taking care of myself, about seeing the small child that is still inside me.  I end up in a tizzy when thinking about how I want to take care of myself better, and trying not to beat myself up because I don’t.  Things like eating regular meals so that I don’t get headaches seem so hard to do so much of the time.  It would be much easier to take on the role of tyrant to myself, but I can’t return to that, not anymore.  So I try to remember to take things slowly, slowly, slowly and I try to remember how far I have already come.

“One reason you may not want the job of caretaker [for yourself] is that you are still angry about never having been appropriately cared for by others.  You still wish that someone else would notice your suffering and make up for the deficit.  Even though you know that your wish will never come true–that what’s past is past–you continue to hold onto the fantasy.  Taking good care of yourself implies an acceptance of the painful reality of your past deprivation.”

taming the tyrant

Spider Solitaire (Windows)

Image via Wikipedia

I like to blog.  Really, I do.

It does seem that lately, though, I spend much more energy thinking about blogging than actually blogging.

Instead of going on an on about how awful a blogger I am, I am going to use this as an opportunity to practice not beating myself up.  I get these opportunities a lot, it seems.  Another way to phrase that would be that the habit of self-berating crops up almost everywhere I look, but I am more and more on guard and more and more learning not to fall into that easy pattern that kills me not so softly.

I read a great blog post today about this “inner tyrant,” and about harnessing it’s energy for something positive.  I also tried to make a dietary change today (no, not going on a diet, just changing one thing—hint: it has to do with a certain sugary caffeinated beverage).  I have realized that I need to make this change more slowly, to ease into it a bit.  I had planned to go “cold turkey,” so to speak, but it seems that’s not such a good idea.  That tyrant, who always seems to be with me, wants to tell me that this is a failure.  I am choosing to see this as another example of slow change, another way I can care for myself.

I said, “another example of slow change.”  The first example of slow change is somewhat silly, but it has stuck with me and comes back to me over and over as a reminder to not expect immediate and dramatic results the minute I decide something should be different.  “So what is this example?” you ask.

Spider solitaire.

I have been playing quite a bit of spider solitaire these last couple of months.  When I started, I could win on the first level every time, but it was pretty boring.  I tried playing on the second level, but I would rarely win.  So rarely it seemed like I never won.  In a very un-me-like move, I decided that winning didn’t matter, and I would play the second level because it was more fun, even if I lost nearly every time.  Then something weird started happening.

I started getting better.

The spider solitaire game on my computer will tell you your win/loss statistics after every game.  When I started playing, I was winning about 2% of the time.  I didn’t pay too much attention to those statistics until I noticed that they were going up.  Before I knew it I was at 7%.  Then 10%.  Dear readers, I now win 26% of the time (um, I played a LOT of this game while I was recovering from my surgery).  The thing is, normally a 75% loss rate would normally really bother me.  In light of the 98% loss rate when I started, 75% doesn’t look half bad. 🙂

The spider solitaire is serving as a good reminder to me that change comes slowly, that I don’t have to go from 0 to 60 overnight, and that beating myself up doesn’t make me go any faster, anyway.

I’m hoping there’s a way to get this inner tyrant to remind me to be gentle, to remind me that if change comes at all, it comes at a creeping pace, so slowly that we scarcely notice it.

Meanwhile, I’ll be playing some spider solitaire.  27%, here I come!

anything and everything

The few hours before my appendectomy were very surreal.  I went to my doctor’s office that evening with half of me thinking of all the terrible things that could be going wrong, and the other half thinking that I would just be wasting everyone’s time and causing a fuss over nothing.  “There’s nothing wrong with you,” one half whispered.  “You could die on the operating table,” whispered the other half, which is well-known for it’s speed in jumping to the worst possible conclusion in any scenario, and this well before anything was even diagnosed.

There was actually another voice somewhere in there (and pay no attention to my math skills—sometimes one-half plus one-half still leaves room for some other thoughts to creep in).  This was the quietest voice, the voice that remembered Lavender Luz’s amazing post about abiding in the unknown space, the place where we are painfully aware of our powerlessness.

I will not pretend that I was peaceful in all of the time leading up to my surgery, or even most of the time.  I can say, though, that part of the time I was able to take a step back and notice how I was responding.  There were some brief moments of awareness that the back and forth game that was going on in my mind was simply the way my mind usually works.  There was nothing unusual about my responses to this situation; my responses were as familiar to me as the back of my hand.  The only “different” in this situation were the circumstances, my insides kept up their usual dialogue.

A phrase came to me during those hours, and I remembered it over and over during the next couple of weeks.*

How you do anything is how you do everything.

How I “did” the few hours before my appendectomy followed the same pattern of how I do most things:  part of me jumps to the worst-case-scenario and starts brainstorming about how I will handle it, and part of me berates myself for not doing the right thing, or causing a fuss, or not doing things perfectly, whatever “perfect” means.  How I function at work follows the same basic pattern of how I function at the grocery store (if you don’t believe me, check out my desk drawers and my pantry; both are full of way too many “just in case” items, be they canned goods or post-its).  How I relate to my family follows the same pattern of how I relate to people I just met.  How I drive my car looks a lot like how I walk my dog.  And on and on.

My pattern, of course, would be to take all of this information and start berating myself for not doing it “right,” whatever “right” is.  At this moment I’m just working on noticing when I’m in those patterns, when I jump to that place in my mind that causes my heart to pound and my hands to shake.  Right now I’m working on noticing when I’ve slipped into scolding myself.  For now, noticing is enough.  For now, opening my eyes is enough.  For now, it’s enough.

*I’m not sure where it comes from, so if you know, please let me know.

hold on tight

Jo asked me how I am.

The answer is—really, really great.

In the couple of weeks before my appendectomy I felt a definite shift in my thinking, a definite shift in my approach to the world.  (Then the appendicitis hit and all of July was basically a wash.)  Of course, I didn’t become a different person and I have plenty of neuroses and issues left to sift through, but right now they’re not making me feel like a failure.  Right now I feel like I’ve turned a corner.

A piece of this corner-turning has come from starting to learn the Alexander Technique.  For quite a while my therapist had been suggesting that I take up an activity to help me have better awareness of my body.  She suggested both yoga and the Feldenkrais method and I was trying to figure out something that would work well for me.  Serendipitously, I discovered that a woman from my divorce recovery class is a teacher of the Alexander Technique, which I had never heard of before.  It’s a bit hard for me to explain what it is, but Wikipedia says it is

an alternative medicine and educational discipline focusing on bodily coordination, including psychological principles of awareness. It is applied for purposes of recovering freedom of movement, in the mastery of performing arts, and for general self-improvement affecting poise, impulse control and attention.

During the lessons I’ve had, my teacher will have me sit, stand, or do other basic movements.  She then instructs me (often using light touch) to change my movement or position.  The changes are usually quite subtle, but I have found the sessions quite powerful, even overwhelming.  I often get dizzy, which seems to be a signal that we’re moving too quickly (I never would have thought before that such slight movements could cause a change in my blood pressure, but there you go).  Also, the idea that we’re moving too “quickly” often seems strange, as the changes in movement or position I make are quite slight.

The thing I like the best about my lessons (other than my friend’s giving me a hefty discount in her fee) is how I feel when I leave.  I feel really present inside my body, and have an awareness of my body that does not normally come easily to me.

Another thing I really like about learning this technique is that I am not just learning better posture, but the lessons that I learn about my physical self all seem to be mirrored in the rest of my life, and so I am learning about me.

I could give you a number of examples (and may, in the coming days), but the one I think about the most has to do with how I hold my shoulders, neck, and jaw.  Much of the time I hold everything very tightly:  clenching my jaw, scrunching my shoulders up, tensing my neck.

This is actually the same way that I hold on to the rest of my life.  I’ve noticed this posture in myself most when I am anxious (which comes much more frequently than I ever was aware before), when I feel that something is out of my control, out of my grasp, when I feel the ground shifting below my feet.  I have noticed that this feeling comes many, many times a day.  I hold myself as if bracing for a blow, as if trying to keep all the plates spinning.  And that’s exactly what I’m doing.

In learning to let my shoulders release, my jaw unclench, I have noticed that as soon as I am able to do so, a bit of the angst leaves my belly, my arms feel looser, my heart is lighter.  This has become a physical reminder that I don’t have to hold all the pieces in place, I will be okay if the plates fall, there is no theoretical fist waiting in the wings to wallop me.

My teacher suggested that when I notice that my jaw is tight, to focus on how my feet are stable on the ground, how I am solid in my chair.  I don’t have to hold myself up completely.  The earth is perfectly capable of holding my weight.  It is not all on my shoulders to micro-manage.  If the plates fall and crash, the earth will still be here, holding me up.