Sunday, March 1, 2009

a heart of stone

One of the things I've been doing for Lent (prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, you know) is trying to read morning and evening prayer every day. I'm sure I've said this before, but reading psalms and canticles picked out for each day, I have the feeling that there's a message in them specially for me, words to help me grow further throughout (or just survive) the day.

From yesterday's:

Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

That's most, or maybe all, of what I need right there. I never did, before this whole infertility thing; I've read the verse many times, and it didn't ring true with any characteristic flaw I have (and I have many, so I can usually latch onto something). Now it means a lot. I have a heart of stone - maybe a heart of ice; because I dare not hope, I can't stand the pain any more. I can't want desperately - and unattainably - what others have and I lack. I'm not strong enough to be heartbroken every day.

The thought has whispered across my mind recently, on occasion: do I still really want children? My life would change dramatically if I had them. No job (and I've never very much wanted a job!). All day home with small people, people who need to be cleaned, and have nothing intelligent to say. I always thought my heart would be broadened, so, by innocent and helpless beings to love. My heart is narrower now even than when I thought that; and I am not sure any more that that broadening would happen, should happen. Once I could not imagine my life growing into oldness without children; I still can't; but now I can't easily imagine my adult life with children in it, as more than a carbon copy of the lives of others. And then sometimes, again, I think that I can't have a future as a non-mother, that there isn't even another future to have. I haven't changed my mind; I'm not settled; but I wonder.

I recognize that the not-wanting has a large element of sour grapes about it: rather than an expression of the desire of my heart, it's at least in part an expression of my desire not to have the desires of my heart taken away.

But the hardness of my heart has even a darker side. It's not just a matter of whether I'm resentfully turning away from what I should fight for, rather than peacefully letting go of what I can't have. It's that when I didn't have children (including, say, now), I became untethered. I had ordered my life to selflessness and service and virtue and generosity and growth as a person by giving to children (my plan) and letting go my vainer pursuits, for them. I don't have a plan B. If that doesn't work, I can try to live a good life where I am, but where I am is nowhere in particular and is just a matter of where I happened to find a job and is not, really, the thing which is worth the pouring out of an entire human life, let alone my life in particular. Surely, there are jobs that have more of goodness than mine. I could look for one of them. But which one? I've most always had a why - if not an overall why (and the lack always frustrated me), then a why for the next thing. The only next thing I have now is that I should show up to work tomorrow, since, after all, they're paying me. That's not worth a whole human life.

But I can tell - I can feel, almost, as if there were a real stone in my chest, that there's something unyielding in me, that will not allow itself to be molded for the next thing, carved into something meaningful. All the little strength I have is marshaled to fend off the heartbreak that would love to take me back - to form a heart of stone.

And my annual exam is tomorrow. Because of the snowstorm, the clinic may be closed; I do hope not. But part of me is sure they'll have a look at me and tell me that I'm so very sick, as no twenty-seven-year-old should be...


  1. Wow, I often feel the same way. Thank you for putting it into words.

  2. Whatever that unyielding rock inside you is--it's filled with gold. And it will change with time. Just feeling it, recognizing it, naming it is a huge step.

  3. I don't think you could ever have a heart of stone judging by this blog and your sweet comments on mine. Thank you for those. I hope you can still go to your annual tomorrow (who says that?!) and that the outcome of said appointment is good news. Good luck!

  4. Wow! This a beautiful post. I know things will get better for you. Just hold on to your faith ~ you'll find peace within and everything else will follow.