Tuesday, December 22, 2009

failure

I know I like to project as pretty tough about infertility. It's the approach I prefer - that I'm stronger than this bull$%&#. And maybe most of the time I am. But every once in a while, something comes along to remind me that I am, in Alanis Morisette's words - well, you know. Not entirely brave.

I got a very unexpected phone call the other day - unexpected like after the caller introduced himself, I still thought he was someone else, and tried to pass off the call to my husband. It was a dear friend from college. He and I dated for eight months; we broke up when we were both in discernment for the religious life. I ultimately went to a very Catholic law school. He ultimately went to a very very strict religious order. He's taken his final vows. (So have I!) He'll start major seminary soon - it's been years and he's been doing lots of stuff, but he hasn't been ordained yet. Anyway, I rarely ever see him. Six months after he entered, and I started law school, I did see him at the March for Life. He was happier than I had ever seen him and I was so happy to see that he had finally found home.

When I say strict, anyway, I don't just mean that they don't have internet, cell phones, or even a land line. I mean that even the order doesn't have any possessions. So they don't own any land. Or buildings. Or even food. They beg for their food. They live where people will let them stay. Or outside. If they need to go somewhere (say, 1500 miles), they walk. People do give them rides, but if not - then they walk. So you see, it's not like he texts or sends gchat messages. That's the first phone call I've gotten from him in well over six years. (He sends letters, and I, on an extremely delinquent schedule of which I am ashamed, send letters back.) Anyway, he found out through mutual friends that my husband and I (with my husband's family) and he (with his order) will be within 30 miles over Christmas - and another friend from college, along with his wife and their two kids (yes, of course, they got married after we did. You had to ask?). So we should get together.

OK, so, my husband and my friend have never met, so that will be interesting, and I admit to the odd bit of nerves in case there is a genuinely serious case of not getting along. I love my husband, but easygoing is only sometimes his thing. And my friend is (was?) a handful too. Actually, they have more in common with each other than either of them has with me. Of course, this is also true of my husband and my father, and that went so well that my father literally (and I use this word in its dictionary sense) did not speak to me (with one two-minute exception) for three years after we got engaged. Have I mentioned that? Yeah, it's true. My nineteen-year-old brother gave me away at my wedding. I didn't meet my smallest baby brother until he was two. Anywho...

But since that conversation, I've been jumping out of my skin with nerves. When I think about seeing these people, I want to puke. Who is this? This isn't me. What do I have to prove? And to whom? What's wrong with me?

And I've thought about it. I am trying to figure out what on earth is driving me crazy, why I would rather my car explode in fiery inferno en route to New England than see a bunch of really wonderful priests I have always loved. I'm not sure I have it all sorted out. But I have some ideas.

First of all, my friend's wife (Irish girl from Boston. No doubt the genuine article. Probably gorgeous. And thinner than I am. With a baby on the hip. And I bet she DOESN'T HAVE ENDO!), I have never met. I hate her...now. This girl is probably an angel. (Not so yours truly...arguably I was in college...) I have run through all sorts of horrible conversations with her in my mind, in which she says something hateful and dismissive about infertiles, and I tell her that she's ungrateful for her blessings from God and her children will consequently go to Hell, or something. I get quite passionate about these imagined conversations. I was almost crying in the Trader Joe's. (Sanity check: still missing and unaccounted for.)

But this girl I have never met, who must be the eleventy millionth Catholic mother of two I know of who was married after me and seriously what do I even care any more, is obviously not the problem. What's the problem?

Well, I guess my friend is the omega point of all the values I used to have (and, um, several that I never had). If I had a beautiful family and were a long-skirt-wearing doe-eyed Catholic girl in childlike awe of all the religious - this is what I expected to become, mind you - I would be fine. I wouldn't be intimidated, I would be looking forward to meeting this girl and introducing our kids, and the idea of getting special blessings for my babies from some friars would probably be foremost on my mind.

But by my own standards - by my hopes and dreams for my life - I have failed. Not just because I don't have the babies. (They would help - they would help with most things.) But because of all that that's engendered. By the end of law school I had stopped saying three Rosaries a day. Then I stopped saying any. In the last year I finally stopped going to daily Mass. For a while I was reading the Magnificat, but I stopped caring. The prayers started to be annoying rather than speaking to me. I intend to start going to daily Mass again, but I need an angle on that that will work, first, and I don't have one. I'm bitter, still, if getting better. I'm angry with God, still, if growing merely distant. I'm not passionate about my job and I would have a hard time explaining that I'm really doing God's work. My husband, whom I love, periodically claims not to believe in God. (I know it isn't true, but he does say it. And he's not much of a spiritual leader of the household right now. I could really, really use that, but it's not available.) I don't know where I'm going in my life. My sister is doing well, my brother is doing well materially, and everyone else in my family is a complete ruin and arguably getting worse, rather than better.

You know, I don't feel as though my life is a disaster. I actually feel reasonably good - you know, for me. But I can't think of a single question he could ask me (he is unlikely to ask, "Where did you get that scarf?") for which I could offer an answer that wouldn't cause him to make a face I'd want to hit.

I DON'T feel like my marriage is a failure. I love my husband. He's a good man, and he loves me and takes care of me. My marriage, while not perfect, is one of the few obvious and consistent blessings in my life. My devotional life is absolute crap, but I am trying. I feel like I am doing my best. I don't have holy serenity about my infertility, but for heaven's sake. There are quite literally women out there with PTSD symptoms when they hear children crying. I am a survivor. That's my biggest achievement - life pounds on me an awful lot, and I just keep getting back up. That right there is an olympic accomplishment. So why can't I think of anything good to say about my entire life? Why do I feel as though everything I've ever done has been entirely wasted?

9 comments:

  1. Not that this is a conversation piece, but PLEASE do not forget something that about you that is not a waste - that you are a living witness to the Church's teachings. You aren't just talking the pro-life talk, you are walking the very difficult walk. Every minute of every day. There are so many faithful Catholics who love the Church and all she teaches, but they might never have had to put it into action. You have. Not doing ART may have been a no-brainer for you like it was for me, but that shouldn't lessen the impact of that decision. I think sometimes we overlook what a big deal it is to follow the Church's teachings, because we never questioned it.

    Yes, our cross is often hidden to others, unlike that of a mother of eight who is obviously open to life in a beautiful way. And I'm assuming you don't want to get into all of that with your friends, understandably, but it is something that is great about you and your life (and I'm sure there is a ton more I don't know as well). I'm sure the priests/friars would be thrilled to know what a witness you are!

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  2. Woah...lots to think about. Well, I can think of one way in which you have not failed...your blog has been a great inspiration to me and many others! (Of course, I think you are being too hard on yourself in the other areas -but since I don't personally know you...I know I don't have much credibility). But I do read your blog and again, I think you are a gifted writer - with clarity, honesty, and wit. Furthermore, Christ came for the broken and the bruised, not for the healthy, so I think we are all in a good position for be helped by Him during this Christmas season. God Bless!

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  3. You know it hasn't been wasted. Nothing is wasted unless you let it be. What we've done in life simply gets us to where we are now. We make the decision on where to go from here.

    I'm a practicing Catholic, but I've never been what I'd consider religious. I've never been to daily mass and I never will. I don't say the rosary, and I'm reasonably certain I'll never do that, either. When I pray, my mind inevitably wanders. And these days, I don't always go to Sunday Mass. I am also less than thrilled with God right now due to this lack of baby situation.

    But do I consider a lapsed Catholic? No. Because I do my best to be a decent person. Because I have conversations with God everyday (one-sided, usually). Because I try to live a good, loving, non-judging life. The key word is "try." I fail a lot, but I try to be the best person I can be. In spite of the many, many, many disappointments in my life - including with God - I still believe, I continue to pray, and I try to have faith no matter how often I fall short.

    That's why I don't think your life's wasted. You obviously try too. You struggle to be the best person you can be. Like any human being, you might not be perfect, but that still doesn't stop you from trying. Take comfort in that: you deserve it.

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  4. Have you ever read Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited? There is a line in there somewhere...two people, a Catholic and an athiest, are talking about a third man, a drunk, who has screwed up his life. The atheist comments that this third man is a failure. The Catholic responds with something like, "we have no obligation to not fail."
    Now, of course, I don't think you are a failure. Reason says you're not a failure. But I understand that feeling of being a failure...and I guess, if these friends of yours have any spiritual maturity (and lets hope that at least the religous does...but it is no guarantee) they'll get that you carry a cross, and not base your worth on such externals as how many devotions you maintain, or how many babies you knock out.
    I would go into the situation trying to be as transparent as possible.

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  5. I'm sorry that you are feeling disappointed about your life, but it's definitely not wasted. I love to read about your musings about decorating and IF.

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  6. So, I'm not the only one who plays out horribly confrontational imaginary conversations in my head! I used to get myself pretty worked up over them, and the reality would end up being nothing like what I'd imagined...of course...so I had to force myself to stop. Wasn't helping the blood pressure.
    I don't know this group of priests you're going to meet, but I don't think that any of them would have the right to pass judgement on you or your life, despite what you see as your failures or shortcomings.
    Just think about every life that you have touched in some way - whether it's your family, or strangers, or friends IRL or through your blog and already you can see that your life is NOT a waste. Okay, I may have just watched It's a Wonderful Life and cried all the way through it, but you know it's true! No life is a waste, even if you can't see the ultimate purpose at this very moment...

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  7. Holy freaking crap, are you in my head Misfit????

    I've been feeling like a total and complete failure myself. I wish that I could give my lonely, sick father-in-law a grandchild, my wonderful husband a baby, my annoying-ass parents a baby to distract themselves with.

    I also think that we may be too hard on ourselves. There are so many "easier" ways to get around our infertility, but we've chosen to follow the teachings of our faith. That's big. Not attending daily mass and not dropping to your knees to do rosaries on a daily basis aren't reasons to feel bad.

    You are surrounded by a community of women that are going through the same (sh*tty) struggle as you are. We're here to support you and pray for you when you can't pray for yourself.

    You are not a failure Misfit, far from it.

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  8. I think life has lots of ups and downs, and it sounds like you might be in a down rut at the moment. I too have these times when it's like, I know I should be thankful, but it gets hard to maintain that - and easier to focus on what I don't have or haven't achieved. I wish I had some golden nuggest of ass-vice for you on that front, but honestly, I just try to do little mental gymnastics to keep myself focused on positive. I think you have lots of positivities going on, and as you said, a rock-solid marriage, which is awesome!

    Oh, and if it makes you feel any better about your devotional life, just know that there are many other millions of people out there who's religious participation is way, way, way lower than yours (um, like mine - in the dredges of the crapper).

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  9. A lot of insightful comments from everybody else. All I wanted to add is that, through the lifestyle of his order, your friend might also have gotten to see a bit more of life in the past few years. You are unlikely to be the only struggling person he has encountered.

    Acknowlege your situation and ask for prayer - there's nothing else you need to do (ok, not hitting his face might be in there somewhere). The mom is just one more fertile ;) - the world is full of 'em - and I have faith that you are going to do just fine.

    blessings to you and your husband

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