Saturday, December 12, 2009

itsy bitsy teeny weeny bits of clarity

Since my dh is traveling and I had Friday off, I'm up in New England visiting my siblings. Going to a play, running a 5k, going shopping with my sister, seeing my brother's new place, walking around Manhattan all decorated for Christmas, and meeting my friends' new baby (for whatever reason these friends, who are so incredibly gracious, are not hard to deal with with their two kiddos - though after the announcement of her first, I guess it was a little hard to talk to her. Maybe the problem is that my coping mechanism - putting all those with children into the Other People to Whom Things Happen that Do not Happen to Me category - is shaky on the transition inot that category) is a lot better than sitting around my house eating brownie mix from the box (it's really good mixed with just water) and playing on the internet until 3am. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

On the way up, usually, I listen to music on the radio, louder and faster as I get more tired. This time, though, I decided to have a chat with myself (aloud, naturally), about why I am still angry with God, what exactly I am angry about, and what I am really expecting. As is often the case with such exercises, I feel I made some headway, but not the headway I was planning to make.

I think I saw, for the first time, a vision of my childless future (maybe not the one I will have, but one that I could have) that I could imagine as happy. In order to enjoy that picture, though, I have to finish letting go of a few things. One of those is the bitterness. I can see myself being a sort of mommy to all the other folk around - singles, couples, whoever is around. Once they have enough kids they retreat off into their own lives, but there will always be other people we love who could use a social event planner and someone to feed them and keep them out and about.

My dh and I already do a decent job of throwing parties and planning excursions, but my successes in that area so far have been limited by my lack of ambition. That is, I don't see it as my job to plan the excursions - I just do what I perceive as my fair share (and then very few other people do "their" share). If I accepted that this was a good thing for me to be doing a lot, I could do much more. And if I stopped focusing on how my family of two has been robbed of the opportunity to become a biological family of fourteen, I could start seeing myself as part of a much larger non-biological family; and stop looking inward and mourning, and instead spend my energy really really caring how everyone else is doing, why so-and-so hasn't been around lately, just how lonely the loners feel, who needs a coffee break with a girlfriend, which newly married gals are looking like they might join the IF club (and need someone to talk to who is no longer a complete and total mess), and all sorts of other things that I'm actually good at but have been too wrapped up in my own loss to do for, well, years.

I think I want my (relatively) big house in a town that will be beautiful at Christmas - and not just because it would have room for a few kids if I ever have them. Even if it's a bit of a drive for friends, the ones who need a community too much to go to the bar down the road will still come. My insane, dysfunctional family, which currently contains no generation with both the material and psychological resources to host a simple Christmas dinner, actually needs one household that has some spare rooms and a decent grocery budget a lot more than it needs a fertile couple making a lot of Catholic babies.

And for the first time since I was married and started ttc, with respect to this kids thing, I actually do feel like I'm young and I've got time. Because I thought about it, and I thought - well, one of the things I've considered is being a foster mom (not foster-to-adopt, just foster). Adoption we couldn't start only because we didn't have the money; and now won't start, because we've learned more about the process and decided that being open to adoption makes sense for us, but not dealing with an agency. Bearing children we couldn't start because our bodies wouldn't cooperate. But fostering we actually could start any year now, or five years from now, and no rush. Whenever we figure out what we want to do next, and God, who has been rather coyly quiet on any vocation to parenthood, actually decides to get His act together and send us some messages we can understand.

This momentary clarity and serenity worry me because I know they are so fragile. I don't know how to keep them, other than to work really hard to start trying to take better care of the people around me (which I know will make me happier all by itself). And, I'm going to start a comprehensive list of New Year's resolutions - things to do daily, weekly, monthly, and in total, to attack my sadness and exhaustion and loneliness head-on and turn my life, by force of will, into the life that I want and am going to have, by golly! I'm already working on it in my head. I will post it soon. Y'all are welcome to play along: what small habits could you build - realistic ones - that would make a big difference?

The other thing about unexpected forms of clarity is, well, they're only what they are. I've received one blessing - a picture of a life I never expected, but one that I can make work. But the question I was asking myself was, why exactly am I so angry with God? Why don't I trust Him? Why can't I shake the conviction that He would do rotten things to me just to prove that He could? I'm not sure, and I'm still working on it. I feel as though lately, I've been inching along in progress dealing with IF, but no progress dealing with God - my relationship with Whom has been ruptured in large part by the IF. Well, all good things, they say, with time.

Finally, in my continuing pursuit of models of childless womanhood, I stumbled (my dh pointed this out) on the fact that Alice and Dietrich von Hildebrand were childless! I mean, uh, I knew that. Nobody in the Catholic community would claim that their lives or marriage were wasted; everyone looks to them and their writing as spiritually wise. And no kids! I need to start reading some of her stuff.

Oh, lastly - bear with me, because this actually ties in. One of the things I've mourned about not being a mother was the fact that I always thought I could tell the difference between women (45+, you know) who had had children and those who hadn't - the childless seemed less selfless, more brittle, less mature. I don't want to be that. So, anyway, I was watching Reba McEntire videos on youtube the other day. (What I wouldn't give to look like her at her age! Or NOW!) You all know she sings that duet with Kelly Clarkson, "Because of You" (which Kelly wrote or whatever, but they each recorded). Well, at one concert appearance, they sang together a song they had not both recorded, "Since You've Been Gone" - it's just Kelly's.

Now Reba, I believe, has children. But she's also had a rocky marriage(s), and she's in show business. Not a life calculated to make a person selfless, exactly.

So they do the song. And I think it was Reba's concert. But she lets Kelly sing most of it, she only does one verse. Reba is, of course, some thirty years older than Kelly - she's been singing hits for decades, and she's old enough literally to be Kelly's mother. And she's there dancing and having fun; she gets the crowd clapping for Kelly; she makes a big deal of her. Never tries to steal the limelight.

You can also tell that Kelly is a little nervous - what is Reba going to do with her song, when it's Reba's turn to sing some? And when Reba sings "I just wanna be with you," in her signature twang, with a little more melody and less rock than Kelly uses, Kelly doubles over laughing. Reba just doesn't bother to pretend to be something she isn't.

Not sure why, but something in the video leaps out at me. Not to be jealous of the up-and-coming star, not changing yourself to fit into a new genre, not stealing the center of attention when you know you could (not even by wearing something Kelly couldn't get away with). Just happy for someone else. She's really something.


  1. I really love this post because no life (with or without children) is worth living surrounded in misery and bitterness. Your post a while ago on Mary having the choice, but us not, made me think a lot. We do not have a choice about our infertility or most things for that matter, but we do have a choice on how we will handle it. We all have to deal with what we are given and hopefully we choose to do that in a positive way (after a period of mourning, of course . . . we are human after all). Maybe we will be parents one day, but we aren’t now and we have to find our place and be of service now. (I realize this seems hypocritical because a lot of my posts are downers. The problem is that I feel that way for a short period of time . . . just long enough to post it and leave the impression that I am drowning in misery).

    I do not know what types of ideas you are looking for on New Year’s plan (hosting more parties perhaps). Here is an idea for when you are really down-in-the-dumps. A priest suggested I do a thankful rosary when I was down and focusing too much on what I didn’t have (after each Hail Mary say one thing I was thankful for . . . you have to get creative after a couple of decades). Maybe it’s not for everyone, but it does force me to snap out of my woe-is-me mentality and focus on the blessings I do have and can share with others.

    I’m happy you got to spend time with your friend, too. I do think most of us need to work on incorporating (or at least not cutting off) our friends with kids into our lives. They need us too and I promise, it does hurt less and less.

  2. This is a wonderful post, with some really well-articulated thoughts. (Um, now I feel like I'm writing a book report. "I thought this book was really interesting...")

    Anyway, that was a really cute video, too. I like the theme of being secure and dare I say even joyful with where you are in your current life. I may just try that :)

  3. Thank you for letting me follow along on your journey. I am glad you got a bit of clarity and I enjoyed your insights. I really liked Ann's comment, couldn't agree more-we can only control our response when life throws boulders at us!

  4. Great post. It's important for us to be joyful and recognize our blessings whatever God's will for us ends up being. Thanks for sharing with us.

  5. What a beautiful and well-written post, about some heartfelt and certainly painful realizations. I'm new here (I just stumbled across from Mel's blogroll), but I find your writing both thoughtful and honest. I can't wait to read more. In the meantime, I wish that the fragile clarity and hope you are currently experiencing become more concrete.


  6. This post is wonderful, and you have definitely been given a gift. It can be hard to hold onto those moments, as you write, but they do make a big difference because they will return to you.

    Historically, most of the women who have done anything and been remembered were childless/free. Hildegard von Bingen. Virginia Woolf. Gertrude Stein... the list is very long. This gave me immense comfort when I was in the trenches of doom and doubt.