Tuesday, June 28, 2011

point(s) of clarification

I often feel that the anger makes me incisive, but it's possible it makes me overshoot my point. In this case, I had a number of points, so perhaps it's easier to muddle them than usual.

Point Number 1 is the simpler point. If a group of infertile women, most of whom have children, are trying to arrange a get-together, two things should happen. Number 1: the women should immediately and expressly recognize that some of the still-childless women may feel (at minimum) uncomfortable if the meeting ends up approximately eight women and six kids. Number 2: immediately upon that recognition, the goal should be set that, because of this possibility, the gathering should be organized so that the childless infertiles can attend without feeling uncomfortable - not so that the women with children can attend without having to make alternative arrangements for child care.

Some of you (not any childless infertiles, though!) will think this sounds selfish. It isn't. Why not? Well, we're all called to put up with logistical inconveniences in our lives all the time. Even me! And most of us cope fairly well. There's a difference between logistical inconvenience and real spiritual suffering. Especially when a gathering is being offered as a means of fellowship to lighten the burdens of that spiritual suffering, avoiding increasing someone else's serious suffering (not even comparable to inconvenience) should be a priority that dwarfs all others.

The thing is, I could never explain what I mean by "serious spiritual suffering" in this context to someone who doesn't already know. Unfortunately, that often seems to include a lot of women who are parenting after infertility. To anyone in that position who is reading this and thinking how unreasonable I sound (I am unreasonable all the time. This is not one of those times), I invite you to pick the three different months when you were childless that were the darkest in your life (post-marriage, during ttc), and read every blog post you wrote during each of those times. (If none of the posts discuss mothers, other people's children, and pregnant women, go through your sent email or your personal diary as well.) I am sure your words will convince you in a way that mine never could. And if you think those thoughts of yours don't matter because you've since recanted them - recantation doesn't count unless it happened before you had a child, before you were pregnant, and before you were matched. Anything else just gets you hypocrisy points...sorry.

Probably like all of you, I have seen firsthand how emotionally raw and sensitive infertile girls (not just me. Not even me; actually, I'm talking about other people) are when they're in an environment that's billed as nurturing, where they can let their guard down. And then someone - a well-meaning someone! - ambushes them with an unwittingly insensitive comment. I saw a room full of girls crying over what was intended to be encouragement at the first of the DC Catholic IF support group meetings (this one was an "open" format, not the infertile coffee). I'm not crazy, and it's not just me. There's the game face we wear to smile through coworkers' "When you decide to have children, you'll find it changes your life too," and, "But you wouldn't know, you don't have kids," and, "So how many kids do you have?" at parties and all the other unpleasantness that's just daily and we have to smile at. And then there's the face we wear when we don't have to pretend. They're just not the same.

At a gathering of mothers, any topic of conversation (if there ever can be one besides the kids) will constantly be punctuated by, "Oh, can he play with that?" "Now, Susie, it's his turn with the toy!" "Does Sammy need changing?" "My Billy was doing that exact thing while he was learning to walk!" And so on. Notthatthere'sanythingwrongwiththat except that when a childless woman is required to sit there as an audience to a whole group of other women who get to be insiders to that conversation - then, yes, there is something wrong with it. How would you like it if that were you?

And the real bottom-line problem with that is that an invitation like that, a social situation constructed like that, a set of assumptions like that, from other infertile women, who either do know better or did know better before they allowed themselves to forget, sends one very succinct message:

I don't care how much you suffer.

I don't think that's melodramatic or an exaggeration. Read it again; think about it. I don't believe that infertiles with children are composing their inconsiderate emails and whatever else with the thought consciously in mind, "I hope you suffer." No, it's, "I've got this priority, and that priority, and this would be convenient for me, and wouldn't that be nice, and - oh, the childless women might suffer. I could change all of...? No, you know, I wouldn't enjoy that so much. Maybe they won't suffer? Well, I don't know...but surely they can't expect me to...no, no, that would be too much. I don't have to do that...really, if they suffer, it's not my problem. If it's going to require me to do different things, well, that's not fair of them to ask, and if they expect me to put them first, really, I don't care how much they suffer."

This makes me angry, and, I think, justifiably so. If I were some sort of melancholic person, I suppose, I wouldn't write a blog post about how rotten and insensitive people are; I would cry and I would accept that none of them care about me and probably I would go to the stupid play group but I would experience that it offered not one iota of support or fellowship for me; on the contrary, I would cry all the way home, and I would spend a week depressed, and I would think, "If this is how the people who are supposed to love me and understand me treat me, then what little must I be worth?"

This segues beautifully into Point Number 2.

Infertility blogging is obviously an excellent resource for infertile women who carry a cross that no one around them seems to understand, and which it's generally taboo even to discuss. But it has one fatal flaw: me. No, really - me, and people like me. People who "graduate" to parenthood at around the average time for an infertile blogger get a lot of support from other childless infertiles while they are childless themselves, and then they have a substantial cohort of other recently-graduated infertiles with whom to giddily share milestones and baby pictures and new-mama thoughts. Maybe this insulation within a group of other people in the same stage at the same time is an enabler of the forgetting - the forgetting how they themselves felt just a few short months ago.

Those who graduate early don't have much of a cohort going through the same thing at the same time (and maybe they learn to be more sensitive as a result?), but they have a strong support structure while they are childless, and, since they are kind of an anomaly when they first become parents, they have tons of well-wishers from the still-childless, because they are a "sign of hope."

What about those who graduate late - or, God forbid, not at all? Well, as the "average" time passes and they're still childless, their support structure of those in the same boat dwindles down to zero. At the same time, they are confronted with more and more people with children - not only a constant reminder of the blessing they don't have, but a suggestion that there must be something wrong with them if everyone else (even other infertiles!) can achieve motherhood when they can't. And these aren't just any new mothers and children they're confronted with - these are their infertile friends and their kids. They're practically socially required to be consumers of information regarding these children, even if it hurts them. The "right" thing to do is to pretend that it doesn't hurt to have others' blessings thrust in your face, and that insofar as it does hurt, that's because you're a bad person. After all, that woman would never begrudge you a baby! But, of course, she'll never have to.

Since I'm more or less headed there already, I might as well tackle this analysis in economics terms. Infertility blogging offers effectively an exchange of valuable goods - receiving support and friendship in return for offering it yourself. It's a worthwhile bargain as long as what you receive is at least as valuable as what you give. As a general rule, mutual friendship is a good bargain - it's better to give away some of your affection and energy and receive that of others than it is to hoard all your resources and be alone. Man is a gregarious animal, as they say.

In the infertility equation, the analysis gets a little bit more complicated. First of all, fellowship is a bit more specific - it's support for a particular difficulty. People with the same difficulty are uniquely qualified to provide that support. If you didn't know that to be true, you wouldn't be reading an infertility blog right now. But there is no guarantee, once you start the project, that the people in whom you make an investment will be available to make an investment of similar magnitude in you!

Now, I'm not suggesting that we should all sign contracts to remain childless for some minimum period of time before we're, say, allowed to have blog followers. That would be funny, but it wouldn't be helpful. And of course I'm not suggesting that the people who had kids "earlier" in this adventure were pulling some sort of swindle on those of us who are left. Obviously in general we hope for ourselves that we'll get pregnant (or adopt, or both) as soon as may be; we generally hope for others to make it to the other side as well, but we are our own first priorities. (I'm not sure that's true in every case - I think it would upset me more if I got pregnant and left others behind than if they left me behind, which happens all the time as it is, and I may not be the only one who feels that way.) And some people's hopes pan out and others' don't; there's no way, really, to know whose number will come up first. Some people have won spectacularly. Some people have lost tragically. I don't think there's much rhyme or reason in it.

However, whether fault for the system's inequities can be assigned or not, the inequities persist. It's like what people don't understand about taxes: if Congress offers a refundable tax credit, the people who get the credit will pay less in taxes, no taxes, or possibly pay nothing and get money back. Where does that money come from? The federal government. Where does the federal government get its money? Principally from tax revenue. But it's not being paid by the guy who got the credit. That means that if you don't get a credit (and someone else does), it's not just that you don't get a credit - you also have to pay for someone else's.

One proposed solution for this is a flat tax rate; to extend this metaphor back to infertility blogging, it would mean that no blogger is ever allowed to have a child (so no one benefits, but no one has to pay through the nose for anyone else's benefit, either). I am, again, not proposing this as a good thing. For one thing, spiritual benefits are unlike financial benefits; even I would be unhappier if nobody among us had kids. We do benefit, at some level, from one another's blessings. (Which is not carte blanche for those who have the blessings personally to decide that they don't need to be sensitive to the fact that others don't have them. If you're totally convinced that it's just as good for me for you to have a baby as for me to have one, then maybe you should give me your baby and see whether that's as good for you as having the baby yourself. No? Okay.)

Okay, so, I've established that the simplistic solutions won't help and that I can't usually blame anyone (that always makes me feel better. You?). Now what? Well, first of all, I for one would find it at minimum refreshing if once in a while someone would acknowledge that it's not only rotten that a few of us still don't have kids (nota bene: this is not the same as saying that if I "really" wanted children, I would go to Omaha. Just in case you were confused about that), but especially rotten that we're now basically alone. There is, indeed, a new crop of childless infertile bloggers (thank God), but it's hard to lose the immediate support of friends in whom you've invested a lot of your heart and start over; and we can't expect people new to this experience and just getting their bearings to be ready to prop up those of us who have been taking a beating for years and have now been left behind by all of our fertile friends and now all of our infertile friends too. Good grief.

And what are the rest of us to do? I guess the answer is, very little. We could stop blogging, if it's gone from a source of support to mostly sadness, and I have thought about that a lot and probably will do that in the not-too-distant future. We could try to find a cohort of women who are just plain childless, and that's something else I've thought a lot about. I find those women so inspiring - not focused on treatments and pregnancies, but just on living their lives and being themselves, and being women, obviously and really and truly, even without motherhood. So refreshing.

But I've refrained from throwing my allegiance in there totally because I know that, while I am still in treatment, I don't really belong there. I haven't yet taken permanent childlessness really seriously, though I am getting closer and closer. And those women are offering a rock-solid bargain: I'll be childless. You'll be childless. God willing, we'll both live a long time. And we'll inspire and encourage and support one another. Right now, I can't fairly offer that bargain, because I am still rolling the dice with treatment that could (but probably won't) get me pregnant. If I pretended to be a member of the graduated-from-infertility, childless-not-by-choice crowd, I would risk betraying someone's trust in my fellowship, and that's something I don't want to do.

So this meandering reflection doesn't end with a solution. But it does end with a request: the next time a now mommy-blogger wants to dismiss a left-behind childless infertile blogger (maybe another blogger, but probably me) as depressing, unreasonably angry, faithless, unpleasant, or otherwise to be blamed for her own suffering and ignored, I'd like her to remember this: because I'm here, virtually alone, you'll never have to be. And because you are snug (maybe even smug) with your babies in your hoped-for mommydom, you never have to find out whether, if you had been in my situation, you'd have been as ugly and unpleasant as I am. Or maybe, God forbid, even more so.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

let's be honest

One of my little exercises is to keep a sheet recording how I respond to anger. Well, I may have an entry. I told Father at one point that I generally avoid actually attacking people who say insensitive or even appalling things to me on the basis that they're just too stupid to know any better - and they wouldn't learn anything even if I Told Them Things in no uncertain terms. But that doesn't really sound like compassion, does it? And he said, what do you think, "Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do" means? I'm sure our Lord said it with a better attitude, though.

The problem with my strategy (well, one major problem) is that it does not work on infertile women. No matter how I try, I cannot convince myself that anyone who went through the pain of infertility for so much as a minute - let alone for years - is too ignorant to know how offensive her comments could be. Restraining myself from responding usually involves deleting a blog from my blogroll and never reading it again, because the response would probably start with, "Do you remember even one second of the pain you felt? What gives you the right to increase that for someone still in the middle of it by so much as one iota?" and get a lot more hostile from there.

So I've deleted bloggers who said, "I felt guilty for ever being sad about infertility, because it was not a faithful response - all that pain is worth it since I now have my child." That's great, dear. That's not the spiritual value of suffering, by the way. Also, if you can spare a moment from celebrating your bundle of joy, should those who will never have children feel guilty for grieving that fact? Should they just feel perpetually guilty in case they have children later - so they can potentially spend their whole lifetimes grieving and guilty?

And I've deleted bloggers who said that just seeing their babies was a source of joy for everyone in the world. Funny, then, how they wanted to have their own babies, and they weren't contented by the contagious joy of just seeing other people's. They may even have uttered comments now and again about how they didn't want to attend baby showers, because others' blessings actually made their lives harder. They must have realized that they were mistaken about those feelings once they had children of their own.

And I deleted the blogger who went from being interesting and having a lot of hobbies and personality to (she said) becoming obsessed with keeping her page reads up after she delivered her child. Apparently she wasn't able to get her head around the fact that the childless infertile community might need to lower its dose of all baby pictures, all the time. And I believe she said almost in so many words that it never crossed her mind to post less and comment more - invest her energy in supporting those who were still struggling rather than in developing a fan base.

This charming sampling would give a cynical - maybe even a reasonable - person a basis to believe that, far from being taught compassion and generosity by their experience, infertile women become so much more selfish than other women that once they have their own children, they take self-absorption and maternal vanity to olympic heights of which the normally fertile could only dream. But my friendships (online and in real life) with infertile women who have gone on to become mothers make clear to me that there are some out there who are capable of being self-aware, compassionate, selfless, and sensitive. I just think they're in the minority.

And I haven't even shared my Exhibit A. Exhibit A breaks one of the IF blogging commandments: you can complain about anything on an IF blog except other IF bloggers. You know what? So few of the IF women I "met" when I started blogging are still childless (and therefore still read my blog - the number of women who have children and still comment here is vanishingly small, but I treasure each and every one of you) that I have just about nothing to lose. Oh, a tip: if you haven't commented here since before your child was born and you return to comment just on this post to defend women with children, I'm deleting your comment. This is my blog, as you should be able to tell by the total lack of baby pictures.

So my Exhibit A is the DC women's Catholic infertility support group, a cumbersome name oftened shorted to the "infertile coffee" (I liked to say that there was nothing wrong with the coffee, actually). It was started by Jeremiah 29:11 in maybe 2009ish. Jeremiah has many traits I do not share - she's energetic, organized, personable, charismatic, and sweet-tempered. These were all excellent traits for an organizer of an infertility support group. Unfortunately for the infertile coffee, not that long after she started the group, she adopted Tommy.

Oh, sure, she invited the ladies over to meet Tommy several months later (and I gather several women went - I didn't), but there's something about "meet the baby" and "support for infertility" that sounded not-synonymous to me. Not that anyone should not also meet the baby, but I have days when I handle other people's babies well and they are not numerous and that was not one of them. It should go without saying that that's not personal - or, to mangle a quote, "It's the infertility, stupid," but apparently that doesn't go without saying (as we shall soon see).

So at some point I took over organizing the infertile coffee. This project was doomed from the start, partly because I am not remotely as personally pleasant as Jeremiah, partly because so very many of the ladies had adopted or delivered babies in that interval, and partly for another reason. When I picked the organization back up, I opened a discussion of what the group's format should be. Pretty much everyone sent back typically female answers - "Oh I like people let's be nice won't it be nice to meet nice nice nice." I don't understand why women can't just say what it is they mean once in a while. I have other women tell me in whispers all the time that they actually agree with whatever controversial perspective I have just aired, but they would never have said it that way (or, obviously, at all). Of course, they wait until after the storm of debate is over, so that I cannot possibly cite anyone else as agreeing with me. Cute.

Finding this discussion almost entirely unhelpful, I demonstrated my broad-mindedness by saying that I thought anyone affected by infertility should come - Catholic or not, childless or not - but not actually bring their children. Let's be honest (it would be a refreshing change) - there are homeless people walking around this city talking on imaginary cell phones who could reason in ten seconds to the fact that there can be no "infertility support group" with babies in attendance. Conjure up in your mind for a moment a picture of the last conversation you had with a group of women in which one (or more) brought her baby. Now, picture an environment in which you felt free to share your emotions and struggles with infertility honestly. What do those scenarios have in common?


As usual, I had several people (some of whom may be excused for not participating because they apparently didn't read email for several weeks and missed the entire discussion - ?) tell me later that of course they agreed that the group would be a total failure if people brought their kids.

So we started it up, with the few wretched childless stragglers who remained. But our numbers were not impressive. And though I had grand plans to conduct a canvass of all the area parishes for infertile women who had no idea about the group but would have loved to participate (I know these women exist), with only 2-4 people showing up at a time, and invariably at least one complaint about the location (but no actual alternative proposals), there never seemed to be a good opportunity to do that.

Eventually, I got sick of writing tons of emails to which almost no one ever responded, and I quit altogether. Because, you see, when I had the audacity to suggest that the infertility support group be a baby-free zone (since God seems to have ordained it that way for most of us already - har, har), I had to be punished. In several months of emails, I could count on one hand the number of responses I got from women who have children (remember, I said they were welcome to come). I could tell they were angry. But I will never understand how it can be mysterious that childless women might want to seek some support for their struggles that does not constitute cooing at someone else's child.

We're moving right along in Exhibit A. I don't check my blog email every day, but relatively recently Jeremiah, bless her heart, sent out an email saying that she missed the blogger meet-ups and would people be interested in meeting? I can't remember all the names of those responding, but inallthingsgood, who apparently still remembers that she used to be infertile AND childless, said that it might be good to have more than one - one with all the kids, and one for just the adults. And then, let's see, we had some responses from people who wanted to schedule on a weekday morning, and then somebody else I think said she could never possibly swing any event to which she did not bring a child.

So there were a couple of childless women still on this email list. Ostensibly, Jeremiah's invitation was directed to all of us. (She may just have been trying to be polite, though.) Like most childless infertile women, I work full-time. God knows I don't want to come to the play-date in any case (and He also knows that after the play-date happens, there will be no remaining interest in a meeting of just the ladies, to talk about actual infertility), but can't people pretend to remember that there are childless women in the world?

I considered deleting the email and never responding, which would be sort of fitting, but wrote a very pointed response instead. I am well aware that it will open exactly no one's eyes to the missed opportunity to learn from their own suffering and show some modicum of awareness of the existence of people who haven't been fortunate enough to start families of their own yet (or ever); it will just be another indication that they're all saints (as God demonstrated when He blessed them with children) and I'm a monster.

But I still get some satisfaction out of knowing that I'm right.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

all the things in my brain

...or at least the ones that occur to me as I write this post.

Today I was reading an article in Old House Journal about this couple who remodeled their historic home to make it wheelchair-accessible for their son, who has cerebral palsy. The first sentence of the article - you know, the introductory bit with extra-large text - read, "After years of trying to conceive, [she] and [he] discovered they were expecting the same day they made an offer to buy their dream house - a stately Italianate farmstead located an hour outside of Chicago."

I don't think I've ever seen anything other than a feature on infertility make a prominent mention of infertility. Once in a while, you hear adoption plans mentioned as a proxy for acknowledging infertility, but that's about it. (And their house is gorgeous. Given how infertile women in particular are typically portrayed in literature and the media as completely unstable, or evil, or both, it's nice that the infertile couple has incredible taste!) By the way, don't get any ideas - we put our offer on the house on February 27; I wasn't pregnant then, and I'm not pregnant now.

Regarding the house - our original offer was valid through May 27; we extended it through June 30; the ninnies who are selling the house are continuing to try to persuade the evil BoA to approve the short sale; and we are now negotiating with our less-than-flexible landlords to let us have at least a few months of month-to-month rent following the expiration of our current lease on July 31. I decided to make the St. Anthony novena for an IF-related intention (no, not "a baby" - akin to the fact that clearly no one in this county sells the variety of HPT that comes with the two lines, that prayer does not get answered around here), and started a St. Joseph novena regarding the house as well.

By the way, I think I like the St. Joseph novena even better than the St. Anthony novena. Lines like "in the hard choices I must make, help me follow the Spirit's guidance and believe when I cannot see" and "O God, ever faithful, you remember us always and in time reveal your blessings. Help me trust in you, as St. Joseph faithfully trusted" seem to be written just for me. Of course, I was a wee bit irritated by the prayer for day 5. Assuming that the prayer was originally written for someone trying to sell a home (though it doesn't say anything about that), why assume that all such people have children? Why do even my novenas exclude the childless?

In other news, I have some more hopeful indications on the possibility of teaching a writing class for a local law school in the evening. I think it would pay less than minimum wage, counting by the hour, but if I'm honest with myself (which obviously I try to do as little as possible), my dream job is to teach law. I am not a competitive applicant for such a job, but maybe with a wee toe in the door...?

And one of the things I can actually work on to improve my credentials for such a thing is to publish a law review article (actually, I'll need a bare minimum of two). That may have made it onto my resolutions for 2011. And, um, I think 2010 as well. (I'm not checking. And don't you go back and check. Seriously. I mean it.) But last week, I actually started one. I got a kick-start when I heard of a fact pattern that would make the best possible hook for a topic I've been batting around for a while (I even ran it by my boss, forever ago). I need to get the article written by the time that fact pattern makes it into the public domain. So that day at lunch I started typing. I am going to work on it every day at lunch until it is done (I think it will take me most of the summer, which is fine, because law reviews don't really accept article submissions until the semester starts again). I also have an idea for a second article - the minute the first one is done, I'm starting in on the second.

Another thing I've been talking about doing for a year plus is getting back into painting. In May of 2010 when we came back from our trip to Austria with all kinds of great pictures, I bought $40 worth of art supplies - two canvases, a huge piece of watercolor paper, and oil and watercolor paints. Some time in 2010 I picked out a photograph for a watercolor and marked off a grid on the digital picture, but that's as far as I ever got. But now, I have picked a picture from my trip to Poland in February, actually ordered an 8x10 copy of it (it arrived this week), printed a grid on some old transparency paper at work, got a canvas out of the wrapping, drew the grid onto the canvas in pencil,* and started drawing the image for the painting. Once I started drawing I suddenly remembered how agonizingly slow that part of the process is (and not fun like the painting step). It may take me weeks before I open the oils.

But to me this is huge - for several years there have been projects that I only ever talked about. And admittedly I haven't finished any of the big ones yet, but I am starting with some serious momentum and I am very hopeful. Since I haven't done enough patting myself on the back, I must point out that I deliberately waited (since early 2011 - before that was just procrastination) to start the paintings until I had finished all the throwing out processes of my spring pre-packing; done all the home repairs in our rental; procured boxes; gotten several collections of little-used items into Rubbermaid containers; and finished all the mending and alteration projects that have been piling up here for several years.

Yes, you read that right: I am completely caught up on sewing. Some of that is because my DH lost patience and took a suit and a blazer to the tailor (that wasn't all of his stuff - I did some too), but I found that out while they were still at the tailor, because they had come up on my list and I was ready to polish them off that very night. I'm so current that I finished the hem on the suit we just ordered for my husband mere days after he tried it on; and finished button alterations tonight on a shirt I bought yesterday.

I've also taken on a number of other less intense improvements; we got some of that UPS flower seed paper at work, and I've already brought in an extra pot and planted and watered. I've kept up with my plant watering at work (slightly less diligent at home). I finally ordered all of the family pictures I want, and this week I will put up my photo collage over my desk at work. (Something else I've been planning since 2010.) I might even replace the cushions on our porch glider before the end of June. Somehow, all these little projects that I typically would (and in some cases already had) put off for months or even years because just sitting down and getting them done seemed like too much - don't seem so daunting at the moment, and so I'm able to get them done.

Don't get me wrong. I haven't become some sort of super domestic person or anything. Most of the rooms in my house still haven't been swept in over a month; the cobwebs are seriously starting to take over; I can't find the new bottle of Lysol I bought two weeks ago and apparently even a week of mislaid bleach cleanser leads to some seriously unsightly bathroom tile grout in Virginia in June; I haven't done dry cleaning in ages; and I can't remember when last I sat down and made dinner for the same night. (I have made salads for my husband, and cooked meat ahead for the salads, and put frozen pasta in the oven, and gotten homemade soup out of the freezer to thaw...)

Oh, and I waited until the second-last minute to pick up my HCG prescription, so of course it was the second-last minute when I found out that it needs to be "pre-approved," which apparently means that the doctor needs to call the insurance company and answer some questions. (I am trying to imagine what the doctor would say that would mean it should not be covered when it otherwise might be. "Yes, I wrote the prescription. What? No, no, she doesn't need it. What? Oh, well, just for kicks, really...what's that you say? You don't cover that sort of thing?") Tomorrow is p+3, which means that tomorrow I need to get Dr. L/C to call the insurance company, answer whatever questions they are satisfactorily, call the pharmacy to report that she has done so, and get to the pharmacy before it closes. Which is before I get home from work. Oh, and take my first HCG shot.

Speaking of which, this would be a good time to ask you all what your favorite how-to-give-IM-injections sites and video tutorials and tips and tricks are. Something about ice? Will I be able to sit down at work?

The cobweb issues in particular are starting to get under my skin. And that bit about the HCG, I guess. But life will continue, somehow or other, and the anthills that annoy me will recede into the distance; and, I fervently hope, the great looming mountains that block out the sun will someday be the ground under my feet that I see when I pause for a moment to look down.


*This is a somewhat remedial way to start a painting. However, I am very rusty, and it is a landscape shot with a lot of geometric forms - getting the perspective and proportions right will be essential to a good finished product. I can always loosen up once I start putting paint on.

Monday, June 13, 2011

St. Anthony

The brilliant and inspired TCIE recently revealed to the astonished blogosphere (or at least this ignorant IF blogger) that the beloved Catholic saint, Anthony of Padua, is a patron against sterility and barrenness. In my mind, St. Anthony simply received visions of the child Jesus (yes, yes, I see the connection now), and is the patron of lost things.

He's also the only saint who consistently answers my prayers these days.* God Himself appears to have better things to do than listen to me, but if He listens to St. Anthony on my behalf, then that works too. Consequently, I never have any trouble finding lost things, but a lot of my other intentions languish. So it was very interesting to me that one of the big items on my list of concerns (not on my prayer list, for myself personally, for a long time; but I change my thinking about that periodically. I'm still trying to decide whether I want to stick with my original intention today - finding us a way to get into our house without a big hassle with our lease! - or switch to something about fertility) is within the patronage of the saint who actually likes me.

Anyway, I checked it out, and sure enough, you can find a little explanation about St. Anthony here. And here is a more expansive hagiography. That first site also has a nice prayer to St. Anthony, which looks to me as though it would be a good novena prayer:

St. Anthony of Padua, Glorious for your miracles
And for the condescension of Jesus
In coming as a little child to repose in your arms,
Obtain for me from his bounty the grace which I ardently desire.

You who were so compassionate towards sinners,
Regard not my unworthiness, but the glory of God,
That it may be magnified by you
In connection with the particular request
Which I now earnestly present to you.

(Name the request.)

As a pledge of my gratitude, I beg you to accept my promise
To live more faithfully in accordance with the teachings of the Church,
And to be devoted to the service of the poor whom you loved
And still love so greatly.

Bless this my resolution, that I may be faithful to it even until death.

St. Anthony, consoler of all the afflicted,
Pray for me.

St. Anthony, whom the infant Jesus so much loved and honored,
Pray for me.


I mention this because today is his feast day. (Happy Feast of St. Anthony!) Traditionally I believe novenas are ended on the saint's feast day (though they may be prayed at any time), but I have decided to start one today instead. Feel free to join me. (For those unacquainted with novenas, that just means praying the prayer every day for nine days. Not forgetting is the difficult part.) And don't forget to offer up a particular prayer to St. Anthony for TCIE, who is undergoing her clear passage therapy this week!

*I occasionally take a shot with another intercessor anyway.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

in lighter news

I had my first appointment with the counselor gal on Friday. Too early to tell whether it's helpful, I think; I see some good things and others that I question, so we'll see. I have two assignments (one is keeping a log about things that make me angry and how I react. This strikes me as pointless, because as a general matter the problem is that I feel angry so much of the time, not that I do destructive things when I feel angry. The log is designed, I believe, to train people to see that doing destructive things is bad and they should stop. But, I will be good and fill it out).

Oh, the other assignment is to work on using "I feel" statements with my DH. Of course everyone has heard this suggestion before, and I do try to do it (doesn't seem to make much of a difference when I do), but I default to "you were wrong because" by nature and this obviously would be a change. Maybe it will help.

Last night we went to a dinner thing for an organization my dad has been a member of since before I was born - at its annual meeting (this weekend), he takes over as its next president. So he invited us to come, and we even sat at the head table with him and the outgoing president and the VIP keynote speaker (really a VIP - I think most of you would know who he is). And a couple of embassy folks (!). My DH knew it was really important to me that we put on a good show - appear on time, be gracious, make a good impression. Because it's important to my father, and my family is such a disaster, I want to do the things right that we can do well.

On the one hand, this is something my DH is very good at - networking, making a good impression on people, all that. I also always forget that we have now been working in a city for years and we both wear suits to work - it probably comes more naturally to us to get dressed up for the evening than for most people. (I imagine I will always think of myself as a disheveled misfit.) And my DH is interested in foreign policy (a relevant area for the evening), and is a huge fan of the keynote speaker (I suspected, but wasn't sure, that we would sit at the same table, and my father introduced us, which was very cool. And he is such a nice guy - not at all snotty). On the other hand, this means dealing with a lot of people he doesn't know (many of whom I've known since childhood but not seen in years), almost all about twice as old as we are, and I thought he might be aggravated and bored.

I needn't have worried. We had our best evening in a while. We ran into (or maybe were tracked down by) the only other young couple there (who had just gotten engaged the day before) - her mother is part of the organization, and the fiance is the coming-along-for-the-ride party, like my DH. They were really interesting, well-traveled, and thoughtful, and we had a great chat with them late into the night - batting around the speaker's ideas (which were really insightful), talking about travel and the difference between American and European culture.

My DH is now re-inspired to get moving on his career - not on the I-need-to-quit-this-hateful-job-Monday path (THANK GOD). Rather, he just got a promotion, and then transferred to a different (much bigger and more prestigious) company, where he will be doing the same work - but since the company is bigger, he will have an opportunity to transfer into a different area down the road, including some of the areas in which he is really interested. So now (FINALLY) he is seeing his current job as a step on the path to doing what he really wants. (I have believed that it would work out that way since he got the original job in 2009, though I can't claim I knew it would work out this way.) So today, he's been looking into graduate programs in the area, and planning to pitch it to his company that it should pay for him to take a course or two. And planning to start studying for the GRE.

I am so relieved at this development. I don't want to be the dream-crusher, but he tends to articulate dreams that are so wildly impractical I can't sign onto them. I am so happy to encourage something that will make him happy, and we can accomplish sans disaster. (Also in that vein, he mentioned wanting to do the pilgrimage to Compostella next year. It would mean a month off of work, so it's really not feasible, but I have always wanted to do it. So I figured, why criticize the idea? It's something we both want. So I said, sure, let's figure out the logistics later. And then a week or so ago, he suggested we do it one leg at a time, a week per year. Something we can do!)

I didn't do much last night other than give my isn't-this-charming smile and try to look pretty, but I like to think my efforts in that direction were worthwhile. I wore a pretty dress my husband got me for Christmas (this one, but in black). It had gotten a bit snug, and I had to work hard for a week so it fit, but it was worth it. And when I had a bad evening on Thursday, I courageously responded in the way that God intended, and went shoe-shopping. I originally bought these (I loved the idea of a sandal front and a shoe back, and they were on clearance for $25):

But I had to go back and return them, because I realized I really had my heart set on this pair:

They were $40, and it goes against most of what I believe in to buy the $40 pair when there is a good-quality $25 pair that would work just as well for the occasion, but they were so beautiful and I HAD to have them. The heels have got to be 4" (stiletto, as you see, and no platform in the toe), so I can only walk a few steps in them; mostly stand (briefly) and sit. Perfect for a dinner with drinks afterward! I put them on in the elevator as we went up from the parking lot to the hotel, and barely even scuffed their beautiful leather soles.

And I gave myself a French pedicure (since my toes would show) and curled my hair (total failure - I had to comb it out and put it up. I can never curl my hair properly!) and did my makeup - quite a bit of makeup for me, but not outrageous for evening - and wore a necklace that was my father's mother's, and I was given after she died when I was 12. And one of the ladies came up to me at the end of dinner and told me I looked like a movie star. It was silly, of course, but that made me feel good :). And my DH looked dashing in his best suit - I was very proud of us.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

I know this probably reflects poorly on me, but I think one of the reasons I got married was because I desperately needed someone in my life who could tell me, "Everything is going to be OK," and mean it, and I would believe him. I'm independent and opinionated and very unlikely to want anybody infantilizing me 95% of the time, but once in a great while I absolutely need that and there is no substitute.

I never had it growing up. Of course my father would say it, in the gravest of tones, and he made lots of very serious promises that were meant to reassure us, his children. That didn't work, because when he originally made most of them we were way too young to understand them, and by the time we did understand them he generally had broken them. (Oops.) My mother never made promises; she was just a walking disaster.

So insecure was my experience of growing up and so little hope did I have for a stabler future that at some point during the twelfth grade I realized I had shied away from all those shiny magazine spreads about kids decorating their college dorm rooms for the first time and the like - intoxicating stuff for high school upperclassmen - because I truly did not believe I would ever go. I didn't believe I would ever be anywhere I wasn't a social outcast and a freak, I didn't believe I would ever be anywhere more fun or exciting or free or even normal than in my unhappy existence. Fortunately, I was wrong about all of that, and college was, as I expected it to be even then, the happiest four years of my life.

But I was afraid of how things would go, and hated a lot of things about myself, and by spring of my senior year of high school I had gotten all the way up to 117 pounds (gasp), so I started starving myself. Oh, I was never a really hardcore anorexic, not the kind they put in the hospital, and I ate every day, but by the time I started college I weighed a mere 108 (I claimed 112). I did it for another summer (to get rid of the freshman 15) before I stopped (though by the next summer I had taken up ascetic fasting, which, judging by the health results, was worse). I didn't start dieting again until the end of my senior year of college. I was afraid of where I was going next. My family had long since proven entirely unreliable as a source of support, and had no idea what I was even up to. I was debating between entering the religious life immediately (for which I was outrageously unprepared) and going to law school, and I was still heartbroken over my sophomore-year boyfriend, who was even then clearly the wrong person for me, but whom I had convinced myself (as a college sophomore) that I would marry. Trying to give up the dream of marriage and a big family for a religious vocation was killing me. (God got the last laugh there, of course.) I was having anxiety attacks from the stress of all the campus organizations I was supposed to be leading (well, two, but with a full course load and no support system, that's a lot), and I started curtailing my food intake sharply. I started thin and rapidly got thinner. After a few months I stopped myself, but I realized slowly that I had been terrified of the changes in my life, and thought that if one of my two best guy friends - my only real emotional support - noticed and said something about my unhealthy weight loss or my obvious depression, then I would feel safer.

Of course neither of them said a word. They were struggling with their own issues. I'm not sure they even noticed.

I got married just two years after I graduated from college. I believed that God had blessed our marriage - two dysfunctional crazy people who couldn't live without each other and were somehow going to work through all their dysfunction through their marriage, as they'd already healed from some of their long-standing wounds through their love for each other - and I received my precious sign from the Black Madonna of Czestochowa that this was to be my vocation.

But I calculated wrong if I was looking for someone who could make everything OK. Maybe if I had looked for someone even-tempered, someone placid, someone whole, someone unlike me, maybe someone like that could have been the rock in my storms. But with the arrangement I chose, I returned to my childhood role, the one I was ill-equipped for then and am ill-equipped for now - the person who, when push comes to shove, must make everything OK.

I am 29 years old. In a few short months I will be 30. And it is well past time to stop harboring the delusion that someday the instability of my childhood will be rectified, that the world will be safer for me when I am 35 than it was when I was 5, or that other people will be able to give me what they manifestly do not have for themselves. I am a big girl now, and when I look at myself in the mirror, I have to tell the truth: it's never going to be OK.