The F*!? Is Your Life

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So, this morning life made me simultaneously giggle and sigh deeply with exhaustion. That photo is my green juice.  That photo is probably a better metaphor for my life than the previous one where the juice is contained in an enormous goblet, resting on a festive napkin. If you’ve read a few of these Stealing Nectar blog posts, you know my “green juice” (a.ka. life) often explodes and leaves me to clean up the mess and salvage what healthy stuff I can from the remaining pieces.

Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, has another lesser known book (but better in my opinion) titled, “Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar.” Even though I had read Wild, I wasn’t inclined to pick up Tiny Beautiful Things until a close friend urged me to do so, saying she was in tears at the gym while listening to the audio version…and somehow I could tell she was trying to tell me something she needed to express to me.

Turns out, my friend was listening to this column included in the book from The Rumpus where Strayed was an anonymous advice columnist. This is a very moving, but longish read about miscarriage. I read this a few short months after losing Adam Gabriel, and I knew this was my friend’s way of empathizing with me. She was telling me that, on some level because of this column, she understood my pain and my great loss. She was using the column as a bridge, extending her support to my lonely, sad island of miscarriage.

As that column was so very important to my healing, so was this one, also included in Strayed’s book. Although it’s, likewise, a difficult and intense read, it has really stuck with me. Strayed so eloquently answers the vague and frustrating question, “WTF?” with the completely heartbreaking truth: “The F*!? is your life.” But, this can be pivotal. When I realized integration of the f*!? (yes, I really can’t write such a grotesque word out like an adult) – the miscarriages, the job loss, the rest of the negative list I am too tempted to type – was the only way through and passed…well, then, you get busy cleaning up the juice on your cabinets, on the floor, all over your robe…and get ready to do it all over again knowing that there are no guarantees in this life, but you’ll be okay anyway.

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A Mixed Bag

Life is always a mixed bag. I am trying not to live in a dualistic mindframe…but it’s sooooo hard. When my dog has lost a third of his body weight since almost dying last spring and there seems no clear way to get him to gain it back, it’s really difficult not to label that “bad.” When Adam’s due date is approaching and I can’t stop thinking about how he should be celebrating his first birthday and his first Christmas, I struggle with finding joy in that. When I come home to a sick, sad puppy and an email saying “no news” from Haiti, I struggle. Really, I am just tired of being sad and tired of worrying that anything living near me may be pulled from me sooner than I am ready.

That’s half of it. The other half is overwhelming gratitude. Last week my husband and I spent a week in Palm Springs for a work function of his. I spent my days absorbing the sunlight, running, and laughing more than I have in months, or maybe even years. I spent nights with more laughter, lots of dancing, and plenty of good food and drinks. I have complete flexibility in my life. I have inspiring people whom push me to keep learning and keep being positive…and, just show me love when I need that, too.

So, how can the worst times also be the best times? I guess I keep being shown that the “worst” times are really not the worst. The “best” times come with a fair amount of frustration or sadness on the side. This is life. I seem to be living it deeper in both “directions” (if we really want to label…or, if I can’t stop myself from labeling, I should say…). I don’t trust it will go back (to life being less complicated). I will have to keep changing, keep growing, and keep accepting the unstability. I will have to keep working on my patience. I will have to keep loving the seemingly unlovable days, and the gorgeous days, that make me question “why me?”.

I am so happy my loved ones still ask me to celebrate their pregnancies, their job successes, or just to spend some time with them road tripping along the Gulf Coast this next summer. When I want to scream and throw in the proverbial towel, I get to celebrate someone else’s joy or get a truckload of “oh my gosh my life is crazy good how is this my good fortune?” This is life. It’s the “good;” it’s the “bad;” it’s the lessons we take with us from the experiences. This mixed bag is mine, and I will reach my hand deep into the contents, not knowing what thrills or scares will grab me next.

Mind Mania

When I go “into my head” too often, that’s always a sign I need to recenter, meditate, and find a way to rest my spirit. I feel a creeping in of my ego. I find doubt. Anxiety. Manic or half-thought thoughts. Catching it is one thing, but taming it is a whole other.

In the last few weeks, I have been sloppy with my words. Sloppy, or just not wise enough to choose better ones. I have been exhausting (to myself as well as others) with my repetitive focus, and I haven’t left enough room for deep breaths. The necessity of patience and comfort with ambiguity feels like a slow death….and I know that’s a result of a narrow perspective. There is openness and light here if I welcome it.

My husband and I went back to another specialist and genetic counselor and, once again, had it confirmed that we’ve had the supreme package of bad luck with our pregnancies. We are at the point of diminishing returns for any procedures/tests we would opt to have (results < effort), but – despite the lack of clarity – we felt a strange sense of relief, knowing that we are still “normal” in doctors’ terms.

However relieved, this new chapter of our life has reminded us that a long period of waiting is ahead of us. Many families have waited 3, 4 and 5 years to bring their children home from Haiti. We are open to building our family in so many different ways, but that kind of openness is not enough; there is much more patience needed. We need to be open to a timing that is divine and does not heed to chronological ticks and tocks. Although we are grasping at anything to aid in that preparation, there is much beyond our control, sight, and wisdom. In some ways it is very comforting because the responsibility doesn’t rest on our shoulders; in other ways it’s driving us nuts as we think we are ready for more purpose and responsibility NOW! (And, even as I typed that last sentence, I know I will look back at it, shaking my head, thinking, “Why didn’t I enjoy the quiet!”)

I feel a shift is actually upon us, though. This tension and rattling energy feels like we are at the top of the roller coaster’s hill, about to fly down the other side, feeling the wind blow our hair around with happy smiles and shrieks of joy. I don’t know what is on the other side of this uphill exactly, but I feel it’s just a breath away. I hope this really is the case.

So, I will calm my mind with prayer, exercise, good food, and connection. I will live purposefully, and I will anticipate the goodness that is upon us – now and that which is a moment away.

And Then There Was Just Sweet Relief…

As I clicked on a draft to write this post, my eye caught my last post titled, “Bittersweet Relief.” A few short days later, I am truly writing about something with nothing “bitter” about it. A dear friend and soul sister of mine just gave birth to a very sweet, very healthy, baby boy.

She has three beautiful kids at home and, now, this little one she will take home in a few days from the hospital. From the outside, we probably look like two very different people considering our geographical location, family structure, and day-to-day activities. What people passing her at a baseball game or at the park may never guess is her family didn’t come so easily. Last January, as I was acknowledging Adam’s due date at home, she was in the hospital, giving birth to a sweet little girl, little Olivia, born many weeks too soon.

When I heard about Olivia, I reached out immediately, trying to see how I might help her tackle this crazy sadness and overwhelming disbelief she undoubtedly was feeling; I wanted her to feel less confused, scared, and alone. We were old summer camp friends and hadn’t talked in over a decade, but that made zero difference. Our paths had lined us up perfectly to take care of each other through some of the darkest, scariest months we had experienced. As the months passed, we were able to connect through sharing our grieving processes, our pregnancy fears, and little details about Adam and Olivia, whom we both agree must be connected now in their own way.

As I struggled through more miscarriages, she had the experience and compassion to understand what that really meant. As she struggled with hope and trust as the weeks of her pregnancy flipped on the calendar, I was there to do the same for her. Although our journeys are somewhat different, they are very much the same, and – today – we get to celebrate the pure light that comes after the darkness.

Today, I am going to celebrate the miracle she has (we have) been given. I feel a great sense of relief and joy. In the not hopeless days I have been experiencing, this is a great chance to pause and – what else – steal a little nectar.

It Is All a Gift

Two methotrexate injections and three weeks later, I am still technically pregnant. Never would I have thought this blip of a healthy pregnancy would have turned into this – so far – 11 week journey. I haven’t known really what to write because I just feel a little stuck. Physically stuck, emotionally stuck, spiritually stuck. Exhausted.

All of this is okay, though. I am trying to accept the pain and the vulnerability I feel when more and more people are invited into my pain journey. If we don’t allow our stories to be told for the purpose of connection, what is the point of the pain anyway?

So, I am learning to let go. When my sister tells her friend at the gym, or my mom tells the woman I have never met whom has also gone through similar fertility pain, I don’t tell them to stop sharing. When the woman next to me on the plane asks bluntly if my husband and I have had trouble having kids since we don’t have any almost nine years into our marriage, I don’t mask the hurt in my eyes and my voice when I give her a simple, “Yes.” She may not understand my journey completely, but she understands struggle through her own lens, and she may understand another person’s pregnancy struggles better if I allow my story to be told.

I am not ready to offer my story up on say, my Facebook page, but I do want to use my experience to lessen another’s feelings of vulnerability, loneliness, and heartbreak. So, as uncomfortable as it is, I am fighting the reaction to control the sharing. I don’t think anyone actually wants to be the poster child for miscarriages, but – if this is a way I can help others – I will do my best to share in the moments that count.

As my family structure will most likely look different than I once imagined, my struggle will be easier to identify. I imagine wheeling a cart of groceries around in the store with my Haitian child and possibly another internationally adopted child. Once in a while, I am sure someone’s eyes will catch mine and I will get that look. The look laced with a little compassion and a little question, wondering if I couldn’t have biological children. The part that bothers me about this is that having adopted children is not a second choice! However, maybe the fact that people will identify a possible struggle more quickly will allow me to have more opportunities to connect and even possibly help others when they are stumbling around in the dark, confusing period I am in now. Maybe I will have more moments to share the pure joy and excitement I have for my uniquely crafted, god-given family.

To all of this, I pray to remain open, forgiving, compassionate, and honest. It is all a gift.

Banishing the Negative List

Sometimes, in the midst of the struggle, the God power beckons. He beams energy into us, or out from us, at the same time our challenges are making us numb. I’ve been fairly, relatively, unemotional about this last miscarriage and my life’s misdirection in general. I feel unsurprised. I wish I felt more hopeful, but I don’t feel hopeless – and I think that is worth noting. I don’t feel abandoned, and I am fighting my ego’s wish to feel misunderstood or vulnerable. Really, there is no need for those emotions.

Instead, I am steady. I have endurance. Laughter visits me. I have room to care about others. This extra space was not present a year ago. I will call that progress of spirit. Without being able to control circumstance, lightness still has a place in our home. Not in every moment, but we do not give into the desperation. For us, this is an important goal.

My husband and I have been fighting against what we call our “negative lists.” It’s so easy to feel like the protective glass table-top breaking last night – or the zillion other random things like that which have been happening (I’m trying not to concretely create my negative list in this post) – aren’t so random at all, and that we have some curse to lift. Refusal to live in a fruitless state of mind is the best way forward for us, whatever and wherever forward is (sometimes forward looks backward or completely upside down).

We are, instead, trying to create small moments of gratitude in the midst of the chaos. Nothing is final and there is great beauty all around us, including our four children whom we can’t wait to get to know better one of these days. This is not the way we expected many things in our life to unfold, but…

…we will keep living and keep creating, knowing we have some soul shaking-ly good moments to look forward to whenever the time is right.