Hopes for 2013

I will admit that I don’t have high hopes for 2013. Sure 2012 wasn’t all that great but I doubt 2013 will be much better. Maybe 2014 will be our year.

This is what I wrote on my Facebook page; a short (and not-so sweet) farewell to 2012:

2012: Thanks for the house, our continued employment (so we can keep paying the mortgage on said house), our health and the health of our friends and family, oh and of course for all the memorable moments with our tenacious two year old.

I didn’t really appreciate the diagnosis of secondary infertility or the debilitating physical, emotional and financial repercussions we’re sure to incur because of it in 2013 but I guess a girl can’t always have everything.

Oh, and thanks for not actually portending the end of the world. I’d rather it be a surprised anyway.

Yesterday and today are when people reflect on what has been and look towards what might be. I wasn’t really all that interested in doing either. 2012 is a weird year for me: it cradled the birth of one dream and then death of another. I’m not quite sure how to succinctly sum it up. But then, as I looked back into my archives for the year, I realized that I have learned a lot. And there are some damn good posts to show for it.

So here are my hopes for 2013, along with links to past posts that inspired those hopes (and were generally well received in and of themselves). It is, of course, a long list but if you have a free five hours or so, I’m sure you could get through all the old posts. ūüėČ It’s going to take that long to clear out all the ping-back message that WordPress will be sending me when this goes up.

Even if you don’t click on a single link, there are some valuable lessons learned (for me at least) and some true hopes for the future.

Hopes for 2013 (with links to 2012)

I hope this blog brings opportunities to participate in important–if not difficult-discussions with talented bloggers, writers and authors.

I hope that yoga continues to deliver me the supreme peace and acceptance it has in the past.

I hope the ruling on Prop 8 is finally (officially and forever) upheld so that marriage is open to all who seek it in California and my partner and I can finally enter into a nondiscriminatory institution of marriage in our state.

I hope that those who suffered tremendous losses in 2012 will find their happy endings in 2013.

I hope that I will become more skilled at weathering my own emotional storms, as well as the tumults of those I hold dear to my heart.

I hope that, instead of worrying about how to navigate TTC#2 in the ALI community I’m faced with the challenges of navigating pregnancy #2 in the ALI community.

I hope to find more mom-friends that I click with and that have similar parenting styles to my own.

I hope there are no more massive disturbances in the force of the ALI community.

I hope to participate in more photo challenges (or just focus more on photography)

I hope I will learn to function better without my meds or find something effective that I can safely take while trying.

I hope the work we’ve done in couples counseling will continue to serve us well (because lord knows we can’t afford to actually go anymore).

I hope I can finally make real and true peace with my feelings about those in this community who were blessed with surprise second pregnancies as I reconcile my own struggles to build my family.

I hope I can reclaim this space as a safe sanctuary for myself.

I hope I can avoid further blog drama and can refrain from creating enemies for myself in this community.

I hope that the person I portray on this blog can be a more accurate representation of who I am “in real life.”

I hope I can be more accepting of the nature of relationships, both here and in real life.

I hope I can write more thought provoking posts that make me proud.

I hope I can continue to appreciate our amazing new home, while being patient as we try to make it more and more our own.

I hope I can make more realization about how I feel and I why I feel that way.

I hope we can somehow afford treatments despite having no insurance coverage to help mitigate the costs.

I hope things get better with my daughter and I start feeling more competent as a mother.

I hope I can be reunited with hope once again.

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Repost: Avoiding the Second Arrow

Imagine you are sitting on the couch watching TV with your partner. You’ve had a few glasses of wine and are feeling pretty good. Laughter spills out of your mouth as you share stories and anecdotes with the person you love most of the world. It’s a wonderful night.

Suddenly water is seeping through your shirt and into your pants. You realize the 20+ ounce cup of water you were just holding slipped from your hands on it’s way to your mouth.¬†A significantly sized swamp has formed on the couch cushions and a waterfall is gushing onto the floor. But you can’t even be upset about that because there, in the middle of the newly formed wetlands, is your brand new iPhone4. Not even a month old and already immersed in water. You cannot believe it.

You grab it and quickly remove the cover while simultaneously drying it off with a towel you grabbed from who-knows-where. Now dry, it seems unscathed but you have yet to turn it on. You do so and all seems fine until a warning appears on the screen. “This accessory not made for iPhone. Distortions will occur.” You have not returned the case to it’s protective position so you know that is not the accessory it’s referring to. You realize sadly that the accessory it’s referring to is the water that is probably seeping slowly into the circuitry. Your iPhone is sarcastically appraising you of the situation – your iPhone is f*cked.

Now, if you’re me, you get fairly upset at this kind of development (which actually happened to me on New Years Eve – luckily my iPhone ended up working fine a few hours later). You think of all the money you spent that is now wasted. You think of how long it will be until you can get another phone for under $200 (two year contracts WHY?!), you throw yourself on the floor lamenting you misfortune and declaring “woe is me” for all to hear. And then you get really upset and you kick yourself over and over again for being such an idiot and you declare yourself the clumsiest mofo around and you decide that no one has EVER done something so stupid in their whole life and your generally berate yourself for your silly mistake, even though it was just that, a mistake.

That, my friends in the second arrow. The first arrow is the dumb thing you did (poor a full glass of water all over your brand new iPhone) but the names you call yourself, the blame your heap on yourself, the guilt you feel, that is the second arrow. The second arrow is what allows the first arrow to do so much damage. The second arrow is what really hurts us.

There is no point in striking yourself with the second arrow. The second arrow is not useful or productive. The second arrow can only inflict pain and suffering. While things can seem very bad indeed, it only makes them worse when we berate ourselves for our part in them.

Of course it is good to learn from your mistakes. You can tell yourself, “in the future I should not leave expensive electrical devices lying around when I’m drinking water,” or “if I were being mindful when I was drinking that, it wouldn’t have happened.” These statements are true and, if said correctly, devoid of judgement or blame. They are simply facts being stated with the intent of avoiding similar arrows in the future.

If we only had to worry about first arrows life would be a more positive, productive place. Unfortunate things would happen but our responses to them would cease to cause us suffering. If we could approach all things, both good and bad with equanimity (that word again – I promise I’ll write about it soon) we wouldn’t have to worry about every little negative thing that happens. If we could remember that impermanence is the basic state of all things, small missteps in the road would not cause us to stumble. If we could avoid the second arrow we’d be happier and more content all around.

I have spent much of my life piercing myself with the second arrow. I’m great at making myself feel like shit for the dumb stuff I’ve done. I’ve lost so many valuable things and each one caused multiple wounds to my self-esteem. And now, looking back, it’s those self-inflicted wounds I remember the most, that caused the deepest scars. It’s tragic to think that my own responses to my misfortunes were more hurtful than the misfortunes themselves.

So the next time you do something that results in a negative consequence, think about how you are responding to it. Are you piercing yourself with the unnecessary second arrow or are you avoiding it? Only you hold the power to dodge the second arrow. It takes practice and self-restraint but it is possible. I promise you, if I can dodge it, so can you.

Worry’s undue suffering

A big thanks to all who have commented on these re-posts. I have to admit, rereading them, and your comments, has been a salve on my currently troubled soul. This turned out to be a perfect week to return to these teachings. I will definitely bring Mindful Mondays back into the rotation once this week is over. 

I’m also happy to report that I’ve been doing good work on my book. I can’t wait for all of you to see some of what I’ve done at the end of the month!¬†

I am a worrier. Feeling overwhelmed by the uncertainty of life was one of the reasons I started looking into Buddhism. I wanted to find a way to to accept that which seemed unacceptable – the inevitable pain and suffering of life.

I’ve slowly and thoughtfully been reading¬†Buddhism for Mothers by Sarah Napthali. I really love the book and I don’t want to speed through, lest I rush past any of the thoughtful lessons that I¬†know¬†apply to me and my anxious, fear driven existence.

The night after I wrote my post about my¬†Acceptance of Suffering¬†I began the chapter in the book about worry. It seemed perfectly timed. Of course worry is a huge part of every parent’s life. We worry about the wellbeing of our children, if they are safe, healthy, happy and fulfilled. We worry that they are eating the right foods, being exposed to developmentally appropriate stimulation, thriving both mentally and physically. We fear they won’t be accepted for who they are or won’t be included by their peers. There are literally¬†countless¬†reasons we can worry for our children. The liberating thing is, while we will inevitably worry, we can choose when, how much and about what. We can also choose how to shoulder the burden of our worry.

As I read the chapter on worry, I came across the most amazing quote. I mentioned it in my¬†300th blog post¬†as one of my top mantras of the year. This placement in the “Top Three” is telling, as I only came across it in the final days of 2010. But it seemed to speak to me on such a deep, personal level – it was like it was meant just for me. Thank you Mark Twain for saying this.

‘My life has been filled with terrible misfortunes . . . most of which never happened.’

This quote spoke to me because my life has also been filled with terrible misfortunes and the majority of them have been of the not-actually-having-happened variety. Reading this quote I was suddenly, violently, aware of the fact that I could chose whether or not my life was spent lamenting the tragedies that had not yet occurred or appreciating the present moment despite the great uncertainty of the future.

After having my daughter I realized that my twenties had been all but overrun by the tragedies I expected would befall me. I had been so worried about experiencing infertility and pregnancy/infant loss that somewhere, deep inside, I was wounded by those tragedies, even though they had never taken place. The weight of the anxiety surrounding whether or not I would become a mother had become so all consuming, so smothering, that I could hardly accept its fantastical foundation. I had created tragedy in my life where there was none. How tragic is that?

For some reason this quote told me something I already knew in a way that made me actually understand it. If you live your life always fearing future tragedy, it will be as if you’ve lived through the very tragedies you want so desperately to avoid. You are basically condemning yourself to the pain you’re so scared of. Only by accepting the possibility of it and letting it go can you truly be free.

I used to read blogs about loss and feel soul wrenching sorrow for the women whose lives had been devastated by terrible misfortune. I felt such sadness for them as I pondered how horrible it would be if those things happened to me. My compassion wasn’t completely selfish, as I believe we do have to imagine how a person’s loss would affect us if we can ever honestly consider their pain. But the lingering sadness and desolation, that was me reflecting their loss onto my own life. That was me nourishing my worry and fear. That was me creating tragedy where there was none, at least not for me. Then, after feeling that desperate pain, I began to writhe against the unfairness with bitter disgust. I would become so angry at the world for what it could do to some but not to others. I couldn’t stomach the arbitrariness of it all. I couldn’t stand that I’d never know my own fate before it befell me.

Now I feel I can hear about other’s suffering without possessing it. I can (and do) put myself in their place and feel their pain, if only for an instant, but now I do this out of love and compassion, and not out of fear. I read their stories so I can feel empathy towards them and send them loving kindness. I abide their pain so I can honor it.

Buddha taught that the mind is everything; what you think you become. In the same way, tragedies you imagine can all but become a reality, for if we suffer their possibility surely they can hurt us with the same strength as their realization would. There is enough suffering in life, we don’t need to create it unduly. And if we do succumb to the fear of uncertainty, we have no one to blame for our suffering but ourselves.

Acceptance of Suffering

Buddha taught that life is suffering. He also taught why that was, but today I want to focus on the first piece, the simple declaration of what is true. Life is suffering. I’ve written in countless posts about how I can’t understand the suffering in the world and that other people’s suffering causes me pain. Reading IF and pregnancy loss blogs fills me with incredible sadness and I frequently become wrapped up in the unfairness of life.

Now that I have a daughter I’m acutely aware of how much I have to lose. The thought of living life without my daughter inspires a physical and emotion devastation that I cannot fathom and surely would not survive. I could spend my entire life worrying that my daughter might fall ill, be kidnapped, injure herself, or be afflicted by some other horror. I could easily torture myself with the “what ifs” and the “what thens”.

I could also try to make sense of the pain and suffering of all those around me, of the women who have lost children, of the children who have lost parents, of the people who have lost loved ones, of all the countless losses shouldered by people around the world.

But none of that would get my anywhere, because life is full of suffering and no pondering that suffering makes it go away.

I think, for the first time, I’m realizing that.

How can I just realize something I’ve written about countless times?

I suppose it’s not that I’m just realizing that life if full of suffering, but that I’m accepting the suffering without judgement.

In the past I’ve faced the suffering of life kicking and screaming, hurling recriminations and bellowing that it’s not fair.

And while it remains unfair, the suffering in life has to be accepted.

For some reason today I can accept that life is full of suffering without it causing me to suffer. I can just accept it for what it is.

And while the idea of losing my daughter still paralyzes me in ways I cannot articulate, I feel acceptance that it is a possibility. Not resignation, but acceptance. Of course I’d still try to move heaven and Earth to save my little girl from any harm, but the uncertainty of her wellbeing no longer holds me hostage.

I don’t know what has brought about this acceptance. I don’t know if I’ll be able to embrace it tomorrow or the next day. I do know that it brings with it a peace that I cherish and want to nourish.

I have let life lead me away from my practices of mindfulness, acceptance and loving kindness. One of my goals in the new year will be to reincorporate them into my daily life. I intend to write many more Mindful Monday posts in the months to come.

Until then, I accept the suffering of this world. That doesn’t mean I don’t feel the pain of others and their losses, but it does mean I no longer writhe against them.

Empty Spaces

The following was taken from The Tao of Motherhood by Vilma McClure (p. 43):

The empty spaces make wholeness.

The emptiness in a pot makes it valuable;

you can fill it with food or water.

Pay attention to what isn’t.

Listen for what your child does not say.

Observe what she does not do.

Similarly, know that your child uses your empty spaces.

What you do not say resounds.

What you do not do impresses.

I really love this passage. It speaks to me, as a person who constantly tries to fill things, her moments with communication her mind with thoughts, her body with food. It speaks to me as a mother who tries to fill the time with pacifiers and teethers and other toys. It speaks to me as a partner who tries to fill the silence with discussions and treaties and compromises. I am not predisposed to enjoy the emptiness, and yet it is a vital part of who we are. I hope I can continue to acknowledge and even cherish the empty spaces in my life, because if I overlook them I can never find true peace or joy or fulfillment and I will spend my life trying to fill the space that are valuable just the way they are, empty.

Repost: Impermance

As part of my February Living a Fertile Life Challenge, I’m taking a week off of blogging to really focus on my children’s book. I didn’t want to leave all my readers hanging so I’m going to repost some Mindful Monday posts, which I love and return to again and again in my own quest to practice mindfulness. Here is the first repost. You can see the original post here.

I was going to write another Sleep Watch post but frankly, I’m, well, tired. I’m tired of thinking about sleeping. I’m tired of talking about sleeping. I’m tired of reading sleeping. I’m tired of writing about sleeping. I’m tired of tracking Isa’s sleeping. ¬†But most of all I’m tired of being tired.

I think the only way I can get through this right now is just to just… get through it. I’m currently attempting to accept this situation as not good or bad but just what is. I’m trying to embrace my feelings of exhaustion without regarding them negatively. I’m trying to live in the present moment and not look back at the disastrous night before or look ahead anxiously to Isa’s next nap (or returning to work). I’m trying to remind myself that everything changes – the great Buddhist teaching of Impermanence.

I keep asking myself, why is being tired bad? Only because I view it as being bad. (That, and my mind is so frazzled that I just dropped (or put down) my wallet at Old Navy on Friday and then cried for twenty minutes before someone turned it in.) But really, exhaustion is something we perceive as negative because physically we feel less than stellar. Interestingly, our negative feelings about being tired actually make the experience worse than it would be if we just experience the physical sensations without judgment and with the realization that this too, shall pass.

On Friday, as I trudged back downtown to pick up my wallet from Old Navy, I came across a wonderful teaching in¬†Buddhism for Mothers. I was feeling like a super worthless excuse for a human being and I was sure I was going to ruin my life, my daughter’s life and my partner’s life with my absentmindedness and distraction when I came across this paragraph. Even while wallowing in self pity, I recognized how perfectly this message related to my mind state.

When I’m feeling at my lowest ebb emotionally, I notice my tendency to generalize the negativity: everything is dreadful, it always has been and it always will be and it’s all my fault – and everybody else’s too. It sounds almost comical with I’m in a lighter mood but at the time I believe these thoughts. With it’s emphasis on impermanence, Buddhism helps us at such times acknowledge that the mood will pass, that we won’t feel like this for long and might even feel quite happy in a few hours time; we can weather it for now and avoid assigning it any major significance.

I’ve tried to hold on to this teaching this weekend. There are times when I’m better at remembering than others. There are times when I’m better at accepting this teaching (and my tired eyes and aching back) than others. Many have reiterated what I’ve told myself, this too shall pass, and while I know it to be true, it’s hard not to struggle against the unpleasantness now. But if I remember that everything is impermanent, everything changes, I do feel a weight lifting. I do feel… like I can do this.

Then I realize that much of the unpleasantness is my anxiety about how this will affect graduate school and then my return to work. I’ve repeated many times that if I were just at home with Isa, this would be bearable, but when I return to work I’ll be unable to function. How I’ve said this countless times without ever once realizing, but right now you ARE just at home with Isa so right now it IS okay and nothing about right now says anything about six weeks from now, when you’re back at work. Now I see clearly, once again, that only by living in the present moment, and accepting it without labeling it as good or bad, can I find peace. Dwelling in the future, a future I can’t know before it transforms into the present, can do absolutely nothing to improve how I’m feeling now. In fact, it can only make me feel worse.

But what about all the things right now that do bother me? What about my disaster of an apartment and my looming graduate school work (that tomorrow morning will be a large part of my present)? What about the fact that I’m sick of shit sticking to my feet when I walk down my halls but I don’t have the time or energy to sweep?

Well, as a good friend of my said to me today, wear slippers.

Of course. Slippers! And right now, in this present moment, wear slippers is what I shall do.

Updates and Archives

Things are crazy here. They are crazy in the way that makes me panic that I won’t get finished that-what-needs-to-be-done. The kind of crazy that keeps me up way past my bedtime and leaves me an exhausted, jumbled mess the next day. The kind of crazy that assures me I just. can’t. do. this.

The kind of crazy that took hold after really intense weekend fights between me and Mi.Vida. Fights that left me wanting to retreat to my mother’s house.

It’s not that I wanted to get away from Mi.Vida, it’s that I wanted to get to someone who would hug me and love me and tell me it was going to be okay.

Sunday night I was pretty sure it wasn’t going to be okay. This afternoon I was still nursing the headache left in the wake of the uncontrollable sobbing fits that peppered yesterday.

This evening things are better. Tentative but better. We’re going to go to counseling (how we’ll make that work money and childcare wise has yet to be determined) and hopefully we’re going to work this out.

In the meantime I’m just trying to keep my head above water. That is really all I can do right now.

Lately, as the shit show that has become my life prevents me from writing, I’ve been going back to some of my older posts. I like to play a game where I reach back into the archives and revisit the post from that day, one or two years earlier. It’s been an eye opening exercise, one that bestows upon me some much needed perspective.

I’ve found some really good posts in my September 2009 archives. This was really the only month I was blogging before I found out I was pregnant. If I have one regret about blogging, it’s that I didn’t start until the end of my TTC journey. What I wouldn’t give to have had this space during that difficult year and that horrible loss.

But anyway, I digress. I figure since I probably won’t have much time to blog right now, I can link to some of my favorite posts from two years ago. Who knows, maybe you’ll like a few of them as much as I do.

Today’s archived post is called Part of the Conversation and is about whether or not it’s socially acceptable to mention loss in a¬†conversation¬†about pregnancy. I’d love to hear what you all think.