Thank you all for your kind words of encouragement on yesterday’s post. I actually saw 157.2 on the scale yesterday morning, and it’s nice to know I’ll most certainly hit 155 by the end of the month, as was my goal. Already my clothes are fitting very differently. I’ve pulled some of the large sized tops out of storage and I’m packing up some of my maternity tops, which are looking ridiculously billowy at this point. It feels good to have some new clothes to wear, and to feel better about my body when I wear them.

I’m also sorry that I haven’t been commenting much this week. It’s our last week of school. Between grades being due (I just turned mine! Yay!), 8th grade graduation, driving up to the city to pick up my kids and then taking them back down to my work to go to special events and then commuting back up to the city again, and keeping up with the laundry and chores at home, I’m barely keeping my head above water. Also, Feedly was hacked, and HELD HOSTAGE (because, evidently, that is a THING that can HAPPEN?!) so I haven’t been able to even read blogs all day today (I’m going into withdrawal, seriously). I hope to start commenting again soon. Tomorrow is my last day with students so it should happen promptly.

But today’s post is not really about either of those things. Today I want to talk about something else entirely.

After I wrote those two posts about what I want to accomplish with my life, I did what I always do and I tried to find a book on the subject. What I ended up getting was It’s a Meaningful Life, It Just Takes Practice by Bo Lozoff. It got 22 FIVE STAR REVIEWS on Amazon. As in, there were no other reviews, except five star reviews. I don’t think I’ve ever come across anything on Amazon with only 5 star reviews, at least not such a significant number of them. Just that was enough to get me to buy it. The fact that it was about incorporating mindfulness practice into daily life to make it more meaningful, and that it included concrete practices to do that, made it all the more compelling.

I started reading it today. I can tell it’s going to be different than a lot of mindfulness books that I’ve read before, because it really does focus on THE PRACTICE. Lozoff insists that reading about and studying mindfulness, but not practicing mindfulness, is ultimately unproductive. He quotes Wang Yang Ming:

To know and not do is in fact not to know.

That is some powerful truth. It is a truth that I know intimately, as a well versed studier of mindfulness who has yet to incorporate it meaningfully into her life. I know all about mindfulness, and how transformative it can be, but I don’t practice it, so I don’t actually know anything about it. It’s more a hypothetical thing I COULD know, if I cared enough to learn it. But so far, I haven’t.

The thing is, it requires real change to learn these substantial truths. Change is hard. And I, like so many others, am complacent. I want things to change, but I don’t want to have to do the changing. Significant change requires significant work, and I already work hard enough.

I’m not sure I’m ready to do these difficult things. I’m not sure I have the right mindset yet. I want to do them, but I don’t want to do what I have to do to do them. (Does that make sense?) Like when you want to be thinner, but you don’t want to stop eating all the delicious foods that keep you from being thinner. Or when you want to work out every day, but you don’t want to wake up an hour earlier to do it. It’s like that. I want to start my day mindfully, but I don’t want to get less sleep so I can meditate or do sun salutations before my kids wake up. I want to speak more mindfully, but I don’t want to vow never to speak about anyone when they aren’t in my presence. (Is this even possible? Do celebrities count? Ugh, I really enjoy a little light, harmless gossip every once in a while.)

So I want to make profound changes in my life, but I’m not sure I’m prepared to make the sacrifices required. I’m not sure I’m prepared to do THE PRACTICE.

And yet, I’m not happy the way things are. I can distract myself from the realities of my life for prolonged periods of time, and sometimes I think I’m very content, but eventually the façade falls away and I realize I’m not all that satisfied. It’s a cycle I’m becoming more tired of as the years march by. I don’t want to be 40 or 50 or 60 and still engaging in it. I want to make real changes, even if it’s difficult.

So I’m vowing to start small. One, maybe two (at the most) things a month, to begin, and nothing I feel very uncomfortable with. It’s summer so I already have a bit more time. I’m going to start by doing some kind of yoga after Monito wakes up for his first bottle, but before he’s up for the day. Instead of climbing back into bed for 30 minutes, I’m going to do sun salutations, or yin yoga or meditation or SOMETHING to start the day in a mindful way. That is my first promise to myself. And after a month, I’ll see how I feel, and if I want to keep doing it and if I’ll add something else.

I do want to make changes, I really, really do. And I think I’m ready to do the work. I just need to start slowly and tweak my attitude a little bit. Hopefully, these smaller changes will affect me in such a way that bigger changes will be possible down the road.

Do you have any practices that contribute meaningfully to your life? How do you feel about really changing the way you live, in an attempt to be more satisfied?

Memory, Change and the Deceptive Mind

I bought the audiobook of Liane Moriarty’s What Alice Forgot the day I read Mel’s post about it. The minute she mentioned that there was a storyline involving infertility and loss I knew I wanted to read it. I will read ANYTHING with an infertility and loss storyline, and I will most likely enjoy it.

I also found the main premise of the book intriguing. A woman hits her head and wakes up having lost the last ten years of her life. She thinks she’s newly married, madly in love and expecting her first child when in reality she has three kids and is in the middle of an acrimonious divorce. I thought that idea was fascinating and I knew I wanted to read the book.

I listened to the 13 hour narration in less than a week. I was obsessed. I created reasons to listen to it–one day I did all the dishes, even though they are Mi.Vida’s job (he had gotten behind and there were A LOT of dishes) and another day I took Monito on a two hour walk. I was chomping at the bit to get into the car or go for a walk or fold laundry, ANYTHING where I could put in my headphones and listen. (The awesome Australian narrator did nothing to quell my obsession.)

As I read the book I spent a lot of time wondering what it would be like FOR ME to wake up in ten years and not remember a huge and significant portion of my life. What would I do if one day I were suddenly on the verge of turning 44, with a 14 year old daughter and a 10.5 year old son (at least I would have known them, can you imagine NOT KNOWING your own children?!) and in the middle of messy divorce proceedings? How would I wrap my head around it? I just can’t fathom.

One of the themes of the book is how much life can change us. I don’t want to give too much away, but I feel like I can say that Alice has a hard time recognizing the person she’s become. She’s like a stranger to herself, physically, emotionally and socially. She spends much of the book trying to figure out not only who she is, but how she got to be that way.

As I read What Alice Forgot, I wondered if it were common for people to change so much in such a short period of time. I mean, I know parenthood can do a number on a person’s life and marriage, but can it change a person so much that they would be almost unrecognizable to their former self? Will the forty year old me, with a 10 year old and 7.5 year old, recognize the woman who was so grateful to be pregnant on the eve of her thirtieth birthday, and yet so scared that something might still go wrong? Will the woman who committed to having children with my partner recognize our relationship after another half decade of parenting? These first years have been so grueling, what will six more like them do to us?

On the one had, Alice’s transformation seemed extreme, but on the other hand, I accepted the narrative of each part of her personal evolution easily. Maybe we can change that much in only a decade. I doubt there is another decade during adulthood that is more life changing that the first ten years of raising children–the rigors of child rearing test our assumptions about ourselves and mold the ways we interact with those around us. Already my life, my friendships, my marriage, and my attitude toward my job, have changed so much in the last four years. Maybe they will keep changing as time marches on.

Reading the book only furthered my commitment to living intentionally. I want to spend the next six years determining what is most important and making decisions–both big and small–accordingly. I hope that by doing that, I will be pleasantly surprised by my future self, that I will be proud of the person I’ve become and not flabbergasted by my life.

As Alice uncovers the details of her “future” life, she is both delighted and horrified.  As I read the book I thought back to my 24 year old self. What aspects of my new life would delight me? What would horrify me? How would I see the man I’d fallen in love with? How would I feel about our pregnancy loss and secondary infertility if I didn’t have to experience it? If I read this blog, and experienced those tragedies only via my words, would I understand my own devastation? Would our ectopic pregnancy and our diagnoses of DOR and MFI not matter as much if I knew I ended up with two healthy children? I honestly don’t know.

Interestingly, Alice doesn’t have any personal written record of the ten years she has lost, so she has to depend on others’ accounts to fill in the blanks. Reading the book, I felt immense relief that I wouldn’t be so completely dependent on others to describe my own life for me. I would have my own words, hundreds of thousands of them, ready and waiting to educate me.

Of course, I also wondered what I would think about my own life if I only had this blog to read. Would I understand that only certain aspects of my life were discussed here? That the tedium and joy of every day life hadn’t been captured in these pages? I suppose the photographic evidence would have given me a clue as to how happy I was, but I wonder if that would be enough. Either way, I take solace in knowing that this written record exists. I already return to it to remember the last four years with a clarity that be impossible without these words. Already so much is lost, even without a head injury.

The final theme of the book was memory, and the importance of having access to both the milestones and minutiae of our lives. Right after I finished What Alice Forgot, I started a Great Courses on critical thinking called “Your Deceptive Mind.” The whole first five hours has been about human perception and memory and how flawed it is and how easily we forget, except we don’t realize we forget because our mind confabulates to fill in the missing pieces. So much of our memory is simply made up, a construct our mind creates to fit with our preconceived expectations and understandings. We think we remember things clearly, when most times our recollections are not accurate at all.

I’ve found that to be true for me, and I’d never know it without this blog. There are things I misremember, things I completely forget, and things I seem to fabricate without realizing. If I couldn’t go back and read these words, I would have no idea what the last four years were really like.

It’s actually quite terrifying, when I think about it. Without this space, without photographic and video evidence, so much of my life would just fade from my memory. We don’t want to think we can forget these important, life defining moments, but we can and we do, without even realizing.

I’m not sure where I’m going with all this. It started out about change and then morphed into something entirely different, about memory and its inherent weaknesses. I suppose they are intertwined. Maybe we don’t notice how much we change over the years because we don’t accurately remember who we were. It’s like how we don’t notice the changes in a picture right in front of us, if it flashes when the change is made. Even after ten or more significant changes, we think the picture looks the same, because each change happened independently, and the flash made us miss the moment of transformation. Maybe our lives are like that, and we don’t perceive the changes because they are happening every day, in big and small ways.

I guess I just hope that if I’m living intentionally, I’ll be pleasantly surprised by the new picture that I find when I wake up one morning and realize I’m almost 45, and half of my life has passed me by.

What would the you of ten years ago think about your life today? Do you think you’ll change much in the next ten years?

What’s black and white?

Nothing, apparently.

I’m ten days into my daily meditation practice and I’m still doing better, though a certain quality of sadness has settled over me. Still, this sadness is not despair, it does not overwhelm me like it used to. I’m trying to approach this feeling with curiosity instead of judgment, just like I endeavored to experience my good days last week with curiosity and not attachment. Some moments I’m better at this, others I’m pretty shitty at it.

I will say that the mindfulness meditation has helped me to approach the rest of my life with mindfulness. Instead of reacting to situations, or the way I feel about situations, I’m quietly noticing how I feel. This non-judgement gives me the space I need to prevent spiraling into a pit of despair. And avoiding that pit, I notice more about the way things actually are instead if how I SEE them to be.

One thing I’ve realized is that life is complicated. Nothing is as black and white–good and bad–as my brain likes to perceive it. Having another baby will not be a miraculous panacea, instantly solving all my problems. In fact, having another child will create way more problems than it will solve. Here are all the ways in which having a second child will make our lives harder:

  • strain in our relationship
  • (most likely) behavioral issues with Isa as she adjusts to having a sibling
  • significant financial strain (this is not to be downplayed)
  • incredible pressure on me to find a way to make $1000-$1500 a month while staying at home
  • more complicated relationships with our parents (and probably less help from them once they’d need to take two kids)
  • exhaustion
  • less personal time to write or follow other dreams
  • the possible creation of familial discord (we can’t be sure our second child will share the temperament of the rest of the family)
  • traveling (either alone or as a family) will be all but impossible (for both financial and logistical reasons) for a number of years

When you compare that list to the list or prospective positives it seems pretty clear that a rational adult would have a hard time deciding to actually have another child. Here is the (seemingly sparse) reasons we should have a baby:

  • fulfill my desire to have another child
  • give Isa a sibling
  • two children would be able to play together
  • (eventually) be able to take meds again
  • “complete” our family

All the pros are abstractly positive. Besides the improved quality of life on meds, none of the reasons for having a child will actually manifest in any measurably positive way, at least not on a day to day basis. In fact, for the first three or four years, our daily life will be way more stressful and difficult. Financially, another child will present challenges for the rest of our lives.

Looking at both these lists without attachment I find the whole thing incredibly funny. It’s ridiculous that I want another child so badly, when the reality of having one will create so much stress and discord in our family and our lives. I’m not trying to say that I shouldn’t want another child, just that another child is not a panacea, not in the least.

Of course, even these lists can’t be seen as the black and white in which they masquerade. Those positives are not guaranteed, and are only positives because I’ve deemed them so, just as the negatives aren’t all guaranteed and only negative because I’ve deemed them to be. But these lists definitely illustrate how complicated life is, how even the wonderful comes with its challenges. I would be remiss in forgetting that as I pine after a hypothetical second child.

Positive Steps

There really are no word to express how much the outpouring of love and support after my last two posts have meant to me. All the comments, the emails, the private messages have made me feel cared about in ways I’ve never experienced before in my life. Thank you just doesn’t seem at all adequate, but right now it’s all I have. Thank you. From the bottom of my heart.

As has been obvious things are hard right now and I’m not handling it well. The shit show that is work makes it really hard for me to be good to myself, but I also realize that I HAVE to be better to myself or things are going to reach crisis mode sooner rather than later.

I have made a promise to myself that my focus this month will be on nourishing myself. I am going to make self-care a priority for at least a small portion of every day. I’m going to acupuncture, I’m taking Chinese herbs and supplements again, I’m going to yoga and I’m just trying to be nicer to myself. I’m also making a commitment to meditate at least ten minutes every day. I’ve written a lot about how acceptance is something I understand but can’t practice and I bemoan how impossible it is seems to achieve. And yet every book I’ve read on the subject has always prescribed one practice and one practice only to achieve acceptance, and that is meditation. I’ve always known how important it is to quiet the mind and yet I’ve NEVER made time for it in my life. It’s time now to make meditation a priority. So I’m committing to ten minutes a day, no matter what. Even if I have to fit it in right before bed, it will happen. I do believe ten minutes of meditation is as helpful to me as ten minutes of sleep so I hope remembering that will help me keep this promise to myself.

I also plan to write down three things I’m thankful for at the end of each day. I hope that between the meditation and the practice of gratitude, I can change the way I move through my days, the way I see the world, the way I hope for my future.

I owe it to myself to do this. I owe it to my daughter, to my partner and to the child I hope to some day have.

My period started today and I’m excited to begin this new cycle with a new focus on the positive. I really hope that even if it doesn’t make a difference in my ability to get pregnant, it gives me the strength I need to give it my best shot.

From Bad Ass to Just Plain Bad

Sunday, I was feeling pretty bad ass. Mi.Vida was going to be gone all morning and I really needed to hit up IKEA to get some stuff for our downstairs unit, the one we’re renting out starting October 1st. So I decided I was going to take Isa with me, and we were going to get it done together.

I knew we were destined for disaster but I went in without any expectations, just hoping that we’d get the few things we really needed.

Three hours later we were back at the car with our seven big boxes, a bag full of stuff and a happy two year old. Oh, and we’d even eaten lunch. It was nothing short of a miracle. And I felt like a pretty big bad ass.

When we got home, Isa went down for her nap and I put together her new table and chairs, a kitchen island for the downstairs and a bench/shoe rack for our entry way. Again, I was pretty full of myself and my inherent awesomeness.

Later that night I rode my bike to yoga for the first time. I used to ride 100+ miles at a time but I haven’t even gotten on a bike in the last five years. Needless to say, I was a little nervous to take my sister’s beater up the busy streets by my house to yoga class. But I did it and yoga felt awesome and again, I was quite proud, both that I ventured out on my bike, and that I made it to yoga at the end of a long and tiring weekend.

Then today happened and I had to laugh at how completely the opposite of bad ass today happened to be. First our daughter woke up at 4:30am and didn’t fall back asleep until 6:30. While she was fine in her room “butt dancing” (as we call it) in her crib, the noise kept both of us for most of the two hours. And of course, at 7:30 when we absolutely had to wake her up for school, she was exhausted and in quite a mood.

Then I couldn’t find my wallet and keys (they are attached to each other) and finally, after much searching, gave up and borrowed Mi.Vida’s car key and grabbed a spare house key. On the way to work I realized I was out of gas and almost pulled off to stop when the 2nd grader I am driving to work this week (for a friend) reminded me that I didn’t have my wallet and couldn’t pay for the gas. Touché 2nd grader. Touché.

Finally we hit some gnarly traffic caused by what I think was a truck on fire. By the time we got there the myriad fire trucks had put it out, but they were still blocking the right two lanes so the slow down was significant. Between the lost wallet and traffic I was really late to work; I just barely got there before my first class started.

Needless to say I was woefully unprepared for my classes and spent each period hastily pulling something together for the next class. I spent my whole lunch getting a lesson ready for my Math 8 class, which has been exceedingly difficult for me. Today’s math classes ended up being one of those where I want to cry at the end of it, not even because they are being awful (which is often the case) but because I know I’m doing a horrible job of explaining what I’m trying to teach. Today I tried to introduce Algebra Tiles and failed miserably. I literally had to hold back the tears at the end of the period.

So Sunday was this bomb day, where I felt like I could accomplish anything, and Monday was a total disaster, during which I felt like I was failing at everything I attempted. I actually appreciated the juxtaposition, and the reminder that we can’t hold on to anything, the good or the bad, because both are ultimately fleeting, even if it doesn’t feel that way at the time.

Ah life, sometimes you provide the most poignant reminders.

Expectations = Sorrow

Yesterday I finally made it to yoga. It had been over a month.

This was my first class at what I hope will be my new studio. We started with some chanting. I have to admit, I was getting kind antsy, I just wanted to start moving my body so badly, when we came to the last mantra. Expectations are the root of all sorrow.

I knew this. I mean, I had read it before and I understood it and believed it to be true. And yet hearing it yesterday was like turning on a light switch I forgot was there. Suddenly the room was so bright, I didn’t realize how dim it had gotten until I could see with a renewed clarity.

There are some aspects of life for which this teaching is painfully obvious. It is my expectation to have another child that makes failing to create one so painful. It is my expectation that my family will look a certain way that makes the fact that it doesn’t so hard for me to bear. And I think other people’s success at family building is so hard for me because it reinforces my expectations: people all around me have the same expectations I have, and their expectations are actually met.

In other parts of my life, it feels harder to apply this teaching, at least at first glance. Work is really hard right now, really, really hard. I feel like the whole thing is a relay race except there is never anyone there to pass the baton off to and I have to keep running round and round all by myself, as I get ever more exhausted and fall ever farther behind.

I cry a lot at work. Suddenly the enormity of all I have to do is staring me right in the face and I don’t have the cojones to stare back at it, so I just break down into massive, heaping sobs.

I was trying to figure out how this teaching, that of expectations being the root of all worry, applied to my work situation. How could I use this teaching to lighten my load. I mean, my work situation is truly challenging, surely this simple yet profound truth can’t change that fact?

But it can. The reason my work load feels so difficult to manage is that I expect it to be easier to manage. The reason I put so much pressure on myself to do a good job is because I expect I will do a really good job. If I let go of my expectation that work will be easy and that I’ll always do a good job of it, my burden will be lighter.

This doesn’t mean I get to spend my school days with movies playing on the projector. But it does mean I can do my best and let go of any expectations of what that might look like. It means I won’t beat myself up so bad when I’m welcoming my students with puffy red eyes and a blotchy complexion.

Today, my daughter executed an incredible feat; she sustained a two hour marathon tantrum during which she literally did not stop crying/screaming for more than a minute at a time. She screamed because we weren’t going to meet our friends at the park, and then she screamed for the entire 45 minutes of their impromptu visit (which they made to make up for not meeting us at the park) and then she screamed while I made dinner, and while she ate dinner, and when her daddy came home and when he left again. She screamed for so long, I didn’t know how she had any scream left in her. Tonight was definitely up there in my Worst Parenting Nights Hall of Fame. It was a massive, epic, all around FAIL.

But you know what, it wasn’t all that bad, at least not for me, because early into the tantrum I just let go of any expectation that it would stop. I did my best to comfort my daughter, to give her what I thought she needed, but when she continued to cry, I didn’t turn against myself. I just accepted how she was feeling without making it about anything else. And honestly, I did a pretty good job weathering that massive storm.

I hope I can hold on to this teaching, especially as we embark on our seventh attempt to get pregnant. The only way a BFN can destroy me is if I expect something else instead. Now I just need to remember that…

Detachment vs. Enthusiasm

I’m having an exceedingly difficult time not posting here. It’s like I’m doing through withdrawal. But I still believe it’s worth trying to stay away. Lately I feel my attachment to this space has stopped being a positive thing. And while I miss the community more than I can say, I need to learn how to stand on my own two feet.

You should all be glad I’ve been gone. This cycle has been a disaster and any posts would have been insufferable.

If you want to learn more about what I’ve been going through you can do so here. Thanks for reading and commenting. I can’t tell you how much it means.