Sunday, December 10, 2017

Holiday decorations

For a long time, there was a running joke between my sister-in-law and me, that it took getting married and having two kids before she felt truly accepted into the (extended) family, whereas all it took for me was getting drunk with Uncle Ed (then in his late 80s) on his homemade wine the very first time I met the extended family. 

Hubs is the oldest son of the oldest son and the first grandchild in both his paternal grandmother and grandfather's side.  In the eyes of his family, he basically walks on water.  I am hubs' second wife.  While I haven't asked directly, I gather from various bits of conversation with people in his family that they didn't like her, and that's putting it nicely.  When hubs and I first started dating, things happened quickly.  Within four months of dating, we moved to a different state and in together.  I expected the first Christmas gathering with his extended family to be interesting, and I had been warned by both my mother-in-law and sister-in-law not to take it personally if they shunned me.  They said that, best case, it would take them a few years to warm up to me.  It was interesting, but not in the tense way that I expected.  As it turned out, I got on quite well with his family.

Each year they do a gift exchange.  They draw names and bring a small gift for that person.  Since I wasn't around the previous year for the drawing, his grandma purchased a small gift for me so that I would have something to open with everyone else.  The gift was a Christmas tree ornament.  It's a light blue glass bulb with a dove carrying an olive branch painted on it.  Something I imagine that she picked up at the Parrish craft bazaar.  The symbolism was not lost on me.  His grandma passed away in 2014.

Hubs and I have quite the collection of Christmas ornaments.  One for every Christmas we've celebrated together.  Some have been gifted to us.  Some are handmade and gifted to us by nieces and nephews.  Some are personalized.  Some are stock from a big box store.  Some are just plain funny (like a pink glittery unicorn).  Silly as it sounds, all of them hold memories.  And needless to say, our hodgepodge tree will never be featured in any home magazine. 

I've been struggling with getting into Christmas this year.  Part of it has been the busy-ness of life, and part of it has been the fact that this season is just plain hard for me.  I thought that maybe decorating the house would help my outlook on things, and decided to put the tree up on Tuesday.

But what I wasn't expecting was the flood of memories.  Some of them good memories, like the ones that accompanied the chintzy "our first Christmas together" ornament and the ornament we bought at a little gift store by the beach we eloped on in Hawaii.  Some of them were hard memories, like the annual ornaments from the infertility years and the simultaneous hope and hopelessness that we felt when we bought them.  And some were bittersweet, like the ornament from hubs' grandma.

I had a good cry as I hung them all on the tree.  I let all of the hopes and dreams and changes in plans from the last ten years wash over me.  It was hard but good.  And by the time I was done, I felt a little better about the impending holiday.  It was even more worthwhile when hubs walked into the door, his eyes got huge, a big smile spread across his face, and he exclaimed: "you decorated!"

We no longer joke about birthing children as a prerequisite for family acceptance.  At the time it was funny, albeit in a slightly uncomfortable way.  If the same joke were made today, I'd probably come unhinged.  I'm glad that they accepted me into the family all those years ago.  If for no other reason but holiday gatherings would be pretty miserable if they hadn't accepted me.

For all of you joining me in the hard this holiday season, please know that you are not alone.  I wish I could say that it gets easier to handle the holidays.  It doesn't. At least for me.  But I've found that it gets a little less hard with each passing year.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The hard

I need to get back to writing in this space more frequently.  It gives me balance and a place to work through the thoughts bouncing around in my brain. 

I've had a lot going on lately.  Not bad, just busy.  It leaves little time for me or for writing.

Over the past few days, I've been feeling the full weight of all that we've lost.  Seeing all of the Christmas lights brought it to a head tonight.

Maybe it's the holidays and thinking about all of the traditions that we thought we were going to make with our children.  Maybe it's the sudden burst of people my age or older having babies making me wonder if we stopped too soon.  Maybe it's knowing that 2018 will bring another niece or nephew.  Maybe it's end of the semester stress.  Maybe it's all of it.

I'm struggling a bit. 

I'm trying to go easy on myself and I know it will get better again.  But tonight it's hard.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Validation Anniversary

One year ago today, I had surgery to remove endometriosis.  Well, I can't remember the exact date, but I know I had the surgery the Friday before Thanksgiving last year, and it's the Friday before Thanksgiving this year, so.....

Prior to the surgery, I'd spent 20 years insisting that something was wrong and begging and pleading with doctors to help me.  On this day last year, I got proof that there was indeed something wrong and that it wasn't all in my head.  I was validated.  All of those years of pain and misery suddenly had a cause.

Last year I couldn't make the 10-minute walk from the parking garage to my office without significant pain, and the three-hour blocks that I teach in were excruciating.  Exercise was out of the question.  Now I feel great.  I'm not completely pain-free, but I don't have much pain most of the time.  Walking from the parking garage to my office is no big deal.  Teaching in three-hour blocks is still taxing, but nothing like before.  I'm back to going to the gym 3-4 days a week and I'm doing things that I haven't been able to do in years.  I've also lost about 15 pounds which has been good for my self-esteem. 

Emotionally, I'm still very angry that I spent so long with nobody listening.  And I'm angry that this could have been a contributing factor to infertility and that if it had been addressed earlier in my life maybe we would have been able to have kids.  More globally, I'm angry that my experience isn't unique.  I'm angry that women's pain isn't taken seriously or is just plain brushed off.

Anyway, I'm feeling pensive today.  And so grateful that a doctor finally listened to me.  I really do feel like I have my life back.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Me too

Me too.

For a long time, I felt alone.

And then the two simple words, "me too" started showing up on social media.  Sometimes they were accompanied by a story, sometimes they were not.

The sheer number left me stunned.  And sick.  Women in their 70s to women in their early 20s.  And that's just among my friends.

Stories of being taken advantage of by a boss.  Or raped by a man, sometimes known, and sometimes not.  Stories of being assaulted.  Stories of being teased or catcalled.  Stories of sexual abuse.  And stories of the system failing them if they tried to report.

Their stories and their bravery made me feel all of the feels.

I didn't post on social media.  I didn't have it in me.  I lacked the courage to put it in print for the whole world to see.  I didn't want to have to explain or be pressed for details by people I didn't want to share with.  And I didn’t want to be accused of attention seeking. This space is a little safer for me due to the semi-anonymity.

Me too.  Me.  Fucking.  Too. And the thing is, I’m not special. Or the exception. That’s the scary part.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

When selfishness is called out

My sister is pregnant.  If you'll recall, she couldn't bother to tell me herself so I found out from my mom.

The elephant in the room was still present until earlier this month.  The same sister who couldn't bother to tell me herself that she is pregnant managed to publicly announce on social media.

I was pissed and I was hurt.

I sent her a text.  It wasn't accusatory or anything like that, but it was very direct and expressed my hurt that she could announce it publicly but couldn't send me a courtesy text.

Some time passed, though not as long as I expected, and she responded.  She didn't know how to tell me.  She didn't want to hurt me.  Blah blah blah.

Translation: My infertility makes her uncomfortable.  And she is selfish.

And when called out on it, she makes it about how she feels.

I just want to scream that it's not just about her and that I shouldn't have to ignore my feelings because of her.

*****

I'll see her for the first time since (not) telling me about her pregnancy over the weekend.  She's excited.  I'm indifferent.  I'm still miffed about her non-apology.  It'll be interesting, that's for sure.

Monday, October 16, 2017

With different eyes

About two months ago I picked up my new glasses.  There isn't anything special about them, though they do a nice job of correcting my astigmatism that gets worse every couple of years, which was the catalyst for getting this pair.

The last time I got new glasses was in the midst of infertility.  I had my eye appointment to get that prescription literally two hours after our first appointment with the reproductive endocrinologist.  I didn't love the glasses I picked out, but they were good enough (and about $400 cheaper than the pair that I liked).  I went to pick them up after my first round of testing.  We all know how my brief foray into reproductive endocrinology went.  Anyway, for whatever reason, I always associated those stupid glasses with learning we'd never have children.

It's nice to not have a piece of hardware on my face that doesn't hold any hard memories!

Within a few days of getting my new glasses, I also got a new computer, which gave me the occasion to transfer all of my photos.

Naturally, as I was transferring everything over, I took the opportunity to look through the past twelve years or so of my life in photos.  There were happy times, like when hubs' and I started dating when our dog was a puppy, and when we got married.  And then there were the infertility years.

The. Infertility.  Years.

I looked dead.  I swear you could see the brokenness in my eyes.  I was hurting.  I wouldn't have admitted it at the time but I was forcing the appearance of happiness.

There weren't many photos back then.  I largely stayed away from the camera.  I remember most of the events, but more as something to get through rather than something that I enjoyed.  The Christmases and Thanksgivings and random family events. 

It brought back all of the feelings.  For a little while, I was back to the broken woman whose dreams of having children had just evaporated into thin air.  Photographic evidence of how hard it was.

But then I looked at more recent photos.  My faked happiness turned into less faked happiness which turned into genuine happiness.

At some point, I made the decision that I didn't want to feel like shit anymore.  That it wasn't doing me any good to fake being happy.  So I began to work through my grief.  That was the turning point. 

What is it they say? That nothing that comes easy is worth having?  My god, it was (is) so hard.  But so worth it.

I'm a different woman today then I was in 2014.  I'm not the person I used to be.  Not better or worse, just different.  More resilient. 

And I'm glad.  Like Mali said, choosing to survive is empowering

Monday, October 9, 2017

Reevaluating

When I started this blog three years ago, I made the conscious decision not to moderate comments.  I always said that I'd leave it that way until I got my first comment from a troll. 

Well, that happened over the weekend and now comment moderation is enabled. 

I'm honestly surprised that it took so long.

The funny thing is that I pride myself on being a person who can have an intelligent conversation with just about anyone on just about any topic, regardless of whether or not that person and I have different views. 

But if the past year has taught me anything, it's that civil discourse is a distant memory from a bygone era. 

So to the anonymous person who encouraged me to "think beyond the surface," know that I have.  For years.  Literally years.  And every time I conclude the same exact thing.  We need to make guns harder to get.  Period.  We can do this while still upholding the Second Amendment.  It goes beyond making me feel nice, warm, and fuzzy.  I value human life.  And I always will.