Sunday, January 14, 2018

What's the Deduction for Heartbreak?

January is a great month, even though it's cold and the weather's often unpredictable. This year is particularly harsh so far: for the third time in a row my best friend visit was rescheduled because of crap weather on the roads. Despite that, I love it because it's time to look back and look forward, make goals, and figure out what's important. It's always a time where I feel reinvigorated to organize, to purge, to go through things and get a handle on my spaces and my time.

Today was about getting my office under control a bit, which spiraled into "I must clean out my inbox," which then spiraled further into, "huh, maybe I should go through my charitable contributions for the year to get ready for taxes," which then led me down a spirally rabbit hole. The ultimate goal was to clear my desk of holiday paperwork and stuff relocated from our space rearrangement in the dining room, and make it so I could start a new project I'm going to Microblog about tomorrow: a bullet journal.

But I got stuck in my inbox.

And my inbox led me to a whole lot of stuff that I guess I could call "memory lane" but it felt more like a nightmare scene, like when Dorothy and her crew are walking on the yellow brick road through the enchanted forest with all the glowing eyes and creepy vines and whatnot. It's that kind of lane.

I ran across old emails about treatment. I ran across old emails from support group lists. I ran across all the comments on a zillion posts that I published but never deleted from my email inbox for some strange reason.

I ran across receipts for our adoption agency. I'm guessing we can't claim anything against the Adoption Tax Credit because we didn't ultimately adopt, but we did spend quite a bit of money over the two and a half years we were with the agency, despite having left without the outcome we'd hoped for. I'd say across the years at least $5,000, maybe a little more. It's more than a little depressing to think on all we've spent over the years to NOT have children. I'm pretty sure we've sent a phantom one to four years of state college, in a single, including books and spending money.

Receipts and treatment plans and then-encouraging "don't give up" emails are one thing, but the kicker was when I went through my charitable giving, because I do a lot online and I don't always get receipts through the mail. I tallied up all I could using the search keywords "donation," "receipt," "donation receipt," and "gift," and then went into my filing cabinet to find the mailed and other physical receipts.

On the plus side -- my own charitable giving, not including any Bryce has made, and not including any goods (clothes, books, furniture), was a lot higher than last year. I was actually really happy with it -- I spread it out over a year and I set up a variety of monthly "sustainer" donation plans. I also made it a point to donate after a certain inauguration, and then again there was a burst in April, and over the summer, and in the fall. I plan to donate just as much next year, even though (and please let me know if I've got this wrong) the whole tax bill thing happened where charitable contributions aren't tax deductible anymore for 2018. I hope that everyone still gives to the causes they care about if they're able, because I'm worried about nonprofit development given that little gem of legislation.

Anyway, when I went through the folder, I found the paperwork that really put me in a bit of a funk.

The donation slip for our nursery.

Oh yeah, that's right, 2017 was the year we DISMANTLED A NURSERY, PACKED IT UP, and GAVE IT AWAY. The list of things is staggering.

And sad.

So much hope, dismantled.

How do you tally that up? Many of the larger things (like the crib) we bought ourselves, but there were also a fair amount of items that were gifted to us. So there's a little guilt there, although it's not like we're going to make a profit off it or anything. And it was Bryce and me that packed everything up, and carted it down the stairs by the door. And it was the donation coordinator and me who marched everything out of the house and into two cars while neighbors were out chatting, then unloaded it into her storage space, and then drove home to an empty entryway and a very, very empty room upstairs. So I think we've earned that deduction in terms of heartbreak and literally taking apart the most symbolic representation of our dream imaginable.

It brought me right back to that moment of "okay, it's time, we need to take down all this stuff, get it to someone who can truly use it, and turn this space into something else." It brought me back to an image of Bryce, on his knees on the plush nursery carpet, unscrewing the bolts that held the crib together. It's why last week when I was reading a PEOPLE magazine on the elliptical I angrily paged past the article of Joh.n Stam.os "finally becoming a dad at 54," not because he doesn't deserve happiness and well-wishes from strangers but because of a photo shoot picture where he's looking all confuzzled by the assembly directions on a white crib, and he's sprawled out on the carpet with the panels all around him.

I have a picture of Bryce doing that very thing, then redoing it with the one panel whose holes were drilled funny once the replacement part came in, and then a very sad series of pictures where he is taking the crib apart. It made me mad. Probably because it really made me sad.

Someone suggested that maybe we could return the crib to the store where we bought it instead of donating it...and maybe that would have been possible except that the store was a family-owned one and it closed down shortly after we bought a few items there. Which could possibly be interpreted as omen-y if you were of the suspicious sort. Which I'm trying not to be.

So here I am, still cleaning up things in my office, still not started with my lovely bullet journal (although I have to say just thinking about putting it together makes me feel more organized and reflective). I'm feeling a little sad and sorry for myself.

But then again, I'm sitting in my beautiful office that I am lucky to have to clean, at my new laptop (since my old laptop died along with everything we thought was backed up but apparently never ran), in a space that is now pretty devoid of sadness. I love this space, even though I basically had to rip my heart out, strangle it in my hands, throw it on the floor, and stomp on it in order to get it. People who don't know what it once was say things like, "Must be nice, to have your own office," when I talk about this space and how it's all mine. I don't always feel like explaining or zinging back, "oh yeah? Well it would have been nice if it could have stayed a nursery, dingbat." For the most part I just smile and say, "yes, yes it is." (While internally calling them dingbats.)

It is more special to me because of its history, because of all of the loss that led to me having this peaceful, productive space, this room of my own. I will be grateful when tax season is over and we won't ever have anything adoption or family-building related attached to our taxes ever again.

Someday I will hit that magical point where these things won't sneak up on me quite so viscerally. I hope. Although the pain isn't always bad, it reminds me of all the ways I am so very fortunate, of the joys I hold close that have survived the hardest days of my life.


  1. "Which could possibly be interpreted as omen-y if you were of the suspicious sort. Which I'm trying not to be."
    That's why I love you!

    Such a tangled set of emotions in this lovely post. Mad, sad, and hopeful. Proof they can all exist at the same time, in the same person. And proof too, that that's okay.

    1. Ha, I'm glad that's a lovable set of sentences! :) Tangled is a good word for the post. It's a tangled feeling, looking back on 2017 for whatever reason. Thanks for the love.

  2. First off lady, (((((HUG)))))

    All of this is huge and hard. I cannot imagine a single person who would have gone through what you’ve been through feeling any less than everything you are. So much that was hoped for was lost and I still can only begin to grasp the heartache you felt on that day you dismantled the nursery and began transitioning your space.

    Secondly, anyone (and I mean ANYONE) who dares to offer alternative suggestions on what you did with the equipment and gear really needs to finding something to suck on. Thumbs work great. Because this wasn’t an ordinary crib dismantling. Everyone else can field those suggestions on selling or returning. The fact you donated not only speaks volumes but is also territory that is off limits to everyone outside of you and Bryce. This was your decision and part of your transition process. Hence off limits. And you should not for a second feel an ounce of guilt for that.

    1. Thank you muchly for the hugs! It is sometimes fascinating to look back on what was and what lead us to what is and be like, HOW DID I SURVIVE THIS? That day of dismantlement was easily the hardest day of my life so far. I would say harder than the day I found out I was having surgery for an ectopic pregnancy, harder than the day I found out my pregnancy was definitely not viable and I had definitely miscarried and it was irreparable. It was a total end, and a total cumulative bundling of all the losses that led to that moment.

      I agree with you that no one should say anything to us about our choices with the nursery, but I have this awful habit of having imaginary fights with people who might be thinking those things. A scant few people have actually said anything, and those people are not counted as friends to me so much anymore. The returning was sort of a thought that we could recoup some money, and offered as a suggestion maybe we hadn't thought of yet, so I don't blame people who mentioned that. We just weren't comfortable with that as a global option.

      I appreciate your love and your support!

  3. Oh, Jess, how my heart aches for you.I am so proud of you for donating all of your beautiful baby things to those who are truly in need. You did a huge mitzvah for yourself and others. You became the Giving Tree. Bless you for turning such terrible heartbreak into hope and comfort for struggling strangers. May you begin to heal...

    1. Thanks so much, Mom. Oh man, The Giving Tree... the Giving Tree got SHAFTED in that story. :) I am proud of our choice to donate, but it was incredibly hard. Best choice though, for us. The healing is ongoing, well underway, but a process I don't think will ever be complete. Which is okay, I think. Thanks for the love!