Monday, April 24, 2017

#Microblog Mondays: Ode to A Couch

This is our couch, or rather loveseat, that is going the way of the dodo tomorrow, having been replaced by a more streamlined model that can seat more people. Or one person lying down without legs dangling over the armrests.

I hate its oversized nature, the space it takes up, the fact that this couch existed in the house before me and I did not help pick it out (petty, but true).

This couch has seen so much.

Some abjectly awful: I spent bedrest on this couch, desperately hoping to keep a pregnancy that didn't want to stay; I took the call that my HCG levels had dropped significantly on this couch, and wailed so loudly while curled up on it that a friend who was dropping off orchid food could hear me from her car and chose not to make her presence known.

Some hopeful but with more than a shadow of sadness: heating my butt from progesterone shots that I'd hoped would help us get to our baby; sitting on it while I razored out pages from magazines for the Baby Binder, the backdrop for hopeful photos of us waiting jokily impatiently for our first adoption shoot; sitting and talking about our hopes and dreams and realities during our first homestudy, and then our renewal last summer. We've had a lot of heavy conversations on this couch.

But it's also the couch we sat on where we first said "I love you," forever ago. It's the couch we spend Luddite Nights on, and where we spent Earth Hour by candlelight while I read aloud "The Call of Chthulu" as Bryce was real sick at the time. There's been canoodling on this couch, and snuggling up while we read together -- there's romance steeped in it, too.

There's so much history to this couch, but it's time for a new start, new memories that hopefully have a balance of a lot less pain and a lot more joy.

(I didn't realize you could write a whole post about a couch until I read Mel's post... thanks for the inspiration!)

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Making Progress, A Bit At A Time

This week was better than last week. Part of it was that it was actually Spring Break, so I didn't have (much) to feel guilty about in terms of missing work. There was no work. I didn't have to do sub plans, I didn't wonder what was going on without me.

Part of it was having the medications kick in -- the one that helps me sleep and I can take if I have a panic attack, and the one that takes a couple weeks to kick in, starts with a Z, and will help me long term with my wonky brain chemistry so I don't have those panic attacks in the first place. It's been two weeks for that one and I know it's not all there, but I definitely feel more...myself. Which was one of my fears with medication all this time that I've been denying my anxiety, that I'd feel less myself if I got pharmaceutical assistance. Not true. It's nice to have the horrible buzzing and fight-or-flight feeling gone. Also, the Prednisone is down to 20 so side effects are starting to lessen. They are also weaning me off the steroid eye drops because my eye pressure was a startling 27 at my last week's check.  While that is scary I get an extra day of break because they need to check the pressure again a week after being on what may be the world's most expensive pressure-reducing eye drops, which is tomorrow, and the timing necessitates a full day absence. It is a nice bonus/consolation prize, to get a little extra day in there, although I am really dreading coming back and answering questions and walking through the care gauntlet. I am so fortunate to work in such a caring, supportive place but it is a double-edged sword because everyone wants to know how you're doing and a few people saw just how not-great I truly was. So, it will likely take me FOREVER to get from Point A to Point B, and I can likely forget about prep periods, unless I figure out how to acquire an invisibility cloak.

But, that is just an update on what is, while I'd like to share some progress that I'm making, which is pretty significant if I do say so myself.

Life Without Baby Work
I am so happy that I bought this book by Lisa Manterfield. While I am not so happy about the reason, it is really good work. Although, it is also really, really hard work. I will admit, a part of me was hoping that I would start reading it and be like, "Oh, this isn't for me. This doesn't really apply, I'm not here yet." Oh, no. It was more like, "THIS LADY IS IN MY FREAKING HEAD. HOW DOES SHE KNOW WHAT I'M THINKING???"

I started underlining things like mad that resonated with me. Things like:
- "Sometimes we're prodded toward the decision because we have no other viable options, but in many cases we're faced with choosing between a dream and our sanity." 
- "We'll look at how to know when it's time to let go and how to create an ending for a journey that could potentially go on indefinitely." (emphasis mine)
- "This pursuit is linked so intimately to who you are -- your identity as a woman, your plans for the future, your place in the world--that walking away feels like a complete reversal of who you think you are and who you planned to be." 
- "The problem with hope is that it can become a heavy weight that you carry around with you everywhere you go, and if you don't set it aside, it's going to stop you from truly moving on and healing." 
- "But what is the price of persistence? When pursing a dream affects your health, relationships, or lifestyle, it's not sustainable." 
And this one, that I struggle with as I tend to worry too much about what other people think:
"Remember, this is a very personal journey that's different for everyone, and even though others might believe that if you just keep going you'll get what you want, only you can know when you've taken all you can take." 

This book is taking me a very long time to get through, but that's okay. I am used to reading books on infertility treatments, or dealing with emotions associated with infertility, or adoption, or adoptee experiences, or memoirs about people who have done all these things, and I move pretty quickly through them. I am a fast reader. But this is not that kind of book. The journal prompts are every five paragraphs it seems, and they really require a lot of thought and emotional energy. I could read it without the prompts, but I am a rule follower and I feel it's helpful and so to do the work as prescribed is the right way to go through it. I mean, is this really the kind of thing I'd want to slam through anyway? It's just hard sometimes. I can do at most three journal entries in a day, and then I need a day's space to recoup my emotional energies. The last one I did was, "What have you lost?" and that one was very, very hard especially because we are not quite done yet. We just have a date where we will be. And that date is soon.

Someone asked me if this was the kind of hard emotional work I should be doing at this time. The answer is yes. So much of my breakdown (or meltdown as my new therapist prefers to call it) centered on feeling like I CAN'T DO THIS ANYMORE, I AM NOT OKAY, I CANNOT PRETEND TO BE OKAY WHEN I AM UNDER ALL THIS GRIEF AND UNCERTAINTY. So, feeling like I am making a thoughtful decision, that I am working through everything to make sure that I feel peaceful(ish) with this turn of events and probable transition, that's good work when you don't have to be a functional human anywhere else.

Garden Work
Remember when I said that my disheveled gardens looked like my insides felt? Well, not so much anymore. I got out in the dirt over break and cleaned up several beds. I weeded like a lunatic yesterday (and my neck, shoulder, and low back is real pissed at me for it today, man it stinks to be 40) and got rid of a wheelbarrow-full of marsh marigold, wild strawberry vines, and violets that were choking things out. I rage-pruned the liriope (lilyturf) around the blueberry bushes. Everything looks so much better.

See ya, invasive weeds! 

This bed was FULL of marsh marigolds. Now, just hostas and forget-me-nots. And lots of space to plant new things!

The forget-me-nots by the chimney are blooming first, probably a radiant heat differential from the bricks. That is the nerdiest sentence I may have ever written. But aren't they cheerful? 

Admitting We Can't Do It All
So, Bryce has wanted to get a landscaping service in for a year now, because last year he just couldn't keep up with the lawncare and with starting his PhD coursework and just everything feeling so fucking overwhelming over the last year, he was at his wits' end. Our fall cleanup was pretty dismal (not helped by a heavy snow in November) and the spring state of the gardens and the yard was just causing a lot of stress. But I struggle, because the garden is MY thing. Sure, mow the lawn, but shouldn't I be the one weeding and cleaning up and doing all that stuff? Especially since I don't work in the summer and that's sort of my job? Well, I admitted that I can't keep up either and it was making me feel worse that everything looked crappy. Although this week I did get out and do a lot of clean up myself, we hired our snow plow guy to be our lawn-mowing, leaf-blowing, bed-edging, mulching guy too. And the cleanup was AMAZING. He is also interested in more natural, organic gardening and upkeep, and he respected that my Virginia bluebells were already up and those things are one of my favorites but also SO FRAGILE and rip if you blink at them...and he managed to get all the leaves and detritus with barely any damage. Then I met with the gardening lady he works with, who apparently works with several houses in our neighborhood (and here I thought everyone did it themselves), and she is going to do pruning, which I suck at, and divide the irises, and move some misplaced shrubs about. She also does consulting stuff, so I can work with her and she can show me how to do things at the right times and if I work alongside her it's cheaper because we split labor. She was super nice and said I had a lot of cool stuff and had great suggestions for areas where I need to put new things in. 

It was hard to let go of control in this area. I felt like if I didn't do it all myself, it was cheating. But like I told the gardener lady, I can do more in the summer. When school is in session, I just can't get to everything the way I'd like to and so I do need help so I can concentrate on new plantings and windowboxes and containers too and not so much on the other stuff. Except weeding. Despite the hell it wreaks on my body, I really love weeding. It is so satisfying to see a bed full of weeds and then see the wheelbarrow full of your work and the nice clear beds, the plants breathing a sigh of relief that you've removed the stranglers from their roots. I like that work. But it's okay to get help. And they both know that my snake buddy is my friend, so I am not worried about that. 


Bluebells further in bloom
Bluebells right in the middle

Fixing Furniture Problems
One of my plans for not feeling so stagnant was to buy new living room furniture. To get rid of the loveseat and fake-loveseat/bench ottoman setup that we currently have, and get some grown-up furniture that fits the scale of our living room. 

See what I mean about faking seating with the ottoman? Everything is so big and this space is so tight. It's nice, but that loveseat takes up way too much real estate to really only seat two people. Time to go! 
So we went to a local place that sells furniture among other wonderful things, and we found a couch that was perfect. Also two upholstered chairs that are cozy and curl-up-able but not so huge in size. The couch will arrive this week, the chairs unfortunately not for another 8-10 weeks because they only had one in the fabric we wanted and I wanted them to match (they don't match the couch exactly, they are both neutral but the chairs have a herringbone pattern and are a bit darker wheat color not dissimilar from the loveseat we have). We can mix things up with accent pillows. But not ones with words on them. Holy hell, the store was filled with pillows that said things like "Happily Ever After" and "Love Me Always" and "HAPPY HOME."  I put my ass right on that "Happily Ever After" pillow. 

I'm hoping that between these things, maybe little square ottomans with pillow storage inside and a more streamlined coffee table, maybe I can finally host bookclub or have a jewelry lady party. Maybe our living room won't feel quite so hobbitty. I hope the layout I have planned works out, because I am spatially challenged and realized when we got home that the measurement of the couch was for the space designated for the chairs... whoops. I think we can make it work. We will make it work and it will be awesome. 

Emotionally Hard Organization Work With That Coffee Table
So, that coffee table? See the three leather(ette I think) boxes under it? Those are were full of all kinds of emotional bombs. On the side you can't see there are stacks of magazines. I have been avoiding cleaning out those baskets for a very, very long time, particularly the one all the way to the left. 

I have been coloring on top of the sum total of my fertility journey. That box/drawer/basket contains all the pictures I have of embryos. All the surgical pictures. All the protocol sheets I saved, all the bills for tax purposes and FSA purposes, informational sheets, the four notebooks full of notes on doctor's appointments, decision trees, and journals dedicated to daily journaling about each cycle. TWO FILLED JOURNALS OF CYCLE NOTES FROM ALL THOSE IVF CYCLES WE DID. Every card, flower delivery card, amazon gift note, or invoice from a gift or condolence gesture we ever received for our losses or canceled cycles. And at the very bottom, every hospital bracelet I ever wore for a procedure related to IVF, be it a retrieval, a hysteroscopy, the laparoscopy to remove my ectopic pregnancy and tube, or transfer. 

It's a lot of grief in that box. And I wanted it close to our daily life for some reason. I have a friend, who I met through a mutual connection and who is in an adoption journey herself, and the first time we met in person was at a craft store because she wanted to help me figure out how to finagle that stuff in a healthier way, where I could corral it and honor it in a scrapbook maybe and then put it somewhere where I could see it if I wanted to but it wasn't so central to daily living. I never did it. 

Well, she is going to be so stinking proud of me because since we need to move all the furniture for the couch delivery to happen, we had to empty that coffee table, and I bought a pretty butterfly box and I put everything in an organized way into it and then put it out of the way: 

Look how organized and put away that is. 

Such a pretty box for such an emotional bomb. 
Except, I did throw something out, and it was a huge step for me: 

Why on earth do I need to keep these? NOTHING good happened while I was wearing these. Adios, strange grief relics. I release you to the landfill. 
It was sad in a weird way to drop them all in the trash, and then I tied that sucker up and threw it in the bin outside so there was no panicky grabbing them back, and then I felt so much lighter. It was like letting go of some of the weight of that journey, of what those procedures wrought on my poor body, and for no tangible result. So I release them. And with them, a little weight from my grief. 

I was proud of myself for not going through all the things when I put it in the box. I just organized what went there and then put it in the nook behind the glider, for now. There's room for more stuff to go into the box if I so choose, but for now it's encapsulated and out of our daily living space. 

Also, these were in the far right drawer and on the other side: 

This is easily three years of this publication.
I have had a subscription to this magazine for no joke, five years. It was a hopeful thing in the mailbox. Until it wasn't anymore. I have razored so many pages from it that my Baby Binder is in need of a possible second volume, and when I got to that point and didn't feel any closer to an actual baby for whom to use it all as a reference...I stopped razoring. I stopped reading it. It was just too painful. And I sure didn't want to set up a second Baby Binder for a mythical baby. But they kept coming. And I felt it was a bad omen to stop the subscription, even though YOU CAN TOTALLY START A NEW SUBSCRIPTION FOR JUST AS CHEAP WHEN A BABY ARRIVES. 

So when the one on top came, and I saw that adorable little girl and could envision her as mine, in some reality where we got chosen, it was too much. It was Good Friday and I was exhausted and it was the last straw. I just thought, WHY AM I DOING THIS TO MYSELF EVERY MONTH? and then I realized how easy it is to cancel the subscription online and I wondered why I'd held myself hostage for so long like this was the most insurmountable task ever. But I did it, and now I won't get them anymore unless I actually need them. In the meantime, I need to find a place for them -- what are some places where you can donate two to three years of a magazine like that? I feel like just recycling them is a waste. However, I don't want them in my house for much longer. Thoughts? 

So that, my friends, is pretty considerable progress. We even went out to dinner both Friday and Saturday night (Mexican Friday, German Saturday) and I did not feel overwhelmed or overly sad. We are working our way through our decision making process, which is really decision made and just waiting to see what happens between now and then. It's exhausting making all this progress. But I'm proud nonetheless. It is so wonderful to feel lighter. To feel less weighed down. To feel like I've smashed the mask. Sometimes I find myself crafting a new one, and I think I'll always struggle with that. If I just keep smashing it, it will be okay. It is hard to realize that, to paraphrase a meme a friend posted on social media, my rockbottom had a basement. But now I'm climbing back up, and hopefully no matter what life will be a much brighter place for it. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

#Microblog Mondays: Easter Fun Without Kids

Three Easters ago I got real sad that what seemed like everyone in the world was running around coloring eggs and doing Egg Hunts and Easter Baskets and all that with their kids and we were sad saps just the two of us, having a nice breakfast...when I thought, WHY SHOULDN'T WE HAVE THE FUN, TOO? So, I bought a few prizes for Bryce (some favorite candy, a book about math and love, a Moleskine mini graph paper notebook...) and I wrapped them in flowered napkins and hid them all around the house and then told him to go find them all and I took pictures and a new tradition was born.

Back when the dining room was red. Clearly all this was a big surprise given the feelings leaking from his face. It was the best. 
Now we do "baskets" every year -- a paper bag decorated simply with markers or stickers, and little gifts wrapped in napkins, and it is so much childlike fun to scour the house looking for each others' prizes (even though I am disturbed that Easter is sort of like Christmas Light now with baskets seeming to be full of toys and gifts and not just little tchotchkes and candy like I remember, but we're adults so if I want to give Bryce Season One of Breaking Bad in his basket, so be it).

This year it was particularly important to have some fun and bring some lightness to what has been a truly sucktastic couple of months. We don't really celebrate Easter religiously, as we are not religious, but it is nice to celebrate rebirth and Spring finally coming and a little happiness for ourselves, just as we are.

I found CABBAGE napkins this year! This is Bryce's stash. 
Before the crazy hunts, we did do traditional Easter baskets and Bryce found this Easter Knight (I'm sure that's not his real name) and put it in my basket. He comes out every year to oversee the festivities.
Found one! 
There weren't any over here, but I love this shot. This is the room that when I saw it I knew a man who had a library like this was a man I needed to spend my life with. 
He found the "basket!" 
Love the pure, unadulterated joy in this picture. 
Searching, searching...he hid them so well!
Except the patio cushions, which hid in plain sight and I didn't see until I was two feet away. 
Bunny vase!

Best. Tea towel. Ever.
Coincidentally, I gave him a tea towel, too. Great minds.
At the end, Bryce made a cabbage out of the cabbage napkins.
Some beautiful person (Charlotte, I'm looking at you) sent me this magnet, which was delivered ON EASTER. That dirt is from gardening, not my new career as a street urchin from Oliver!. Also, tears. 
While gardening I ran into the Easter Snake. Just kidding, he's just a snake that lives under our front stone steps. I love him and am glad he survived the winter. He can be startling, but I love that snakes live in my garden.
Still clearing out the detritus of winter, but I loved these bright purple hyacinths with white bleeding hearts that are already starting to bloom. Go Spring.
And we ended the day with the Easter Duck. (and sauteed red chard and smashed spicy parmesan potatoes). Bryce is responsible for Mr. Duck, I am responsible for sides. That duck was GOOOD. I felt a little guilty eating something frequently featured on Easter cards for dinner, but most people eat lamb and that is sort of messed up on multiple levels, literal and metaphorical given the holiday. Somehow I can stomach a duck better than a little lamby.

It was a glorious holiday for the most part. It was a beautiful day. We made the most of what we have, found some joy right now in this moment, and that was a beautiful thing. 

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy! 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Every Day A Little Better (Except Tuesday. WTF, Tuesday?)

Now that it is Thursday, I can tell you that every day seems to be a little better. Some of that is because of fun new prescriptions that are helping combat the side effects of the Prednisone and helping me to sleep (as well as even things out). Some of that is kindness and connection. Some of that is me actually doing the things on my list and doing a slightly better job of Do Nothing (thanks, Mali).

Why Tuesday? WHY?
Tuesday was rough, though. It started with waking up stuffed full of sinus poison, that seemed to have made a beeline to my lungs. I did the choking cough myself and blew my nose for seemingly forever to try to clear the horrific headache and poison feeling that was my sinusy head. I cried. I wailed WHAT NOW? I CAN'T TAKE ANYMORE! and felt disconsolate before it was even 7 am.

But, I had something to look forward to. I was supposed to go get a midweek massage at 11 with my lady who saw me on Sunday for what was supposed to be a 1-hour session and once she had a closer look/listen went out and called her next appointment and asked her to shift a half hour so I could have 90. THAT IS SPECIAL. And a positive thing (that happened Sunday). But TUESDAY, I got up and showered and put actual clothing on that had buttons and zippers and went to go drive to my appointment...and discovered that my car battery had died. It just sputtered and refused to turn over. I could have cried. Actually, I did cry. I called the massage place, as at this point it was clear my car was NOT going to magically start and I was going to have to cancel very last minute, and I begged them not to hit me with a cancellation fee because "This has quite literally been the worst week of my life, sniffle sniffle sob sob." Thankfully they obliged. I did sound on the verge of hysteria. They were probably scared to say no.

I went inside, decided to get the mail from the front door. In opening the front door, something large and skittery fell on my left arm, so I flailed it and on the ground was a HUGE FREAKING SPIDER. It was like, half-dollar size. AND IT HAD BEEN ON MY ARM. I freaked out, and was just like, COME ON!!! But, you will be proud, I did not kill it. I shooed it out with some mailing card. Even though it jumped (thankfully AWAY from me) and was real disgusting, I sent it back outside and then used the back door for everything the rest of the day. I am STILL opening the door and closing it while inspecting carefully for his return before passing through. UGH.
Apparently this is called
a grass spider.

With my car dead, I had to to go find someone to take me to my doctor's appointment. Which was vitally important. After a couple calls to people who are aware of my situation because they have asked me how I am doing (whether they knew about the events of Friday or not), I found a friend who could drive me. Which I was so grateful for.

At the doctor's office, the nurse who took my vitals dropped the thermometer and it completely dismantled into a zillion pieces. "It's because I'm in here," I said, totally unironically. I felt cursed. I felt like Job. I felt like Lieutenant Dan, strapped to the mast of the fishing boat in the storm, putting my middle fingers up to the sky and saying "WHAT NOW?" (Except don't ever ask "what now?" because there is ALWAYS something else that can happen, or maybe that's the anxiety talking.)

But, at the doctor's I got what I needed even though it was probably the hardest doctor's appointment I've ever had. I got stuff to help me sleep and to even out the rough edges I thought I could sand on my own. And then I colored some more and had some tasty bbq for dinner and hung out with Bryce, and then had the best, deepest night of sleep I've had in a month. Thank you big pharma.

Oh, the kicker? When Bryce got home he went to charge up my car with this portable battery charger thing we have. THE MOTHEREFFER STARTED UP WITH BARELY A SPUTTER. WITHOUT the charging. It's like my car didn't feel I could drive yet or something. (Although why I had to sacrifice my massage is beyond me.) It was SO weird.

The Good Things, The Little Betters
There are far more of these than there are moments like Tuesday, thank goodness. I will bullet them for you as they are plentiful and it is nice to see them all laid out: 

- On Wednesday I was so much more refreshed having actually slept well. I did a little yoga of my own devising in the morning. I took a shower and drove, for the first time. The car started without a problem. I made it without feeling too panicky. 

- I decided to go to the grocery store to get shrimp for dinner, This is a big thing, because grocery stores for some reason are a big trigger for me (now that I am being honest about things) and I frequently feel like I need to get the hell out of there, fight-or-flight style. BUT, I had had a bit of a tiffle with Bryce about this chicken that's been sitting in our fridge that expires 4/17 and we keep getting takeout which is lovely, but that poor neglected (expensive, organic) chicken NEEDS TO GET EATEN. So I may have said something sort of snippy about the chicken and it wasn't a nice thing to say right when your husband who is being very patient and loving through your breakdown is off to work. So I decided to make the shrimp. Which meant I had to go to the grocery store. 

- But before that, I went to this little store on the way called The Bird House. Because I wanted to do a little walking around, and quite honestly I wanted to give myself a treat. And they have these neat nature earrings there, which some are kitschy but others are quite lovely, and I found exactly what I was looking for. I bought these: 
The bottom one is blurry because they literally flutter, the way they hang.
They were everything I wanted. Butterflies transform from caterpillars into something totally different, and in the middle, in the chrysalis, they are just goo. So I am sort of in a chrysalis right now. And monarchs in particular have a very long journey that they travel. We're going to pretend that I would be the kind that goes home to Mexico, because they don't die every so couple of hundred miles and rely on reproduction to get to Canada. The ones that fly home make it the whole way (if they don't get eaten by birds or starved by genetic engineered fields) and don't depend on the reproduction to get them there. Which is good on my end. And they clump in trees and make them look like they are on fire, like a phoenix. Yeah, I'm mixing metaphors. It works though. 

- I made it through the grocery store without having my heart rate jump up too much, and I got the shrimp (although accidentally two times what I needed), and I went home. (I also bought things for a certain someone's Easter basket. You don't need kids to do the fun wacky things, you just have to do them inside the house because people frown when 40 year olds take part in egg hunts.) 

- When I got home, I put the pretty magnets I had bought for myself at The Bird House up on fridge. 
So cute, right? They actually had owls in the same art as paintings we have in the nursery. I DID NOT BUY THOSE FOR OBVIOUS REASONS. These are equally cute and do not make me want to howl. 

And then I got inspired. See, I have a couple magnets. I have that Helen Keller quote that I love: 
This one I like. Because who knows what is behind that happiness door?

And then there is the magnet that I clung to and clung to and is part of the Cult of Hope and BELIEVE HARD ENOUGH and It Will Come True. It has been bringing up some feelings for me lately. And I sort of made it into a bit of an installation: 
Do you see what I see? 

I can honestly say I can love it now. I think I will keep it this way. When Bryce came home it took him about 20 minutes to notice and then he just laughed, and laughed, until he had to put his head between his knees. He said, "Oh, babe, that's the healthiest thing I've seen you do in days. I love it." 

- On Wednesday, my prizes came in the mail. I had ordered something mundane (Swi.ffer cloths for all that dust), something fun (a new matte cream lip gloss that is bright and tropical looking), and two things that are hard work but necessary. I bought these: 

My skunk "Fall Into Reading" bookmark friend tells you which is first. 
See, here is the thing. I have been eyeing Life Without Baby for a good six months. Not because I am GIVING UP HOPE. But because I know I am near the end of my floss-thin rope and I need to know that everything will be okay if things do not work out the way I planned. The way we've fought and struggled and really pushed so hard for so long. I have been floating this idea for a while, and I get met with a lot of resistance from people who love me and even people who have been through the infertility wringer themselves. But the thing is, if I don't start accepting that this is one of those happiness doors, and SEE it as a happiness door, then I will be worse than goo. And I am already goo. So I bought the books. And I started reading Life Without Baby.

And I cried. Because everything she said was my truth. It is the right book for me to read right now. It does not mean we are done right this very minute, but it is a very important piece of this process. I am accepting a hard reality, but I am accepting it so I can be free. I read a book that had nothing at all to do with infertility, The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon, and in it a character says, "It's still hard for me to believe that my future is going to be different from the one I'd planned." And that sums it up. Which is why I think the book on the left will be very helpful, too, since I have always tried to plan the unplannable. It works out great for tight lesson plans and units. Not so much for the messiness of life. Even if by some miracle (and you know how much I hate the word MIRACLE) we manage to have a placement come through before our time is up, I will have peace knowing that I am prepared for that other door. That I can welcome that other door, albeit with a shit-ton of mourning. But I can't ignore it any more. It is not a horror story. 

- I also spent time one day this week, forgot which one, talking to a friend of mine who is childfree not by choice, who actually was going to call or text me when I texted her and asked, "would you be willing to talk to me?" She was AMAZING. She (among others) is helping me to see that my biggest obligation is to myself and Bryce, to our life, to our happiness and well-being, and that I owe no one else a thing. This is our life. And she said she talks about me, anonymously, as someone who has really just kept plugging away and how unfair it is that it's always no but how amazing it is that I keep persevering. And I said, "except now I'm a cautionary tale and I think perseverance is actually killing me." So there's that. But the phone conversation was nourishing, and I think it will be so important to find more people who wanted this so badly and it just didn't work out. She was beautifully honest with me about the ways she finds the pros, and her fears about later in life, but she had just so many gems to give me and I took them all and gathered them into my pit to help light it up. 

- I have received encouraging texts and emails from people. I worry a little that I have become the crazy wife in the attic, but it is unbelievable to see just how much support I have. My principal has called twice to check in on me. The first time I got a little tongue-wagging, "Next time, Jess...NO NEGOTIATING." Yeah, that bit me in the butt a bit. I agreed. I have a doctor's note for the time I took this week, but if I need more after break (which I hope I don't) that is an option too, for everyone, which is nice to know if I am still all panicky. Because I'm not going to lie, I am DREADING going back through the gauntlet of care and concern. It is a beautiful thing, but I feel like I need a sign that says "Just say hi and move on until I am settled in a few days." Or something. 

Also, your comments. Every comment is literally like a hug. I feel your huge hugs, your caring energy, all of it. I appreciate the support more than I could ever adequately express in words. 

- A good friend SENT ME COOKIES IN THE MAIL. Like, delicious gluten free cookies! It was a fun surprise today: 
What's in the box? What's in the boooox? (sorry, totally inappropriate S7ven reference)
COOKIES! Nom nom nom. There's more of those frosted sugar cookies for a reason. They are AMAZING.
They came with a note that said, "I think you could use some cookies, lady. Thinking of you and always here if you need anything!" I cried. And laughed. And cried. And sent a Cookie Monster gif to her for thanks and fun. 

- I literally just got an email from the tattoo artist that I want to do my shoulder/back tattoo, whose booking I missed last time. I am hopeful that I can get in on this one, and if I can't, then I will find someone else. Because I am feeling tattoo-y. I feel like that will be part of the healing. I've carried it on my back for so long, I want to make it into something beautiful, and permanent, and metaphorical. And I think I changed my mind. Those two butterflies? I don't want them purple. I want them monarchs. 

- I went for a walk yesterday and did not freak out. I mean, not a lot. I had to breathe a lot. I live in fear of strollers or friendly people who want to talk. I DO NOT WANT TO SMALL TALK. Probably because there is a lot of "Go fuck yourself" lurking right under the surface and that generally doesn't make for good conversation. Also when people say "How are you?" I tend to answer honestly. I did say "good" to some random guy throwing old garden ornaments in a wheelbarrow. I did not say "I am goo today, how are YOU?" That is progress. I am going to go for another walk today. I hope I do not run into strollers. I am not above turning around and running the other way. 

- I met my new therapist today. I love, love, love my therapist, as you know, but she moved out of state and the sporadic Skyping is not working, and now I am in crisis and need to be seen in person and a lot while I get this into some kind of contained and processed situation. So I met someone new, recommended by my lady. She was great. I mean, what could I possibly accomplish in an hour in the midst of all this, but it was enough to get a start. She said You have an incredible support network, and I smiled because I do. I really do. She said That is so important and you are so fortunate. I know. She loved the books I bought. She loved the journaling component of Life Without Baby. She said, Do that. Do yoga. Find more guided meditations. Do Nothing. Make this next week Jessica Rejuvenation Week. Rebuilding Jessica. Nothing, absolutely nothing that is not. I said, "But I was going to write two days on my National Board..." And she said NO. No, you are not going to do that. You are not to do anything for a week except heal and journal and process and breathe and stretch and nurture yourself. 

Well okay then. I guess I better listen. Nowhere to go but up from here. (But know that Tuesdays happen.) Time to replenish, rebuild, reconstitute. Time to breathe. Every day, better than the last. 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Self Care For The Broken

I am trying to do some things for self care during this difficult time. When my amazing friend came to stay with me on Friday, she had some ideas. Bryce had some ideas too. Some of these, believe it or not, are mine. And I thought I would share those and what I am doing for myself with you, so that if you find yourself in a dark pit, these things can help light a way out.

Manage My Facebook Feed
I already have a technique for congratulating the zillions of people who announce pregnancies or births to protect myself. I write a message on their wall. If I congratulate them on the post, my notifications blow up with things like "Welcome to the club, Mama!" or "What a miracle!" and as a person decidedly NOT in the club and NOT the recipient of a miracle, that makes me sad with each ping. So, I do a separate well wishing post and then I get a couple likes or a thanks and I have been nice but not at the expense of my own well-being. Strangely I have had to do this quite a bit in the past couple of days, part of the grief salad that brought me to the events of Friday.

I also finally decided to unfollow a whole bunch of people. I hear you can do this and they can't tell unless they were weirdly calculating how often you like their posts. I felt like unfollowing was just one step off from unfriending, which I have never done. Because it sounds like middle school bullying. But, my friend said "UNFOLLOW the people whose posts do not bring you joy, who bring you sadness or anger or invite you to compare. It is freeing." And you know what? It is. So...I unfollowed people who really I'd been following on facebook because I liked to dislike them, and it would give me an outlet for irrational anger, sort of like a voodoo doll. Which is not healthy. So buh-bye. I unfollowed anyone who recently announced a pregnancy or is likely to give birth soon or who is probably going to get pregnant with a second baby and announce. I do not wish to see one more fucking ultrasound. I cannot handle that right now, and I give myself permission to let it go. I unfollowed the woman who became pregnant the day after me the cycle I miscarried, and she has a four year old and I have cats and a beautiful empty nursery. She is a lovely person, but her child is a ghost of what could have been and makes me interminably sad. So goodbye. And so it went, on and on and on. This is in the interest of better not bitter. It serves no one for me to go up there and be filled with sadness or anger, and so now my feed is a hell of a lot more pleasant. I may decide to unfollow more people. Who knows? But it is definitely freeing.

Stress Relief Yoga
I forgot I had this DVD (aren't you proud? I didn't call it a tape!) until yesterday, when my pulse rate was 118 and I was feeling very much fight or flight and Bryce said, "You know what, babe? You should go do a relaxing yoga thing. Go light some candles and shut the door so the cats don't climb on you, and do some yoga." So I did. This one is from Ashley Turner, made by Element, "Yoga for Stress Relief & Flexibility." It focuses on gentle, long holds in poses designed to get kinks out of your shoulders, your hips, your low back, your inner thighs, your neck and scalp. It also focuses on breathing techniques, which have been incredibly calming as I feel a constant state of panicky jitteriness. I got my pulse from 118 to 104. Sadly my resting pulse rate is pretty high normally, but right now I am basically a lab mouse. Or a chickadee. So this helps. So do the candles and pretending I'm with her in California or Hawaii or whatever verdant, flowery coastal place she filmed it. Also, lion breathing is hilarious and I love that she can't keep a straight face after. I don't think anyone can. Give it a go, I dare you.

I know it's all newly hip and everything, but I found myself calmed immensely by coloring. And not just coloring anything. I truly do love Jenny Lawson's You Are Here: An Owner's Manual for Dangerous Minds. It is full of short essays and sayings and things that make you laugh and things that make you feel understood. I am currently coloring a martini glass that says "I love us even when we're sober," which is strangely appropriate since with the Prednisone I have not been able to have nary a glass of wine nor margarita in a MONTH, and Bryce being sick has precluded him having anything fun either, and so it's good to know that we enjoy each other sober and hopped up on cold medicine and scary side-effect steroid drugs. But the coloring train...I'm on it.
I went for "Tuscan Pottery" with this one. 
The text Jenny Lawson wrote that goes with the dandelion image. I love this so much.

This one was instrumental on Friday. Tangle tangle tangle

Latest one. Yeah, let's grow weird together. Great plan.

Putting A Hiatus on Profile Calls
This one is hard, so hard. Bryce called the agency today to say that we probably should not receive calls the month of April. I was going to do it, but he said no. He said no because he felt like I might get resistance, and I might share more than is necessary, and the resistance would be of the KEEP THE HOPE ALIVE variety when right now I would just like to restore my life to something more resembling normal. The Prednisone is truly the exacerbator here, but everything else has been piling up, and right now I have to focus on being healthy -- my eye, my sleep, my mental state, getting the panic under control, etcetera etcetera etcetera. Not that we've had a profile call since January (the one in February was a blind I just happened to find out about), but if we did get one this month I don't think I would be in a good position. First, if we'd gotten a call while Bryce was sick I think we'd have had to say no even if it was perfect, because you don't bring an infant into a house of illness like that. Second, I don't think right now with my eye and my medication woes that I am physically able to care for a newborn necessarily -- I am already sleep deprived and jittery, and I have a lovely new chest cold (that is possibly allergies and asthma) to boot, so that wouldn't be good. And then there's the whole thing of COULD I HANDLE A NO ON A PROFILE RIGHT NOW? The answer is no. No I could not. And so Bryce called and said we need a hiatus until this shakes out healthwise. Which is super sucky because we basically lost a month of our homestudy, but them's the breaks. It is necessary for self-care, for helping me to heal from this clusterfuck of physical and mental badness so that we can accept a call in the months we have left. It was a hard call, and I cried when I found out it was done, but I'm glad we did it. And I am eternally grateful to Bryce for doing it for us.

This is happening one small space at a time. Like the garden, I can't attack it all at once. I need to do small bits and pieces. So the first thing was the dust under the furniture and vacuuming. The next thing was my desk. Then some garden. Now I am going to attack the one area of the table that has associated papers and books and gifts for people that I picked up but haven't boxed up to send and about a zillion medical paperwork packets from the eye specialist and urgent care and emergency. I need to sort that crap and get the table clear. Clear surface, clear mind. But one thing at a time. Permission to not do it all at once. And to stop if it makes me tired or feels overwhelming. Small spaces at a time seems to be the key.

Making Lists
This, in itself, is a kind of list. And lists help me make order out of entropy. For a short while, anyway, since that is the nature of entropy. I have, completely un-ironically, a list of lists. Some of them are T-charts. Some of them are wish lists. Some of them have to do with my identity, which has been wrapped up in something that hasn't really been coming to fruition, and who am I if I am not driving the baby bus? Who am I if I've driven this baby bus straight into the ground? What are new priorities? What do I need to balance better? SO MANY LISTS. They are grounding. They help organize the chaos of What Ifs and What Nows and Where Do We Go From Heres? Because we dont' have to make the big decisions right now, but clearly when your health goes down the toilet something has to change. Lists are a powerful tool for making sense of those things. Pro/Con ones especially, as they can be incredibly surprising when you go to put things on paper and balance is different than you originally thought.

Sitting outside
I went and did a guided meditation outside on a bamboo mat on this gorgeous 70 degree day (Thank you, Lori Lavender Luz, it was the Expansion one). It was glorious. Just being in warm air with breezes and birds is shaking some cobwebs from my soul. I would love to go for a walk in the woods, but I don't think that's a good idea by myself with the panicky feelings and the super high heart rate and the agitated asthma. But walking out into my backyard, sitting outside, feeling the grass on my toes and my's healing. I meant to have the chaise lounge out from storage for today but we forgot. There's always tomorrow.

Talking to People Who Get It
So, I am not talking to everyone right now. There is a magic password. That password is ASK ME HOW I AM DOING. Or connect with me in some way via text or phone. Or be someone I am reaching out to who I know has gone through something eerily similar. And by similar I mean facing down the death of a dream, or having experienced loss and are able to talk to me about it without it constantly cycling back to them, or who can offer me just silence and I'm sorry. Because that is what is best. Not "this is what you should do" or "you shouldn't do this" or "Why don't you" or "Well I blah blah blah blah blah" but JUST LISTENING. And commiserating, which is the fine art of saying "I can understand some of what you feel because of this directly related experience and bring it back to your pain as much as I can." And not putting me in the position of comforting YOU for what's going on with me, not making me worry about your discomfort as I am falling apart at the seams. Oh, and not trying to fix it. That is invaluable. And I have had a handful of people serve in this capacity since Friday, and I am so thankful. If you are not one of these people, don't be offended. I need real connection right now, and I will need real connection moving forward, so you can always step in. There's no expiration date. I don't want to be coddled or to be "saved." I want to be a hot mess and have it be okay. I want a witness to my pain, but also hope that it's possible that you can go through something horrid and come out the other side and eventually be okay. People who have lost a spouse, people who have figured out their own anxiety and depression (as much as is possible), people who have fought or are fighting life-threatening illnesses, people who went through infertility and were left a family of two, people who are gifted listeners and not talkers.... this is my tribe at the moment. I don't want platitudes. That may seem harsh. But it's what I need. And in a time like this, when you are hurting and everything is totally out of whack, what you need takes precedence over pretty much anything else.

Not Talking
There is a lovely thing in silence, too. I need quiet time. I need naps (not that I am getting naps, because Prednisone has stolen sleep from me in a fairly significant way). I need time to read. I need time to disappear into Pinterest and add calming photos to my Serenity Now! board that is basically just one beautiful nature image after another that I can insert myself into and make my happy place. Just breathing. Just closing my eyes and trying to stop the chatter. Just having a cat on my lap. That is important, too.

Writing is therapy. Writing about all of this may make people nervous, because my goo is all out there, but that is sort of what I do. I cannot write if it is not honest, and I have been unintentionally lying to myself about the level of pain that I'm in and the level of stress that I feel and the imaginary obligations I have to anyone who ever asks me a question I don't truly want to answer... including myself. So writing gets it out. I have written before about being sadness or rage constipated, and writing is the best laxative for that sort of thing. Write write write.

This is not an exhaustive list by any means. But it's what's helping me right now, and it's a pretty good list. It's for me to come back to and hopefully it's helpful to someone else, at a difficult time, too.

Monday, April 10, 2017

#Microblog Mondays: There Will Always Be A Spring

Well, I'm home, my sub plans are done and probably far more detailed than they should be but whatever because I am literally missing the middle-to-end of TWO different units. Which sucks.

Anyway, I am on this rest thing which is good because of, you know, having a bit of a breakdown, and so I have been trying to do a little self-care, a little cleaning out.

It started with the house -- there are areas under furniture that are wicked dusty and I was tired of looking at it and I felt like That dust has probably seen so much sadness so I CLEANED IT OUT. I put a t-shirt piece on a swiffer thing and GOT RID OF THE DUST. It felt GOOD.

Next, the garden.

I feel like the state of my garden is a metaphor for life right now. It is a hot, hot mess. Last year was a year of getting very little done. We didn't even put window boxes or hanging baskets in. I planted very few new plants. I didn't get the fall cleanup done, in part because everything just felt so overwhelming and paralyzing, and in part because we had a huge snow dump in November before Thanksgiving. Then there were warm days over the winter but it was dark and I was tired so I didn't trim things up. And now... now it is spring and I am DETERMINED to fix the state of the garden. Like my body and mind, it is in a state of neglect. And yet, there is hope pushing through.

I give you pictures for your springy viewing enjoyment. Detritus filled gardens that need to be cleared like the dust under my furniture, and new hope springing up through the leaf litter. Maybe the new hope looks differently than I'd thought it would, and that's okay. Maybe it's my life popping back up, green and eager to bloom, and not some other tiny life I'd hoped so hard to have in my care. Hard to tell at this point, but hope is hope. And it is beautiful.

Nothing hopeful here, just a sea of gray and brown.

And I've waited until there are new shoots to rake... Even our lawn is a mess! 

Oh, butterfly garden. A sad mess of leaves and old foliage and sticks. I can see what it will look like in about a month though, and that makes me happy. But right now, this is what my insides look like to me. 

But look! After the leaf litter and weeds are cleared, bright sunshiny hope! They made it through the giant snow and wind!

Before picture, so many weeds and moss and leaf litter. That drain pipe gets covered by peonies and verbascum and flowers I haven't planted yet. 
Believe it or not this is an "after" picture, all weeds cleared but irises not trimmed and no mulch. But better. One section done. It made me feel better physically, too. 

These are my favorite white daffodils. They are later than the yellow ones, but last longer too. And they are squirrel plants. The best is when bulbs plant themselves! Sorry to whichever neighbor they were thieved from. Also not sorry. 

I have some happy lupines this year! And now I know a lupine is a lupine is a lupine. No more putting magical expectations on garden plants. It's unfair to everybody. 

Hyacinths! Obviously this is the part of the garden I didn't get to yet, but I love how the hyacinths and the feathery bleeding heart foliage is just pushing up through my neglect, adding color to the detritus of a long winter, showing that there will always be a spring. 

There will always be a spring. 

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy!