Monday, February 27, 2006

Limits, Expanding

I like to walk the perimeter of my limits, to know what lies just inside them, what lies just outside of them too. It can be scary to acknowledge that I have any limits at all, but it can also be freeing. It brings the focus back into what is actually possible in the present moment. It prevents the strain and injury that comes along with trying to be something you want to be but are not yet, without cutting off the possibilities of what you might become in the future.

In yoga, you stretch the physical limits between what is comfortable and what is painful, and breathe into that space. If it hurts, you've gone too far. But if you can't find the edge, you're missing the point. The addictive and wonderful thing about this practice is watching your limits shift, expand, relax. Not because of pushing or striving, but from leaning forward into change, yielding to it.

My life these days feels like yoga.

Yesterday, I accompanied J~ on a long drive north to check out his ex's new home and partner, in order for him to find some closure, but especially so that he might feel comfortable authorizing visitation there for his son. I went because a road trip seemed like it would be fun, because J~ wanted me along, because his ex invited me, seemed to need to meet me, and (okay, I'll admit it) because I was curious about her too. But I also went for B~, J~'s son, because in this short stretch of time, his well-being has come to matter to me quite a bit, and the possibility of being of use to his mother meant being of use to him.

My impressions of her were complex. She seemed incredibly strong, but functioning under the illusion that she is incredibly weak. She treated me with some hostility at first, which angered me, excusing her behavior by explaining how raw she felt. But I came to understand her attitude was based on her own true and blinding pain, and a ferocious, territorial love for J~. Though she'd stepped out of the relationship, it hurt her to know it wasn't there anymore to fall back on. Though she'd hurt him herself, she didn't want to see him hurt any further. In the end, she expressed, through tears, great appreciation for me, for who I am and my willingness to come along to meet her. She said J~ and I seemed good for each other, and she hoped we would stick. When we left, she hugged me.

How could I find fault with that? How could I not find my heart stretched, yoga-style, with deep-breathing awareness of my limits, toward loving her myself?

So much more to tell. I haven't even touched upon the second visit of the day, and all the Babies or Not implications and discussion it sparked for J~ and I. Let's breathe our way into that one, shall we? Falling forward into the next time I write...

Saturday, February 18, 2006


It's the stereotypical seventies divorce moment: as I'm writing this, A~ is sorting through the record albums. (Yes, we still had vinyl. We were retro like that.) But the moment holds no drama. Which in and of itself is dramatic. The changes that can come in six weeks. Wow.

I wont write much today, dear readers, as I am tired, and like I said, not consumed with any particular drama. But I can feel one coming on, and it has to do with the whole Babies or Not question. Will I, won't I? Putting aside the whole willing and capable partner question, there remains the even larger issue: I have to be willing and capable too. Capable? I can't know unless I try. Willing? I'd like to be. But right now I see plenty of reasons to resist.

On the phone today, my father offered blog-critique (unsolicited, mind you, which is par for the course with the guy, but you gotta love him for it). You should write more about the clinic, he told me, about the struggles women face there. "That's the point of the blog," I answered, "Coming at the question of Babies or Not from every angle."

Okay, so I will. I promise. I'll write all about the factors that go into a decision to terminate a pregnancy. But I'll also write about it from my own angle, which isn't all that dissimilar either. It's about the question of entertaining pregnancy as an option in my life. It's the same question, regardless of moral ground regardless of existing pregnancy. More later. I promise.

Thursday, February 16, 2006



I actually slept. After my usual five or six hours, I closed my eyes and slept again. First time in a month and a half. I'm a new woman.

A cool thing in my day yesterday: I met a soul sister. She showed up in the guise of medical student, trailing a patient on her journey through the clinic protocol. We have med students come through the clinic all the time, but rarely do they turn out to be superheroes. Lucky for me, I happened to be the counselor for the patient this particular student was trailing, because after observing my counseling, we got to talking, and boy do we have much in common. Blogging, for one (she is BionOc, proprietor of Bionic Octopus) but also we both had divorce on the heels of infertility, along with subsequent, and simultaneous, babies or not wranglings. And deep thinking about abortion and the abortion discourse.

"Saying there should be less abortion is like saying there should be less use of the jaws of life," BionOc said, or something close to it. "It misplaces the wrong. There should be less car accidents. There should be less unwanted pregnancy. But there's nothing wrong with the jaws of life. And there's nothing wrong with abortion. It isn't a 'tragedy', as we hear so often, even among pro-choicers." I agreed with this, but from the counselor perspective, added, "But for some women who have abortions, it is a tragedy. And they need to be allowed to grieve without turning the pain in on themselves, blaming themselves for the lack of help they had thinking about birth control, or the lack of support society would've given them if they chose to go through with the pregnancy."

It's a conversation I hope to, and plan to continue. Another new person I hope and plan to get to know. I acknowledge that this might be difficult. She is an overworked med student, after all. But luckily for me, I'm not overly isolated and tragically depressed. And I'm not afraid to be persistent.

A lot can change in just a few weeks.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Five Weeks

It's been five weeks since my life turned upside-down, and I am amazed and pleased (and amazed to be pleased) with the changes. I live alone and I like it. I sleep smack in the middle of the bed – that is, unless I have a guest. I've quit, effortlessly and all-but cold turkey, some nasty avoidance patterns: watching television, eating for distraction, spending too much time in isolation. I've dropped twenty pounds my body didn't want to be carrying in the first place. I'm breathing easier, and so much more deeply. I've been out dancing for the first time in years. I've fallen in love with myself, with my family, with my friends, with a man and and his boy. But perhaps the most amazing of all is that I look into the future now, and I feel excited. Scared sometimes too, but that's part of the thrill.

In her fascinating book, <Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior, Temple Grandin writes about experiments with humans and animals showing how the pleasure centers in our minds light up when we are working toward something we are hopeful, but not quite sure yet that we can achieve. For instance, dogs that can smell a bone and are free to sniff it out wag their tails throughout the entire process. The interesting thing is, once the achievement is made, once the dog finds the bone, the pleasure is done. Well, maybe the dog will wag its tail as it gnaws away, trying to get to the marrow, but the seeking is where the pleasure's at. The marrow is just the marrow. The bone is just the object. It is the seeking, not the having, that makes us come alive.

I look back to my single-minded focus just a few weeks ago, on creating a secure family niche to keep me comfortable and safe and needed forever, and I see how invested I was in being done with all the endeavoring. I was the dog sighing into her paws, longing for a steady supply of bones, cleaver-split and dropped at regular intervals, directly under my nose. No seeking. No striving. Hold the thrill, please; I'm done feeling vulnerable.

How wrong I was. And how very sad.

This is not to say that I don't still like the idea of that secure family niche, that I don't still grapple with the question, "Babies or Not?" (I have plenty more to say on that subject, by the way, so stay tuned.) All I'm saying is that being vulnerable, opening to all that can be both pleasure and pain, is the joy of life. And I am done avoiding joy.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Bring it On

I will make this brief, because I'm in the midst of a snow-bound weekend get-away I'm not all that interested in getting away from. But loyal readers, I don't want to leave you hanging. So several brief updates for now:

I'm continuing to have a terrifyingly great time with J~, talking out every fear and thrill and fantasy that arises, making no promises, and playing, playing, playing. Among today's highlights: wrestling with B~, his son, in the the freshly fallen snow.

The divorce is proceeding according to plan with A~, who is working non-stop. I saw him Friday evening, and he looked exhausted, and sad, telling me he prefers to work than to feel. What was I thinking? he asks himself, when too much down-time accrues. To be clear, he is not regretting the break-up, but the way he handled it. I am relieved to have this distinction in hand, because if he wanted me back, I'd have to consider it, and it would be a very heavy, difficult thing. We were together a very long time. I love him very much. And I want him to be happy. But as hard as all the changes in the past few weeks have been, I can't see myself ever going back.

"I can't say that more won't bubble up in the future," I told A~, "but for everything I've felt so far about all this, I forgive you. I'm not saying you handled it well, but I know you did the best you could." I really meant this. I really do know this. I was holding his hand as I spoke, and his eyes were the saddest I'd ever seen them. I wish I could've done more.

Life is tough. Life is fabulous. Bring it on.

Friday, February 10, 2006

From Noank

I'm writing to you this morning from my cousin G~'s beach house. G~ is in the kitchen, trying to wrangle up breakfast, while at the same time corralling her very exuberant, and hungry, two-year-old girl. I'm sitting in the living room with my feet up on the window ledge, gazing out over the water as the sun climbs and contracts from porous blood-orange to firm yellow to pure and focused white. As the morning opens and expands, I am breathing in the drastic changes in my life over the past month, trying to relax into rather than brace myself against all the changes yet to come.

Dear readers, I owe you an update. So much is happening, and I have been remiss. Even G~ tells me I owe you an explanation. "What is this 'new love' you wrote about last time?" she says. "If I wasn't here with you and if you didn't write about it today, I'd be calling to ask."

The truth is, I'm still answering that question myself.

I feel like a teenager. J~ and I are on the phone every day, and when we're not otherwise occupied, we're smiling involuntarily, talking about each other to whomever will listen. We've only spent time together on two occasions, two slumber parties: once at my place, once at his, and though we've shared a bed, we're not rushing the physical stuff. I've met his eleven-year-old son, B~. For simplicity's sake, B~ knows me as someone his dad is dating, which, I have to allow, is not inaccurate, though we are not too keen on defining it as such, or defining it at all. It's still all so new, and we're proceeding with cautionary bouts of trepidation. In part, this is to think well about B~, who could become attached to me quite easily, but also, to think well about each other, and our own vulnerability.

J~ and I are opening to each other so fast it is a physical rush, the thrill and terror of a rollercoaster ride, requiring deep breaths galore. Our relationship began like a support group, each of us losing our spouses to adultery a week apart, contending with the same very rude awakening, admitting to each other every feeling that comes along with it, from waves of nausea to fear to anger, and every twisted urge (to hurt the ex) and cringing apprehension (about being alone) and desperate hope (for miraculous change in our exes, or else miraculous rescue by new love) that comes along with it. It's wonderful. It's terrifying. It's life.

"Everything ends," J~ said on the phone last night, when, once again, we found ourselves projecting into the future, trying to prepare and protect ourselves against the inevitability of getting hurt. "It's going to happen. Whether it be on the phone with one of us saying, 'I can’t do this,' or on one of our death beds. We’re already opened up to pain. So we might as well enjoy the present.”

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Choice, Expanded

This morning I'm thinking about how we compromise, telling ourselves (and each other) that there is a limit to how many options we have in any given circumstance. This is never true. There are always infinite choices in what we do, what we say, what we promise, where we focus our attention, and how much of ourselves we show the world. It's only when we're hurting and fearful that we constrict, that we insist we can only go as many ways as there are roads. When we relax into the moment, breathe, be truly present, we realize we needn't move at all. We can lie down in the crossroads and soak in the sun. We can bushwhack into the wilderness. We can fly, or at least pretend to (and there's fun in that).

And when we do select a pre-existing road, the choice is not irrevocable. We can always veer off onto a path of our own making.

There is never a moment when we are not choosing, nor is there a moment when our choices guarantee any given result, or when any given set of circumstances guarantee happiness. It comes down to this: we may not always have control, but we do have choice. And we can always change our minds.

I'm choosing to feel everything these days, and hide nothing, so here goes:

At the moment, I am jittery from new love and drastic life change and not quite enough food or sleep the last few days. I am sad, seeing how much I've limited myself in the past for fear of feeling all there is to feel, for fear of being alone. I'm nervous because of all the important commitments to myself and others I have yet to fulfill. And I am breathing my way into a rapidly advancing future full of promise and peril, rather than limiting my choices for the illusion of predictable safety. When A~ left, that illusion was shattered for good.

"I don't understand why anyone could ever leave you," J~ said to me yesterday, head shaking in disbelief, a single tear falling.

"I have an answer for that," I responded, though in not as many words, and not without first absorbing the compliment. "He was never sure he wanted to stay in the first place, so deep down, he could never be happy. He didn't think he had a choice."

Monday, February 06, 2006

Three Updates

There is so much running through me right now it's difficult to come to words, but I will do my best on the three updates: Brunch with Bloggers, The sit-down with A~ and K~, and meeting J~, my one-man support group.

The Boston Infertility Blogger Brunch

It was nice to meet these very sweet women, all with very familiar struggles. But they are much deeper into it than I ever was, throwing around infertility acronyms (IVF, IUI, GnRH, FSH) as if they were part of their regular everyday language, which of course, they are. I felt humble staring into my Cobb salad and chamomile tea with only two miscarriages under my belt. "What clinic do you use?" T asked, and it took me a beat to realize she meant fertility clinic. I wasn't sure whether to be sad or relieved or embarrassed that I never got that far.

Listening to them commiserate about nightly hormone injections, complete with geysers of blood and baseball-sized bruises, I have to admit, I was glad to have nothing to add. I did share my saga in baby-making, though, when the moment seemed appropriate, and received supportive noises and questions and even a laugh as I concluded with a little inside joke for the fertility- and adultery-challenged: "My problem is strictly male-factor now."

"Are you considering getting a donor?" pixi asked. Again, it took a beat to fill in the blank in my mind. (Organ donor? Baby donor? Oh, sperm donor.) She isn't the first to bring up the question of raising a child alone. I am surprised that each time this comes up, I have to look within and actually consider this as a possibility. But each time I come back with the same answer. Single parenthood, for now at least, is not for me.

The Big Sit-Down: Meeting K~

First of all, her physical presence was a surprise. The woman I pictured was lean, with long blonde hair, and a small, tan, magazine-pretty face. I guess I fixated on the image I felt most threatened by. But this girl had dark, short hair, eyebrows plucked into a pencil-thin line, and a nervous, pale face slathered in flesh-tone concealer. She was thin, as A~ had told me she was, but in a mousy rather than command-of-the-catwalk way. I can't say she wasn't cute, but she definitely wasn't threatening.

When I asked K~ what she had been thinking when she started her affair with A~, she had a lot to say. She admitted that she'd had strong feelings for A~ before she knew he was married. ("The sun and moon rose and set on this man" is the way she put it.) "When I found out [he was married]," she went on, "I thought, it's par for the course. It always happens this way. I didn't set out to steal him from his wife. I just thought of him as a nice guy. When I found out he also had feelings for me, it was very selfish. I thought: For once I could actually have something I want? I rationalized it by saying I'm not breaking any promises. But when I thought about it more, I started feeling guilty. I don't expect you to ever forgive me, but I am sorry."

She went on to admit her fear that A~ will think less of her down the road, will think of what he's done as a mistake, will want to leave her to come back to me. "Well, let me put your mind at ease on that one," I told her, "It probably isn't an option." I explained that at the core of the problem between A~ and I was that he was never really sure he wanted to be with me. "As much as, I have to admit, I'd like to see your relationship crash and burn, and I can't help fantasize about A~ winding up in the gutter, begging to come back to me, and as much as I'd like to imagine him becoming sure he wanted me, and making the changes it would take to regain my trust and respect, I don't really see it happening." They both laughed at this, nervously I think.

In general, the event was less dramatic and cathartic than perhaps I had hoped it might have been, but in the end, I didn't need it to be anything more than it was. I said the things I wanted to say, I asked the questions I wanted to ask, and K~ was pleasingly forthright with her feelings. Her apology, I believe, is as sincere as can be expected. Mission accomplished.

Saving the Best for Last: Meeting J~

This one deserves a blog entry of its own. For now, I will say only: Dinner? Dancing? Cry-fest-2006? Yes, all of that and so much more. It was truly lovely, and I wish we could do it again immediately.

I called my brother, the one who introduced us, and told him all about it, while being careful to stress the clarity of the boundaries J~ and I were communicating. I admitted that I feared I was setting red flags a-waving frantically in his mind about rebound relationships and who knows what else. "Not at all," my brother assured me. "I wouldn't have gotten you in touch if I had any concerns like that. I have a lot of respect for J~. He is a good soul. Whatever your relationship is or becomes, I'm happy for you."

I wanted to cry hearing that. I still want to cry. But it's not about the immediacy of pain, or even the strangely beautiful sadness I've felt thankful for in recent days, as I engage in the good but difficult work of tending my long-neglected inner garden (see Weeding the Garden). I've been bracing myself to endure years of dormancy, and here I am, shocked to uncover a tender, vibrant green sprout. It is pure relief. It is joy long before I thought it could be possible. It scares me to be this wide open, but I wouldn't want it any other way.

Friday, February 03, 2006


Coming attractions:

J~ is coming over Saturday evening. J~ is my telephone and email Surviving Divorce Support Group buddy. (See my previous entry, Thanks Be, for the scoop.) We'll be playing it by ear: Dinner? Dancing? Cry-fest 2006? I can't exactly call it a date, but it's definitely a happening.

On Sunday, I have a brunch in Boston with fellow infertility bloggers, including: pixi, Nico, Karen, Nicole, T, and possibly Korisi, if she's up for it. Korisi is in the first precarious moments of her pregnancy, and for anyone who's ever fallen off the wrong end of a much-wanted pregnancy, you know what that's like. Others on the list are a little further along, but with their own versions of precariousness, and still others are keeping their chins up, hopeful for the next cycle. As far as I know, I'll be the only one shoving the whole baby-making project to the backburner. I thought maybe I shouldn't go on Sunday, I might make the others uncomfortable, it might be too painful. But hell, these ladies know what it's like to have their hopes dashed. And they're still my tribe: women writing their way through whatever life throws at them. So I will be there with bells on. Well, maybe not bells.

Sunday afternoon brings the main event: The big sit-down with A~ and K~. No links to that one, folks, sorry. I'm being civil and protecting identities. But wouldn't it be interesting if they were blogging about me, too? (They're not.) (Yet, anyway.) (As far as I know.)

While I'm in a link-happy mood, I'll share with you two tidbits from the news that relate to this blog.

First, the latest shameful actions of the company that owns Blogger: abetting censorship in China. Google, oh Google, I'm disappointed in you! Dear reader, if you are sufficiently put off, you have my blessing to take the No Luv for Google oath. I promise, you won't miss anything here.

Lastly, a shout out to the ladies suing Walmart. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Red Light, Green Light

I have my period and it's perfect: bright red-pink, not too thick or too dark, not too much or too little, not even too crampy. Exactly the kind of flow Chinese Medicine describes as healthy. I believe in those muck-brack teas I drank over Christmas, and I believe in the power of my womb again. Three cycles have come and gone since the latest miscarriage, and the green light is on to try again.

Only, suddenly there is no one to do the trying with.

So how do I feel? Strangely, not too bad. This may change a week from now, when my period is done and my uterus is primed for baby-making. I expect I will be sad then, and angry, and I don't expect those feelings will pass easily. But at this moment, it's a relief not to be rushing headlong into the abyss.

I thought I was pushing toward happy family, but I was so wrong. I'd rather never have children than compromise to that degree ever again.

This is not to say that I still don't want to raise a child, to revel in nurturing and celebrating a new life. And it doesn't mean I don't fantasize that I'll find myself in ideal conditions for just that venture, with relative financial stability and a terrific partner, and maybe even a book or two under my belt. (Yes, I'm really beginning to embrace this dream of being a writer.) But for now, I'm just happy to see a bright red-pink reminder that it's not too late.

For the time being, I'll revel in nurturing and celebrating my own new life.