Friday, September 28, 2007

Two and Two

Two updates, coming right up. But first, Rule Number Two:

Visualize Success.

Some people believe there is real, magical power in extreme positive thinking, in living "as if", or at least repeating, mantra-style: I have the body of a supermodel, the bank account of Oprah Winfrey, and a healthy baby on the way. Life is fabulous. I don't mean to demean this practice (or supermodels, or Oprah, or babies, or fabulousness). I also don't mean to suggest that I believe there is no such magical power. Frankly, I don't know, and truthfully, it doesn't matter, because, magic or not, in many circumstances, I am convinced that visualizing success works.

One thing I do know: doing so forces a change of perspective. It is good to ask yourself, when feeling fat and poor and sad, whether your intention is to take your mind off of the pain (by consuming a pint of ice cream, a lottery ticket, and a good movie, for instance) or to make peace (with your flab, your childlessness, and your second-hand everything), or is your intention to make change? There is no correct answer. The important thing is simply to ask!

I like David Allen's line (I've quoted this before): "Whatever has your attention needs your intention engaged." In other words, in order to visualize success, you need to address the question: In this particular circumstance, for me, what DOES success look like?

It's a good question for me right now. So much is changing.

I'll give more details soon, but in a nutshell, two things:

1. Tomorrow, my stepson will move three hours north to complete the academic year, possibly all five remaining academic years before college, at a better school, living with his mother. My mixed feelings contain a double-shot of relief, and smaller jolts of worry, guilt, and sadness. For J~, of course, it is much more intense. He is alternately excited for his son, worried for him, and completely devastated. J~'s entire existence, for the past thirteen years, has been defined by and revolved around his role as parent. Through tears, sitting in his car in the office's parking lot at lunch hour today, he told me he feels the loss so deeply, it seems to exist at the cellular level.

2. We met with a reproductive endocrinologist this week. A good meeting, a thoughtful, down-to-earth, and knowledgeable doc with lots of good information. The upshot: lab orders for tests that we mostly don't expect to take, since they are invasive and seek out long shots, and frankly, we're just not desperate enough to go there. Since IVF has never felt like an option for me, it boils down to this: nothing to do but try again. Chances of another pregnancy being successful? Fifty-five to sixty percent. That's better odds than I imagined. But I don't much fantasize about having a child like I used to. Perhaps it's self-protective. Perhaps it's denial, but "visualize success" for me lately is more about a writing and art career than it is about babies.

However, if I've learned anything over the past few years, and the past few weeks, it's this: life is nothing if it isn't constant change.

Who knows what I'll be saying a month from now.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Rule Number One

Self-help guru, Susan Jeffers, says that the correct internal answer to any nail-biting "what if" in our thoughts and lives is simply this: "I'll handle it." In other words, "I'll learn from it. I'll grow from it. I'll make it a triumph." She wrote a book on the subject, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, which I can't say I love unequivocally, but she makes some very good points.

I've been thinking about this, along with three small revelations, three tenets of a life/work credo that came to me—fully formed and carefully worded—on a series of afternoon walks this past spring.

As a prelude to an art and writing project I intend to put together on the subject (though I have all kinds of what-if fears about doing so) I'd like to share these three ideas with you.

The first, in its exact wording, was this:

Rule number one: Plant all your seeds.

You reap what you sow, I shrugged, when this commandment smacked me in the forehead. I began mentally ticking down the list of incompletes in my life: Phone calls I wanted to make. Letters to send. Books to read. Compliments to give. Doors to knock on. Ideas to pursue.

Previously, I had been bogged down in deliberation, asking myself which was the highest priority, which was most worthy of my precious time. But Rule Number One was clear: Do everything. Begin wherever you can. Life is short.

That very afternoon, I began with a literal interpretation, by opening a box of seed packets and scattering their contents. All the potential beginnings of vegetables and flowers I've been hoarding, including the decade-old ones that I probably should have thrown out years ago, fell into the in-between patched of my half-planted garden. I scattered loose soil over top, watered them in, and headed inside to make phone calls, pay bills, fold laundry, write that long-avoided query letter, cook lentils with cinnamon and onions, design business cards, compose follow-up emails to potential clients, clean the basement, whatever came to mind. I'm still doing this. Every positive impulse is a seed, and I plant as many as I can.

As for my garden, many of those old seeds never sprouted. Birds snacked on some of them. No flowers emerged. The kale grew well, but the deer got all of it. I did get some arugula, a few extra string beans, a bumper crop of basil, and perhaps most importantly, I crossed that long-standing seed-planting item off my list. Now, when I look at that seed box, I feel excited about next year's choices rather than leaden about clutter and unfinished business.

I can't say that the list is getting shorter. I add items all the time. Some chores add themselves. Things break. Bills keep coming. But so does the basil! Clients appear. The phone rings. My inbox fills (including a writing assigment resulting from that query letter). I must make pesto from all that basil. I don't think I will ever cross off every item from the roster. I'm glad of that.

And the pesto, by the way, was delicious.

Next item on the blog list: Rule Number Two.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Nine Lives

"Don't you think you should come back in your next life as a pampered Siamese cat or something? With nine lives?" This was said by my friend, B~, last night, after hearing my most recent bad news.

The bad news was this, my current worst fear come true: a call from Dr. A~ yesterday saying that by the time the lab got the word that yes, in fact, they were supposed to genetically test my "products of conception," it was too late. The cells would not reproduce.

"Well that sucks," I said into the receiver, then thanked him for the information, and hung up. I stared blankly at my computer screen. There goes my best chance at a clue as to why I keep losing my pregnancies. I dropped my head and wept onto my keyboard. I called J~ and cried some more. And then I got back to work.

It took me a minute to understand what B~ was getting at with her nine lives comment. We were sitting in our usual once-monthly girl's night bar/restaurant, the rest of the gang all around. I looked at her quizzically. She looked me in the eye. "You've been through enough."

I laughed, appreciating the sympathy, recalling the trials life has put before me in the last few years.

B~'s statement stuck in my mind, resurfacing on the drive home, in bed with my man this morning, and again, as I sit down to write. Yes. I've had some bad luck. Some hard times. And there are still challenges ahead. I may never have children. That's a big one.

I see the history that formed me, the good and bad that brought me to this reality. I can get to feeling very low about that. But for the most part, in the day to day of living, I don't feel unlucky. I don't feel singled out by fate.

I am amazed, actually, that after weeks of free fall, anticipating and then surviving J~'s surgery, anticipating and then recovering from another miscarriage, I seem to have landed on my feet. I can't explain it. I credit J~. I credit my need to write everything down. The people whose shoulders I have cried on.

Maybe I am a siamese cat already.

Maybe luck is more about how you recover from hard times than it is about whether or not hard times come along at all. Don't we all have hard times?

Saturday, September 01, 2007

An Inconclusive Update

It's been almost two weeks since my most recent miscarriage, dear readers, and I feel that I've been neglecting you. Please forgive me. I was traveling, so to speak, through a very dark place. But in the last week, I've experienced a dramatic shift, both in energy and in mood, which I'm somewhat at a loss to explain. I'll tell you all about it in the next post.

In the meantime, an inconclusive update:

No word from Dr. A~, the ob-gyn, about results of karyotyping (genetic testing of the "products of conception"). But I did get a call from his office four days after J~ dropped off our salamander baby at the lab (in a clearly marked container, I might add) asking if I had done so, and did I want them to test it. Mind you, on the day of our slow-heartbeat ultrasound, I said explicitly that I wanted this testing, and on the day of the no-heartbeat scan, Dr. A~ gave us instructions about where to take our little bundle of sorrow, and assured us that he'd spoken to the head of the lab. We were expected. No paperwork necessary.

Needless to say, I began to panic.

As it turns out, our clearly marked container was not lost (Thank God!), they just didn't know what we wanted done with it.


Having cleared that up, having received assurances that it is not too late, that the tissue wasn't sitting around too long, I am still afraid that nothing will come of it. I hate the thought of wondering, if this turns out to be the case, if it's someone's fault. I'll call the doctor's office first thing Tuesday. In the meantime, deep breaths. On to other things.