Grief

Dark Spaces and Other Things

I went to a dark space this past week. I went back to the land of longing for a child of my own.

That’s a place, while always in the back of my mind, that I haven’t been to in a long time.

It started when I found out that a newer co-worker of mine had triplets. So naturally I asked if this was a surprise to her when she found out she was having triplets. That’s when I found out that she and her husband had done IVF and had succeeded with pregnancy after their second try; a frozen cycle from the remaining embryos from her first try.

D*mn it. I was jealous.

So jealous that I thought of our one failed IVF cycle and the failed ability to even have tried a frozen cycle. Which then had me thinking that if we did succeed with our cycle, our child/children would be 9 years old.

Nine. Years. Old. What a different person I might have become if we were successful.

Maybe I wouldn’t be such a sad person inside. Maybe I wouldn’t feel so anxious all the time. Maybe I wouldn’t be so afraid of failure like I am about everything in my life.

I know. I’m realistic enough to know I could still be the same person I am today, with or without kids. However, I do know that my fear of failure stems from the belief that I grew up with: If you try hard at anything, you will succeed.

Except as hard as Hubby & I tried to conceive, we did not succeed.

Failing at trying to procreate was the first time I ever had to question that belief. The corresponding darkness that followed our failed IVF only allowed me more time to question whether anything I do would only result in failure.

So the dark place I was at this week? It all boiled down to my fear of failure in EVERYTHING I do. From feeling like I’m a failure at work, to feeling like I’m a failure in my personal life.

I’m still a little fragile from this past week … probably will be for a while, if I’m being honest with myself … but I’m trying to be better. Trying to realize that sometimes failures can be opportunities for improvement. And trying to remember that mistakes are really just mis-takes

I Want My Mommy

Earlier this week Hubby & I woke up at an ungodly hour. My mom was flying out to the Philippines and needed a ride to the airport. It being an international flight, she needed to be at the airport at least 3 hours before take-off.

Her flight was at 7:00 am.

Needless to say, Hubby & I got little sleep the night before.

With Hubby staying curbside, I was able to help check my Mom in at the airport and say a proper good-bye before she headed into the security line.

What she said to me in those moments have stuck with me this past week and have made me realize that, as much as I think I’m okay, I’m still not quite okay.

On the way home from the airport, I cried. Cried, because I was already missing my Mom who would be gone for six whole weeks. Cried, because I knew that it was time to make another appointment … one I haven’t had in about six months now.

Cried, because as much of an adult I (supposedly) am, there are still some days that I just want to be a child again and want Mom to tell me that everything is going to be alright.

Things will be alright, I know. Even though they’re not right now. I know this because I have the love and support of a wonderful husband and … even though we don’t get along all the time … my mom.

I miss you, Mom. Hope you’re having a blast in the Philippines.

Missing Dad

It’s been a busy week, otherwise I would have written much sooner. Especially since the 2nd anniversary of my Dad’s passing was this past Monday.

I would have thought that going through the first year anniversary would have made this year a little more bearable, but it turns out I was wrong. It was just as hard to get through the day this year as it was last year. What made it worse was that I had to work, which made concentrating on things a little difficult. (Reminder to self: Take next year’s anniversary off.)

I still miss my Dad. Every single day. But bring an anniversary into the mix and it makes it more emotional. I wish I could still hear his voice, his laughter. I wish I could still get those silly voice mails he used to leave on my phone. I wish I could talk sports with him and commiserate with him about the NHL lockout. I wish we could talk about the new James Bond movie and whether he liked it or not. I just wish he was still here with us.

But alas, he’s not. He’s up above watching us all and hopefully protecting us. And maybe — just maybe — he’s visiting his grand-daughter in Texas and making here laugh and smile as only my Dad could do.

I love you, Dad. And I miss you ever so much.

Thirty Days of Thanks, Day Twenty

Spent part of my day outside today. That is, after spending most of it indoors at work. But at least I got to leave in the early afternoon.

My Mom and I went to place a grave blanket on my Dad’s grave this afternoon. We bought a bare blanket and spent some time decorating it with ribbons and bows. This is the first time we decided to decorate it ourselves and we actually had a fun time doing it. We did a fine job, if I do say so myself!

Afterwards, we went out for an early dinner and had some nice conversation. Overall, it was a great afternoon.

*******

So I’m thinking that Mom & I should make it an annual thing … something we can do together. Because there’s not much we do together.

It’s not that we don’t get along … it’s just that we don’t share a lot of the same interests or find a lot of things in common.

I wish we could … find things more in common. Which is strange to say, since she is my mother. We should have tons of things in common. But we don’t.

It’s one of those things that I shouldn’t do … but I blame part of it on the fact that I don’t have children.

(Yes, I’m bringing out the “Infertility Card.”)

We’ve never really had much in common, even growing up. But I always thought that once I had a baby, I’d be able to turn to my Mom for some “I don’t know what the h*ll I’m doing”-bonding.

And even if we didn’t always see eye to eye, I would put our differences aside if my kids wanted to spend time with their “Lola.”

But since the kids/grandkids thing isn’t going to happen, I want to find some way to bond with my Mom; to connect with her.

So maybe it won’t be bonding over what latest funny thing “Johnny” just did. Maybe it’ll have to be bonding over what we’ve lost together … her, a husband; me, a dad.

What am I grateful for today? The time spent with Mom, bonding over my Dad.

Soup for the Soul

When I was little, I would typically spend “sick days” at home with my Dad. Mom would work the day shift, while Dad would work the off shift. Such was the life of a dual-income family.

During those sick days, I’d typically be relegated to my bedroom to sleep off the illness that would’ve plagued me for a day or two. And if I was lucky, I would be allowed to lie on the family room couch and watch daytime TV.

The thing I remember most about those sick days was the soup my Dad would make for my lunch. He’d make this chicken noodle soup that I absolutely loved. And I knew I’d be feeling better if I’d ask for a second bowl.

It was a soup that only my Dad could replicate, much to my Mom’s chagrin. Eventually it became known as “Daddy Soup,” and I’d always request it whenever I got sick.

It was comfort food for me; the warmth of the broth soothing my sore throat. The chicken bits providing nourishment for an otherwise lackluster appetite. The egg added that made the it taste like egg drop soup with chicken and noodles … The “secret ingredient” that made Dad’s soup unique. All of it just reminded me of home. And of being cared for as a child.

I think about this soup at times when I miss my Dad the most. And I know it’s because I’m missing the comfort of my childhood when things seemed so much simpler.

Nowadays life seems much more complicated; so much more complex. While I know that’s just part of normal life, having this memory helps remind me that I was loved by my Dad and that I am still loved by those people who reach out to me … Especially during this particularly difficult time in my life.

I’ll just refer to these reminders as “Daddy Soup for my soul.”

Weeakly

I’m trying to be diligent about updating this blog at least once a week. If anything, let the blog serve as a sort of a routine for my otherwise routine-less life.

Okay, so my life isn’t without routine. Otherwise, why would I be at a tea house on a Saturday afternoon trying to catch up with some work that I can’t seem to get done after my online teaching sessions?

I’m feeling overwhelmed and anxious lately. There seems like there’s so much to do and not enough time to do it. I mean, I’m glad that I’m catching up on some work today outside of my home office, but then that leaves all the other household stuff up in shambles.

To top it off, at the end of this month I’ll be traveling 5 days a week for the next 7 weeks, which – on top of trying to learn a new expense system for work (as well as quite a few new things work has got up her sleeve) – has me at the brink of a nervous breakdown. (Or maybe I’m already there?)

My husband seems to think that I’ve got some really skinny hamster on a wheel running nonstop inside of my noggin. He tells me this because he thinks my mind spins out of control, working overtime about worrying.

And d*mnit if he isn’t right. I just wish I could slow the hamster down enough to allow me to quit worrying about … well, worrying.

So yeah. This is my weak attempt at a post this week. Maybe next week I’ll have something better to talk about.

But for now, it’s all about the “Serenity Prayer” in my mind. That and a warm, huggable Husband is all that keep the hamster in my head at bay …

Boulevard of Broken Dreams

The irony doesn’t escape me. It’s 5:15 am and –thanks to our dog — who refuses to sleep, I’m wide awake.

It’s not as if I’ve had a difficult time falling asleep … it’s more that I can’t seem to stay asleep. If anything, all I want to do is climb under the covers and fall into a deep, deep sleep. Depression can obviously do that.

And with me, depression can cause waves and waves of anxiety, which only add fuel to the insomnia-fire.

Recently Hubby and I had one of our long discussions (one of many we’ve been having lately). This one happened to start off with an innocent comment our 15-year old nephew had said last Sunday when we met them for lunch.

“Auntie,” he told me, “you look sad” . And I couldn’t tell him any differently, other than to say that I’d been tired a lot lately.

My husband brought that up during our discussion as a means to show me how even a 15-year old could see my depression. And if he could see it, how many other people would see it as well?

All I know is that over the years, I have changed. Oh … I think the heart of me — my center — will never change, but the way I’ve looked at things or approach things have definitely been altered from my life experiences.

I know these thoughts are no different than any other person in their late 30’s/early 40’s. After all, isn’t this when we begin to look back at our lives to where we were and compare them to where we are now? Isn’t this where we reflect back on those dreams we had in our early 20’s and think about whether we’ve achieved them or not?

You see, as I approach 40 this year, this is one of the anxiety-ridden things I think about frequently. I think about our early post-college years where then-fiance and I would dream about our future together. We’d dream about our married life together; of kids and the large house in the suburbs. We’d talk about how our kids would be into sports or some sort of activities where we would be the proud parents who’d show up with video cams in hand to record such moments. We talked about vacations as families.

And, of course, I also had my dream of wanting to be a Stay-At-Home-Mom for a spell, while waiting for our four (yes, four) kids to all be old enough to go to school. I also dreamt about making friends with other Mom’s; friends of our kids, where we could hang out and commiserate about daily life with kids. I dreamed of arranging playdates and birthday parties and all these wonderful things I could do when I became a mother.

But we all know where those dreams went. Our best laid plans … right down the potty.

While making the decision to live child-free has lessened the “blow” to my need to maternalize (is that even a word?), it hasn’t taken away the fact that I have had to face the “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” when coming to terms with my infertility.

In other words, in order to figure out what our next step in child-rearing would be … Hubby & I had to walk that “boulevard” alone. Together, yes definitely … but alone.

So now that the we’ve passed that boulevard … and even though it’s been almost two years now … what do we do now? What’s our next step? What’s our goal? I know that children aren’t in our future, but so what is our new future?

It’s all of those worries that keep me from having a full night’s sleep. It’s what causes me anxiety in the middle of the night.

Which direction in life do we need to be heading? What we can do with our lives now that we’re closing in on 40 … the decade where we should feel more “settled” in our lives?

It has all the makings of a dreamless night. A night where I’m not sure what our new dream is going to be.

Which, again. The irony doesn’t escape me.

How Winter Kills

Like the snow in Metro Detroit, I’ve been in and out of everyday life. And like the snow, my mind should be ever present during this particular month, since it’s supposed to be the month of new beginnings; of making resolutions to change things.

But like the snow, I’ve only surfaced in bits in pieces whenever life seems to be most inconvenient.

This depression sucks.

No. I mean literally. It sucks the life and energy out of me. And throw in a (un)healthy dose of anxiety with it … well it just makes life all the more interesting.

I’m trying my best to move past this depression; doing all that I can physically and clinically do, but the weight of this sadness seems to be omnipresent.

Thank God for an understanding Husband; one who has stood by me through thick and thin. He’s been there through the low-hanging, non-anxiety moments and all the way through the high-octane drama-fueled moments. Sometimes I wonder – scratch that – I always wonder how I’ve managed to find my soulmate and my best friend who still loves me despite all the baggage I carry.

If anything, Hubby (and the furkids – although the fur-dog has been on my last nerve lately … ) is the reason why I keep getting out of bed every morning.

Even though I’ve written the occasional post about the grief I’ve been experiencing, I know I’m not usually so outright with my depression. But it has been suggested to me that I start writing more about it, because this seems to be the only outlet where I can openly talk about my struggles.

And although this blog is (and always will be) about living child-free after infertility, I thought that this was my little corner of the universe where I can tell you about my life, both good and bad. So here’s where I lay it out on the line:

  • I’m still grieving over the death of my father. Between my two parents, it’s become apparent to me over the past year and a half that I truly was a “Daddy’s Girl.” I thrived in the moments when my Dad would play around with me and tease me. And there were the silly jokes the two of us would play on each other that only the two of us would get. And I miss those things horribly.

 

  • In the same aspect, I realize how much different my relationship with my Mom has always been; particularly now that my Dad had passed. I’ve always known that we never had that “Mother-Daughter” bond that is constantly seen in movies and TV shows; we’re just two very different people. And without Dad being there as a buffer, this relationship has only intensified … and not always in a positive way.

 

  • Even though it’s been over a year since deciding to move back to Detroit, not a day goes by that I don’t miss living in Chicago. I miss the city and the atmosphere. I miss the late night trips to Dim Sum or Korean BBQ with my cousins. I miss walking.

 

  • But what I miss the most is that Chicago represented a new life for me. A life where Hubby & I carved out a place for ourselves; where the two of us really started focusing on us as a “Family of Two.” And while I love my hometown and take pride in telling people that I’m from Detroit, I miss that part of our lives where we were just far enough from “home” where Hubby & I could be our own family.

 

  • And finally … even though Hubby & I have decided that child-free living after infertility is our life, there are still those days where I worry about our future and what other things in our lives we can contribute to the greater good of our world. Will all I have to show at the end of my life is that I’ve worked hard for a living? That I loved my family and friends to the best capacity that I could? What about my legacy? What will I leave behind? And will I have made a difference in someone’s life? I know now that having kids won’t necessarily “satisfy” or provide answers to all of those questions, but having lost my Dad … and knowing the person he was … this is something that weighs heavily on mind.

 

I could probably go on with more “issues” that seem to run endlessly through my anxiety-ridden head, but these are the ones that are constantly in my stream of consciousness. These are the things that keep me from doing the things I would normally enjoy doing.

Like reading.

Or knitting.

Or taking pictures.

Or writing.

Or simply watching TV.

But I’m trying … at least I’ll try to work on the writing bit.

And maybe Mother Nature will be kind enough to work on a mild winter for the rest of us.

Too Pieces

The day stretched on as if it were the longest day of summer; yet it was the middle of winter. It was only 4:30 pm, but dusk was around the corner; the clouds in the wintery sky making it seem darker than it should be.

She should be doing something to keep her mind busy; anything to take her thoughts off the shades of grief that lay inside the pit of her stomach. Instead, she sat at her local bookstore’s cafe mindlessly flipping through the latest gossip rags and fashion magazines.

Normally reading such things would entertain her; would make her laugh at such ridiculousness. Or at the very least, inspire her to change her wardrobe to something other than jeans and a t-shirt. But today, she neither felt nor heard nothing but the silent hum inside her head that told her that something about her was defective.

That silent hum had always lived inside of her for as long as she could remember. She never felt pretty enough or smart enough to accomplish anything significant in her life. And although she had a good career and an incredible husband, she never thought she could deserve to be happy.

At times in her life, the silent hum would surface outwardly. When she and her husband found it difficult to start their family, that hum became a silent roar. When she lost her job, the silent roar returned. However, eventually that roar would once again return to a hum.

She knew that her antsy-ness today was because that hum was slowly turning into a roar. She even knew her actions over Christmas was its root cause. But just like those other times, she had no idea how to silence the roar. She had no way of stopping such negative, self-defeating feelings that lay rooted inside of her.

Although she knew she had the support of her husband, her best friend in life … her family … she also knew she would ultimately be the one responsible for taming the beast inside herself.

She also knew that in order to tame the beast, she had to get rid of the hum all together. She had to stop depreciating herself and start to build up that self-esteem.

This will prove to be a difficult task for her; especially since she never particularly had consistent, ongoing self-confidence. Her entire life had been rooted in self-doubt with only fleeting moments of confidence. It would take a lot to rid her life of that silent hum.

What could she do? What *would* she do? She had already sought the help of professionals; she already had the support of her loving husband. The only thing she could do is uproot those thoughts of self-doubt and self-deprecation and replant confidence and self-esteem in its place.

It sounded simple enough; replace the negative with the positive. Believe that the glass is half-full rather than half-empty. Begin to believe in herself.

But why then, did it seem so much more complicated than that? Why does the silent hum persist?

Grief Bacon

I love bacon.

There, I’ve said it. And I’m not ashamed to admit that the smell of bacon brings back memories of cooking breakfast for my parents when I was in my pre-teenage angst years. You know, back when I was a relatively obedient kid who only wanted to do something nice for her parents.

And the taste …. Oh, the taste! Nothing completes a great breakfast like bacon can. Especially those thick, maple-cured strips that they serve up at Original Pancake House.

I mean after all, there is the saying that nothing can make a vegetarian go pro-meat more than bacon can.

I’m guessing that with all this talk about bacon, you’ve figured out by now that I’m not the healthiest person in the world. And it’s true. I’m hypertensive. I’ve got high cholesterol (no surprise there!). And I’m at high risk for heart disease.

And given the events over the past year, I guess you can say that I’ve been lax at keeping myself healthy. In fact, you could probably say that I went the opposite of healthy. What can I say? I’m an emotional eater.

In fact, I’m not just that; I’m an emotional over-eater. When things get tough or stressful, not only do I munch on chips or chocolate or candy … I over-indulge myself with them. And because of that I’ve gained a significant amount of weight over the past year.

So what does this all have to do about bacon?

Yesterday, at one of Hubby’s work-related events, we had sat with some friends and another couple I had just met for the first time that night. Somehow (and I can’t exactly remember how) the subject turned to bacon. (I mean, really. When does bacon come up in a conversation?!) That’s when I learned that the German word kummerspeck … which is the excess weight one gains from emotional overeating … literally translates to “grief bacon.”

So there you go. Now I have a name for all the weight I’d gained.

But lest you’re worried, Hubby & I have been making efforts to regain our health. First off was joining a gym to make time for some weight training and daily cardio. Second is re-learning to eat healthy again. Third … and this is the most difficult … is maintaining the motivation to keep up with both.

I guess this means I won’t be eating too much bacon in the near future …

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