Sunday, 7 February 2010

The single defining event

Myndi made an interesting comment on this post, which got me thinking once again of something I've been trying to articulate for a while. This was the bit that struck me the most:

"While I spend a great deal of time focused on shoring myself up to make it through the struggle intact, the true mess that I am still exists, it's just tucked away. If we let it stay ever present, would we really make it through each day or would we fall to pieces?"

The friend we were visiting last weekend is an old schoolfriend and an amazing woman. We were talking about a mutual friend - also from school - who had visited her the previous weekend. I'll call them A and B respectively.

Ten years ago, B's husband left her. This was a horrible trauma, and I fully appreciate that the feeling of rejection that must engender never really leaves you. A was pregnant with my goddaughter at the time, and B would phone both A and me in the early hours of the morning and sob into the phone for hours.

As well as emotional support, we offered what practical help we could - looking after her children, bringing her meals, and I even went to a couple of meetings with the solicitor with her when she wanted to make sure she understood the things she was being told.

Despite the trauma, things worked out as well as they could have done. She has an amazingly supportive family who give her unbelievable amounts of practical, emotional and financial support. Her ex-husband's family also remain in touch and help with the children. She got to keep the house, and her ex-husband has never failed to pay maintenance or to follow the childcare arrangements they've agreed. He has the children for the whole of every other weekend and for one day of each weekend in between, which meant that she was able to enjoy the footloose single life every other weekend, while he was never able to go away with his new partner.

The thing is, she got to enjoy being the centre of attention while all this was going on, and she's found it hard to let go of that, so her life seems to be one long list of tragic disasters, all of which need to be wept over and unpicked to the nth degree. I have to say that for both A and me, ten years of this has got a little old. B's entire life is defined by her divorce, and she sees and appreciates none of the good things that she has in her life.

A hasn't had it all easy. When she was a student, someone spiked her drink with drugs, and the accident that she had while she was high from those drugs changed the whole course of her life, because she was no longer able to pursue her intended career and suffered long-term effects from the injuries. She has had two major operations in the last three or four years, and a lot of pain both before and immediately after them. She took two years to conceive each of her three children, one of whom she miscarried. The youngest has special needs. Her husband had an incredibly difficult childhood.

But A is the most thoughtful, outward-looking and energetic person I know. She doesn't let her guard down with many people, and I'm privileged that I'm one of the people she does feel able to show her vulnerability to. She has allowed none of the major life-altering events that she has gone through to be her 'defining moment' - they've happened, they sucked and she moved on.

At the moment, I'm in the middle of the infertility mire, and sometimes I feel it's all I can think about, and all I can talk about.

But I want to be like A, and not like B. In ten years' time, I don't want anybody to be saying, "She was fine until she couldn't have children, but now she never stops whinging" or "She's just tiring to be around now" or "Her whole life is defined by the fact that she wanted children and couldn't have them". I'd rather they said, "This could have defined her, but she didn't let it - and although it's not the life she expected to have, she's happy with the life she has."

And that's why I can't let the hurt stay ever present, and however often I accidentally knock the scab off and have a little cry with my husband, I have to see an end to this whole business and then learn to live with the result, whatever it is.


  1. If you haven't read it, you might really enjoy C.S. Lewis' "The Great Divorce." It's one of my favorite books. It really explores how certain events can completely consume someone and turn them into basically a walking, breathing version of the event itself. It is fascinating to see the kind of negative effects that happen to someone whose personality has been completely hollowed out and replaced by said defining event (or characteristic).

    I know what you mean about wanting to be like your friend A rather than like B. Just remember that you really are still in the thick of things and that you will have an answer about your IF not too long from now and at that point perhaps you can focus on being like A. Being in the thick of things means you're still carrying a fresh burden and all the fresh, raw emotions that go along with it. I really think the mere fact that you can distinguish between your friends' outlooks on life and make the choice to want to be like A means that you WILL be like her. You know how you want your life to be, and I have every confidence that you will take the steps to lead it that way.

  2. Ditto. I too want to be like A. And frankly, I think we both know in the end we will be. Those who constructively self-examine have the choice to be who they want to be. Those who don't aren't aware enough to make the necessary changes.

    But I also agree with what Sonja said. "Being in the thick of things means you're still carrying a fresh burden and all the fresh, raw emotions that go along with it". Beautifully said and right on the money.

    Part of being healthy is allowing ourselves to give in a little during the process. It's painful. We don't have to be heroic. We can have bad days. It's expected and accepted. But we can take comfort in knowing that when all is said and done, we'll be able to accept the outcome and make the best of it.

    I believe with my whole heart that will be the case for you. And I believe you know it, too.

  3. I couldnt agree with SOnja and Myndi's comments more. They've both summed everything up so well and I agree, you will definately be looked back on as someone who was so much more than an infertility sufferer. Just the act that you can realise now that there is difference in dealing with these life changing situations is testament to you. You will not be like friend B because friend B would not even know there was any other way to deal with these situations, and therefore she has no way of knowing that how she reacts is the less-healthy way. YOu, on the otherhand have that awareness and so are able to disginguish the better path.

    Carrying on from Sonjay's comment . my favourite book is "tuesdays with morrie" which is such an inspiring true story about a man who suffers from a terminal illness. His view on life is so inspiring and it really makes you thankful for all you've got.