First of all, I realize that I have been abysmal at commenting and posting over the last week. I’m really sorry, and can only say that I am starting to return to form. This is going to be a LONG post, so please feel free to pull up an armchair, pour yourself a cup of chamomile tea. Or, you know. Save yourself. Click out
I think it’s obvious that I have been pretty shaken by recent events. I have spent the week speaking about dark corners and light places with my mom in person, with my dad over the phone and this weekend, with Darcy.
Sometimes you need to spend time with those who have known you the longest to understand that SOMETHING is awry.
My mom talked to me of my past. She walked me through my childhood, my teen years, my twenties, my perfect wedding. I used to sparkle brightly, and no one would bet against my chances of doing exactly what I wanted. I achieved, I was a sunbeam. I had one big setback (a bad car accident when I was twenty) that I overcame. But, in general, I was a child of fortune.
But after I turned thirty, bad stuff began to happen to me.
I haven’t talked about it here, but the first year of my marriage I came down with a serious and mysterious illness which crippled me for about a year. After six months of scary anxiety and physical therapy, I “came back”, but it damaged my belief that the world was good. I now thought there were disasters waiting for me around every corner.
I wasn’t wrong. As soon as I got the all-clear from my doctor, we began TTC. Six months later, I knew something wasn’t right. All my tests were normal, as were Darcy’s, so it was another medical mystery. After rounds of IUIs, Clomid, then injectibles, my RE was puzzled so he recommended IVF. They only retrieved ONE egg from me during my cycle. I was 32. I was diagnosed with premature ovarian failure. I was told that my best chance to conceive was to use donor eggs. The next disaster had appeared. I collapsed under its weight.
But Darcy stubbornly insisted that we continue IVF, trying to use my own eggs. I didn’t see the point, but somehow he believed it would work. Darcy’s weird that way. If things don’t go the way he believes they should go, he will shout, curse, fight and push his way through. He believes this is his right. I had gotten to the point where I would prefer to crawl into a cave, and wait for the world to hate me less.
Those who have followed my story know I was extremely lucky enough to conceive twins on my third round of IVF. Once I received the news I was with child(ren), I crawled into a cave of bedrest, hoping that the universe would forget about me while my pregnancy gestated. I rarely left the house. I probably smiled three or four times in nine months. I rarely took showers. I took no photos of my “bump”. I hid the ultrasound printouts under my bed. When I made it to my 35th week, I was astounded. When the twins were born, healthy, and I was able to take them home with me, I couldn’t believe my fortuity. I gazed quizzically at the sky, waiting for something to strike me down. I had become one of the suspicious Greeks in the myths, awaiting some jealous or angry or petty or mean god to wipe me and my new, precious children off this earth.
The first year I anxiously monitored my twins’ every breath, poop, meal and feeding. I kept two journals for one year, for each child, detailing every bowel movement, ounce of breastmilk, then formula, then rice cereal, then organic strained vegetables that they consumed. I analyzed every inch of their bodies when I introduced a new food, and noted if there was even the smallest bit of baby acne on their skin. I used an “angel monitor” under their beds at night, which checked for movement, and detailed the amount of times it went off. I counted every moment they were asleep and awake. I noted each milestone, noted milestones that weren’t hit. I stood like an careworn centurion over my children, guarding them from harm, ready to throw my spear or wield my shield in the battle for their existence.
As the first year rolled into the second, my fear morphed into exhaustion. Even the most vigilant defender needs sleep. I became ill, and each bout of illness triggered panic that I would be unequal to the task of guarding their little lives from the disasters which, certainly, were waiting around every quarter. I got pneumonia. I had bronchitis five times in one year. Our home developed black mold. We had to move. My daughter suffered from some respiratory problems. Then: I got pregnant, without medical assistance, only to lose the pregnancy in the eighth week. The gods had done it again.
Year two rolled into year three. My dad in October, during a visit, observed my grim visage, my emaciated body. My lack of enthusiasm. My fearful waiting for the gods to curse us, again.
He noted: “It pained me to see that you had become a spectator of your own life. You went through each day, with its grueling demands and physical exhaustion, as if you were just putting one foot in front of the other, with no enjoyment, happiness or expectation that life was anything but something to endure.”
He was right. By December I knew in my bones that something was WRONG. With my body and soul. I created my 365 days of joy project to try to take control of this problem.
I blogged, I made new friends, I gained wisdom and insight from wonderful people. And a stirring in my soul arose. To live life again as a child of fortune. To not expect disaster. But mostly, I just wanted to sleep. My arms and legs felt, every day, as if I had run a race the day before. And when I napped, there was no replenishment of energy or oxygen or whatever. I was not living my life fully, and had become a train conductor to my children, guiding them through the many things they needed to do each day. Eat. Use kind words. Use the potty. Get dressed. Get to the car. Go to the classroom without getting hit by a car. Picking them up. Getting them to nap. Fixing a snack. Taking them to get exercise outside. Fixing dinner. Bathtime. Books. Bed. After which, I would crawl into bed with my computer and eat a meal, consumed with lassitude.
Darcy and I politely and not so politely negotiated a routine, so he would wake up with them during the weekends and take care of them then, and I would wearily join the family in the afternoons for outings and family times. Enduring.
When my mom left and Darcy returned, he told me that I had become “the girl problems happened to”. He said, “If I told anyone we know right now that you fell and broke your leg, they would say, ‘It’s Jjiraffe. Of course that happened to her.’”
This profoundly saddened me. Obviously, shit is going to happen. That’s life. There ARE disasters around every corner. The news about my dad just reinforced that. But how do I get beyond the disasters? How do I enjoy this “middle” that I’m in? How do I teach my children that there are jokes to laugh about, carefree afternoons of reading in the sunshine ahead, lazy rivers to watch, astounding vistas to see? Wonderful delicacies to digest?
How do I go beyond enduring? How do I move past my bodily pain and exhaustion? How do I become a person whose problems don’t define them?
Then I had a weird thought: Deepak Chopra. Now I’ve probably lost you. But, my dad once interviewed him. My dad is a Protestant who is deeply skeptical about “New Age ideas”. But he enjoyed speaking with him and thought him wise.
Someone I follow on Twitter re-tweeted Deepak Chopra’s thoughts on joy. I admired them and became a follower of his. After Darcy told me that I had become “the girl that problems happened to”, I wondered what Deepak Chopra would advise. So I did what anyone would do. I sent him a tweet.
Part Two: What Did Deepak Chopra Advise? And what did it mean? No, really, what did it mean?