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Entry Eleven, September 3, 1997

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Mixed Results

Well, the news is mixed! It looks like I am still waiting for the final word on whether I am pregnant or not. I was scheduled for a day-10 pregnancy test. The doctor's office called me and told me that the results were negative. I thought that this meant that this chapter was over! I thought I was done. Then the doctor's office called me back and told me that they want me to take another pregnancy test this weekend. Day-10 pregnancy tests can have false negatives.

So, I am still waiting. I have started back to work. It is kind of difficult to stay focused, as you can imagine. Today must have been a kids day at work. I saw a number of people with their small children in tow. There was a time in my infertility walk when it was extremely painful for me to be around small children. And all the holidays and events that celebrate children or motherhood (Christmas, Mother's day, baby showers, etc.) were really hard to manage. This was especially true the first months after Nicholas died. For some reason, I don't struggle with this like I once did. But when I see people with their little children as I did today, it makes me ache with longing for my own children. And it makes me wonder how much longer it will be for us.

I did have an encouraging conversation today with a co-worker. She was telling me how wonderful her experiences as an adoptive mother are. It was good to talk to her; good to see her glow with motherhood and pride over her child. Maybe that is the way our family with children will be built? If anyone out there has a crystal ball for me, please let me know!! The uncertainty is something else! In the mean time, I welcome any email comments or encouragement you might have! I am still waiting, still hoping, and still trusting that in the long run this will work out well.

So, I think the biggest aspect of my personal happiness is simply that I feel really happy to be alive. I think that carries me through disappointments and difficulties. For me, the bottom line is that I have another day of life, and I have people in my life whom I love, who love me. I think my painful experiences forced me to wake up, to open my eyes and truly see what I have. I have life. How can I keep from being joyful? I find personal meaning in being able to just experience my life as fully as I can. It may sound funny, but this mind set even helps me when I am in pain with a migraine. To be very honest with you, I often wish that some of my friends could open their eyes and see that they have life, and that they are so blessed, just like I am. Another "must-read" is End the Struggle and Dance with Life by Susan Jeffers. This is an outstanding book. She discusses opening our eyes, and seeing what we really have. She discusses that fact that all of our lives are filled with such pain, and disappointment, and also love, and abundance, that it is a matter of focus and mindfulness. I know that I can become really miserable if I focus on the negative aspects of my life. And I can feel so incredibly lucky if I focus on the positive. Our lives are so complex. I do believe that focus is a key. She also discusses practicing gratitude, which is another essential part of my own happiness.

Along a similar vein, I have found that joy lies in the present moment, no matter what I have or don't have, no matter what is going on. It is here, and it is now. As much as I want children (and I want them desperately) I know that children are not going to make me happy. Joy is now. Peace is now, no matter what my circumstances are. Another indispensable book is Peace Is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh, who describes this eloquently.

Besides being clear that just being alive is a great cause for joy, that sharing my life with those I love is what is most important to me, besides seeking to be awake and mindful of the joy that is in the present moment, and besides practicing gratitude, there are other things that have contributed to my own happiness and buoyancy.

I personally don't know how I would have survived if it had not been for the support I have in my life. I am a "people person" so I invest a lot of energy and time into my relationships. And I have so much love and support that comes back to me. I am very, very fortunate to have the most wonderful husband, friends, and sisters in the world. From what I read, having a good support network is vital for good physical health, as well as good emotional health! I believe it. I also know from experience that being able to freely and honestly express emotion is absolutely essential. There was a time in my life when my basic strategy was to do my darndest to outrun my feelings. I bet I don't have to tell you that this is not a healthy strategy! I think the only way through grief, especially, is to be able to square off with everything we are feeling, and express it as much as we need to. I have wonderful caring friends, and my "paper" journals, to confide in. And I do confide in them!

I find that community service, giving love to those who need love, gives me a sense of meaning and purpose. I read that volunteer work has actually been studied, and found to be another component of good physical and emotional health! It certainly means a lot to me.

I personally have found a lot of stability, peace, and meaningfulness in feeling connected to something bigger than myself. I also have friends that have found this true for themselves as they participated in Twelve-Step programs, or in their Catholic, Jewish, Unitarian, Evangelical Christian, Buddhist (my aunt by marriage), Hindu (a close friend), New Age, Mainline Protestant, Quaker, or other spiritual practices. I think that connectedness to something greater than oneself is a highly individual journey, and I also think that it can be a journey of great joy and meaningfulness. It has meant a lot to me too.

In addition, I find a lot of excitement in learning something new, and in having something happy to look forward to. I try to build this into my life on an ongoing basis. Right now I am experimenting with my music, and, learning some new computer programming languages. I purchased some theater tickets for 1998, and know that I will get a lot of mileage from anticipating the show. I am planning a big party for my 20-year wedding anniversary next June, and am learning some new songs to perform, to surprise my husband. I think these strategies keep my enthusiasm for life fresh.

So those are the components of my own personal resilience and joy, as best as I can dissect it. I do suspect that I have a genetic tendency towards resilience. However, I have struggled through a great deal and wrestled with such painful issues in my life, to come to what I have described to you. So I just hate to chalk it up to good genes! I've got one last great book title for you. This is one of my favorites. It is entitled Legacy of the Heart: the Spiritual Advantages of a Painful Childhood by Wayne Muller. I must confess that the first time I saw this title, I was wrestling with some dark issues from my childhood in counseling. The audacity of the title made me furious. But it hooked me, too. The book is now one of my all time favorites.

Our lives are so individual and so different. But these are my thoughts on what has worked for me, and why I believe joy and resilience are part of my life.
Kay Grames

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