29 March, 2013

To my commenters

You may have noticed that I've had to resort to introducing a word verification step to commenting on my blog.  I resisted as long as I could, but eventually the spammers beat Blogger's excellent spam-detecting mechanisms, and obscene comments were appearing on some of my posts.  Mostly on an old post, I will admit, but I still don't want readers coming across them accidentally.

I've kept the ability to comment anonymously, as I've received some really lovely and moving comments from anonymous commenters.  I know how hard it is to put your name (or even a pseudonym) to something that is so deeply personal, especially in the early, painful, raw days.  And so I want to be able to keep this facility as long as possible.

For those of you who hate word verification, you are not alone.  I posted this on A Separate Life last year.  But equally I hate the sites that restrict me to logging on with disqus, or only allow openid  or wordpress (for some reason I come up as aseparatelife rather than Mali, and it doesn't always allow me to link to my blogger blog), so I'm going to stick with this for now.

I think it's a case of damned if I don't, and damned if I do.  So if you're annoyed at this - feel free to curse at me.  As long as you manage to comment.  If you can't, or have difficulty, please email me!

28 March, 2013

Do as I say, not as I do

As a consultant, I've designed and taught several courses about marketing, in particular, about marketing your services.  After all, there's not much more personal in sales than selling yourself, your thoughts and abilities and personality and style.  It's not easy.  You may be a brilliant consultant because you understand your clients, they trust you, you develop insight, and you tailor your approach to each individual client and their specific needs.  You may be a brilliant consultant because you are an expert at what you do - leading your city, country, or even the world.  But unless you're able to

a) explain your value in terms your client understands and values, or
b) actually put yourself out there in front of potential clients, put yourself out to be seen (and yes, judged),

then you won't get the work.

I'm terrible at the above.  Well, no, let me qualify that.  I am skilled at knowing how to do it, but point b) gets me every time.  Call it fear, call it a lack of self-belief, call me shy, or call me a coward.  I wish I was better at self-promotion, at acknowledging what I'm good at (and I'm very good at that), and at convincing others.  Heck, forget about convincing, saying it (or believing it) in the first place would be a good idea.

I think this blog is the same. I know what I need to do, and how to do it, to live a good life, to embrace my future.  And I think I'm more succesful with this than I am at my own self-promotion.  But just because I think I have some of the answers, or sound as if I might know what I'm talking about, doesn't mean it is always easy.  It doesn't mean I always manage to embrace my life, to shrug off negative comments as if I'm coated in teflon, or to always be happy.  I can't.  And that's okay.  And I think I need to acknowledge it here, that I have moments or even days of sadness, that I often take a step back before I can step forward again, that I don't always follow my own advice.

Coming to terms with our life-style will be a life-long issue.  But our lifestyles - whatever they might be - are a life-long issue - whether it's coming to terms with not having children, or a partner, or the career we wanted (or not being able to figure out what career we wanted), or not having the health, the friendships, the body, the partner, or the money etc we wanted.  All these things are our issues.  And too often we focus on what we don't have, rather than what we do have.  That's natural and normal.  But sometimes, if we focus to an excess on what we don't have, it is neither natural or normal.  But unfortunately, too often, it is encouraged by the societies in which we live.

And in this focus on what we don't have, we open the door to feelings of disconnection* and we invite in shame.  I think that that stops us reflecting on what we do have.  And so often, and certainly in my life, a lot of what we do have, the good things in my life, are a direct result of not having something we wanted.  And you know, that's not a bad thing.

Yes, I'm referencing Brene Brown and her thoughts on shame again.

26 March, 2013

Two lives lost, or one life lived?

I was thinking, as I was responding to a blog comment elsewhere, how differently I feel about having no kids today, than I did even five years ago, let alone nine-ten years ago when it was all so raw.  Yes, I've mentioned before I'm sure age has a lot to do with it, but the old cliche is true.  Time really does heal.

And letting this happen is really important. Reading other blogs and comments, and in the years where I volunteered on a pregnancy loss website, I have seen so many women who have pushed against the idea of acceptance and healing.  I have seen them stamp their feet, as I have done at times too, determined not to like their new lives, determined to keep trying or keep grieving, terrified that acceptance means forgetting.  And so they haven't healed.  And they wonder why they are so angry, so bitter, so stuck.  Yet I doubt they could articulate that, filled as they are with so much grief and anger and turmoil.  And so they stay stuck, often for years.  I'm not saying we shouldn't be angry.  Anger is part of grieving.  But we need to move on to the next stage.  I wish I could hug them and tell them it really will be okay.  Tell them that they don't need to stay angry. That it is okay to heal.

Anger only eats you up.  It's a negative emotion that turns on us.  It achieves nothing else.  I mean, it's not even as if there is anyone we can be angry at, is there?  After all, there is no-one to blame.  (And what would that achieve after all?) Healing means eventually letting go of the anger,and letting go of the anger and bitterness means acceptance can take its place. And acceptance is healing, and healing is acceptance.  Healing takes time.  You can't one day decide not to be angry and wake up the next morning feeling healed.  (Oh, if only it worked that way!) But it opens the door, and lets some light in, so that healing can occur.  Healing doesn't mean forgetting.  Ever.  But it does make remembering easier.

And acceptance isn't a betrayal of what I wanted, or a denial of the love I felt (ever so briefly - yet lasting a lifetime) for the babies I lost.  Acceptance is simply an acknowledgement that this is my life now.  And accepting and embracing my life now just means that I'm accepting and embracing my life now.  It doesn't mean anything more, or less.  If anyone reads more into it than that, then we all have a good reason to get angry!

The alternative - not accepting or embracing our lives now - would be just too sad.  It would be as if we lost two lives.  The one we hoped for and the one we have.  And that is too awful to contemplate.  And if you're going to be angry, then maybe that's what you should be angry about, rather than the loss of the future you (and I) couldn't have.  Me?  I'm not going to waste any more time on anger.  I'm going to live what's left of the rest of my life. 

More shame

Since I wrote this post, I have been thinking and reading a lot more about shame and infertility.  I do have more to say, or more to share at least, from the reading I’ve been doing.  But I'm not ready yet.  Thoughts are swirling and need to settle into some logical patterns first, before I put finger to keyboard.  Still, I realised today, as I searched for the aforementioned shame post (yes, too lazy to scroll through and find it) that it has been an issue that I have touched on quite a lot.  I have in fact mentioned shame  and ashamed  a total of 39 times since I began this blog.  A lot of my comments mention that I am not ashamed, but when I delve a bit deeper, I see that this statement in fact should have the qualification “I am not ashamed anymore.”  Clearly, I did feel shame with my infertility at the outset.  I struggled with it in fact, and it affected the way I lived.  And I will come back to that soon, I am sure. 

In the meantime however, I thought it might be interesting to see a few examples of how or why I mentioned shame.

  1. OK, my first example was in fact an “unashamed” promotion of my A Separate Life blog.  Showing that simply by the use of the word, perhaps I was a little worried I’d be judged by promoting it.
  2. In My Negative Voice, I talked about believing the shame I felt.  And that’s a real minefield, when we start believing that we are shameful and somehow bad.
  3. And in You can achieve anything, yeah right, I addressed the issue that we often feel – both in wider society, and here in the ALI community – that we “gave up” and that was a bad thing.  The judgement we feel, and that loss of connection, leads us to feel this, whereas I believe that “Giving up is scary, and hard.  A level of courage is required.  And that is admirable, not shameful.
  4. Then there’s the whole vexed issue of telling, or not telling, and why.  Does the choice not to tell mean we feel shame?  Yes, would be the view of some advocates of telling everybody.  But I don’t think so, and I have some further thoughts on this.
  5. Blogging as a remedy for shame comes up a number of times, I realise now, and I think is a logical progression from the telling/not telling question, and the issue of connection.  I wrote on Don't Dwellthe protection in the semi-anonymous internet from feelings of shame, and pity, that I didn’t want following me in my real life.”

As I say, watch this space!

24 March, 2013

The big dry

New Zealand is currently in the middle of a drought, probably the worst for the last 70 years.  Wellington, where I live, is subject to water restrictions.  The local Hutt River – where a lot of our drinking water is drawn from -  is down to about 25% of its usual flow.  We had some rain for a day or two last week, but it wasn’t enough.  In fact, it just washed the dust off the land and into the water sources, making our drinking water resources more scarce.  One of the huge reservoirs to the north of the city is sitting empty.  It is – like so much of our infrastructure since Christchurch crumbled in 2011 - undergoing earthquake strengthening.  So our water is limited.  There is a total ban on outdoor water use, and a request for every household to save water. 

This is unusual in New Zealand, perhaps particularly so in Wellington, we where usually have an abundance of water.  We live our lives seeing our neighbours in Australia suffering droughts of enormous magnitude and regularity.  We visit their land (and others) and see rivers full of brown silt, slow-moving and ugly, compared to the clean, blue, often glacier-fed rushing rivers that criss-cross our lucky country, that irrigate our lands and fill our glasses and power our electricity.  And we feel rather smug in comparison.

So this morning, as I had a much shorter shower than usual, and I contemplated whether I should do a load of washing, and congratulated myself for not having a browning, thirsty lawn, I also thought about those with kids, and perhaps how much harder it would be for them to reduce their water usage.  Then, as my thoughts often turn, I thought of those with a lot of kids, and I felt a little “holier-than-thou.”  Because regardless of what I do, my impact on our water usage is minimal in comparison to another adult who has children, whether it be two, or six.  And yes, I felt a little smug.

14 March, 2013

A few things ...

A few things have come up recently that reminded me about the differences of living life with no kids in a world full of people with kids.
  • A blogging friend who has three kids dropped off the face of the earth.  She resurfaced briefly to say “I’m sick!”  And I felt sorry for her, and thankful for me– as I age and my health is starting to give me issues, I can be grateful that I don’t have school age children who pick up every virus going and bring it home to spread it around.
  •  My littlest niece is about to start school, and my sister is bemoaning the fact her holidays now will have to be in sync with school holidays.  No such restrictions for me.
  • We’ve had a nasty shock on the work front recently.  But because we don’t have kids in school, with interests and friends and commitments, we can actually step back and think about it.  With no jobs, we actually have the freedom to do anything we want to do.  Nothing is certain, and it is quite scary, but there is opportunity there that we can consider because we don’t have kids.  Life gave us lemons, and we do actually have the option to make lemonade.  

08 March, 2013

I am woman, hear me roar*

For International Women's Day .... I posted here.  Because even if I don't have kids, I'm still a woman, a friend of women, an aunt to nieces, a friend to  mothers of daughters.

*With a nod to the lovely and clever Loribeth for the use of the title.  It was so good, it deserved to be used twice.

01 March, 2013

Those comments

When we're going through infertility, we fear those* comments.  The comments that are going to hurt, the comments that are judgemental, the comments that accuse us, imply that we are selfish, or not mature enough to be parents, that we are lacking somehow.  Those comments bite into us, and leave scars.  And often, in an attempt to armour ourselves against these comments, we start anticipating them.  We imagine the worst that someone might say to us, so that we will be prepared.  But as we imagine these things, we are doing even more damage to our already damaged psyche.  When what we need to do is heal those wounds.  But sometimes it feels as if the wounds will never be healed, as if the scars themselves will always be painful.

But they won't.  Nine years on since I learned I would never have children, I can tell you they won't.  I've grown so much as a result of this - putting much less emphasis on what other people think, and more emphasis on what I believe.  I have put work into figuring out what it is I believe, and to be comfortable with that.  And the answer is that it won't always hurt.  The pain fades.  You become stronger and more able to cope, even when the comments come.

In particular, I've learned three things that make it easier:

1.  Once you're in your 40s (and eventually, gah - 50s) people don't ask you about when you're having children anymore.  I'm very rarely asked if I have children, and when I am asked, and I just reply "no" the subject is changed.  No big deal.  In your 40s and 50s, people's children are usually growing up, leaving home, and the parents are starting to enjoy (or at least, to anticipate a future when they can enjoy) a child free life themselves.  I figure I have at least a decade or more to enjoy this, before the grandchildren issue kicks in in full force.

2.  You realise that the comments are all about the people who make them - their bias, their ignorance, their insensitivity, and sometimes, their own insecurities.   Let them make judgements, I think now, because they're so ignorant they know not what they do.  If I can, I forgive them for what they've said.  I can laugh at some of the worst comments or judgements.  Because I know they're not true.  It becomes much easier to let them slide off when you don't let them attach in the first place.

3.  I feel confident enough in myself now to counter their statements, to point out if they're just plain wrong, or if they're insensitive or rude or biased against people without children.  I do it calmly, in a nice way, and sometimes jokingly.  I will laugh, but make my point.  I don't put pressure on myself to do that.  But it does feel empowering to be able to stand up for myself, strongly, proudly.

*This post started off as a comment on Life Without Baby