Many of us talk about triggers, reminders that catch us unawares, surprise us with their sting, and shock us that we are still finding pain in what-might-have-beens even many years on. I do it myself. I think I'll always have triggers. But how I react to them, how I process them, is changing.
One of the things I love about FB is that I can stay connected (or make connections) with people I know who live offshore. Very few of my FB friends are day-to-day friends. Mostly, other than family, they’re overseas friends I hold dear. As some of you may know, at 17 I was an exchange student in Bangkok on the AFS programme. There were about 44 international students on the programme, and we shared a unique and amazing experience – that of being Thai teenagers for a year – that forged deep bonds. We all made life-long friendships there. Wonderfully, as a result of FB, we are all reconnecting, 30+ years later, older, hopefully wiser, but still those same enthusiastic, idealistic teenagers at heart! Once again we are becoming part of each others’ lives.
So I read the status updates of these far off friends with a lot of joy. But every so often … for example, right at the moment, one of my closest of the AFS friends is visiting her daughter who is about to give birth. Proud grandmother-to-be is posting photos of her pregnant woman, and her husband. She's not going overboard - just one or two lovely photos. And I can cope fine with the photos, but of course there are the comments too – “is there anything more beautiful?” etc. Those always bring a tiny twinge, but one I can acknowledge, and then move past.
In comparison, another of my AFSers (as we call ourselves) has just returned from a visit back to Thailand, and has been posting photos of herself with her Thai family, and with her American family on the trip. She talks joyfully of introducing her boys (young teenagers) to her Thai life, and what she considers (as many of us do) to be her second home. And for the first time in a long time, I let myself think how wonderful that would feel. Because that’s one of my regrets – that I wasn’t able to pass on some of that incredible experience to another generation, to help them understand another culture, to help them understand me, and what I went through too. Yes, I’ve been more lucky than most, and have been able to make Thailand a part of my marriage, introducing the country and people I love to my husband, as we spent three years living there in the early 90s, a decade after my teenage experience. But still, it stung.
My initial reaction was to post. But I didn't want it to be another “woe is me” post. Because it isn’t really. It’s part of who I am, and that’s okay. I mean, I'm 50, and at this age, we all have regrets, we all have “what-ifs” and the associated triggers. Infertility is just one of mine. But in some ways, perhaps equally in terms of regularity of reminders and a stinging shame, so is the loss of my once-slim body, and my resultant self-consciousness over my less-than-perfect shape. Or the fact I've chosen sanity and creativity over an exciting international business career. My triggers aren't just about infertility. As many of us have said, we are more than just our infertility, after all.
And I know, as I've written before, that I am just as guilty at triggering other people’s regrets by posting about my travels, my “gelato reports” and photos of beautiful places, or simply the fact that I have been lucky enough to take several months off even after redundancy and job loss. And I know that if I want to do this, and talk about it, and have it acknowledged, then I can’t begrudge others for their happy “grandma” pics or “taking my boys to Thailand” pics and posts. Because the upshot is, they are not judging me and my life by posting about theirs, and I'm not judging them by posting about mine. We’re just sharing our lives, sharing what makes us happy. And that, after all these years, is what is important.