Sunday, October 21, 2012

There was a time when...

We are all familiar with the phrase “hindsight is 20/20.” As a Christian, hindsight to me is also a reflection on God’s faithfulness and promises kept as I look back on how far I’ve come in dealing with this “childless not by choice” thing. Man, has God ever delivered me through this – and it isn’t over yet (if it ever will be). It’s amazing to me now how my emotions in many ways have changed, and how much more positive I am about my life and my future. Maybe that is just maturity, maybe I have worked through the issues and come to a place of acceptance, but honestly, I think much of it is supernatural and a real sign of God working in my life.

In reflecting over the past few years, I can think of a several situations that I can handle better today. With some, I have learned some good coping mechanisms, but with others, I really can’t explain why.

There was a time when... I couldn’t go grocery shopping without becoming saddened by seeing kids in the carts pulling on their mom to get them some sugary cereal or something. I no longer get that twinge (or flood) of regret, loss and longing.

There was a time when... I hated to get my annual pap smear because of seeing the pregnant women in the waiting room with their nervous husbands. Well, I fixed that by switching to a GYN instead of an OB/GYN! But now I know what potential triggers are and I am better at avoiding them.

There was a time when... I would have to leave early from baby showers, unable to stand my own grief while trying to fake being happy to be there. Today, I give a gift to the mom in advance as I unfortunately can’t make the shower. I don’t lie and make up an excuse; I just say I’m sorry I can’t make it. I’m truly happy for the mom, want to hear all about it from her and I can’t wait to meet the new addition. But, honestly, after driving away with blinding tears from the last shower several years ago, and accidentally driving over and ruining a corner of Emerald Zoysia sod on my friend’s mother’s lawn…I have no intention of ever going to a baby shower again if I can help it. I am not saying I will NEVER go to one, (never say never), but should there be one that I just CANNOT miss, I think I will be OK with it. That one might take a few more years of God’s love and mercy to get me to that stage. Seriously, who really enjoys baby showers anyway?

There was a time when... I would feel out of place when in a group of adults and I was the only one without children. I still feel a little out of place, but now I’m confident enough to just be me and appreciate the group and their kid stories, while not feeling bad or remorseful about my different lifestyle. I’ve learned to accept them with kids, so I assume they can accept me without them. That doesn’t prevent some folks who just DO NOT HAVE A CLUE from asking me why I don’t have kids. I just tell them unfortunately it didn’t work out for me and that seems to nip further discussion about why, and I move the conversation on to some other track. I understand people want to know why; people are naturally curious. I think people mainly just want to understand where I stand in case it might be a judgment on THEIR choice and THEIR lifestyle. As in, do I hate kids and not want to have any and think I’m better than them? Or did I want to have them and couldn’t for some reason and therefore am jealous of them?

There was a time when... I thought everyone in the world had procreated but me. It’s funny, it has worked out now that most of my dear friends either have adult kids or don’t have kids, so I’m not really as surrounded by families as I once was when I was younger. Perhaps it is just natural to flock to birds of a feather. Frankly, it is easier to hang out with people that don’t have kids because they are available when I’m available, can enjoy activities with me and we can relate to each other (probably because we aren’t talking about our kids – we can actually focus on other things).

My observation of the friends and co-workers that have young kids is that they too are surrounded by like-minded families because that is their flock. They take their kids to after school activities and therefore those are the adults they hang out with. They can’t stay out late, have to plan dinner for the kids, don’t have funds or time to try the new restaurant in town, usually have some other family’s kid tagging along that needs to be fed, and probably have to hang out with other family-oriented people for their own sanity, really. So, I think they naturally think that everyone has a family because everyone in their universe does. Therefore, I try not to hold this against them when they ask me “So how old are your kids?” They usually look aghast when I tell them I don’t have any. “Oh I thought you did!” they often say. “No, it unfortunately didn’t work out for me. So tell me about…”

From all this reflection, the Virginia Slim commercial with the tag line, “You’ve come a long way, baby,” comes to mind. But it wasn’t that easy. I think it has taken a lot of prayer, talking with friends, and studying God’s word to know – really know - that I will be OK just as I am. That God has a plan for me, and this plan just doesn’t happen to have kids in it. That God has held me through my times of sadness and has healed me. Plus, He gives me this crazy sense of hope. Hope that my future holds some amazing purpose that could ONLY happen because I am not held back by having a family. I even think that it is possible that I may have kids someday, somehow if it is God’s will. I don’t dwell on this, and I am fine if it doesn’t happen, but I wouldn’t put it past Him. I am just at a point where I trust Him enough with my life that I’m open to whatever possibility he has in store for me, and that gives me hope.

There was a time when I didn’t have hope. I am thankful to be moving past that now.

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

Saturday, March 31, 2012

The boat won’t sink, and the storm won’t last forever

Life became harder for me when we lost Mikey. It was like he was a new addition to the family and I felt cheated out of having more time with him. We had him for just over a year. Having a dog like him was such a relief for me. I could pour attention into him and was distracted from focusing on myself. Walking him provided me with a way to get out in the world and commune with neighbors and nature. He helped lift me out of depression, which was inwardly-focused, and taught me to lighten up and enjoy more of the world and be outwardly-focused.

Losing him was very difficult. I hadn’t realized how much I needed getting out of my own head, and it caused me to slide back. Other areas of my life suddenly became more difficult. I became anxious. Work stress became huge in my mind. Committing to social events became stressful. I needed to have nothing scheduled. I felt like I was walking around grinding my teeth the whole time, like I was riding in a boat during a storm and I didn’t know when it would end.

“A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.” Mark 4: 37

I was classically depressed. I did have sad thoughts about not having a family, and thought losing Mikey aggravated these feelings, jarring them loose from a box that I thought I had shut and forgotten about. I began to rationalize that it was probably best to not have kids. Dealing with the loss of a child would be unbearable. Or, I thought of how I could barely handle the life that I had, compounding it with the extra work required to keep up with kids would have put me over the edge. I even thought about what if the child was disabled or was just plain difficult to deal with – at least I didn’t have that stress in my life.

Finally, after talking with my husband, we decided I needed some help. I started visiting my paid friend that I hadn’t seen since my divorce. In talking with her, I learned to focus on improving some key elements in life as a first step – and this was all I needed to pull up out of the nose dive. Here are some of her recommendations that I can share with you - free of charge!

• Exercise
• Play / have fun
• Help others
• Sleep
• Control bad habits which only make you feel worse (in my case, overeating)

Each of the first three have the same result: the release of endorphins helps you feel better about yourself. These activities put my brain on hold and interrupted negative thinking. They gave me positive feelings, positive memories to focus on, and positive interactions with other people.

Friends prayed for me, I prayed, and I was reminded of how God was faithful to me in the past. A friend reminded me that just like the parable of Jesus calming the storm, the boat won’t sink, and the storm won’t last forever. And it didn’t.

Life got easier. I relaxed. Spring came along with daylight savings time and finally the days got longer! Mikey died in February, typically my worst month of the year for negative emotions. Work stress calmed down. Actually, I’m sure it was the same but my concern and worry was reduced.

“He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.” Mark 4:39

Mikey helped bring play back into my life and helped me take my mind off myself. Those are some of the skills that helped me overcome his death, so he taught me a great lesson. That, and knowing the boat won’t sink and the storm won’t last forever, will help me weather future storms.