When All That Is Left Is You

I had a terrible dream.  The kind that bothers you all day and forces your brain into overdrive to discover the hidden meaning in your psyche.

In the dream I had a baby, who was nothing but chubby cheeks, blonde hair, and big blue eyes, exactly how I would picture a baby of mine to look.  It was adorable, and instead of being a doting mother, my dream self was completely ambivalent over it.  My mom was doing most of the care-taking, and I would try, here and there, to spend time with my child and bond with him or her.  Yet, I felt very little connection to this tiny human, and I knew there was something wrong.  I would hold the baby, feel good about myself for doing so, feel somewhat emotionally connected, but then in due time I would be ready to hand him or her back to my mother.  I knew that this wasn’t right; that I should be feeling more than I was for my own child, but I kept coming up emotionally short.

When I woke up, I recalled the dream and felt very unsettled.  After my miscarriage in December, I still ache for the baby I will never hold.  So why was I so disconnected from the baby in my dream?  I have tried analyzing it, but still come up with nothing.  All I can say is that I hope this was not some kind of foreboding of my future attempts at motherhood.  Maybe there was no meaning to this dream, and I can just chalk it up to some misfiring neurons during my sleep.

Then again, the dream got me thinking about what we think we want versus what we actually want.  In the dream, I knew I should want this baby, and I would try to convince myself that I wanted it, but it wasn’t clicking the way it should.  The events of the past five months have taught me that hopes, dreams, and desires can take on a much different look when real life happens and you are forced to confront these things in a way that perhaps you never thought you would.  I always knew, in a very abstract way, that I wanted to have a family of my own.  When I came face to face with that desire, it was in an entirely different way than I had imagined.  I had to ask myself if that was what I really wanted, and then when I lost the baby, I realized how much my heart longed for those things.  I had to lose it all to understand how much I really wanted it all.

Just as the pregnancy loss and breakup forced me to confront the truth of my heart’s desires, recently I had to confront another desire of mine, which was to get back together with T.  For the past five months I have been trying to give him everything that (I thought) he needed.  This included a lot of space, encouragement, kindness, and love.  Even though the words I spoke aloud told the world I wasn’t waiting for him, deep down the truth was the opposite.  I thought that if I was patient and gave him what he needed, he would eventually see that I was the real deal- the “girl who didn’t know the meaning of quit” -and return to me.  What can I say?  I am a hopeless romantic and I wear my bleeding, broken heart on my sleeve for the world to see.

I held on to this silent conviction up until about two weeks ago.  The last few conversations I had with T forced me to confront some stark realities.  I began thinking about what it would look like if my desires came true and he returned to me, ready to start anew.  I thought about how it would make me feel, how we might repair the damage done, and what our life would look like.  When I began really examining the possibilities, my eyes were finally opened to the truth that I had so long been denying.

Yes, I wanted T to come back, but his words of late (which I will not post here) made me realize that what I want will never come to pass, at least not in the way it should.  Despite his protests, I have been trying to convince him that he wants to be a husband and father, that he has what it takes to make that happen, and with me by his side, we could make a good life together.  When I finally opened my eyes, I saw that he does not want to be a husband, nor does he want to be a father.  At least he does not want those things with me.  This revelation allowed me to come to terms with the fact that I cannot coerce or bully T into a life he does not want to live.  I cannot compel him to feel emotions he does not feel, or make choices he does not want to make.

And that is when I realized that if he did come back, I would always fear that I am not good enough for him.  Let me pause to make note that this is not a self-esteem issue.  I know what I am worth, and I know what I have to offer.  By good enough, I mean that I fear he would always be looking for greener grass.  That our relationship and the life we built together was not enough for him to be happy.   If T came back, I would be faced with the very real possibility that I would spend the rest of my life sleeping with one eye open in fear that he was sleeping with one foot ready to start his run out the door.

That is no way for anyone to live.  Not me, and not T.  So, I did the hardest thing I have had to do in some time.  I finally gave him exactly what he wanted: I set him free.  I told him I understood we do not want the same things, and I would no longer by trying to convince him otherwise.  I told him to be happy and enjoy life, and that he wouldn’t hear from me again.  That was two weeks ago, and while the truth of his feelings has not become any easier for my heart to bear, knowing that I did the right thing by walking away from a man who does not want to share a life with me is what allows me to keep moving forward.

And perhaps that was what my dream was really about: the realization that you cannot push a person into a feeling, life, or choice they do not want.  If we had reunited and became a family, there may have been times that T felt okay about his choice, and that he was doing the “right” thing, just as I did in my dream by trying to bond with my child.  However, eventually the ambivalence would return and he would long to be free of our life, in the same way that I would pass the baby back to my mother.  Love isn’t about chaining a person down, but rather giving them the freedom to make the choices that are right for them.  And sometimes those choices don’t include you.

I would have moved the moon and the stars for T, and I tried to many times.  I finally accepted that he does not want that from me, and so I became resolute, and turned around and walked away with the determination to instead move the moon and the stars for myself.  I said earlier that everything was taken away from me.  But the thing about life is that when everything has gone away, what is left is you.  Just you.  And that can be enough if you let it.

Until next time ~ B

 

 

 

 

Lessons from Glisan Street

I just completed a three-month tour in therapy. I’m not ashamed to admit I sought mental health counseling, especially after such a terrible 2013. It ranks up there in the top five worst years of my life: my living and working conditions were difficult, I was emotionally manipulated by a smarmy politician who broke my heart, then found love with someone new, then I got pregnant when I wasn’t ready for it, miscarried said baby, and then experienced the absolute worst heartbreaks of my entire life- losing both baby and baby daddy.

To say I wish I could have an Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind experience and erase that entire year from my memory is an understatement.

But since that is impossible, and I have to live with the events of what transpired, I sought help that couldn’t be provided by friends and family. Tuesday was my last session, and in the spirit of moving on and healing, I thought I would share the lessons I learned from that big comfy chair on Glisan Street.

 

1.  Your emotions are temporary.

This means that the way you feel at this moment is not how you will feel forever. Emotions ebb and flow. Even when it feels like your feels as if it has been wrapped up in barbed wire, even when the pain feels far too difficult to overcome, those feelings eventually will pass. It’s okay if it takes a while to move forward, but just know that you will move forward.

 

2.  Allow yourself to experience your feelings.  It’s the only way to get past them.

I learned how deeply I could bury my feelings so I can quickly move forward. I was still holding on to pain from years past, and that pain was seeping into my life like a toxic sludge, poisoning my actions and relationships. This was completely unhealthy, and I suffered the consequences.

No matter how much you want to avoid it, your feelings must be fully experienced in order to move on. This includes pain, anger, hurt, and sadness. No matter how far you try to push those emotions to the side, they won’t grow legs and walk away. Instead, they will become squatters on the periphery of your life, festering in silence, growing putrid and rank, influencing you in negative ways without you even realizing it’s happening.

You can try keeping busy, burying yourself in work, or dating new people to distract yourself, all in the name of “moving on.” It’s fine to be busy, but you still must face your emotions and allow yourself to just feel them. It’s okay to feel hurt, to be sad for what you have lost, and it’s even okay for you to cry it out. Each day is going to be different, and you need to go easy on yourself as you work through painful experiences. The key is to recognize and feel the emotion, and then let it pass.

 

3.  Your emotions do not define you.

This is an important part of working through pain. You may feel like this is a permanent part of who you are, but it’s important to remember that there is a difference between what you feel and what you are. I told my therapist, “I am damaged. I don’t know how to move forward.” She was quick to point out the language I used, and talked about how that negativity will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If I tell myself I am damaged, I am setting myself up for failure.

“You feel hurt, you feel pain, but you are not hurt and pain. You are not damaged. How you feel is not who you are.” This taught me to be very aware of the language I use in describing how I feel and who I am.

 

4.  You’re actions don’t define you, unless you let them.

Just like your emotions do not define you, you’re actions do not define you either. That is, unless you allow them to. We all stumble and fall, make poor choices, and sometimes hurt the ones we love. When this happens, we must atone for the grievance and seek forgiveness. We must also remember that we may not be granted forgiveness, no matter how much we try to make things right. Therefore, and this is extremely important, we must learn to forgive ourselves.

Forgiving yourself doesn’t mean that what you did was okay, but rather it means that you have made peace with yourself. It means you won’t hold on to the pain and regret of your actions. It’s far too easy to get lost in the past. If you walk around thinking to yourself, “I really screwed up and acted pretty terribly. This means that I must be a terrible person, and will continue to screw up in the future. I will hurt every person who tries to love me. It’s just who I am.”

No no no. Do not let your past actions define you as a human being. Take the time to acknowledge what you did, take action to right the wrong, learn from the mistake, and then forgive yourself. It’s the only way to move forward in a positive and healthy manner.

 

5.  Your future is not governed by your past, so stop living in it.

One of my current biggest fears is that I will always be haunted by my dad’s abandonment, and will push away every man who tries to get close, as I have been doing for the last twelve years. This will only come to pass if I ignore everything on this list, as I have been doing up to now, and marinate in the negativity.

Nothing can change the past, and nothing can predict the future. All you have is the present. What can you do today that will change your future? What can you accomplish that will throw off the shackles of the past and allow you to be free and focus on what is happening now?

I have been stuck in the past before, and it’s not a fun place to be. I realized that I’m doing it again- living in the past, piling regret upon regret, thinking to myself, “If only I had said this, or if only I had not done that.” Does that make a Delorean appear in front of me to transport me back in time? No. All that does is further my frustration.

My future is what I make it to be, and so is yours. Will it be one that continually looks backward, allowing those shackles to hold you back? Or will it be one that steps forward into a new journey, a fresh start? Choose the latter.

 

6.  99% of the time, other people’s actions have nothing to do with you.

I realized in therapy that I have been hinging my self-worth on my dad’s actions, and the actions of every man I have encountered since. There has been a feeling of worthlessness, that I wasn’t enough for my dad to stick around, so I won’t be enough for any man to sick around.

Except, that’s not true at all. My dad’s actions were his and his alone, and do not reflect upon me at all. He is an emotionally unavailable man who wants things on his terms, and when he doesn’t get his way, he tries to bully you into doing what he wants. His issues are his and his alone. My mother raised me to be a different kind of person than that, and I can recognize that my dad’s career choice was perfect for him. It allowed him to be both physically and emotionally distant, and this has nothing to do with me. He disappeared because he was a coward, not because I wasn’t worth enough for him to stick around.

Do you have someone in your current life or your past life who has made you feel like you aren’t good enough? Let that go. Even if you haven’t always acted right, that doesn’t mean you deserve to be put through a proverbial wood chipper. It’s always good to self-reflect and learn what kind of role you have played in a relationship, but if someone makes you feel like you have no worth, that reflects upon him or her, not you.

 

7.  Learn to draw boundaries.

Are you a “yes” person? Do you do things you don’t want to do, just because you think you should? Do you spend time with people you don’t want to see? Do you let someone at work push you around? Do you let the ghost of the past infiltrate your present?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, it’s time to start drawing boundaries. For me, one boundary I had to draw was with friends who are pregnant. One was about to give birth, and I told her I couldn’t go to her baby shower because it was too painful. The other friend was only three weeks behind me in conception, so looking at her is like looking at where I should be in my failed pregnancy. With her, I had to say that it was okay to talk about her health and how she was feeling, but to just be mindful of how much she said, and to please not show me all the baby stuff she was buying. For example, she found out the sex of the baby, and I asked her what she was having. She talked about it for a bit, and when I gently changed the subject, she understood and we talked about something else.

Drawing boundaries is important for your mental health, because you have to take care of you. If you are too busy trying to please everyone around you, you risk neglecting your needs, which are valid and important. If someone reacts negatively to your boundaries, that is a reflection of them and their insecurities, not you.  So learn how to set boundaries in your life by saying “no” or voicing your feeling and concerns. It will be like a weight is lifted off your shoulders.

 

8.  You have to love yourself before anyone else can love you.

This is a biggie. Perhaps this is the most important lesson on the list. If you don’t think you are good enough, then no one else will, either. You can try to hide your insecurities, but eventually they will pop up like a bloated dead body down in the river. Gross imagery, right? Think about it. We all know someone who is so insecure it makes the people around them uncomfortable. We’ve all had that friend or significant other that puts himself or herself down, can’t take a compliment, is so clingy you feel like you need a gallon of Downy to break that static down. No one wants to be around that guy, right? Right. Just like no one wants to be around a dead bloated body.

Learn to love yourself. There is only one of you, and that person is pretty great if you give yourself a chance.   Work on figuring out who you are, what you like, and what makes you awesome. And when you are comfortable with who you are, when you genuinely like yourself, that glow will shine out like a lighthouse, attracting all kinds of ships.

 

9.  Focus on the good things that you have, not the things you don’t have.

If you keep thinking about what everyone around you has that you think you should have, you’ll never move forward. This is something I am terrible at. I look at my age and current life status, and get angry with myself for not doing things differently. I’m the last single friend, I don’t have a home of my own, I’m not financially secure, and I don’t have a career. It’s hard when everyone around me has the things I so deeply desire. So I end up letting my self-esteem take a beating by comparing my life to theirs.

It’s not easy to reframe an entrenched way of thinking, but this is what you have to do. Ask yourself: What are the postive things in my life? What do I have that is good? What do I have that makes me happy? Start a gratidue journal and write down three things that made you happy. It can be as simple as “The sun came out today.” The more you do this, the more your brain will begin to focus on the good and not fixate on the bad.

I tell myself “it’s okay that I am starting over at 31. I can do this.” I’m starting to believe it, too.

 

10.  You’re stronger than you think.

I promise this is true.  I know it’s hard to believe it sometimes.  It’s hard for me to believe it sometimes, especially when things get overhwhelming.  The last three months have not been easy.  In fact, they’ve been some of the hardest months of my life.  Yet, I’m still here.  I’m still standing.  When I look back at some of the things I’ve experienced in my 31 years on this earth, I see that I somehow manage to keep moving forward.  I don’t crawl into the fetal position under my covers and hide from the world.  Well, maybe I did once or twice.  Sometimes we just need that downtime.  But I didn’t stay hidden under the covers.  I eventually got up and faced the world.  And you can, too.  Find your inner-strength and channel it, even on the days you don’t want to.  It will begin to make a big difference in your life.

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Those are my ten lessons I learned on Glisan Street.  My time in therapy was valuable, but by no means am I healed.  I still feel hurt.  I still feel lonely.  Last week I had my first OBGYN visit and it took courage to return to the clinic, my first time since I lost the baby. And this morning I broke down in tears in front of a nurse practitioner in immediate care because she asked me what sources of stress I’ve been experiencing lately.  It is still incredibly pain to say the words I had a miscarraige.  And I know it will be for a while.  And I also know that’s okay.

I still have a lot of work to do.  One of the reasons I wrote this list was to remain mindful of the work I have done, and to have a place I can return to when things start to feel bleak and hopeless.  I can read this list and be reminded of how far I’ve come, and that I have the ability to keep going.  I have the ability to heal.  And so do you.

Until next time ~ B

 

Single After Miscarriage (The M Word, Part VI)

Miscarriage.  Such a terrible word.  Three months later, and I still have a hard time with the reality that it happened to me.

Pregnancy loss is one of the hardest things a woman will ever have to experience, particularly if the baby was wanted.  I never knew how much I wanted to have a child until I lost mine.  It still aches in deep places when I think about what happened.  It’s a profound sadness that will never go away.  It may lessen over time, but it will always be with me.

What is hitting me particularly hard lately is that my baby dreams are on hold.  I am envious of couples who have grieved together, and that envy runs especially deep knowing that can try for another one when they are ready.  I have read stories of women who got pregnant as little as a few weeks after their loss, and carried a healthy baby to term.  I do understand that I am generalizing here, as many couples struggle with fertility and multiple miscarriages.  There are also couples who simply don’t know when will be ready to try again.

Part of my jealousy stems from not having a partner to plan another child with.  I don’t have a future baby daddy in my life.  The father of my lost baby grieved on his own.  It kills me to think that we conceived a child and yet grieved separately.  It also stings deeply knowing that I have no idea when I will ever have the opportunity to plan for a child with someone I love.  I don’t have that to look forward to.   Not only am I dealing with the horrific pain of losing a baby alone, but I can’t even look forward to trying again.

I lost everything.  I am rebuilding my life right now, brick by brick, and it feels like an eternity before I will ever see a positive pregnancy test again.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t just want the baby.  I want it all.  I want someone to come home to.  I want a home of my own.  I want a career.  I’m slowly putting the pieces of my life back together, but it’s a long, difficult process.  I’m searching for the light at the end of the tunnel, but right now all I can do is run my hands along the wall and blindly feel my way there.

I no longer have hCG running through my veins, but some days it’s hard to believe that.  I still feel like it’s there when I see babies, especially one that may have looked like mine.  I feel like it’s there when I see pregnant women.  I feel like it’s there when I pass the baby section in a department store.  The strong, driving urge to nest and procreate feels as though it remains at the same level it did when I was still pregnant.  Will this ever dissipate?  Will I forever see young families and feel myself burning with envy inside?

And by god, when will I stop picturing T when I think of a future family?  Somedays I wish I could wipe him out of my brain.  Well, that’s not true.  Rather, I wish I could wipe the idea of him as part of my life out of my brain.  No matter how many times I tell myself he doesn’t want you, you need to move on, it’s like my brain is hardwired to reject those thoughts and keep him in that picture anyway.

I would like to think that I’m just being too hard on myself.  It’s only been a little over three months since the worst day of my life.  Things are slowly improving.  I finally found a job, which I start next week.  I had two men on two consecutive days give me their phone numbers, so I must be putting some kind of positive vibe into the universe.  Spring is here and the cherry blossoms are blooming, which always makes me feel like renewal is just around the corner.  Am I finally on the upswing, and this relentless pain of my blank, partner-less and baby-less future will begin to fade away?  Will this soon be nothing more than a far away memory that I look back on with respectful melancholia?

There is nothing sadder or more frustrating than a miscarriage.  I know that I am strong and will make it through these dark days.  I also know that I am only 31, and there is hope for me yet.  There is still time to find someone to build a life with.  Someone to have children with.  Someone to grow old with.

Sigh.

Miscarriage.

Such a terrible, terrible word.

Until next time ~ B

The Power of Words

Words.

Words are powerful.

Words are uncountable.  According to Oxford Dictionaries, it’s impossible to truly count how many words comprise the English language.

These uncountable words hold the power to control, command, influence, enlighten, and destroy.  In prose, words can tell stories, transfixing the reader into another place and time, into someone else’s mind, into someone else’s world.  Words can show us the meaning of life and love, filling our souls with droves of emotions.  Words can show us the meaning of hurt, filling our beings with sadness and anger.  Words can be so strong that they alter our being, molding and shaping and changing us in ways that were unimaginable.

This holds true for words communicated between two people, except real life words hold the most power, because unlike words read in a book or a poem, words between people are purposely meant for the other.  Words that are directed towards a specific person are no longer in the safe world of fiction;  these words are real, born out of the relationship you hold together.  Because of this, we must be careful with words, because once they pass the lips and become audible to the intended audience, there is no taking them back.

I was going through some papers a few days ago and came across this:

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It’s the ticket stub from ZooLights.  T and I had gone there just days before the miscarriage. It’s one of my favorite holiday events, and since he had never gone, I was extra excited to attend that year.  My happiness was subdued, however.  I noticed he was staring more at the children running around than enjoying the scenery.  I felt myself become defensive, scared that he was too overcome with fear and anger about my pregnancy to enjoy himself. I thought he saw the kids as a reminder of his impending doom.

As we made our way back to the entrance of the zoo, we stopped for a minute to look at one of the displays.  He said something, and I can’t remember what his exact words were.  But I remember my response:

“Who knows, maybe this time next year there won’t be a baby.  We won’t be together and I’ll be blogging about you behind your back.”

I also can’t remember his response.  I think he might have laughed and said something snarky.

I think about those words, born out of my own fear and trepidation at the journey ahead.  Those words were spoken out of a need to protect myself, and were intended to push him further away.   If only I had understood when I spoke those words that no matter how much I tried to keep my heart safe, that he already had it in his hands, and I just needed to let go and trust in him and in myself.

Words used carelessly, as if they did not matter in any serious way, often allowed otherwise well-guarded truths to seep through.
― Douglas Adams

Instead, I used words to distance myself, as I had done many times before.  The words I spoke that night are not the only ones I wish I could take back.  I told my best friend the night my cat was sick that I didn’t want to be with T anymore.  I told T the day before I had my miscarriage that I wish I would just have a miscarriage to make all the stress go away.   It breaks my heart that I said those horrible things out loud, and they came to pass.

It’s been three months since the words that I unleashed upon the universe came true.  I lost the baby, and I lost T.  Sometimes I wonder if the universe saw that my negativity and decided that it would make my words come true and teach me a lesson.  Perhaps the universe wanted to make me reap what I was sowing.  Rationally, I understand that this is not reality.  As an atheist, I understand there is no higher power directing my actions or causing things to happen to me.  Things just happen.  That’s the reality of life.  I did everything I could to be a healthy expectant mother, but I was at the mercy of biology and nature.  There was nothing I could have done to change the outcome of my pregnancy.

Words.  Words can be poison and they can be medicine.  They can break a heart or heal a heart.  Words allow us to verbally communicate with each other in a way that no other species on earth can.  Yet, we humans are often to careless with what we say to each other.  We don’t think before we speak.  We don’t truly understand the strength our verbal discourse can hold over ourselves and others.

 “Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” — Rudyard Kipling

I saw T last weekend for the first time about two months.  We got together to talk, to finally say all the things that had been brewing during our time apart.  When he walked into the tea shop, my heart skipped a beat.  He was as handsome as ever.  We hugged and kissed, and I breathed in his familiar scent.  He was wearing the shirt I gave him for Christmas, which was a beautiful gesture on his part.  He handed me a paper bag and said he got me a gift.  I was excited and opened it, only to find a janky broken Sex and the City collectors edition magic 8 ball.  I can’t remember the reason why he owned that.  I think it was something about it being worth money someday, despite the fact it didn’t work.  This was something I had teased him about just a few months prior.  When I pulled it out of the bag,  I laughed; partially because it was funny, and partially to cover my disappointment that it wasn’t a real gift.  Nevertheless, it was a good icebreaker.

We ordered our tea and began catching up.  There was an easiness and a nervousness in me.  He seemed different.  I realized later that he didn’t laugh that night.  Not the laugh I remember, anyway.  The infectious one that makes his face become more alive, the laugh where his eyes light up and their corners crinkle just enough to show his joy but not give away his age.

There was a heaviness instead.  A maturity that only comes with surviving a battle of a certain magnitude.  He talked about everything he is doing and all the things he has planned.  As the words tumbled out of his mouth, I felt happy that he was taking care of himself, but soon I realized that he really is moving on without me.  He is living life, enjoying himself, and healing what has been broken.  And when he is ready to date again, it won’t be with me.

At one point, we stopped talking and just smiled at each other.  It was a comforting smile, but a difficult silence.  I had so much I wanted to say.  So many words on my tongue, enough to fill an ocean and perhaps spill over into another.  Words that were pouring out of my heart and filling me up, so many words that spread down through my legs and jutted against my toes, words that bubbled up to the crown of my head the through the strands of my hair.  But my lips remained pressed together in silence, as all I knew I could do was smile.  Words, at that point, were useless.

He reached out and touched my arm.  I scooched in and he kissed me, and I wondered how something could feel so natural and foreign at the same time.  Natural because we had kissed a hundred times before, ever since he lit the upside-down firework and he picked me up and kissed me in the parking lot after the 4th of July.

Foreign because we are no longer those two people who embraced in perhaps one of the best stories of my life.   Because now we are two people who then went through one of the worst stories of my life, and the innocence we had that night was buried under the rubble of stress and emotion and words that we can never take back.

Instead of allowing the words that were brimming at the surface of my being to begin seeping out of my pores and past my lips, I said something meager and weak like, “I’ll always want the chance of a first date with you again.”  I knew that were was no place at that table, no room in that teahouse, for anything else.

The limits of my language means the limits of my world.” –Ludwig Wittenstein

He nodded and said okay.

After tea, he took me to dinner, and then dropped me off at my car.  We kissed goodbye, and he thanked me for coming out.  I said, “Talk to you soon.  Or sometime.  Or whenever.”

As I was getting out of his car, he said, “Don’t forget your bag.”

“Nope, I’m leaving that with you.  The next time you give me a bag, it will have a real gift in it,” I quipped.  I shut the door and got in my car.  I began driving before the tears could come, before I had too much time to become sad before I got home.

Because I knew that there wouldn’t be a bag with a real gift in it.  I knew that we wouldn’t talk soon.

Those are the kinds of things you say when you are parting with someone you care about, and don’t know what else to say.  You want to have that hope that there will be another cup of tea, another upside-down firework, or another first date.  But you know, deep down, that it’s over and you have to start driving away and leave it all behind you.

So that’s what I did.

My evening with T did two things for me.  We were able to tell each other that there was no more anger or resentment, no animosity or hard feelings.  We had gotten past those feelings, and now only had warm affection and respect for each other.  We gave apologies and explanations, and said all that needed to be said. Everything that needed to be said, was said.  There are no words left.

Where do the words go
when we have said them?
― Margaret Atwood

The other thing it did for me was show me that I need to move on.  I need to stop living in the past, because just like my words during pregnancy didn’t spark vengence from the universe, I know that no matter how much regret or hoping or wishing that I do, nothing will bring them back, either.  Nothing I say will fix this broken relationship.  Words may have the authority to start and end wars; they may have the power to cause hurt or create joy; words may have the strength to alter the course of your life.  But words cannot change the past, and words cannot create love where there is none.

Words are a pretext. It is the inner bond that draws one person to another, not words.”  –Rumi

It’s difficult to let go of life’s “what ifs.”  But I have to.  I really can’t live as this century’s Miss Havisham.  I have to find new words to say.  I have to find a new song to sing.  As I do so, I will remain aware of the energies that I am putting out into the universe.  Not because I think there is a vengeful and petty deity waiting to use my words against me.  No, it is because I don’t want to have more regrets, especially regrets over things I have said.  I want to be mindful of the words I give to those around me.  I want to harness the power of my words to create happiness instead of pain, to move me forward instead of remaining stagnant.  My words are my future, and only I can decide what to do with them.

Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.”― John Greenleaf Whittier

Ask yourself, “How will I use the power of my words to better my life?” It may be the most important question you ever let leave your lips.

Until next time ~ B

Miscarriage Milestones and Bodily Betrayals (The M Word part V)

Tomorrow I would have been five months pregnant.  Big enough to find out the sex of the baby with an ultrasound.

Would it have been a boy or a girl?  Would she have had my eyes?  Or maybe he would have had his daddy’s smile.  Would we have been collecting things in blue or pink?  Would his middle name have been Michael?  Or maybe her name would have been Sophia.

This milestone, or lack thereof, really sucks.

My coworker is pregnant.  She was only a couple of weeks behind me in pregnancy, and she has a nice round baby bump.  Today at work she was showing it off with a fitted t-shirt.  It took all I could do to not just sit and stare at it.  I tried desperately to avert my eyes.  Is that how my belly would like right now?  I felt transfixed, and when she finally walked away, a relief flooded over me.   Every day I see her at work is like a slap to the face.  A reminder of what I will never have.

My baby died.  Hers survived.  Would you like to know why?  Because the universe does not play favorites.  Mother nature is not a warm cuddly maternal figure, but rather a cold, biological, unemotional entity that doesn’t care.  There is no god or higher power.  The world owes you nothing.

Sometimes when I see a woman holding a baby, my arms physically ache knowing I will never hold mine.  When I see a father holding his child, I see T holding ours and feel the acute pain knowing that will never come to pass.  When I think of pregnancy milestones, by body hurts.

Our child would have been beautiful.

I have never, in 31 years on this earth, known how much I want to be a mother until I miscarried my baby.  It was easy to get pregnant, but I have always known there was a chance I would have reproductive troubles.  I worry that my miscarriage was not a chromosomal abnormality, but rather my body being fucked up inside and unable to carry a baby to term.  I wonder if I will end up like those women who have miscarriage after miscarriage, only to have it all end in a divorce, because the relationship couldn’t survive all those years of broken dreams and failed pregnancies.  My relationship certainly didn’t survive an experience that, in such a heartbreaking way, brought out the worst in both of us.  We couldn’t survive the grief.

Miscarriage feels like a failure.  It feels like your body has betrayed you.  As a woman, this is the one thing that I am biologically programmed to do, and instead of successfully carrying out that task, my body malfunctioned.  On Christmas Eve, one of my favorite days of the year, the cramping and bleeding began that tore away the lining of my uterus, taking my baby with it.  The ultrasound scan displayed a now empty uterus.  Where I once saw a heartbeat, I now saw a blank screen.  This was visual proof that my body’s pre-programming system had failed.

Seeing my pregnant coworker makes me ask What is her body doing right that my body did wrong?

Miscarriage makes you feel like damaged goods.  Defective.  Insecure and self-consious. I can’t imagine telling this story to someone new without them running off into the hills.  What man is going to sign on for all of this?  Who is going to want me now?  Because it’s not just the issue of my defective body, but also because of my lingering abandonment/commitment issues.  I’m like a giant walking red flag.  I actually hid on the Max the other day because an attractive man kept looking at me and I was afraid he would walk over and start talking to me.  I hid behind a group of obnoxious teenagers.  Talk about a low point.

But that is the majority of my days now- a smattering of low points amidst moments of joy.

I am on the road to healing, but I will never forget this loss, and I will never forget these emotions.  This was my baby.  My little nugget.  A treasure that I shared with another human being, who would have been an amazing father.  An amazing father to our baby.

No, this will be with me always.

Until next time ~ B

 

 

 

 

 

The Chains I Have Forged

Friend: “So, what happened?”

Me: “Normally, for the sake of brevity, I tell the truncated version of this story, which inadvertently leaves him looking like an asshole.  But the truth is, a lot of what went wrong is my fault, and it’s hard to explain that to people.  Even when I say, ‘Really, he’s not an asshole,” they don’t believe me.  So it’s just easier to keep it short and simple.”

Friend: “Well, you know that I’m going to be biased for you no matter what you tell me.”

Me: “That’s fine, you can be on Team B.  The real story is that I spent my entire pregnancy looking for reasons, any possible reason, to push him away.  And I did push him away, over and over again.”

Friend: “Okay, well now it’s really hard to be on Team B.”

Me: “Right?  I told you so.”

Last Thursday I reconnected with someone I met over the summer, via OkCupid.  Back then we had gone on a few dates, but realized we were looking for different things and ended our brief, uneventful affair amicably.  I reconnected with him over the phone a couple of weeks ago about a job I was looking into that is connected to his department, and as we were catching up, I was being very vague about my life.  He must have heard the strain in my voice, because he kept pressing for the truth and asking, “Are you really okay?”  Finally, I told him the brief version of events, and he expressed his sincerest apologies.  We made plans to catch up in person and be real friends this time, not the fake kind of friends you say you will be after a failed courtship.

The following week, over Old Fashioneds in a dark little bar in North Portland, we had the above conversation.  I explained to him the entire saga, as it is so much easier to talk to someone about life troubles when they are not a part of your close inner-circle.  It’s easy to be strong and impassioned and tell a story in a sterile manner to an acquaintance or stranger, rather than letting your emotion loose by breaking down in front of your bestie or your mother.

But I digress.

A few days before I had this conversation is when I realized the extent to which I played a part in driving away my Ex.  I have spent a lot of time focusing on his actions and short-changing mine.  It wasn’t intentional, as I had recognized some of what I did and apologized for it.  But what I really should have been apologizing for is something that I had not yet understood, and that is the following:

I pushed him away.  Every single day, I was subconsciously looking for reasons to break up with him.  Whether it was his drinking that I once shared in, his jokes that I once found funny, the extensive cell phone use that I had once tolerated, or the night my cat was sick, I picked at him like a scavenger dissecting a newly discovered carcass.

And despite this treatment, he kept trying to stay with me and make it work.  But he was right- nothing he did made me happy.  When he tried to keep me positive, I increased my negativity.  When he agreed with that negativity, I used that against him.  It was a vicious cycle that I perpetuated until the miscarriage.

Why did I do this?   Think about it- why does someone push their partner away if he or she loves them?  It is the fear of intimacy and commitment.  I am afraid of intimacy and commitment. 

There is the harsh truth in black and white that I have buried underneath a façade of smug relationship arrogance.  I have pushed away every man that was trying to legitimately give me what I claim to want.  Six years ago, there was the boyfriend who tried to atone for two years of emotional distance by asking me to marry him.  Four years ago, there was the man who was so emotionally available that it scared me into breaking up with him after less than a year.  A few months ago there was the man with whom I conceived a baby, and was prepared to do right by me and start a family.  How did I react?  By doing what I do best: panicking and finding reasons why he wasn’t right for me and we shouldn’t be doing this.

And between those men, I dated men who were either geographically or emotionally unavailable.  There was the California-based former classmate from college, the older married man with three kids, and the politician who lived three hours away.  In some way, either my partner or myself was inaccessible.

I am not sure it’s possible to put into words how I felt when this epiphany struck.  I was in the kitchen getting my things together for work and literally stopped moving, yogurt and water bottle in hand, and stood there for who knows how long, letting it sink in.  My throat closed up and my stomach burned, and the headache began to creep in.  When I was pregnant, I was scared, but I don’t think I realize how much of that fear was gaining energy and fire from events of my past.  I had already been to counseling twice about my father, and thought I had quelled those demons and put it behind me.

When I entered grief counseling in early January, I thought it would be focused on getting through the miscarriage and the breakup.  However, it became clear very early on that there was much more going on; emotions I had buried so deep that I was thoroughly in denial of their existence.  Yet again, in counseling I am working through a lot of my unresolved issues with my dad.  I told my therapist that I choose emotionally unavailable men in order to perpetuate my self-fulfilling prophecy: That all men will eventually leave, just like he did.  That I was not enough for my dad to stick around, so why would I be enough for any other man to stick around?

Having had one impasse with my ex earlier in the relationship, it was easy to peg him into the “Emotionally Unavailable” category of boyfriends.  I was originally going to write a column about how I choose the same types of men over and over again, and that I need to end this awful cycle.  However, it never occurred to me that I am also emotionally unavailable until now.

So after pushing him away for nearly two months, I miscarried the baby, yet remained in “family mode”, plowing full-steam ahead into the future.  I even had decided when I wanted to try for kids again, and I was planning all of this with him in mind, not understanding that he was free to do the opposite.  I just expected that we would stay together and be a family.

When he said he wanted to separate, I focused on his issues, his problems, his insecurities, all the while not taking note of my own.  I was so hurt that he was rejecting me.  I look back on that and cringe, because all I did during my pregnancy was reject him.  Of course he wanted to escape the woman who made him feel like he couldn’t do anything right.  With what I know now, I don’t blame him for leaving.

I want to pause and say that I am not attempting to martyr myself.  We both did things that we shouldn’t have, but this blog is not about his actions.  I’m done writing about that.  This blog is about recognizing my actions, and how I played a part in this breakup.   I am a deeply flawed human being who behaved in a manner that hurt another person without understanding what my hidden motivations were.  I accomplished what subconsciously I set out to do during my pregnancy: I pushed him away, and he took his freedom.

I thought about reaching out to him and saying, “I understand what I did, and I’m so deeply sorry.  I wish I could go back and change how things played out between us.   I have so many regrets.   That is not who I am.  That is not the partner that I want to be.   I want you to know what I am working really hard to be the best version of myself that I can possibly be.  I want to be the girl you gave the resume to again.”

I could do that, but what would it accomplish?  He has chosen his path, and I promised him that I would not contact him again.   Nothing I say will change the past or fix the present or bring him back.  We will still be broken up.  I will still be that deeply flawed person who is not ready for a relationship.  And seeing him or hearing his voice will likely just make me hurt more and set me back on my own moving on process.  I did the bad thing and checked his Twitter feed.  He is doing well.  He is happy. I saw a recent picture of him, and he looked quite handsome.  His smile was genuine.  I’m not going to barge in on that with my special version of crazy and disrupt his life.  Instead, I’m just going to keep working on letting it go.

(I mean, Saturday night he went dancing for fuck’s sake.  D a n c i n g.  I saw that and my jaw dropped.  Now, I’ve seen his moves.  I’m not sure how that translated to a Portland dance club.  I imagine there was whisky involved, him dropping a line like, “I just got my new Benz,” and some skanky twenty-something bleach blonde bitches who just got their nails did for the weekend.  ‘Cause y’all know any broad that comes after me is a downgrade.  Amiright?)

*Ahem*  I digress.

One more ugly truth for the evening: I am still just as terrified as I was during my pregnancy.  This is my third time in counseling to work through my unresolved emotions regarding my father.  His abandonment has scarred me so deeply that I expect everyone to leave me, and thus I act accordingly.  I feel like Jacob Marley in A Christmas Carol.  When Marley visits Scrooge, he warns him of his impending fate.  He shakes his chains at Scrooge, the chains he forged in life, chains that entwine his body and drag behind him on the floor.  For twelve years I have carried similar chains forged from unresolved pain, and I swing those chains at anyone who dares get too close.  I push people away in an act of self-preservation, and when they leave, the abandonment has come full circle once again.

How many times will it take to truly move past his abandonment and betrayal?   What will it take to dump these chains, to lift the emotional burden I have carried with me for so long?

What if this is it for me?  What if I will never really move on, and this is my life?  I want to be a wife and a mom so much, but what if that is not in the cards for me, because I will be ruled by the past, continuing to forge new chains for the rest of my life?  I am terrified that this is my future, and that I will either continue to cycle through self-fulfilling prophecies with men, or I will just abandon the idea of a family and live my life alone, living in an old house with cobwebs on the ceiling.  I’ll go to Bingo on Wednesday nights, play Bridge on the weekends, and the rest of the time hang out at home with the pitbull I will have saved from death at the local pound.  I’ll give him some kind of hyper-masculine name like Zeus or Black Dynamite, and we’ll watch TV on the couch together while I drink cheap wine in my purple sweatsuit and feed him Milk Bones.

I know that it doesn’t have to be like this, that I can work through this and make a future for myself in which I am happy and emotionally settled.  I have to keep telling myself that I am doing the right thing by examining all of this, by moving forward alone and letting go of the past.  I have to keep telling myself that I am capable of a healthy mind, body and soul.  I have to keep telling myself I can do this.

I fucking hope I can do this.

Until next time ~ B

I Danced, Because I had Nothing Left To Lose

I left the house ready for a wedding.  Dress was on, hair was curled, and makeup was dark.  I felt as confident as I was going to get for that evening, threw a smile on my face, and headed to a downtown Portland ballroom that overlooked the city.

I returned from the wedding exhausted.  My hair lost most of its curl, my eye makeup had begun to creep downward, and my feet ached from a night of dancing.  I hopped in the shower and let the hot water wash over me as I scrubbed the eyeliner and mascara off my eyes and wiped the sweat off my body.  I took a little longer than needed, absorbing the hot steam into my pores, relaxing my already sore muscles, and thinking about the events of the evening.

It was a beautiful wedding.  Not just the venue, which was gorgeous, but the entire event was amazing.  It was one of those weddings in which you could really feel the love and energy into the room.  The bride was beyond stunning, and the groom, quite handsome in his suit, looked as if he would float away from happiness.  She walked down the aisle to Coldplay’s “Til Kingdom Come,” more radiant that I have ever seen her.  The look on his face as he saw his future wife walk towards him and their new life together was priceless.  I feel so lucky to have shared in their day.

I did my best to focus on the event unfolding in front of me, an event I have been looking forward to since their engagement.  It was hard to focus, though.  I wish my former love didn’t creep into my thoughts so often.  In my defense, it is incredibly difficult to focus on someone else’s nuptials without thinking about your own trials and tribulations in love.  I was one of the very few single guests, surrounded by sea of couples, young and old.  Much to my chagrin, the DJ peppered a few slow songs throughout the evening, one of which was Adele’s cover of “Make You Feel My Love.”   I watched as the aforementioned couples made their way to the dance floor, hand in hand, and celebrated their own love.   To say it was bittersweet would be an understatement.

I hate to admit how sad I felt at moments, my chest heavy with longing and regret, wishing he was there with me.  I also had to put on my game face around all of the babies.  It’s a special kind of difficult to see couples with babies at a wedding after the events of the past few months.  Naturally it made me think of all the things I was looking forward to, until that last week of December when I first lost the baby and then lost the fella.  I tried to brush those thoughts away immediately and just enjoy the evening and the new friends I was making.   All things considered, I think I did a pretty good job.

And then I danced.  I danced my heart out, as if the world was my stage and this was my grand debut.  I danced till my heart pounded, my breath was short, and sweat had to be wiped from my brow.  I danced and I laughed and I let myself feel truly happy for the first time in months.  As we said goodbye, the bride told me I was one of the photographer’s favorite guests to shoot because I had a huge smile on my face at all times.  The bride’s smother came up to me and told me how great I looked on the dance floor.

I went all out up on that stage, because I had nothing to lose.

As I sit here typing this, the energy is leaving my body and the wind is howling outside my bedroom window.   I must close my eyes soon, but first I need to put pen to paper and purge these ruminations from my mind. I thought about happiness as I drove home.   As much as I felt envy for the bride and groom on this day, I realized it wasn’t just their wedding, but their happiness that I long for, and I won’t reach that kind of happiness with a partner until I find it on my own. I am a prideful person.  It is one of my greatest faults.  It is time to put pride aside and become the best version of myself that I can be.  I have work to do.  I have things to fix.  I have demons to slay.   I have actions for which I need to atone.

Just as important, I need to dance more.  I need to laugh daily.  I need to find my own joy, because no one will bring it to me.  I need to discover new things and meet new people.  I need to stop allowing the past to interfere with the present.

My first order of business I have already accomplished, which was a solo trip out of town.  It was something I have always wanted to do, and finally just went for it.  I will definitely be planning another trip soon.  The second order of business was not bringing a date to this wedding.  Although I had options, I did not want to bring someone just for the sake of having a date.  More importantly, I wanted to prove that I could enjoy myself at a wedding as a single guest.  I could find happiness alone.  And I succeeded.

Tonight was a small step in the right direction, but it still a step forward.  I can do this.  I have to do this.  I don’t want life to pass me by.  I don’t want the chance for love to pass me by, either.   I am truly doing the best I can, and while there are still many struggles ahead of me, I saw a ray of hope in myself tonight.  A small glimmer that said, “you’re going to be okay.”  And that is something that I will try to hold on to.

Until next time ~B