Sweat, Tears & the Sea
It has been mentioned a couple of times, and I agree, that infertility is one of those trials that is "safe" to talk about. People will generally be sympathetic and kind, even if they don't understand. Unlike some other challenges, it's not something that can be easily blamed on the sufferer.
It can still feel embarrassing and shameful to acknowledge any kind of inner struggle. There's the fear that people who can't relate might be thinking, "Why make such a big deal out of it? Just accept it and move on." It took me years to be willing to even say the word "infertility," let alone blog about it. There's the fear that others who are suffering more will look at you like you're a whiny little speck of sadness. That they might even intone "first-world problems" at you. There's the fear that people will look at you in pity and feel grateful that they aren't you.
But generally, I've found that people try to be kind.
On the other hand, there are plenty of trials that cannot be discussed in a public way, because of the other people involved who don't want or deserve to have their part in the story revealed. I'm dealing with some of these too, directly and indirectly, as I suspect we all are.
addictions of family members
rebellious or difficult children
anxiety/depression of a family member
mental illness in one's self or a loved one
divorce and separation
All of the above become even more difficult to talk about in a public forum like Facebook or a blog when you have older children who are able to read and somewhat active online.
For me, it was cathartic to finally share the story of my miscarriage 2 1/2 months after the fact. I'm definitely on a path of healing, feeling mostly good most days. But there are still times when I feel like the walking wounded, and with yesterday's post, I wanted my wider circle of friends and acquaintances to understand what's going on with me if I'm a bit more absent or emotionally fragile at the moment.
Like the other day at Home Depot, when the wail of a tiny newborn baby pierced my composure. Partly because it was unexpected in that setting, and partly because the baby was SO small and SO upset—and the mother was making no efforts to soothe the child. Much to my embarrassment, tears filled my eyes and I lost track of the conversation I was having with a store associate about furnace maintenance. Thankfully, these moments are becoming more rare.
Given the general level of peace and equilibrium I had achieved while not being confronted with distressed infants at hardware stores, I didn't expect the volume of tears that accompanied the writing of my story. I could barely type through the waterworks, and I had to write it in three pieces on three different days. But when I punched out that last sentence, dry-eyed, I thought the well was exhausted once again.
Until, that is, I read your comments on Facebook and on my blog yesterday.
I saw there were comments, while I was out and about with Keira. I got the alerts on my phone. But when the very thought of there being comments made my eyes water—and when I got one or two texts that triggered the faucet—I knew I couldn't really read them until I had a box of tissues by my side and no immediate tasks to perform.
Good move. Because last night, I was a puddle. Useless, really.
Kindness makes me cry. Of course, everything makes me cry. I've always known my emotions are directly wired to my tear ducts; sometimes I even cry when I'm angry, which only makes me ANGRIER. Also, extreme laughter makes me cry, which only makes me laugh harder. It's a vicious circle. (One day I'll have to tell you about the 10-minute cry-laughing fit that interrupted a recent Polar Express-themed train ride with my sister and all five of our children.)
Honestly, I didn't expect the flood of kindness, empathy and prayers offered on my behalf.
I am overwhelmed and grateful.
And I feel for those who are struggling silently with things they can't share.
A dear friend who's going through a divorce sent me this text:
"The way you expressed your feelings helps this apply to so many different trials and struggles. I definitely identified with some of your honest feelings of disappointment and still wishing that things had ended differently than they had. Also, holding on to hope against the odds!"
That was my hope in sharing this trial of mine that is more relatable than some others are.
I still believe we get most of our comfort directly, through the mirrored expression on a friend's face who may not know what to say but still shows up on your porch and gives you a long hug. Through generous hands who have prepared a meal and dropped it by. Through the ringing of the phone at the very moment I had just said "Amen" at the end of a pleading prayer. Through an anonymous note in my mailbox. Through my greatest comforter of all, the holy spirit and the intercession of a loving Savior.
We all need one or two people who can offer hands-on help with our quiet trials, and we need to be willing to let them in.
I felt, and still feel, like other people are (literally) carrying the weight of this with me. When I hear the words, "I'm grieving with you," it feels (figuratively) like a pebble or a stone has been taken from the backpack I'm carrying. And it makes me want to do more to ease their burdens too.
A few weeks after my loss, I escaped for a week to my sister's house in Southern California. I soaked up all the love and sunshine I could and shed all the tears I wanted, which wasn't too many, right then. I even bodysurfed with my nephew, unsuccessfully. As I sat on the sand feeling the wind on my face and watching the children splash in the waves, I was reminded of a favorite quote.
Thank you for shedding tears with me and helping me heal.
All this talk of water brings to mind a short, stunning article I recently read by Martha Beck: "3 Words that Will Help You Comfort Anyone." It's definitely worth reading.