"There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage."
--Martin Luther

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Advocating for the Infertile: Are Infertile People "Oversensitive"?

I've noticed something lately. I'm not sure if it's isolated, or a trend, or what. On the one hand, I've noticed people trying to be honest and speak up about infertility, miscarriage, and child loss. On the other hand, I've noticed some of these postings and honest confessions meet a host of negativity, criticism, and accusations of "oversensitivity". "You're just sensitive" is something thrown around a lot, often in ways that simply leave a bad taste in one's mouth, and frankly, it seems to be used on the Internet a lot as a way to say, "I see your opinion, but I'm going to ignore it and keep doing this anyway."

I've definitely seen this attitude as a response to infertility. From posts noting that fake pregnancy announcements can be hurtful to addressing the church's handling of Mother's Day, for every two people that find these helpful, there seems to be at least one nay-sayer. Paraphrased comments seem to say lots of the following:
  • The world does not revolve around you.
  • You should stop being jealous and celebrate those around you.
  • Should we stop posting about birthdays because it isn't someone else's birthday.*
  • You should get off social media / not go to church if it hurts.

So, am I just oversensitive, and should I just 'get over it'? Well, the answer is YES, I'm sensitive. I don't like the term "oversensitive", as it implies that there is some kind of a scale that determines who is allowed to be upset by events, and to what degree, but I will admit to being sensitive. Sorry guys, but I am. In fact, we all are. When we go through a crisis, it affects the way we view our lives and others. Prolonged infertility is a personal crisis and a constant grieving process. There is not a moment of the day when my infertility and longing to become a mother are not somewhere in the back of my consciousness. It's ridiculous to ask me to put those feelings in a box and not be affected by them, just as it's ridiculous to ask that a person undergoing a health crisis should just "forget about it" for a while. So how should I deal with this, and how should my loved ones and my church?

Those going through infertility need to recognize their sensitivity... and be okay with it: Accepting that it's okay to be sad has been very difficult for me. It's so easy to feel guilty about it, because shouldn't I be glad about my loving husband, my wonderful house, my collection of quirky but loveable family members and friends? It's taken a long time to be understand that I can be happy about those things, but at the same time profoundly sad for something that is devastating to me. That said, it is my responsibility to manage my sensitivity. That may mean that I avoid occasions where I know I can't keep it together. It may mean doing what I can to deal with my emotions, whether that is therapy or exercise or binge-watching crappy television. I need to be the first person to take care of myself, and I also need to understand that people WILL say things that hurt, often unknowingly, and to learn how to deal with it without punching them in the face.

No, really. Try not to slap people. (Source: Here)

Those with friends who are / may be going through infertility need to recognize their friends' sensitivity... and deal with it: Why? Because that's what friends do. We've ALL got stuff we're sensitive about. It may be our parents, our bodies, our health, our food issues, our weird phobias, etc. You may think these are legitimate concerns, or you may think they're ridiculous, but if you want to be friends with that person, you accept that s/he has flaws, sensitivities, and quirks, and you decide to deal with it. Some of these sensitivities may be temporary, like a job loss, and some may be lifelong struggles. You can choose to drop your friends because they don't make enough money to have the same lifestyle as you, or you can choose to go to a restaurant where the prices are lower. (Yes, shameless Friends reference.) You can choose to have vegetarian dishes available when your non-meat eating friends come for dinner, because even if *you* have no interest in giving up meat, you value these friends enough to cater to their decisions. Likewise, you can choose to say your infertile friend can suck it up if she doesn't like your "hilarious" April fool's day prank,** or you can handle pregnancy and children with sensitivity (note that I say sensitivity, not that you stop talking about it at all). This applies in person and on social media. Like it or not, we have people on our friends list going through a myriad of personal issues, some of which we know about, and others we do not. We don't have to censor ourselves constantly, but it behooves us all to stop and think about what we post from time to time. I myself frequently think of something that sounds hilarious at the moment, only to realize a few minutes later that it's actually mean-spirited or bratty or just plain not that funny.

More than anything, I think we need to give grace to the "sensitive". You know what they say about walking a mile in someone's shoes. Who's to say that it won't be you next who has a deep personal issue that causes you to well up with tears or want to hide from the world? If we walk around with the attitude that anyone who doesn't like what we say can just suck it up, we may end up with a lot of pride, but not a lot of friends.

ETA: I'm linking this post up with Amateur Nester's Tuesday link-up. Check out her post and some other great blogs as well.

*I think this is a pretty ridiculous argument. First of all, we ALL have birthdays, whereas we are not all able to become parents. It might be John's birthday today and not mine, but at some point it will be my birthday and not John's. Also, I've never known a church to ask all people with a birthday to stand and be celebrated. It will be Mother's Day once a year, but I've yet to see Hallmark have a "Let's celebrate and love women (and men) who contribute yet are not parents" day...

**Does anyone actually think fake pregnancy announcements are hilarious? Even before infertility, I found them pretty lame. What's fun about getting people excited, and then telling them you're lying?

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Books to Take You To a Foreign Land

Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic is a freebie, meaning we get to choose whatever we want. Since summer is close upon us here in Canada, all our thoughts start going to travel. I was bitten by the travel bug as a young kid, and it doesn't take much to make me want to high-tail it out of town on a new adventure. Here are ten books to read to take you far away into a new and exciting culture. I've tried to mix things up and not use the same location more than once (except I've Italy in there twice because, well, it's Italy).

Source is here.

1. All Good Things by Sarah Turnbull: This a memoir of the author's time in Tahiti. I think we can all agree that a vacation in Tahiti is always in order!

2. A Room With a View by E.M. Forster: A jaunt around Italy would be pretty sweet right about now.

3. A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute: From the jungles of Malaysia to small-town Australia, this book takes you on a long journey from the comfort of your living room.

4. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter: This novel goes back and forth between modern-day Los Angeles and a small Italian coastal village.

5. A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle: I read this ages and ages ago, but this account of the author's time in southern France is hilarious and makes you feel like you're experiencing it first-hand.

6. Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome: I suppose England isn't a foreign land for everyone, but Victorian England sure is. Enjoy this light-hearted account of a journey down the Thames.

7. State of Wonder by Ann Patchett: Take a trip into the Brazilian rainforest without leaving your house.

8. The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng: This has been on a lot of my lists because it's just that good. It's a fairly heavy read dealing with historical memory and World War II, but it also takes you into the highlands of Malaysia.

9. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden: I picked this up out of curiosity when my mom was reading it, and honestly could not put it down. If you're interested in historical Japan, this is a must-read book.

10. The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak: In truth, I didn't love this book, but it's a great introduction to Russian History for those who, unlike me, aren't addicted to historical biographies.

So where you will travel this summer, either by book or by road.... or even by map? ;)

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I Want to Meet

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic is about authors that we'd like to meet. This is a bit difficult for me. For starters, a lot of my favourite authors are long dead, and I'm guessing this is more about people I could feasibly meet. As well, I tend to be hesitant about meeting people I admire, because what if they're nothing like I imagine? What if they're jerks? I did my best though, so here are ten living authors that I'd like to meet one day.

1. J.K. Rowling: I can talk Harry Potter until the cows come home.

2. Rainbow Rowell: I'm actually kicking myself because she actually came to town last year and I missed it. Maybe next time...

3. Margaret Atwood: In truth, I've met Atwood twice and have signed copies of The Handmaid's Tale and The Blind Assassin. However, in an ideal world, I'd like to really talk to her about her life and experiences.

4. Donna Tartt: The Secret History was kind of mind-blowing, and I'd like to see how her mind works.

5. David Bezmozgis: Like Atwood, he actually lives in my city, so I always imagine I could run into him at bookish events. I'd like to hear more about his life story.

6. Gillian Flynn: I'm curious as to whether she is as dark in person as her books are!

7. Joseph Boyden: I've been on a Boyden kick lately, and I think he'd have interesting things to say.

8. Alexander McCall Smith: Because he rights the most interesting and hilarious characters.

9. Neil Gaiman: I've only read one of his books, but he seems like the kind of person you want to meet.

10. Ann M. Martin: I did meet her once at a book signing when I was 11, but it would be fun to have a chat with the woman who dreamed up the Baby-Sitters Club and gave me hours upon hours of enjoyment as a preteen!

I'm really interested to see who is on other people's lists!

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Advocating for the Infertile: How Then Shall We Celebrate Mother's Day?

Mother's Day. There's no getting around it. It's a hard day for many people. It's difficult for those who have lost their mothers, and for those whose mothers were absent, abusive, or otherwise not great parents. It's difficult for those who have lost children, including those who have had miscarriages and carry a grief that others may not know about. It's hard for those who are far from family and long to celebrate their mothers and grandmothers. It's also very hard for those of us who long to be mothers, but for various reasons are not. That leaves me struggling with what to do with this day. Should I hole up in my house, making calls to my various mother-figures while otherwise pretending the day doesn't exist? Should I put on a brave face and act like I don't care?

This is the third year in a row in which I approach Mother's Day with the desperate prayer in my heart that next year I'll be able to celebrate, that it will be my last year not being a mother. It's easy to want to hide. All week, store displays, radio ads, television, and of course, other people have reminded me that this day is coming. I'm forced to celebrate the wonderful, selfless, giving people that mothers are, and I struggle with wanting to scream that not all mothers are selfless and giving, that many childless women (and men) are selfless too, that this binary way of looking at procreation hurts us all. So do I stay at home, angry at society for perpetuating this myth of the perfect mother whom all women should aspire to be?

It's easy to want to stay away. Many infertile women avoid church on days like today, when we know we'll end up watching our more fertile counterparts be feted while we wipe tears from our eyes. However, I chose to go. I chose to not give up meeting with my brothers and sisters, both because I know my heart needs community, and I know that community needs me. As hard as it is, as painful as it may be, the church and society need to see me too, to know that there are other kinds of women around who have needs and deserve to be supported and honoured too, even if it's not on this day. If I choose to stay away and hide my pain from them, how then can I complain that they aren't there alongside me?

So I went. I did church on Mother's Day. There were tears, and I had to leave for a few minutes, and it hurt, but I was glad. (The sermon had a Jane Austen reference too, so there was that!) As hard as it is to be a non-mother on Mother's Day, today has also been a day of joy, in which I have been so blessed by others who have seen and loved me in my pain. It's been a hard day, but a beautiful day, and I am glad I took part.

This past week marked the end of my study of the life of Moses, which we began in September. I am especially mindful of what a long and difficult journey he and the Israelites had. I was reminded this week of how when Jews celebrate the Passover, they end with the phrase, "Next year in Jerusalem," which in the darkest and and most difficult days expressed the hope of the Promised Land, the return. It is hard to find light and hope when you're traveling through the desert, and it's easy to feel it especially dark on days like today, but to my friends in this hard journey, I say, "Next year in Jerusalem." I hope that this is the last year in the dark for you and me, but if not, I wish you hope for the journey.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books I Will Probably Never Read

I'm back after a brief hiatus, linking again with the Broke and the Bookish, where we are talking about books we will likely never read. While I add more books to my TBR list daily, there are thousands of books out there that I will never read, either because I've never heard of them, or they are not a genre that I typically read, etc., etc. Here is a list of books that I won't likely read.

Books that I really have zero interest in reading:
1. Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk: I know he's an acquired taste. I really tried with Choke, but I just couldn't finish it. Also, I am like the only person in the world who hasn't seen the film.

2. Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James: Not my thing. At all.

3. The 120 Days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade: Call me a prude all you want, but no. This is on Peter Ackroyd's list of books to read before you die, and I have a hope of reading most of that list before kicking the bucket, but I'm fairly certain I'll skip 120 Days of Sodom.

4. Perfume: The Story of a Murder by Patrick Süskind: I saw the movie and it was one of the most disturbing films I've ever seen. I felt like I needed a long shower after that one. I won't be touching the book with a ten foot pole!

Books that I think about reading, but probably won't read:
5. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami: Sounds fascinating, but I don't know if I'll get up the courage to dive in.

6. Quiet Flows the Don by Mikhail Sholokhov: This book is a Soviet classic. It's also insanely long, and not that easy to find, so while it's on my list, I don't know that I'll ever actually read it.

7. The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño: I read another of his books and hated it, but somehow I sort of want to read this one as it ties in. I'm a masochist.... And I'll probably never actually pick the up the book.

Series that I am not sure I'll ever commit to:
8. A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin: Maybe now that I've got the Overdrive app and can read library books on my tablet, I'll commit to this, but they are just so long, and such a time commitment. Maybe if I need surgery or end up on bed rest at some point. :P

9. The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon: I'm curious, but not sure if that's enough to read all those weighty tomes.

10. The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare: I know *about* some of the controversy surrounding her, though not a lot since I don't follow fanfiction. Occasionally I am curious about this series, but the reviews are mixed, so I probably won't ever pick them up.

That's all she wrote! If there's anything on my list that you really think I should try (besides 50 Shades, because I know I won't), you're welcome to convince me!