By Lisa Manterfield
I’ve been taking a fantastic creative writing class at UCLA Extension. Each week, we start off with a writing exercise from a choice of prompts, and last week, one of the prompts was, “I’m tired of pretending my life isn’t perfect.” I almost took the prompt.
It’s not hard to write about the part of my life that is so obviously imperfect: the fact that I wasn’t able to have children. I could (and do) write about that broken bit. But if I took my life apart, I’d find lots of areas that aren’t perfect. Isn’t every life like that? Everyone has challenges, and life would probably be dull without them. But part of the thrill of living is overcoming life’s challenges. Without the obstacles there’s no glory of victory.
My life is flawed in many ways, as all lives are, but it’s also a good and happy life, and on the whole it’s pretty close to perfect. And it’s hard work to keep clinging to the idea that it isn’t. It’s tiring to keep feeling bad about the parts of my life that didn’t work out as planned.
I didn’t get to have children, and it’s true that, for a long period of time, it made my life feel empty and deeply flawed. But that changed over time. I worked to overcome that flaw, to seek and take advantage of the silver linings, to work through my sadness—by writing, in my case—by gathering this community and sharing our stories. My marriage made it through infertility. That’s a victory in itself. And while there are still many challenges in my life, few of them are related to my childlessness anymore.
So, yes, I am a flawed human, with challenges to face, but I no longer wish to pretend my life isn’t perfect, just as it is, warts and all.
(And by the way, I didn’t take the prompt because there was another that sparked an idea. I’m glad I took that one instead, because that exercise turned into short story instead.)
I am feeling very tired, and worn out by my constant feelings that my life is empty, and from feeling that others I know who do have children have a more fulfilling life than I do. I’m tired of comparing my life to others, and exhausted by my ruminating thoughts that constantly remind me that there are so many things I will never experience.
I hope I can get to a point soon, where I can be ok with my imperfect life.
Jane P says
Hi Sherry – I echo your feelings. I don’t think there is a day that goes by that I don’t find myself questioning and analysing my TTC days. I have spent a year trying to adjust to living with no more hope. I have found that each time my sadness is triggered (by conversations, tv ads, anoucements at work) – I do mindfully acknowledge the sadness and then immediately follow it with thinking of the positive plans in my life (they can be from holidays to getting a nice cup of coffee). I also find it helps to balance the “joy” that we feel pregnant women must have 24 x 7 and remember that their joy is probably balanced with alot of worry and apprehension. This doesn’t solve the sadness or prevent the feeling of loss – but a balanced perspective and reminding myself of the reality as well as the loss has helped me. I hope you reach peace – I hope I do too! Its a little easier than a year ago and I don’t expect to be fully ok with it.
I still have my bad days (which often pop up after too much facebook), but I am overall feeling better about my life, which had actually been pretty rough this year. (I lost my mother-in-law, my husband became gravely ill, my father-in-law just passed away, my aunt passed away 2 months ago, my mom is having memory issues…) I think the reason I started to be a bit less affected by my childless status is because I got angry about it. I got angry at the message that my life would be less than if I had not procreated. And that anger was pretty cathartic. I focused on the positives with a vengeance. By the way, Lisa, I would love to take a creative writing class! I work at the university, so this might just be something I’ll try in the very near future.
“It’s tiring to keep feeling bad about the parts of my life that didn’t work out as planned.” Exactly. I really really love this. It shows your readers that there is a next phase. The one where we can claim our lives, and be happy without guilt or shame. Brava!