NO EGGS FOR YOU! (or when the Easter Bunny passes you by):
Easter. Another cute, child-centric holiday is right around the corner. If your friends with small children are anything like mine, they are busy posting photos of their egg-dying parties, baskets overflowing with chocolate bunnies, and adorable Easter-Sunday outfits. When Monday arrives, there will be the final flurry of photos highlighting their egg-hunts.
If you are a woman who is in the trying-to-conceive stage, either naturally or with ART, or if you are a woman who has decided to pursue adoption (and is waiting for your baby to arrive), holidays, because they are so child-centric, can be incredibly painful reminders of what you do not have. Even if you have decided to live childfree, after years of trying, holidays can be tough to navigate until you’ve established your own rhythm.
LIVING IN THE GAP:
The key problem is you are living in the gap. The gap is the space between where you were (life before deciding to have children) and where you want to be (life with children). The gap is a strange, constantly shifting, restless place. One minute it is full of hope, excitement and energy; in the next moment, hopes and dreams are dashed as blood flows and suddenly everything seems far away and out of reach.
In my own experience, holidays, like Easter, highlighted the widening gap between the reality of whom I was – a childless woman – and whom I wished I was – a mom with two kids excited about coloring Easter eggs with me. Instead of being largely neutral about holidays, as I’d once been, I found my focus became about what I didn’t have and the distance I felt from achieving my dream.
The question becomes, how can you make living in the gap easier, less painful, and more hopeful?
HANDLING THE GAP:
What I noticed, during my own extended stay in the gap, and now through my work with clients, is how significantly our perspective shapes our emotions. Often, our emotions, if we choose to stop and notice them, will point us directly to how we are currently viewing the world. Emotions are homebodies and like to snuggle in; our particular perspectives make nice little nests for them.
By noticing what we are feeling and being able to describe them is the powerful first step in locating what perspective we holding. Being able to choose a better feeling perspective is a radical act. The actions we choose to take, as a result of viewing the world from this better feeling place, are transformative.
Here are four steps you can take which will catapult you out of the gap and into a much more effective and happy existence.
- Notice what you are feeling.
- Locate your perspective.
- Choose a better feeling perspective.
- Discover new actions to take.
LIVING MORE POWERFULLY IN THE GAP:
Admittedly, it is easy to see when others need a “fresh perspective”; it can be trickier to notice how we ourselves could benefit from a new point of view. And, of course, you must be ready to take on a new way of looking at the world. Having a well-meaning, but out-of-touch, friend or relative suggest this to you is generally a recipe for disaster.
While, these four steps may seem a bit mysterious or complicated, here is what this shift could look like:
Step One: Notice Your Emotions.
Let’s start with the topic of an upcoming holiday.
You notice sadness. Your chest feels big and heavy. Your throat feels tight. You feel like crying.
The key to noticing your emotions is not to judge them; they exist to help you locate your perspective.
As you spend time putting words to how you are feeling –– perhaps you feel tight, constricted, wrapped up tight like a mummy – suddenly, as you describe your emotions in this way, what pops up in your mind is the image of you fighting the ropes and fabric of a failed parachute.
Well, congratulations. You’ve just located your perspective! Continue describing what you see here:
Step Two: Locate Your Perspective.
You realize you feel like you’ve been dropped from a failed parachute into a foreign country, where everything is radically different: the people speak a different language; the landscape is craggy, mountain peaks; and panthers pace above. What else is there? Combat boots, enemy territory? Maybe there is a sense of separation from others since you don’t speak the same language? Are you struggling to communicate? Are you finding it difficult to fit in? Notice what you are feeling as you describe things from this perspective: awkward, different, afraid, and unsure of your footing? Perhaps from this perspective, holidays look particularly bleak? Perhpas they seem like foreign rituals and you don’t know how to participate?
Step Three: Choose a Better Feeling Perspective.
Now, as simple as this step may sound, you will want to play around with a variety of perspectives until you find one that truly works for you.
For one of my clients, when she notices herself feeling rushed, panicked and anxious, she chooses to stop and spend some time seeing the world though her “At the Lake” perspective. When she is “At the Lake” her current situation seems more manageable, she is more relaxed sitting on the edge of the dock, with her toes splashing in the water, she is able to slow down think of a new way to approach what is going on for her.
What if, for example, instead of being dropped into an inhospitable land, your parachute landed in a lush, green field vividly lit by slanting, late afternoon sun? What if you are met by translator who easily introduces you to friendly, helpful locals? As you survey the terrain, you decide to pitch your tent under a shady tree, next to a sparkling brook. As you unzip your tent flap in the morning, you have a breath-taking view. What if you realize you can hike into town to watch the local festival, drink a beer, enjoy the music, and yet, you find yourself looking forward to a nap in you hammock by the stream?
Are you noticing how different this perspective already feels than the one where you parachuted into enemy territory?
Step Four: Discover New Actions to Take.
From my own experience of developing new perspectives, one I kept coming back to was the metaphor of a Boundary Waters canoe trip. Personally, I realized I loved the calming image of my paddle dipping quietly into the water, my own strong arms and back creating the powerful glide through the water. I also realized that celebrating holidays was completely unnecessary in a remote and timeless place like the Boundary Waters where it was more important to be prepared, alert, and attune to survival. Thriving came from simplifying my focus to the water, the sky, and the trees. And, it was important for me to realize camping trips are temporary and generally aren’t a lasting lifestyle choice. Once I realized I wasn’t going to live in the land of infertility forever, things began to shift.
Once you are able to view your situation from a new perspective, new actions also become apparent, and easier to make.
For my “At the Lake” client, she is more readily able to let go of certain expectations of how things should go because when she is “at the lake”, enjoying a happy, sunny afternoon, there are just a lot less “shoulds”. One of her new actions was to simplify her schedule and create more time for herself.
For me, it meant the Easter Bunny could keep right on hopping by. Instead of feeling dismayed by the lack of brightly colored eggs scattered on my lawn, I made a point of taking myself on extended (virtual) camping trip during the months of March and April. I consciously chose to focus less about a specific holiday, and more about the broader meaning of the season: Rebirth, Recharging, and Renewal.
- I started to pay attention to the lessons I was learning.
- I noticed what areas of my spirit needed more attention and growth.
- I looked for areas of my life to nurture and expand; I took up biking with a passion.
- I began a make a more concerted effort to meditate and journal.
- I scheduled massages for myself.
- I planned special weekends where I took myself out for dinner or a movie or music.
- I spent more time walking and hiking in the woods.
- I planted pots and pots of flowers on my deck.
- I cleaned and organized my house, my office, my car.
Here is my blog post from this time last year in 2012 as I continued to explore what holidays would mean and be about for me.
This year, for yourself, I invite you to explore how you want to be with whichever holidays are emerging for you, for example: Easter in the Christian tradition, Passover in the Jewish tradition.
Here are a few questions to get you started:
- How would you describe your experience with infertility?
- What do you notice, about how you feel, as you describe your experience?
- What could be a new perspective for you? What does infertility look like from the “Forest Zip Line” perspective? What does it look like through a “Sand and Surf” perspective?
- What if you are like the first crocus breaking through the earth, seeking the sun?
- What does Rebirth, Renewal, and Recharging look like for you?
I invite you to share with me in the comment box what you’ve discovered about the power of a fresh perspective.