Twenty-some days into the New Year and…
…Resolutions, Schmesolutions. Got it. I’m with you.
My guess is if you are anything like me, when I was riding full-speed ahead on the infertility train, you didn’t bother to set anything that smacked of a resolution, other than “be on time for doctor’s appointments.”
It is enough for your singular goal in 2013 to be about getting pregnant; there isn’t any energy for the usual chatter about mundane goals in the face of upcoming IVF cycles.
It is enough that you’ve decided to get off the train and leave behind the emotional rollercoaster of Trying, Waiting, Hopefulness, and Devastation; there certainly isn’t any energy for “resolutions” in the face of the grief you feel.
It is true, in the context of infertility, resolutions can feel meaningless and goals are big, gangly, and weighty. Infertility has rocked your world – no doubt about it – intense emotions, shifting social circles, loss of dreams, expectations radically upended.
Everything feels like it has spiraled out of control. And it has. However, in the face of all this messiness that materialized in your life is also a HUGE opportunity – admittedly, not the one you wanted (like the winning Powerball ticket) but it is the one that is here now.
If you are feeling tired and out-of-sorts today, then you may be tempted to close out this blog right now; please bear with me for a moment or two longer!
How you approach events in 2013 and your experience with infertility, may either leave you in a state of resistance, or may catapult you into a state of well-being. And, unless you recognize the major elements that affect your well-being and your opportunity to thrive, there is a strong likelihood anxiety, stress, fear, and grief will turn you into a person you will not recognize.
How do I know? Because I lived in outside the state of well-being for much of my infertility journey; I want more for you.
You have a great opportunity to not only shape the outcomes of 2013, but to also thrive, no matter where you are on the infertility journey. It is too easy to slip into a place of sorrow and overwhelm, and not that those are inappropriate places to find yourself while travelling this particular path – they are very human and normal; however, there is another way to approach your experience so you are able to feel locate a state of ease and gracefulness, a state of being centered and grounded.
Now, who wouldn’t want that? I’ll take two helpings, please!!
Step One: Determine The Theme (or Tone) of Your Year.
It may seem so corny and facile to even suggest the idea of setting up the year under a larger umbrella of a theme, but in spite of my own misgivings, in fact, I have found it works. And here is why I believe it works: By establishing a theme or setting a tone for myself, it helps me consciously locate a perspective, one that I’ve chosen, versus the one that pops up more automatically in a time of stress.
These three questions will help you get to the heart of the tone you want to set, the theme which will guide your interactions with life events.
Who do you want to be? (3 specific words, e.g.: loving, patient, accepting) Spend some time defining these words. For example, what is it to be loving, patient, accepting?
What is it you need to do/have or want to learn? (a short phrase, e.g.: gentle, supportive relationships; deeper levels of self-care)
And what about that is important for you? (a short phrase, e.g.: because I want to ease successfully into pregnancy)
Step Two: Identify Ways to Bring Greater Levels of Well-Being in Your Life.
Well-being is about the journey. Happiness is about the moment – it is fleeting and then, quickly, it evaporates. Well-being is a way To Be Well in the face of circumstances, like one’s encounter with infertility. Dr. Martin E.P. Seligman, a psychologist, has determined five key elements, when they are present in one’s life, create feelings of contentment and satisfaction, otherwise described as WELL-BEING.
Positive Emotion: Truly, it may seem Polly-Anna-ish to bring up positive emotions first thing; however, being able to increase your levels of positive emotion during the days and weeks ahead is crucial for surviving and thriving during the infertility experience. Our thoughts create our emotions which is why I encourage you to commit to setting the tone/theme for your year.
Some questions to consider as you elevate the levels of positive emotion in your life:
- What messages are you sending yourself – where does your mind take you?
- What role does kindness and gentleness play in your relationship with yourself and with your spouse?
- What can you do to create more fun and laughter for you and your spouse?
- What are you doing to soothe your worry, stress, fears, and anxiety – all which negatively impact positive emotions?
Engagement: Intensity of effort, level of commitment, the idea of a calling versus a job. These are some of the elements which define engagement. There is no doubt parenthood takes on the intensity of a calling, especially when a greater investment in time and energy is needed to create a child. Engagement is also fostered in how you generally choose to approach and interact with life: with ease, as a battle, with curiosity, as a skeptic?
Some questions to consider as you decide what it means to be engaged:
- Who do you want to be this year and how will this ‘being’ show up for you?
- How will you interact with life events, from what perspective?
- What is it to resist? What is it to accept? Where is the learning?
Social Relationships: The quality of our social relationships plays an enormous part in our well-being, especially when facing infertility. Locating and establishing a support system is imperative for surviving and thriving. Infertility impacts our social interactions as friends, family and even strangers make statements that feel hurtful and we withdraw. It is easy to feel awkward and out of place in social circles where children and conversations about children dominate. Our relationships can be challenged by jealousy and envy and shifting perspectives.
Some questions to consider as you evaluate your social relationships:
- Who are your biggest advocates and cheerleaders?
- What are the top 5 things you adore most about your spouse, and why?
- What are you able to do to strengthen your bond with your spouse?
- What is possible for you if you don’t take well-meaning and “thoughtless” comments personally?
- Who do you need to let go of, or into your social circle, what is possible in letting go or letting someone in?
Meaning: What contributes to our sense of purpose? Our attempt to resolve infertility through parenthood is a natural way to bring a layer of purpose and meaning into our lives. However, we are more than a single aspect of our lives. Locating meaning outside of parenthood is a way to survive and thrive as we take the infertility journey. Meaning can be found by investigating what we value, looking to events and activities which boost our enthusiasm and happiness.
Some questions to consider as you look for ways to enhance what is meaningful to you:
- Where in your life (besides your quest to be a parent) do you currently find a sense of purpose?
- What activities bring you (or have brought you) joy, contentment, satisfaction?
- Describe what having a sense of purpose is like for you; what possibilities open up for you as you describe these feeling?
Achievement: A distinct sense of accomplishment is a critical component to well-being. When infertility enters our experience, it can be tricky to gain a sense of accomplishment – we remain in limbo because we haven’t yet achieved the BIG GOAL of having a baby. When our experience with infertility looms large, it is easy to lose sight of the fact we are multifaceted human beings with interests and longings in other areas of our lives as well. We are more than people waiting to become parents.
I know what it is like to become so single-minded all else falls away, and I urge you to step away from that cliff….disaster waits for you there. It is vital to organize your year around achievable goals.
Here are some areas of life to consider:
- Creativity (and geek) interests
- Family and friends
- Health, exercise, and self-care
- Love relationship
- Physical Environment – House/home
- Physical Environment – Office/work
- Travel and adventure
Step Three: Bring it All Together Now!
For example, no matter where you are in your infertility journey –
A focus on achieving and maintaining a pregnancy…
A focus on pursuing other ways to become a parent…
A focus on regrouping before next major decision…
A focus on living child-free…
Getting clear what well-being looks like and feels like in your life is an excellent way to not only survive, but to absolutely THIRVE on your infertility journey.
Setting an overarching theme gives you a place to lean into – a perspective you’d like to hold onto when the going gets tough.
Committing to expanding into several areas of your life will give you more control and will keep you from feeling held hostage to the experience of infertility.
Let infertility be the catalyst that rockets you into a state of well-being.
If, for example:
The concepts of “Acceptance” and “Self-Care” and “Healing” have made their way into your theme, you will set particular intentions inside the category of Health, Exercise, and Self-care.
Your commitment in this area is to maintain your equilibrium: You’ll look for ways to get out of the office for gentle mid-day walks; you’ll commit to packing healthy lunches instead of eating fast-food; you’ll schedule twice-a-month massage. You’ll also realize that these activities raise your level of positive emotion.
“Acceptance” and “Healing” may mean you focus on strengthening and repairing your relationship with your spouse. You may set particular intentions inside the category of Love Relationship.
Your commitment in this area is to improve your communication in this very important social relationship. You may decide to create certain nights of the week where you discuss feelings and issues surrounding infertility and certain nights of the week are for bringing in more laughter and fun.
“Healing” and “Self-Care” may mean you set intentions inside the category of Travel and Adventure.
Your commitment scheduling a trip (or trips) is about honoring the meaning, purpose, and sense of place and connection you acquire from exploring other cultures. A get-away trip for the two of you to a bed & breakfast in the next state, or a more involved winter escape to somewhere warm, is a way to enhance positive emotions, strengthen an important social relationship, and enhance your engagement with the wider world.
Step Four: Getting Your Life on the Calendar
What is one intention you can set in each category, that when you commit to doing it on a daily/weekly/monthly or quarterly basis, will bring a dose of fresh air and excitement into your life?
The key in moving your intentions beyond words and “good ideas” is to write them down in a visible location. You’ll be reminded of your vision for 2013.
Committing to a heart-warming activity scheduled on a particular date on a calendar is a major step towards well-being.
It bears repeating again: Let infertility be the catalyst that rockets you into a state of well-being.
You can have a rich, full, abundant life, even in spite of your circumstance of infertility.
- What are you committed to this year?
- What do you want to celebrate at the end of 2013?
- Who will you choose to be this year?
- What choices are you making to support your well-being?