An Interlude

I’m not going to deny that Wednesday was one of the harder days I’ve experienced. I felt so ill, and I had two little people who felt just as bad, that needed me. Wednesday was a hard, hard day. But we got through it.

By the time my husband came home sick Wednesday afternoon, I was feeling better. Earlier in the day I had been able to sneak in an hour nap and I was keeping down my saltines. The pain killers had my body aches under control and I was able to power through until both kids went to bed.

It sucked waking up at 5am Thursday morning to drag my sorry ass to work to get sub plans ready. It took longer than I expected and by the time I got home my son was already awake. I have to admit, a part of me appreciated that his dad got a taste of what the day before had been like for me. He never has to care for the kids when he is sick.

Thursday I felt much better and I was able to care for my sick family. There were lots of snuggles, lots of listening to music on the bed, lots of sitting with my kids while they played quietly. Lots of watching my son’s face light up when I held up something he loves. Lots of lying with my daughter’s hot body pressed against mine, watching movies while I smoothed back her hair.

Of course there were other, less savory moments. The diapers have been disgusting and I’m sick of cleaning up puke. But those quiet moments were really nice, and in the end I was almost thankful to have that time with my family, that still, quiet time where we had no plans, no agenda, no reason to worry about anybody but ourselves.

I’ve been feeling kind of down about parenting lately. It’s not my kids, or my husband or anything specific, I’m just sick of the relentlessness of it all, of constantly tending to other people’s needs, of setting boundaries and holding them over and over and over again. Sometimes it feels like I’m supposed to be a rock that my kids throw themselves against again and again. And while I love the ocean, I know what happens to the rocks that face the crashing waves. If they get worn down, how can I expect I won’t?

I’ve been trying to pull myself out of the funk, embracing the gratitude I feel for my two children, but it’s been hard when they make every moment a battle.

These two days of just being with them, taking care of them and feeling like I was doing a good job at it, that felt good. I was reminded of what wonderful people my children are, and how much I love them. Of how much I love my family.

Of course now I have to go back to work and deal with the repercussions of my two day absence. My house is a disaster area and my kids and husband still aren’t feeling great. But I’m still somehow thankful for that two day interlude, for the reminder of what is most important and why.

Sick

First my son threw up, but we thought the bacon he ate earlier that day was too rich. But then he threw up again the next day and we started to wonder if maybe it was something more.

On Monday my daughter’s school called asking me to pick her up; she woke up from her nap with a fever of 101.

On Tuesday my husband stayed home with her. Though she still had a cough (as she has for four months now), she seemed to be doing much better and she never spiked a fever and we assumed she’d be back at school the next day.

When I got home from work my son threw up all over my bed.

Then Tuesday night I started feeling nauseous. Queue me throwing up all night. A lot.

I didn’t sleep much Tuesday night. At 5:30am I got a call from my in-laws, who were also worshiping the porcelain god. I was sick with the flu and there would be no childcare for my son. Once my daughter woke up, it was clear she’d be staying home too.

My husband lasted until 3:30pm before he came home, as sick as I was.

My daughter had a fever all day. My son threw up his dinner, after the third bite.

Today all four of us will be home, sick with the flu.

(But not before I drag my ass to school at 6am to get everything ready for a second sub day.)

It’s going to be awesome.

Then and Now

Lori’s comment on Thursday’s post prompted me to pull up my Stumbling Gracefully archives and see if I had written a post on this very thing so many years ago.

It turns out that I had, indeed written such a post and I evidently felt a lot surer of myself and my ability to navigate that fine line between acceptance and action back then. Of course, my big example of navigating that line was my acceptance of myself as a bad housekeeper. While I was quite aware that berating myself for house dirty my house was wouldn’t inspire me to get off my ass and do anything about it, I clearly didn’t know how to use that acceptance to eventually spur myself to action. What I didn’t know then is that I would accept that shitty house for the next two and a half years, before I finally made the huge changes necessary to get the clutter under control.

But that post is not why I sat down to write this one.

Instead, this post is about the surprising barrage of swirling emotions I felt as I read through other posts (and the comments on those posts) from my February 2012 archives.

I wrote two pieces that month about embarking on TTC#2. Those were hard to read, especially knowing what that year would bring. Then there was a ping back on one of those posts to an October 2012 piece that revisited those initials fears after nine months of failure. In October I was admitting to myself that we might need to take next steps. I had scheduled an appointment with an RE and was revving up for the dietary overhaul that I believe helped me get pregnant with my daughter. I was feeling very defeated and incredibly unsure of what the future might bring.

As I read over those posts, I noticed a really incredible symmetry. February of 2013 is when I learned I was pregnant, despite not trying due to wonky cycles after my HSG. And of course in October of 2013 my son was born. Reading those posts in 2012 and knowing what was coming in 2013 was a strange experience. On the one had I felt sad for myself, remembering how hard that year was, and yet on the other hand, the struggle meant something different through the lens of knowing what was to come.

There were other posts in February 2012. Gutwrenchingly painful posts that I hadn’t expected to come across. Those were really hard to read.

But what really struck me from February of 2012 was the community interaction I saw taking place. I know that things have changed–have been continually changing–since I started blogging in 2009, but it’s been a long time since I went back and witnessed it from this vantage point. It was clear from my writing then that I felt I was part of a community and ot was clear from the comments that others felt that way too.

I don’t really feel that way anymore.

I still read the blogs of many of the people who commented on my posts in 2012 (and some of them still read mine) and we exchange comments–and in some cases FB messages and emails–back and forth. I feel significant connections to many of the women I read–I consider them dear and very real friends, even though we’ve never met in real life. But that feeling of being a part of something bigger than myself? That is gone.

Before the blogging community felt like a net, like I was connected to everyone, even if I only “knew” them tangentially, like the whole community would be there to catch me if I fell. Now it’s more like individual threads stretching out into the distance, disappearing into the hazy ether, almost swallowed by the gapingly empty space around them.

I will admit, I felt a pang of loss as I recognized what used to be. I had forgotten how it felt back then; while some aspects of the dissolution of our community occurred in fits and starts, much of it happened so gradually that I didn’t realize the extent of the erosion. Reading those posts was like looking back on the photo album of a certain time in my life and realizing how long it had been since I’d seen the people with me in the pictures.

Life is change. Everything changes. One of the amazing things about a blog is that it provides a record, not only of one’s thoughts but the interaction those thoughts inspired. It provides a road map of the back and forth that transpired, of the exchange of ideas and opinions, of the support given and received. In providing that record, our blogs expose the enormity of that inevitable change.

In so many ways, I’m thankful for the transformation of our community, or at least the part of it I belonged to, because that transformation was brought about by the realization of dreams. Our community was born of longing, suffering and loss, and it transformed through resolution, and in many cases, triumph and joy. We were a net ready to catch those who fell, but we disentangled ourselves as the chance of falling became less and less and the net was no longer a necessity.

Disposing of so many of the artifacts of my past has brought into sharp focus the undercurrent of change that remains the only true constant, and the sometimes shocking realization that we don’t recognize how extensive that change can be. Looking back at old albums from college, I barely recognize the person I was in my early twenties and I’m strangely unattached to that woman and her experiences. She is a part of me and I’m thankful for all she lived and learned, but I feel no need to grasp at the remnants of her life, the things that held so much importance for her. They don’t belong to me and I have no reason to keep them.

I suppose that is how I ultimately felt looking back at the February 2012 posts. The community captured in the amber of those archives doesn’t belong to me, it belonged to the woman I was when I was struggling through family building after loss. That community isn’t something I can lay claim to and mourn the loss of, but a gift which arrived exactly when I needed it, and provided precisely what I required at the time.

I hope that community still exists out there, for the women who need it now. I hope they feel so entangled with each other that their net is strong and ready to catch them if they fall, or simply need to rest. I hope they find strength there, in the understanding and empathy.

I hope they find exactly what they need, just like I did not so many years ago.

How do you remember your blogging community? What does it feel like now?

Navigating Acceptance and Action

Inevitably, when I write a post about how much I’m struggling to make hard changes in my life, I get comments (and even some emails) with gentle suggestions to cut myself some slack. I appreciate the reminder that accepting myself as I am is an important step, one I have to embrace before I can move forward.

I absolutely believe in the power of acceptance, in the freedom of acknowledgement without judgement. I am working hard to approach myself with compassion and loving kindness in the wake of some really difficult confessions (to myself and others) about behaviors I am not proud of.

I am no longer ashamed of my compulsive spending, nor the fact that I lied to my husband about it. I have owned who I am, the choices I’ve made and the consequences they have wrought for my family. I am working hard to rectify the damage I’ve done and to change so that I won’t inflict further financial harm on our family.

I am also working hard to embrace minimalism, a mindset that is helping me control my compulsive spending. For me embracing minimalism is not just about curbing the flow of things into the house, but purging that which we already own.

I’ve been working really hard on all of this for the past four months and I won’t lie, it’s been difficult. I never feel satisfied by the progress I make around the house; every thing is 50-75% finished and I cringe as areas that I worked hard to declutter fall again into disarray. I know if I had a weekend’s worth of uninterrupted time I could get to that place where I could manage the daily mess, but I also know I’ll never have that time to dedicate to this process.

In the few hours a week that I can allot for purging our unnecessary stuff, I find myself oscillating confusedly between acceptance and action. In my attempt to accept our situation without judgement, I find it hard to push myself to do the hard work of making changes. In the past my frustration and annoyance has propelled me forward. In their absence (or attempted expulsion) I’m finding it hard to motivate.

I’ve encountered similar obstacles on the compulsive spending front. For four weeks I’ve been great about not buying things, and my most recent credit card is proof of how little I’ve spent. But in the last couple of days I actually had to order something from Ama.zon (at the recommendation of my therapist) and then there were some things I truly had to get at Tar.get and I swear it was like taking that first drink after a prolonged dry spell. Suddenly there was all sorts of stuff I “had” to get, like some DVDs to show at school and stickers for when my kids win at Bingo. Do I need to buy those things? No. But I wanted to, very much.

When I slipped a little and bought the DVDs for my Spanish class (DVDs that will be great, but aren’t necessary by any stretch), I was quick to cut myself some slack and forgive myself for my mistake. The problem is that in doing so, I felt the pull to buy other unnecessary but useful stuff for my classroom growing stronger. If I truly forgive myself every time I mess up, how do what is the incentive to not mess up in the first place?

Having two kids and a full time job is kicking my ass something fierce. There are days when I can barely get through the things that absolutely HAVE to get done and still manage five hours of sleep. On those days, I understand the value of accepting that I still haven’t tackled the kitchen and it’s causing me stress. But on the day when I have an hour during my son’s nap and all I want to do is sleep myself, it’s hard to know what is the right move. Do I rest and accept that I just didn’t have the energy to be productive that day? Or do I push myself to sort (and then dump most of) the mismatched Tupperware? If I accept that I was too tired, when will I ever have the energy to actually accomplish anything?

So this is my dilemma. I just can’t seem to figure out how to embrace acceptance while still maintaining my productivity. If you have any words of wisdom on this subject, I’m all ears. I honestly don’t know how to do it.

Which are you better at: acceptance or action? How do balance both?

The Space Created

There is a good chance that I’m going to be disappointed with the reality of keeping our house neat, even after I have the number of items down to a manageable level. But there is one thing I’m sure I am underestimating, and that is the psychological repercussions of letting go of all this physical stuff.

I could feel it over this weekend, as I was touching each and every book in my extensive collection. There were so many books, and so many of them were unfinished. The vast majority of them were non-fiction, mostly in the genre of self-improvement. There were dozens of volumes on managing anxiety and depression, and the word “mindfulness” was part of a huge number of titles. It was hard to physically touch each of these books, as each and every one is a reminder of how I’ve struggled over the past decade. In each of those books lay my hopes of escaping from, or at the very least managing, my depression and anxiety and it was hard to see just how desperate I was, and how much faith I had in other people’s written prescriptions.

There were other books that were hard to handle as well; a few linger books on infertility, adoption and living childless/free that I got after my diagnosis. I thought I had gotten rid of all of those but some were hiding in the depths of my built-in book case. There were also a bunch of books on writing for children and publishing a young adult novel, plus some volumes on science fiction and specifically memory loss (which was going to be part of the novel I was trying to write). Later I came across the first draft of the first 50 pages of my novel, with comments from other writers in my class. It was hard to place all of that work, effort, and hope on the top of the recycle pile, but it was even harder to admit to myself that none of it brought me joy.

I also threw out my collection of ggmg magazines; three years worth of issues that I copy edited or contributed to as a writer. I tore out all my articles to save somewhere, which made it easier to pitch the rest, but my hand still hovered for a long time over the recycle pile. I still feel a lot of ambivalence about leaving the magazine, and along with it my mostly dormant hopes of becoming a writer some day.

There was one thing I came across that brought me genuine joy–the children’s book I wrote and illustrated a couple of years ago. It’s been ages since I even looked at it and reading it again made me happy, and proud. For some reason that book is not a symbol of my failure to get published (I sent it to quite a few publishing houses), but my ability to create something I set out to create. I hope to read it to my daughter soon (she hasn’t let me yet)–it’s a gift I only need to share with my children. That feels fulfilling enough.

I’ve thought a lot about why I was suddenly called to minimalism after so many years of struggling with all the obvious things that drove me in that direction (excessive spending, an inability to keep my house in order). I think the space that minimalism is opening inside of me was already there, waiting to be discovered. I think I found this path because it mirrors what I already knew I needed, mentally as much as physically. As the debris that struggle and chaos churned up in my life before and during my family building years has settled, a quiet space opened up inside of me. Minimalism is simply that space manifesting in my external reality. I don’t think minimalism is creating this change, but that it’s a reflection of a change that was already taking place.

I need to let go of all of these things physically, because I’ve already let go of them, in large part, emotionally. I can’t move forward if I’m clinging to the what once was. Dispensing with my past makes space for my future.

Letting go of so many things that I acquired in the pursuit of some creative expression and healing has been difficult. I’m not sure who I am, or more accurately, who I am becoming, and that is a terrifying prospect. Mostly I’m just sitting with this feeling that I don’t really recognize myself or understand what I will be called to create. I have faith that in the aftermath of all this letting go, something amazing will present itself. It may not be next month, it may not be next year, but some day I will be creatively inspired once again.

And it will be wonderful.

The Kitchen

So, I need the insight and advice of all you wise women.

I have not mentioned the kitchen much in relation to my purging of ALL THE THINGS, mostly because I’m not quite sure how to proceed in that space. So far I have avoided even thinking much about it; I’m completely flummoxed as to how I should proceed.

You see, the kitchen is my husband’s domain. He is basically in charge of everything kitchen related. He cooks (usually). He does the dishes. He does the grocery shopping, keeps tabs on what we have and what we need, makes the shopping lists and cleans out the fridge. He organizes the pantry and manages the cabinets. The kitchen, in its entirety, is his thing.

How that came to be is a long story, and not all that relevant to the situation at hand, except in that it works for us and I don’t want to change the current dynamic. I appreciate that there is one part of the house that is not mine to manage. I do pretty much everything else (including actually cleaning the kitchen), but I have learned not interfere in my husband’s domain.

That’s not to say that there aren’t problems with the arrangement. I’m almost never happy with the state of the kitchen and most of the time it’s actually pretty stress-inducing. To be fair, the food part of it is fine–we always have what we need and I am never frustrated with my husband’s ability to keep the fridge and pantry stocked. And it should be said that while the kitchen is generally in a state of disarray, we usually have clean plates, glasses and silverware when we sit down to eat. It’s the dishes in the sink and the cluttered counter tops that stress me out. The kitchen always looks like it needs a good hour long cleaning session, but I almost NEVER do any work in there because I know that if I start, I’ll create a situation where I resent my husband for all the work he doesn’t do.

I let the kitchen remain a mess so that we can both feel good about what we each contribute to the housekeeping. It’s not ideal, but it works for us.

Now, with the rest of the house looking neater and tidier, the state of the kitchen is causing me more and more distress. The sink full of dishes and the counter tops covered in cook wear really bother me. Whereas before I never mentioned the kitchen because I respected it as my husband’s domain, now I find myself fighting the urge to nag him about when he’s going to do the dishes or wipe down the cutting board table. So far I’ve kept my comments to myself, but I don’t know how long I can hold my tongue.

I know we still need to purge in that space, and that getting rid of stuff there will help the general feeling of “ugh” I get every time I walk into the kitchen, but I doubt a cleansing removal of all the superfluous stuff will magically make my husband do the dishes more frequently. And yet, I can tell that as the rest of the house comes together, the perpetual mess in the kitchen will stress me out.

So what is a wife to do? Do I just sit back and let my husband do his thing and learn to accept that which I cannot change (serenity prayer anyone?)? Do I ask him to try to keep the kitchen in line with the rest of the house? Do I wait silently and hope that seeing the rest of the house in better shape will inspire him to keep the kitchen in better shape too? I want the whole house to feel welcoming, and the kitchen is a huge part of the house. At the same time, I don’t want to take on more work, or ruin the balance my husband and I have found in this arrangement.

So how would you proceed? Your sage wisdom is much appreciated.

Progress

I took two days off of work in an attempt to do some intense work on the house. My husband took off Monday as well so that we could tackle some of our shared areas together.

I knew we wouldn’t get as much done as I wanted–between dropping our daughter off around 9am and picking our son up around 1pm, there just weren’t many actual hours to be productive. Luckily I had anticipated this and spent some time over the weekend going through some of my stuff so that I wouldn’t be wasting our together time doing that. My husband did the same, so on Monday morning we were able to tackle our papers and other general junk stuff together.

I spent the last two weeks reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. In early December I had never heard of it and by the New Year I had seen the title fives times, so I took it as a sign, used a Christmas gift card and got the eBook. I plowed through it in less than two weeks and it was partly the author’s suggestion of doing your house all in one fell swoop–or as quickly as possible–that I took the two days off.

One part of the author’s method is to purge not by room but by category. Instead of going through your closet or bedroom you’re supposed to go through ALL the clothes in your house. So on Friday, while my son took his nap, I went through the house and collected all my clothes. I got the sweatshirts from my son’s room, the outwear from the entryway closet, my dresses from my daughter’s closet and of course everything from my wardrobe and dresser. I had so many clothes I couldn’t fit them on my bed at once, so I went through things in categories. First I went through all my outerwear: sweatshirts, sweaters, jackets, etc. I had almost 30 articles of outwear. In San Francisco it’s always cold and we are skilled in the art of layering, so I wear some kind of sweater almost every day of the year. Still, seeing the pile made me realize just how much I had, which is the whole point of purging by category and not by room.

In the end I got rid of two huge IKEA bags of clothes. Later I went through my books–again moving them from their various shelves around the house and amassing them in the living room. After going through my books I had three big bags to donate and one bag to bring to my free-reading library at school. I also had a small bag to return to my parents.

In the book I read, there is only one standard by which things are judged–do they spark joy. I had a hard time determining that in the beginning, but the more I sorted, the easier it became to determine if something made me truly happy. When I wasn’t sure I would create a pile and return to it later–almost everything from that pile ended up being discarded, though a few things remained.

Touching each object is also important, and I definitely did that. I tried on a few things, to see if I still liked how they looked. What was interesting was that some pieces that I used to love just didn’t do anything for me anymore, and other pieces that I thought I didn’t like very much actually made me really happy. It was definitely hard to get rid of somethings that held sentimental value–T-shirts from various trips, books from family and friends–but when I recognized that they no longer sparked joy, it was much easier to part with them.

My husband and I spent Monday going through papers and other small shit that has accumulated around our room over the years. We also finally unpacked three boxes that had never been opened since we moved. There was an entire box of picture frames that I didn’t even remember we had! It took me an hour just to get all the pictures out so I could donate the frames to Goodwill.

In the end our room was in much better shape, but it didn’t look like I had imagined it would. Ultimately I want every surface almost empty, with only a few select pictures on the mantel and chest of drawers. We have a lot to do to get there, but the bulk of the purging is done.

I spent Tuesday in my garage, which has been causing me increasing anxiety. Again, I didn’t get nearly as much done as I wanted but the trouble spots are a thousand times better and walking to the laundry machine no longer inspires a panic attack.

I’ve already donated seven garbage bags of clothes (mine and my husband’s) and one bag of shoes to Goodwill, taken four huge bags to the technology drop off, and given five big bags of books to the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library. There are still eight bags of trash we need to get picked up, and two bags of recycling, plus a smaller bag for the shredder.

We got rid or so many books and other junk that we were able to get rid of the bookshelf in our hallway. Today I put a ton of stuff from the garage on free Craigs.list and by noon all of it had been picked up. We really have gotten rid of a TON of stuff–stuff I can’t believe ever made it over here in the move 2.5 years ago.

We did get a lot done, but there is still so much to do. That was always my response when my husband commented on how much we accomplished. If it weren’t so hard to schedule the time to work on this stuff, I don’t think I’d be so disappointed that we didn’t do more, but I’m also exploring why I have such a hard time appreciating what I did get finished.

I do think I’m going to get there, to a place where it feels like we have the right amount of stuff for our family, but I’m realizing that my life won’t be perfect when I do. It’s not that I thought all my difficulties would disappear with my superfluous stuff, but I do think I have expectations for how easy it will be to keep my house in order once it’s all gone, or how good I’ll feel once my house is in order.

I’m exploring those feelings too, all while I sort through all the cleaning supplies under the kitchen and bathroom sinks.

Just What I Needed

A huge thank you to the women who commented on my last post. I feel like I have a much better handle on the whole situation, both why it is difficult for me and how to support my friends in the future. Yesterday I bought my friend my favorite pregnancy book, one that focuses on the preparing yourself mentally and emotionally for the huge transition to motherhood. In the gift card I mentioned that I was always available to listen if she needs me. I hope that gesture will make it clear that I am here to support her in any way. I owe my other friend a thank you note for some beautiful and thoughtful gifts she gave my kids this Christmas. I will include a message in that about being around if she needs to talk. I think these more formal gestures will help me feel that I’ve been intentional enough in showing support for my friends. I do hope they reach out if they need me, I want to be there for them very much.

Yesterday ended up being a strange and wonderful day. I got to school at my regular 6am, but at 6:30 I received a mass text saying that school was closed because of a broken water mane on campus. With no water to flush toilets or combat a possible fire we couldn’t stay open. We had to stay until 8:30am to make sure no families showed up, but the emergency message system must have worked well because we only had to turn away one car.

I was planning on working in my room until the need to pee forced me to a Star.bucks, but then a friend from work that I’ve been making efforts to get closer to found me and we ended up bringing our work to her apartment and watching silly TV while we graded papers and entered scores. It was an awesome three hours of productive work time AND I had a great time with a women whose company I thoroughly enjoy. She even invited me to join her book club!

I called my husband on the way home to tell him who grateful I was for the day; not only did I get caught up on grading, but I got to hang out with a friend. Usually aberration from my regular schedule remind me of how isolated I am; it was such a welcome surprise to have someone to spend yesterday with. I drove to pick up my son feeling refreshed and energized, ready for whatever the rest of the week had to offer. It was so, so nice and I was so, so grateful.

It was just what I needed.

When It Doesn’t Help

I have two friends going through two very different experiences right now, experiences that I myself have already been through. I always appreciate when I can understand what someone is going through because I’ve been through it myself; I rely heavily on my past experiences when I relate to others. Except what happens when my past experiences don’t help me to understand what someone else is going through, because they are clearly processing things in very different ways than I did?

One of my friends is pregnant. She’s in the middle of her second trimester. She didn’t really tell anyone until she was almost 20 weeks. I saw her two times after she was 12 weeks (we don’t see each other very frequently) and she didn’t tell me about it because she didn’t feel ready. She is feeling a lot of ambivalence about being pregnant and having kids though she is clearly really excited (I think–she always told me she didn’t want kids so I was really surprised to hear she was pregnant, I didn’t even realize they were trying).

She is obviously experiencing pregnancy and impending motherhood very differently than I did. When she brings it up I always feel like I say exactly the opposite of what she expects. I know she appreciates hearing about my how I experienced certain aspects of my pregnancies, but I get the feeling what I went through has little relevance to what she is going through. I’m trying to reach out and be there for her in whatever ways she needs me, but I’m increasingly unsure of what those ways are.

My other friend (actually, she is a mutual friend) is trying to get pregnant. From what I understand it’s been about a year, though she wasn’t “really trying” (as she put it) for the first six months. She has been using OPKs since June and had one chemical pregnancy in August (the same month our other friend got pregnant–they were evidently both trying at the same time and had been talking to each other about how it was going).

I have tried to reach out, sending open-ended messages and bringing it up gently when we’re together, but dropping it quickly when she chooses not to pursue the subject. She doesn’t seem upset about any of it. I know she feels some ambivalence about pregnancy and delivery and her overall attitude about having a baby is very different than mine was when I was trying. She seems genuinely okay with the fact that she isn’t pregnant yet; I’m assuming she’s not worried that it hasn’t happened yet but I haven’t asked her about that specifically. I’m never quite sure how to proceed when I talk to her, so usually I just don’t bring it up. She doesn’t seem upset that our friend’s pregnancy started at the same time as hers ended; a situation that would have been really hard for me to handle seems to be a non-issue for her. I know when I was failing to get pregnant it was all I wanted to talk about and I felt nobody understood. I was desperate for someone to recognize my struggle and validate my feelings. It’s hard not to approach her experience with my own in mind, even when it seems clear she is processing it in totally different ways than I did.

I want to be there for my friends, and they are dealing with situations that I have intimate knowledge of, and yet I never seem to know what to say. I never considered the possibility that my friends and I could experience the same things so differently; I feel like my own experiences are actually hindering my ability to relate to them.

Maybe I am over thinking this. Maybe I’m doing a fine job of being there for my friends. I just want to make sure that I’m giving them what they need. I know how hard it was for me when I was trying to get pregnant and then (ironically) when I finally was pregnant–I would hate to find out later that my friends needed support that I wasn’t providing. Even if our shared experiences don’t help me relate to what they are going through, I hope it will at least ensure that I reach out in the ways I wished others had reached out to me (even when I had no idea what I needed or how to ask for it).

So how to proceed? Do I tell them how I’m feeling, assure them I want to support them in any way I can and ask them what they need? Or do I just try to push my own experiences to the background and attempt to intuit their needs based on the cues they give? I want to be a good friend, and I’m kind of flabbergasted that, in these two situations, I really don’t know how.

Have shared experiences ever hindered your ability to relate to those you wanted to support? How did you handle it?