“Perfectionist” never resonated with me as a label, a descriptor, until I met my therapist, and even then I found it somewhat insulting because he attached it to the way I “present [myself], aesthetically.” I thought, Pfffttt, this guy is way off. I’m a procrastinator, even a slob in some ways, the keeper of a household and workspace that one can only describe as an evolving organized chaos, and I’ve always struggled so much with time management and organization. This image of neatly pressed shirts, an immaculate desk, neurotic punctuality – well, it just didn’t fit, or so I thought. In time my definition broadened, and by using it as a lens through which to view my frustrations with a life that seems to have veered wildly off course, I gained a profound introspective insight. (Guess I got my money’s worth.) Ultimately, there are assumptions so central to our perceptions that we fail to recognize them, like a fish so immersed in the water that he’s oblivious of its existence.
I D O N ‘ T F A I L .
Of course, we all fail here and there, but I have always seen that as a short-term problem. Tenacity, resourcefulness – these have been the basic tenets of my ruthless climb from the trenches of poverty, abuse, and a household polluted by addiction and aggression. I meet failure on the battleground, not in the church pew, not in the Buddhist monastery, so rethinking and plowing ahead has been my savior, sparing me from falling into the sad rhythm of my family’s legacy. In that vein, it shouldn’t surprise anyone, that I coped with the loss of Dakota by goal-setting – Whole 30, the 10K, and reinstated plans to shoot boudoir photos for my husband’s 40th birthday, except now I just feel like I’ve failed at a multitude of things:
1. Work became so overwhelming at the end that something had to give, so I nixed my early morning jogs to meet those demands. I fell behind on my training, terribly out of shape as I am/was from pregnancy and sickness that left me couch-ridden. We went to Shelter Island for the race anyway, and I was planning to suffer through it, unprepared as I was. Then I drank a lot of wine the night before, whooping it up al fresco with my oysters and steak, so I woke up too sleep-deprived and dehydrated to run anywhere. The death knell was the thunderstorm that opened up an hour before the race, which I spent listening to a 3-piece string outfit playing covers at the bar of the Ram’s Head Inn and generally feeling like a loser.
2. I faithfully completed Whole 30 in hopes that the structure would wrench me out of my gluttonous rut. No. I am a fat, bloated cow (replete with baby weight) from the past month of reverting right back to eating and drinking my feelings, which is just perfect for bathing suit season.
3. As a result of points one and two, I am canceling the sexy portrait session – no need to memorialize my flub and cellulite in a bunch of absurd-looking lingerie.
4. I failed to create and carry a live, healthy baby, and my failure subjected both me and my husband to a torment I had always respectfully regarded with a sentiment along the lines of anything but that, the true root of all this self-loathing.
After a gamut of cyst-related delays, FET plans are (probably) moving forward this summer, and I’m consumed with fear that I will only mount failure on failure, like a soldier who just watched his brother-in-arms die in combat boarding a plane for another tour of duty where he’s bound to win some and lose some. I want to say that it won’t fail because I can’t afford that with my bankrupt stores of resilience, but it’s out of my control. Since one does not die from IVF failure any more than they do from 2nd trimester loss, the recuperation would presumably unfold similarly: wake up in the morning, heart still beating even when you might wish faintly that it wouldn’t, and try to get out of bed, wash your hair, feed the dog. I see, for all the women who abandoned the quest for biological children, why you redefined what ‘winning’ looks like, but I still have these four little lives in the freezer who bind me to this process, with my sense of self-efficacy resting on the odds of a coin toss.