Zen Purgatory

Microblog_MondaysSummer is my season, if only because it supplies the rare opportunity to relax into a natural schedule not governed by outside demands – eat when the body is hungry, sleep when the body is tired, feed the mind with books, toss out the vitamin D supplements and take a walk without a jacket, play with the dog – but in the days after we returned from our trip, I found myself floundering anxiously somewhere in the vestibule between Dakota and the four frosties. Up until that point, I had been steeped happily in the euphoria of closing out the school year and anticipating our pastoral West Coast adventure, followed by all the indulgences of wine, food finery, redwoods, and the rugged sea. We landed back in New York on a Sunday afternoon, and by 5am on Monday morning I was battling the traffic to go for monitoring at the Big House in Basking Ridge and launching my FET cycle. It was all a pretty abrupt change of pace, the loud hammering and general ugliness of Staten Island road construction in the blinding sun of a cloudless sky mirroring the inner climate of awakened anxieties and stark realities. Without work as a distraction, it’s easy for me to slip into those familiar patterns of obsessive worry, whiling away these precious weeks in misery over feared outcomes I can no further influence, squandering this gift of time. I felt myself spinning, and in seeking solid ground, I returned to meditation. Specifically, I bought Jon Kabat-Zinn’s series on iTunes after watching some of his lectures on YouTube. Here’s the one:

Somewhere around the 16-minute mark he starts to say,

…whatever thought or emotion, for that matter, arises within you in any moment – you can be aware of it, and in being aware of it, you modulate and shift and change the energy of that thought or that emotion; and a lot of our thoughts and emotions are actually destructive, toxic, dangerous, harmful to ourselves as well as leading to harmful actions to others, and if we have no relationship to those thoughts – if we are, sort of, basically out of relationship to them as thoughts – then what would we do? One: we’ll experience them as the truth, and we will act on them in ways that are completely deluded…So this awareness that is cultivated by paying attention, intentionally, on purpose, in the present moment. Why in the present moment? Because that’s the only moment we’re ever alive in, so you can’t pay attention in the past, and you can’t pay attention in the future, and to the degree that you can pay attention to the past or pay attention to whatever we call the future, that is happening in the present, so the future and the past are actually completely embedded in now…Now if we’re interested in living our lives, say, as if they really mattered, and, of course, if you’re missing most of your moments, that’s not a good prescription for living your life as if it really matters because of lot of what happens when you’re out to lunch matters.

In previous cycles, I have fallen victim to that soul-sucking hobgoblin, IVF’s terrible sidekick: the fear, the feelings of hopelessness and self-loathing, the labyrinthine mental circles of fretting and postulating, the hawkish analysis of my body. Perhaps it’s just wisdom accumulated from experience, having subjected myself to this process enough times that I can put treatment in its proper place as one part of my life instead of a central and dominating conquest. I can’t help but think of this clever taxonomy from Tertia’s book:

* Your eternal optimistic/newly diagnosed/completely uninvolved infertile doesn’t need too much in the way of special friendship; she believes the problem is temporary and will get resolved soon.  She doesn’t feel different, broken, or an outcast.

* Your longer term/highly involved/high-tech infertile is a tricky beast–one to be handled with great caution and kid gloves.  She feels alienated from society and carries great pain and angst in her soul.  She may not show it all the time, but she has a very sensitive, raw spot that is easily bruised.

* Then you get the hardcore veteran (aka the good-humored veteran) who’s been at it for so long, it’s become part of who she is.  The hardcore vet has gone through the great angst and intense pain  of the dark years and has come out realising that while infertility is unbelievably hard, it doesn’t have to be all-consuming.  Instead of crying, she laughs.  Because infertility can actually be a comedy of errors (58).

I think I must have finally earned my V (for veteran) card. So early each morning, once my husband leaves for work, I pull on my bikini and cover up, slide into a worn pair of leather flip-flops, and drive with the moon roof open over the causeway that traverses the bay; I walk nearly a mile along the boardwalk over the dunes through a small forest of beach shrubbery until I get to the lighthouse, where I cut down to the ocean; I unroll my blanket on an isolated patch of sand and settle into my headphones amid the sea spray to honor my life as it is right now for half an hour. This thoughtful defense of the present moment strengthens my resolve to fend off the beast, to protect and cherish the treasures of now rather than wishing away time in pursuit of resolution. After all, what could be so terrible and so pressing as to cause such strife when Monday morning looks like this?

17 thoughts on “Zen Purgatory

  1. Lovely. Thank you for sharing the meditation, and the taxonomy… I hope that the meditation helps with the anxiety of a cycle amidst downtime. I can commiserate, because I always felt that work made me sane because I could just throw myself into it and be a somewhat normal human, falling apart only at home. I didn’t have time to obsess as much. But, meditating on the beach sounds amazing. I wish you all the best for this cycle.


    • I’m sure there are some falling apart moments to come (err…2WW hell) but we do what we can. I tried to comment on your post but it won’t let me, so I’ll just say here that your trip looks like it was lovely and perfect. I’ve always wanted to visit Acadia via Bar Harbor, and I’m especially happy to hear how you have reclaimed it for yourself.


  2. A completely different situation, but this is what I needed to hear today. Perhaps in every difficult situation, you reach a veteran point where you do have that perspective that you will survive, that there is more than the struggle right now.


  3. I think the taxonomy is spot on… After having a hard cry in my hotel room this week while waiting for retrieval at CCRM, I decided to surrender as I cannot control the outcome of my infertility. I do not have a say.

    I am not experiencing the joys of each day allowing my happiness to rest in something that may never come to fruition. Now that I am on the heels of 40, life seems to be moving faster and faster. I have so many things in addition to motherhood that need to get done, this week I chose to start living again and it feels much better.

    Yes, you have indeed earned your veteran card. God knows you have been through a lot and manage to find strength to rebound. The timing of your post was perfect, thank you! Wishing you the best with the upcoming FET.


    • I had a moment like that in a Denver high-rise apartment that we rented for my 3rd CCRM banking cycle. Things seemed bleak then, probably because I was so depleted from the process and terribly anxious about verdicts down the pike. I can only say that those feelings, like most things in life, had an expiration date. Hang in there xo


  4. Reminds me of CBT. Awareness of negative/destructive/unhelpful thoughts so you can change the way you’re thinking. Thoughts influence behaviour so of course how we think, especially about ourselves, is important.

    A beautiful spot. I need more beach days.


    • I’m not sure any amount of therapy could have gotten me here sooner than now, but I sure am glad I can see it this way in this time/space. Somehow we have to find a way to live meaningfully as we are subject to the most absurd delays and roadblocks to moving forward.


      • Completely agree. I think there’s a timeline for grief that’s unique tiki each of us, and while therapy and meditation can help us sort through things, I don’t think it moves the timeline up unless we’re really resisting letting go. Hoping your roadblocks clear soon, and the path is well-lit and trip-hazard free.


  5. Nature is always a soothing balm for me.
    The 2ww is such a turbulent wave – the anticipatory expectant highs and the anxious self-doubting lows. This veteran is wishing you much Zen and ‘living in the moment’.


    • Nature, yes, is often my go-to. I’ve spent a lot of time this summer (when not at the beach) hiking, gardening, and chasing the sunset. My cycle was canceled due to yet another improbably mishap (ovulated through the meds) so, Serenity Now!


  6. Thanks for sharing the video, some great messages there, and the photo. The beach looks marvelous. The taxonomy is spot-on.

    Hoping things go well and that you’re able to continue to live in the moment. That beach spot, however, looks like a wonderful place to find balance and center.


    • I’ve managed to stay surprisingly centered given all the realities. I’m not sure where this came from, but I’m milking the zen for all it’s worth!


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