Are They Thinking It Too?

A mini post about something that, of course, caught me off guard and has been bugging me a bit.

Do the mothers think of us non-mothers in a group conversation?

A few weeks ago I attended the biggest convention of my life; 7000 people big.Which means I met a lot of incredible people and I had to give my elevator speech of who I am many times over.

There is always that part...the part where you share about your family and my response is one not many people identify with, "No, we don't have kids, we tried but can't have them."

Sometimes the conversation ends there, sometimes they try to fix my pain and offer the usual quick fix of adoption and other times they lovingly want to know more.

But then as the weekend goes on and I as get to know these incredible women and am having so much fun the conversation inevitably turns to their kids and being mothers.

And I am left without the experience to contribute and completely in my head.

Sometimes I wonder, do they ever stop and think of us?

Do they ever have that moment of

Poor Justine, we're just talking about our kids and she's over there and she can't have them.

Or do they never have that thought and I am just personalizing all of it way too much?

But, I know I am not the only one out there who has felt this way. So my question, for our recovery, is what do we do with this?

I think our job is to make sure to stay engaged. If we disengage from the conversation completely we lose connection. And, we already feel lonely enough as women without children in our society. So we must engage and look for that moment to contribute to the conversation or maybe even change the subject.

 
 

Or maybe one day, we can brave enough to just call it out and just state the awkwardness that we are feeling, and maybe they are too.

What I know for sure is that I will continue this work in rising ever upward to always be engaged in my life, even when I am feeling that sense of not fitting in. Especially because, most likely, it is in my head and only my perception that is causing that feeling.

And that, is completely changeable and in my control.

I'd love to hear what your experiences have been. How do you handle this part of the infertility and childfull journey? What about all you mothers out there, what are your experiences?

Shifting the Definition of Success

She is out there; for all the world to love and judge. She has been born; for all the world to embrace or reject.

She is shining bright; whether or not she sells or bombs.

At this point the making of Ever Upward has been years, and as of last week she has now been born into this big, scary and incredible world.

And, it feels awesome.

 
 

Saturday was my first book signing in a real book store. I went in with absolutely no expectations, or at least I tried as the very normal human being that I am.

No expectations=no disappointment.

Right?

And, just like everything else in this incredible journey, He had a lesson for me.

I had 20 people RSVP for the Facebook invite. The store manage at Barnes & Noble said that if I sold 10 books it would be considered a very successful signing.

Part of me me thought for sure this was doable. And of course, that perfectionist part of me desperately wanted those 10 sales, better yet 11!

But then there was reality. It was a super nice day in St. Louis on Saturday, which is sometimes hard to find in early Spring. I am a first time author. And, my book is about one of the most shamed and misunderstood topics in our society.

Shit, I'd be lucky if I sold a couple books. And 45 minutes into the signing, I had settled for selling even just 1.

Panic did try to settle in off and on, especially those first 45 minutes.

But, I fought her off by choosing my perspective. I practiced gratitude.

I am an author. I am an author signing her first book in a real bookstore. 

God, I am grateful.

And of course, He quickly started showing exactly why I was there that day for my first book signing.

And, it was not to sell books. For the record, I only sold 3 or 4 that day and only a few of those 20 RSVPs showed up.

I was there to connect and educate people.

First, was the older woman who stopped by and told me about her grown children who went through infertility. As we chatted, she was adamant that they got kids though so they are completely fine and would not need my book. You can bet I took that moment. I pointed out that part of the title is Lifelong because the infertility journey changes us forever, even if you do get the happy, healthy kids out of it.

No sale but she promised to tell her kids about the book.

Next there was the woman who looked at me with the fellow warrior compassion and said, "I had to go through infertility too and it didn't work for me either." She then told me about her two amazing daughters she adopted from China. We talked about the childfull life and the scars that the infertility journey leaves us with.

No sale but we connected as mothers, her as a mother to her adopted girls and me as a childfull mother.

That perfectionistic panic and doubt tried really hard to take over here. If I couldn't get these two women to buy my book, then I did not stand a chance of making one sale today.

And then He gifted me the moment that the entire day was for.

A mother and her three kids were lingering by the table, I smiled and said, "Hi!"

The mother then pushed the younger daughter forward and said, "She would really just like to meet a real life author."

My heart soared and I smiled hugely, "I guess that is me, I am a real life author now."

The girl, maybe 10 or 11 years old came right up.

"How do you exactly write a book?" she asked excitedly.

 
 

As I am telling her my book writing process her mom picks up Ever Upward to read the cover and the back cover, she lights up, "They're IVF babies!" as she places her hands on the tops of the girl's and her twin brother's heads.

She goes on to explain that they both know how hard mom and dad had to fight to get them and how they are products of infertility treatments. And then her eyes fill with tears as she realizes that infertility did not work for me. I tell her that Ever Upward is about my journey, defining my own happy ending and how I live a childfull life.

And, that I am okay.

The conversation continued with much excitement. I gave the little girl an Ever Upward journal, "For free!?!", she exclaimed. And she asked me to sign it.

I made her promise that she would write in it every day for at least 30 minutes because this helps our creative writing muscle grow. Her mom then explained that she would be homeschooling next year and she looked at her daughter and said, "Maybe she will be your English pen pal? Why don't you ask her?"

I of course said yes. As they walked away, I took that all familiar deep knowing breath and felt my soul settle, tears came to my eyes and I got it.

No sale but an amazing moment of childfull living.

That is ever upward.

I was in the bathroom when they were checking out with their other purchases, the little girl was upset when I wasn't at the table anymore. When she realized I hadn't left she ran up and gave me a huge, and quite possibly, the best hug ever. I reminded her to keep writing and to definitely email me.

I pray I hear from her and I pray her mom knows how much that moment meant to me. And best of all, I am so thankful that some of my closest friends and my family were there to share this with me.

I have always known Ever Upward was not about the royalty pay outs or the fame. But, society (and my own perfectionism) can really challenge this truth at times. I am thankful that through practicing my daily work in recovery, I was open enough to accept the gift of what my book signing was really meant to be for and mean; connection and education.

Doing this work allows me to be open to what He has in store for me, the true gifts. It is only through this lifelong work that I allow it to be good.

Better than good; ever upward.

~~~

If you have read Ever Upward, leaving a review on Amazon helps in the exposure the book gets on search engines and I appreciate the feedback so much. Please consider leaving a review.

National Infertility Awareness Week is next week. Please consider viewing, sharing and telling CNN that my iReport story needs to be featured. Help those still in the trenches of infertility and those of us who it didn't work for know they are not alone.

Celebrating To Embrace Jealousy

The commercials have started airing to remind us all to get the perfect gift for some of the hardest working people on earth; mothers. I will assume I don't have to go into exactly why Mother's Day tends to be difficult for us women who are childfree whether by choice, chance or circumstance. And, rest assured, you are safe to assume I have a post scheduled for Mother's Day anyway ;). As a woman who can't have children, seeing these commercials or hearing my loved one's Mother's Day plans is some of the, thankfully few and far between, times I feel my jealously come up. Admittedly, it is scary and difficult to even type that sentence...

Throughout my work of recovery I have come to understand jealously a little differently. It first started at the Emerging Women conference last October in Boulder when I saw an interview with Tami Simon and Alanis Morissette. Tami interviewed Alanis about the book she is writing and about her work with Relationships First. One of the points she spoke about was what she thinks the difference between jealousy and envy is. She said that jealousy is about connection; that when we are jealous of someone or something it is about self improvement, we want it too. But when we are envious of something we not only want it for ourselves but we want to take it away from the other person, making it not about connection but disconnection. She used a really simple example of her hair. She said something to the effect that she knew many of us in the audience were jealous of how great her hair looked (it was the shiniest most beautiful head of hair I've ever seen). She said that some of us were probably jealous of it (for me, she was completely saw my green accurately). She said we just wanted some of the hair gods to shine on us too. So her suggestion was to go out and buy the pomade she used to make it look that gorgeous. She then explained that if we were envious of her hair it would be more about chopping it off her head for ourselves so that not even she could have the luxury of this beautiful mane.

This definition makes sense to me. And, by this definition, I am jealous that the majority of women get to be mothers and I don't, but I am not envious. I am sure of this because it is one of the best parts of my life, and of my recovery, to see my loved ones be mothers.

And yet, I will admit feeling this jealousy doesn't necessarily feel good either. Through my recovery I have found that there are times I need to allow myself to feel sorry for myself, to feel that jealousy. To ask the impossible questions of why didn't I get to be a mom? Why does she? To feel that jealousy consume me, especially around the holidays or the first days of school or any other popular put your kids on your social media wall day. Don't get me wrong, I love seeing these pictures and posts and it isn't uncommon that I am showing your adorable children to my friends and family but I would be lying if I didn't admit that when I only have dog pictures to post, even though they are literally the cutest pups ever, my green eyed jealousy monster definitely rears it's ugly head.

But if I allow these thoughts and feelings to overtake my light my recovery suffers. For me the only way through this jealousy, to embrace and truly own it, has been through celebrating. I didn't know I was celebrating until a client of mine told me about one of her church small groups where they talked about celebrating as the cure to jealousy.

 
 

That's exactly what I do, I cure my jealousy through celebrating the very things I so badly want for myself in others. I surround myself with my chosen children because through this celebration my jealousy wanes. I ask to be as involved as possible in my friends' parenting and in their childrens' lives because through this celebration my jealousy loses some of it's negative power.

This concept is not easy, but it is very simple.

And, for me, it works. Celebrating through my jealousy provides me with what life is all about, connection. Sitting in jealousy doesn't feel good and celebrating others' happy feels pretty amazing, simple but not an easy choice but a choice nonetheless. Besides, I know that my mom friends can sometimes have some jealousy of what my childfree life provides me.

If we aren't careful we can all get tripped up on wanting what we don't have and staying stuck in jealousy. And while, I will always suffer the lifelong losses and costs of infertility and my childfree life, I am also learning that I have some amazing things to be thankful for only because of this very bittersweet journey I have been on.

I don't want to be angry or envious, so I will allow myself to sit with jealousy but just for a bit. Then I will take that breath, find my gratitude and celebrate through to embrace it because only then do I honor my ever upward.

The Almost Enough Moments

I've been having a slight existential crisis lately; between finishing up the book, Ever Upward and coming up on a year of submitting to agents and publishers (over 220 of them) and the success (although the desire for more) of this blog and my continued journey in finding my faith again and today being the two year anniversary of the bittersweet day of the last negative pregnancy test, ending IVF and learning to accept a childfree life; I am finding myself feeling all sides of everything, over-feeling and over-thinking, doubting and just plain struggling.

How can I balance this desire for the blog to blow up and the book to get published, both for validation of my story and for the wider outreach to help others but also because I think it just has to with knowing my story has already touched and helped so many? How do I let go and trust that what is meant to happen will happen, as it has never been in my hands to begin with?

How do we sit with the be all, end all questions, what is this all supposed to mean? Why did this happen?

Aren't we all wondering the why?

Why does the 35 year old mother of two young children get late stage colorectal cancer?

Why did he cheat?

Why did she have to die?

Why did he have to fall?

Why did they leave?

Why didn't I die?

Why are they lying?

Why did this have to happen???

Why?

But, I'm not sure we will ever get to know the why.

And, what I think I am learning is that some of our answers can maybe be found in our almost enough moments.

 
 

You know those moments where you look up (to who or whatever you believe in, for me it is God) and say okay, I get it. I would not have this if that had all worked out. Or I would not have this if I had not lost that. But really, that just doesn't feel like it's quite enough? So we question it; I get it, I'm thankful, but it's still not enough for all that pain, all that suffering, the never to be's; I sure hope you have more, better, in the works.

I am also learning we all have to figure out how to open ourselves up to these almost enough moments, really embracing their capacity for awe.

Can I have the presence and gratitude to embrace that piece of almost enough? And, have the faith that I might get to see the pieces all fit together one day? Better yet, can I have the presence and gratitude, and patience, enough to have the faith that I just may not get to see them all fit together and that the almost enough is, well, enough?

Because without a doubt, I have some pretty amazing almost enough moments...

Being McKinley's godparents.

Being asked to be in the delivery room to help bring baby Smith into this world.

Having every moment with our chosen family.

Attending all the piano recitals, church concerts and ball games of all our chosen children.

My friends through Emerging Women, The Daring Way™ certification and this blog.

Our Christmas morning tradition of going to see what Santa brought our chosen children.

The healing journey of writing my book.

A better marriage.

Building our family home, Mason house, for all our friends and family to grow and enjoy with us.

The continuing journey of my blog.

Becoming a better therapist.

Our dogs.

 
 

My improved relationships.

The happier, healthier me.

Fighting for me, fighting for my recovery and rediscovering my light.

I could go on and on, because I am able to wholeheartedly say, the list of my almost enough moments truly is endless.

My soul will always have the scars of my three lost babies, of three lost dreams, of three never to be's. But, I can choose if this is my whole story and I can also choose to move forward, having the faith that everything is exactly as it is supposed to be, no matter the why.

But, can I trust and have the patience that these almost enough moments will lead me to more understanding and that my suffering, better yet, my story, will end exactly as it is meant to? Learning to have the patience and faith that I just might never get that final moment of what I think would be completion, understanding and the good enough reason for my sufferings.

So I must figure out how to be okay with that. I must learn to be whole without those enough moments. Trusting that the sole purpose I think I have found is really only my plan, and I'm not sure I really get that say.

But I also have to keep that in check with this part of me that yearns for my losses to mean something bigger; to change the world and help others. It is this part that asks, why else would I have been given this path in life? Why else would I have suffered the way I have and lost what I have? What would the point be of that? Am I that undeserving? Or is this my punishment for something? Surely, it has to mean something; two back surgeries, a year in a body cast, two rounds of failed IVF with a surrogate, three lost babies and fighting for recovery can't just be it, can it?

And, there it is again... Why did this have to happen to me?

I am not sure these questions come from the best part of me. However, I also know I wouldn't be honoring myself if I didn't allow this doubt a space to question; and maybe that is the point exactly.

There is only so much we are capable of, and probably allowed to, understand in this life. Maybe, it will always be this constant balance between finding my purpose through my story of struggle, making sure it means something more, at least to me, and trusting that it will still mean just as much without the soul completing clarity I so desire.

Because, all those almost enough moments...well, maybe it's up to me to embrace them as my ever upward, which really makes them the more than enough moments.

But, it has only been through my sufferings and my fight for recovery that I have been able to really see, let alone embrace, these moments as being more than enough.

 
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This is ever upward.

My recovery.

My story.

My purpose.

My path.

My light.

And even, my soul scars.

Allowing every single almost enough moment to really be more than enough...this is my ever upward.

Mourning What Should Have Been

I significant part of me cringes as I put the word should in the title of this post. As a therapist who works some using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) I have attempted to erase should from my vocabulary. I also work with my clients to do the same. As some CBT therapists say, "Don't should all over yourself!" Should is typically riddled with guilt and shame and just yuck. What do we need and want? Not, what should we... Change should to need or want and feel the difference, both when you speak to yourself and when expecting things from your loved ones. I should go to the gym.

Do I need or want to go to the gym?

He/She should know how I'm feeling right now.

I need to tell him/her how I feel and what I want.

I shouldn't feel sad any longer.

Do I need or want to figure out this sadness still?

~~~~

I wrote my first post for Ever Upward five short months ago. Never could I have dreamed how much my life would change. Never could I have dreamed how many amazing people I would "meet". Never could I have dreamed how much our stories are all connected and the embrace I've felt through this connection.

This connection has only been further solidified through my participation in Momastery's Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project. Our stories, all messy and all beautiful, are what connect us to one another. I think, our stories, even more so, are what connect us back to ourselves. And, it seems our stories tend to have the major theme I often times see with my clients every day: mourning what should have been or what we thought should have been.

I think at times, at least for me, it can feel like these should have beens determine my everything; my every day, and even my every minute. And if I don’t practice the work of my recovery, I risk the should have beens taking over and defining my entire being. Just Google something like letting go of what isn’t and you will be overwhelmed by thousands of quotes on how we must let go of what isn’t in order to make room for what can be. In reality, this has probably been the major encompassing theme of Ever Upward from the beginning.

But what is striking me the most lately, is how much we judge others or lack empathy for others in regards to their mourning of their should have beens; their losses, their stories.

The very stories that seem and feel so different than ours, but I am realizing are so very much the same.

 
 

We all have should have beens…

I should have gone to school sooner.

I shouldn't have stayed so long.

I should have enjoyed my younger years more.

I should be able to forgive this by now.

I should have taken better care of my body.

I should have been more honest.

They shouldn’t have left me.

I should be better by now.

I should have left them.

I should be over this.

This list could go on and on. Ultimately, aren't we all just trying to figure out how to let go of what didn't turn out? To redefine after all our shoulds didn't come true?

And of course, there are the should have beens of motherhood and family, especially considering these are the ones that seem to go unspoken and judged the most.

Your child was born premature, you didn't get to hold him/her for weeks or months and you didn’t get that happy bring them home day or first few months.

You were miserably sick your entire pregnancy and you honestly hated every second of it, while also being so thankful for it and therefore felt guilty.

You lost a child way too early for anyone to bear, let alone understand the lifelong losses that come with that grief.

You were never able to even hold that child or only held that child for a few heartbreaking but  amazing hours.

You only achieved pregnancy through infertility measures and will never get to have wild drunk sex that ends up in your blessing of a child 40 weeks later.

You feel sad and guilty and mad that you didn’t start trying sooner.

You weren't planning on getting pregnant and therefore spent most of it scared to death rather than relishing every second of it.

You are a birth mom.

You are a mom mom.

You adopted your child or children or embryos and are so thankful for children but grieve that you will never get to see you and your partner’s genes combine.

You will never get to experience pregnancy yourself.

You have had to make major IVF decisions such as how many embryos to transfer, what to do with leftover embryos, what happens if you can’t afford another round of treatments, etc., etc.

You are blessed with one or two or even three children but always wanted a big family and it doesn’t seem to be happening, you feel the gamut of sadness, anger and guilt coupled with how lucky and blessed you are to have any children.

You are a stay at home mom but wish you were working.

You are a working mom but wish you were a stay at home mom.

You have a happy and healthy children but your friends don't, and you feel blessed and lucky but guilty, especially when sometimes you'd really like Sunday completely to yourself, on the couch watching The Walking Dead all day long.

Your infertility is due to one partner or maybe the combination of you together and it creates frustration, sadness, guilt and maybe even blame.

I am sure I am missing many, many more here.

And then there is my story, I wanted to a mom, I tried to a mom but it is not my journey to have. And I’ve worked to accept a childfree life and fight for my recovery. But now for the first time, I am beginning to experience those feelings of relief, calm and even gratitude when my chosen children don’t come home with us or they go to their own homes after visiting. Or that our Sunday is filled with whatever we want, even that day long marathon of The Walking Dead. Or that I don’t have to negotiate over meal time or wake up at the crack of dawn.

 
 

Does that mean I didn’t want our three babies enough? Does that mean I’m not sad anymore? Or does that simply mean I’m figuring out how to let go of what I wanted and hoped for. That I am figuring out my mourning for what should have been, and learning to accept my true childfree life.

It’s all so complicated; neither story better or worse or more difficult than the other. It’s just life, which includes suffering for us all. And it is our sufferings and our recoveries from them that make us who we are. As David Brooks wrote for the New York Times in his article titled What Suffering Does, “Recovering from suffering is not like recovering from a disease. Many people don’t come out healed; they come out different.”

But it is through this ongoing process of healing, of figuring out what comes after the should have been, that we find ourselves and our story again.

Because, who are we to have the power to say what should have been?

I am not meant to be a mother.

Should I have been?

Perhaps, but continuing to insist on the should only denies my truth.

But more importantly, who are we to judge or question one’s grief around these sufferings or losses? Who are we to judge one for how they mourn their should have beens? Who are we to dare ask, "When are you going to get over it?"

I think we must figure out how we can we give ourselves, and others, permission to mourn their should have beens? Can we give ourselves, and others, permission to feel it all; the blessings, the lucky, the anger, the sadness, the guilt, and even, the shame.

Because, really it is through these permissions that our recoveries can begin. It is within these permissions that I finally put the puzzles pieces into my bigger life story. It is within these permissions that I can allow myself the relief, and even gratitude, of a childfree life while also, at the very same time, feeling my sadness, anger and envy of your childfull life.

It is within these permissions that we open up the space and light for the mourning of what should have been to become what needs to be.

It is within these permissions that I have found my purpose, and of course, my ever upward.

What are your should have beens? How do you practice your recovery to make the should have beens become the need to bes?

More Than Brevity

Taking the scariest step in my short writing career, I nearly panicked when I submitted to a well known mom blog as a childfree mother. And yet, here I am, in complete awe of the warm embrace I’ve received from the light and love of this ever upward lighted path.

 
 

This post inspired by the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge: Fifty

WRITE YOUR FIRST “FIFTY”: No rules. Just stick to the word count — no more, no less than fifty words.

The Myriagon of Ever Upward Light

A myriagon is a polygon with 10,000 sides. A shape that can look much like a circle with as many sides as Ever Upward has now been viewed all over the world in 43 different countries.

 
 

The circle that has encompassed my healing, recovery and my ever upward light and love. In celebration of how much Ever Upward has changed and enhanced my life I thought I'd recap a little with a few top five lists. So, here are my top five most viewed posts and my top five most commented on posts. However, I also wanted to include the posts that have been the most difficult to write but also the most healing and helpful for myself in writing and publishing.

Top 5 Most Viewed Posts

5. Tread or Float

4. Taking Off the Armor of My "Choice"

3. 41 Often Silenced, and Left Out, Parts of Our IVF Stories

2. Conceiving Our Chosen Family

1. The Paradox of Letting Go: 5 Things We Continuously Hold On To

Top 5 Most Commented on Posts

5. Self Validation: Finding the Balance Between Proving It and Owning It

4. My Child-Full Christmas: Making My Own Christmas Magic

3. My First Step Out of Rock Bottom to Start My Walk on the Moon

2. The Almost Finished, Yet Unpublished, Ever Upward

1. Taking Off the Armor of My "Choice"

Top 5 of My Most Healing Posts

5. My Dementor: Shame and Self Doubt

4. Making Room For the Light

3. The Frankenstein Walk of Feeling Left Behind: But I'm Still Here

2. I Am a Mother, a Mother to My Magic

1. 41 Often Silenced, and Left Out, Parts of Our Stories

Even More Than Family: The Power of Connection

Sitting back home in cold, but thank God sunny, Iowa helping my family through a life changing injury and scare I am overwhelmed by the sense of connection and love that has been demonstrated to us in the last four days. Monday my sister called in a panic, our dad had had an accident but she didn't know any information; I was out of town visiting friends in Vegas, my sister lives in Florida and my parents are back home in Iowa. We both were literally stuck on opposite sides of the country with only the phone calls from my mom back home in the chaos of the hospital in Iowa.

Living everyone's biggest nightmare, especially in how powerless I think we all felt.

We both started making phone calls for help to family, friends and neighbors. We took to social media both for sending out updates but most importantly for seeking out thoughts, prayers, love and strength.

 
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Ask and it shall be delivered.

We are so overwhelmed by and grateful for the love and strength that has been delivered to us over the last four days; every message, every email and text, every voicemail, every visit and every prayer. Not only has the support been amazing for us but we have no doubt it has been part of the miracle of dad's healing.

He has a long road of healing and follow up appointments ahead all but things look good for a full recovery. And sitting here, writing and updating the blog as he rests I am filled with love, hope and healing. Writing Ever Upward has brought me so much in connection with others. Experiencing this tragic scare this week has only solidified how much power connection has. Connection to family, connection to friends, and connection to strangers all across the world. This is what life is about, both during the amazingly beautiful times and the tragically powerless times.

Because, only through this love and connection can we all heal and find our ever upward.

My Dementor: Shame and Self Doubt

Today I gave a presentation for a Lunch and Learn at a major corporation here in Saint Louis. This is my sixth Lunch and Learn with them. I always have good attendance, great feedback and they actually pay me to speak.

And yet this morning as I over-prepared, I literally made myself sick with anxiety and self doubt.

Because, today I spoke on Wholehearted Parenting.

And, I am not a parent.

And, I was scared shitless.

A few days ago my shame consumed me as the presentation got closer; "I am not a parent and I am speaking on parenting". I remind myself that this is also major public information now.

The self doubt settling over me like a thick fog casting fear inside my very core.

Shame.

Fucking shame.

Like the dementor to my light, stealing my voice, sucking away my soul, leaving my heart empty.

I reached out to my friend,Janine, who organizes the talks and she of course gave me an amazing pep talk. And then last night my friend and colleague reminded me that I am actually a parent. Kelly's words will forever and always mean the world to me. She said that I parent as much as she does, just in different ways; I parent my dogs and I parent all of the children in my life and that most of all I parent my clients. In many ways therapy is like parenting or even re-parenting with clients. She parents her two boys, but my audience of children is simply bigger as this is my purpose, and my path.

I cried and took in her words because I knew they were my truth. I drew in a deep knowing breath and thanked her for reminding me of my light. She reminded me of what I know every day in many ways, I wasn't given the chance or blessing of my own children because I am meant for this greatness of working with clients, writing and helping others. It's neither better nor worse or more or less important, it's just different.

 
 

So, this morning before I walked into that board room I wrote myself a permission slip, just like we ask ourselves and clients to do as they work through The Daring Way™ curriculum. I wrote myself my permission slip and set it right beside my notes.

I have permission to be scared. I have permission to not be parent enough. I have permission to know, and own, that I know what I am talking about and that I can help even though I am not a parent in the traditional sense.

And so I spoke. And I was painfully vulnerable in owning to them that I am not a parent but that I was there to teach them about wholehearted parenting. I called out my own imposter syndrome, and let them in to my world: I don't get to be a parent but I can still help you be a better one I think.

I also stated that I am the right person to do that because, one, I actually have the time to read the research and parenting books because I wasn't able to be a mom. And two, I parent every single day, just not my own children (and according to Kelly this probably means my house is cleaner, I am more well rested and I have more sex).

I was real, I was vulnerable and I allowed my brilliant light to outshine my shame. And because I fought for that bravery, I connected and delivered one of my best lectures. And I have no doubt that there will be some families this weekend with some new language and new ways to love and parent because of that hour we spent together today.

Doing the work of recovery and learning shame resilience doesn't mean we won't experience shame. It simply means that we will be able to better cope with it when it does come in.

Shame is my dementor. And it has been very ominous this week, floating over me threatening to take my spirit with this parenting presentation and with more activity from agents and publishers on Ever Upward, the book. But that self doubt has been further shattered today by the success of my last post. A post that I struggled with so much to write and didn't think was my best work; damn art of letting go. And yet, it has been viewed over 450 times in two days, breaking my record of daily views today alone.

I almost let shame and self doubt stop me from writing that post earlier this week, I almost let it steal my light this whole week, and especially today.

It was only through courage, compassion and connection  that ever upward prevailed.

What do you need to give yourself permission to do, say or feel in the crazy journey of life or in your recovery? How can you practice courage, compassion and connection to remind yourself of your ever upward light? 

**This prompt later linked with the WordPress Daily Prompt: The Great PretenderAre you full of confidence or have you ever suffered from Imposter Syndrome? Tell us all about it.**

Fill in your _________________.

My mission of Ever Upward has been clear from the very beginning and my purpose in Ever Upward continues to only grow stronger. Because, I write for many reasons; healing, helping, educating... but as I have learned over the last week in my Daring Way™ certification training, I write to invoke change. I have been torn between being oh so grateful for the many shares, views, follows and the expansive exposure Ever Upward has received in only 3 short months and the inherent need for more. Analyzing how to write so more people are moved and so more people have the courage to share it on Facebook or to email it to someone they love. Questioning myself in my desires for the outside validation of the view count or earning Freshly Pressed versus my soul's desire for my words to reach many in order to help.

It has been suggested, and most of me knows, that for Ever Upward to continue to grow and to reach the people who need it most, I must write to the masses, which for many would be to not include infertility, IVF, pregnancy loss and childfree acceptance. Those who bravely read and share Ever Upward; my friends, my family and even the strangers all across the world supporting me, know Ever Upward is about more than IVF; it is about life. Ever Upward is about recovery. However, it would be naive to believe that people will click on or share my words freely when it includes some of the most shamed and silenced parts of our society and ourselves.

So, I propose a challenge for us all. Fill in the ____________________.

Whatever your struggle. Whatever your loss. Whatever your hurt. Whatever your shame.

What is your recovery? When you read IVF, fill in your ____________________.

For me, I have recovered from anxiety, depression, general discontent, unhappiness and anger, and yes, IVF, shame and childlessness. That is my journey. That is my story. But I know parts of it can apply to everyone's story.

As part of my training for The Daring Way ™ I wrote a personal manifesto on the first night of training. Sitting here this last night before heading home tomorrow I am even surer of the words I wrote:

 
 

I will practice authenticity and have the courage to tell my story, living it out loud, without apology, in order to stop proving it and to actually own it.

Because I was born, and have survived to thrive, to help and heal myself and others.

And in my heart of hearts, I believe my story can start the conversation to change the isolating shame that surrounds infertility, IVF, pregnancy loss, childfree acceptance and recovery.

As it is only through my own daring greatly, and the connection of my story, that I can be healed and find myself again. And, only then will I connect, help and heal others.

Ever Upward will continue to include some of the most shamed words in our lexicon; IVF, infertility, pregnancy loss and childlessness. Because this is my journey. My story. And it is with much hope that I choose to believe that one day my light and the courage I have found in owning my story will move you to share it anyways, to inspire the continuation of the excruciating shame conversation that suffocates the infertility world. However, I will also continue to write about life, learning, growing and choosing change. Because, it is only with this acceptance of the shame surrounding IVF, infertility and childlessness, that more eyes and hearts will stumble upon my words.

As, I will have faith that my words will reach who needs them most. And I will trust that my story will spark change. Given that, I will no longer try to just prove it and I will own, and live out loud, my story and my light.

Because this is myever upward.

Reaching Through the Keyhole of Your Closet

Every day I have the privilege of witnessing my clients' bravery in session. Every day when I read my Freshly Pressed and the other blogs I follow with my morning cup of coffee I am in awe of the vulnerability and bravery people write with. And every day, I choose to live, write and love with wholehearted brave vulnerability. The vulnerability and bravery movement is in full force. The songs Brave by Sara Bareilles and Roar by Katy Perry. Authors such as Danielle LaPorte, Kris Carr, Gabrielle Bernstein, and Brené Brown. Websites like Upworthy and SoulPancake. The thousands of blogs being shared via Twitter and Facebook everyday. And best of the all, the research is backing it up. People who live wholeheartedly, authentically vulnerable and brave are happier and healthier people who have healthy, real and fulfilling relationships.

Vulnerability and bravery are also showing up a lot in my office this week. I have had several clients so excited to tell me about an instance where they finally made the excruciating choice to take the risk and be vulnerable with someone; to be their true self, honest and authentic. To witness their soul expanding amazement of feeling heard, seen and understood is something I will never take for granted.

I have also been blessed with the honor of witnessing friends and friends of friends openly talk about their IVF journeys after reading Ever Upward; whether sharing for the first time or telling a loved one, or even on Facebook, or by sharing or commenting on my blog, that IVF is how they are trying to achieve or have achieved their family. This terrifying, but incredible, courage that is required to finally break the shameful silence that IVF makes us feel we have to live by brings tears of joy and hope to my eyes..

 
 

This bravery and authentic truth telling, means we are all finally feeling it; feeling the magic of true connection, the power of being brave and the freedom of stepping out of our closets.

We all have a closet, because hard is hard, as Ash Beckhman states in her brilliant TED talk. Hard is telling someone you love them for the first time, hard is living your life openly, hard is asking for help, hard is just hard. We cannot wholeheartedly live inside our closets, only peeking through the keyhole.

All of this vulnerability and bravery coming just before I pack up and leave Tuesday for The Daring Way certification training with Brené Brown herself.  Just about two years ago my life changed when the pastor in my old church spoke about a TED talk by Brown, a shame and vulnerability researcher. Brown’s, now famous, The Power of Vulnerability TED talk is one of TEDs most viewed videos. It is also the speech that has catapulted Brown into, not only psychology and social work fame, but mainstream Oprah fame.

Living wholeheartedly and authentically vulnerable, which requires showing some major brave, have been an integral part in my recovery after the losses of IVF and in learning to accept a childfree life.

Ever Upward is my authentic truth telling.

My story.

 
 

It is also my hope to show that living it all out loud makes life better.

I guess it is my way of showing my love to reach through the keyhole of your closet, hoping you will take my hand and live your ever upward right alongside me.

Make Friends with Social Media

Alarm goes off. Check Facebook.     Feel alone.

Sitting at stoplight. Check Facebook.

    Feel pissed off.

Break between clients. Check Facebook.

    Feel sad.

Pee break. Check Facebook.

    Feel left out.

Commercial break. Check Facebook.

    Feel not good enough.

Finish getting ready for bed. Check Facebook.

    Feel empty.

~~~~

There are so many articles and opinions flying around lately about the monster that social media can be, all relevant and important. But like everything else in our lives, we each need to find our own balance, and this includes balance with social media and technology. I think we must learn to disconnect some from our technology, every day and engage with our loved ones, in person! And, even sit with ourselves doing something quietly. However, I also think that in some ways the negative light being shined on social media is unfair, and is a light that we actually need to shine on ourselves.

I think my addiction to Facebook portrayed above is pretty classic and what many of our days can look like. This was over a year ago. I never walked away from Facebook feeling good, connected, positive or happier.

However, I was also in a pretty shitty place myself. Angry, sad, bitter and feeling very alone about our failed IVF journey and just starting my journey of accepting a childfree life. So, of course, my Facebook wall left me feeling all of the above; alone, pissed off, sad, left out, not good enough and empty.

But if I am honest with myself, this was also a lot of my own doing.

I was addicted. Instant gratification of checking my wall left me satisfied for a split second, and the completion of the behavior left me feeling awful but still wanting more.

I was sad and mad; just at the beginning of my journey to choose to get better. So of course, I was never going to leave Facebook feeling any better.

First things first, I detoxed. I started by only allowing myself to check 4 times a day, in the morning, at lunch, evening and before bed. No more stoplight checks or in between sessions. Then the next week down to 3 times a day. Then finally down to 2 times a day, lunch and evening. No more first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Those moments need to be spent being grateful and centered.

Then, I cleaned it up. I made sure to like pages that post the things that were going to improve my life; laughter, thought provoking articles, inspiration, beauty and positivity. And if you didn’t use it in these ways, then you didn’t make the cut. If I wasn’t quite ready to defriend someone (even if just for voyeuristic curious reasons), I hid them. Finally, I changed how I engage with social media myself, always being cognizant of what I was putting on my wall and posting on others.

These changes meant it wasn’t long before social media changed for me, no longer the enemy but something that actually enhances my life for the better. Which I think was probably what it was meant to do in the first place. I would like to believe that social media was conceived to make people think, laugh, grow, engage and connect! I have connected and reconnected with so many people, from both past and present, through social media. And these are not superficial connections, but ones where we actually write each other regularly or even meet up for lunch. We are engaged in each other lives, building friendship, connection and love.

When I am taking care of myself and practicing happy, I use social media to enhance and not compare. I like to hear about the changes your in lives. I love to see your children and pets grow up and do funny things. I enjoy reading the diverse articles everyone posts. I relish the beautiful pictures and quotes.

With all this sparkle and rainbows, I will admit my addiction has strengthened some, checking Facebook more often than my detoxed 2 times a day… but I also make sure to disconnect every day.

So bottom line, you won’t find your happy on your social media walls. You will only find your happiness from practicing it every day, and of course, within yourself.

~~~~

Eat breakfast. Check Facebook.

    I think.

Between sessions. Check Facebook.

    I laugh.

Between commercials. Check Facebook.

    I grow.

Before night time routine. Check Facebook.

    I engage and connect.

How do you use social media to enhance rather than hurt? How do you make sure to find the balance?

Can Our Incapables in the Stands Become Our Warriors in the Arena?

 
 

As I sit in my writing chair; writing candle lit, warm blanket on my lap and the light of the laptop and my salt lamp casting a glow around me, I am overcome by how much this blog, Ever Upward, has changed me, even in just a few short months. The people I have ‘met’ through the blogging world.

The people I have reconnected with through my writings.

The strangers, who are no longer strangers because of this sad but full of understanding connection.

The ‘I get it’s’.

The ‘thank you’s’.

The authentically braves.

The warriors in my arena.

The connections.

Telling my story to heal myself, and to also practice and build credibility for my book, has really led me to more wholeness through connection.

The biggest lesson of my IVF and finding my childfree journey?

Connection is what it is all about it, as my relationships have been a huge part of my survival and continued thriving.

Relationships are the continued focus in positive psychology and research continues to demonstrate how much relationships heal us all; making us better and happier people.

My continued lesson is that this healing is through all of my relationships; the fellow warriors, true friends, limited supporters, and even, the incapables. Because, relationships change and grow, because we change and grow.

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The relationships I have with my limited supporters, and even the incapables, may not be the most poignant, meaningful or deep right now. But that doesn’t mean they will remain that way forever. However, it may mean I need to limit how vulnerable I am with you, how much I let you into my life, and how much effort I put in, as you choose to simply not get it. You choose to not see me or know me, and therefore not love me unconditionally. As Brené Brown, writes and speaks, if you aren’t “daring greatly” in my arena, I’m not interested in your feedback.

And though, the limited supporters and incapables can make it feel as if they are in the stands of our arenas; denying, shaming and not getting us, they are still there. Sure, maybe we need to ask some of them to leave our arena altogether, but maybe, just maybe, one day the spectators can become our fellow warriors.

Because things change, and people change.

I've changed...

This limited love and understanding may not be forever. And the only thing I can do is to continue to live my authentic truth, asking for what I want and need from my loved ones, and accepting their limitations.

Because one day, the incapable just might finally see my bravery in battle and decide to join me in the arena. But, only if I never stop believing in my own “daring greatly” and ever upward.

Because our light, our path, our ever upward is in owning our story no matter the understanding we receive back.