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 Full of Love, Laughter and Light Twins

I feel intense, heart growing, soul expanding, unconditional joyful love...

every time I enter a room and their nub tails wag with anticipation before they are invited to greet me.

every time she cuddles her head on my neck.

every time she tilts her head in her understanding of my human words.

every time she bats at Bosco begging him to chase her.

every time she barrel rolls across the floor.

every time I hear racing up and down the halls.

every time I see them jump in the snow.

every good morning dog pile...on my head.

every time they chase each other in the back yard.

every game of hide and seek and pounce on each other.

every loving growl and whine.

every time...anything.

On April 16th, 2012 we got the news that our dream of having children was over. Michelle, our surrogate, wasn’t pregnant, again. The second transfer had not worked. We had prepped ourselves for this 30 second phone call, and the words, “I’m sorry, she isn’t pregnant”, for we had already heard these words the December before.

In December they were breath stealing and crushing, the saddest disbelief feeling I have ever experienced.

This second time, was hauntingly bittersweet.

Our journey of IVF was over, and it was both devastating and freeing; no more shots, no more pain, no more waiting, no more loans, no more soul crushing heartbreak. Time to move forward to letting go of this dream and grasping onto a new one, feeling the grief and loss and working on the acceptance of this new definition... of everything.

The first step? Adopting our version of twins.

And today, two of the brightest lights in my life turn 2 years old!

We had always known we wanted to expand our furry family, especially since our first fur baby, Maddie, was not doing well. But we had never thought we would adopt 2 puppies, at the same time. But for one of the first times in the crazy painful journey, we jumped into a decision that some may have thought of as insane. But my dad said it best, when I told him we were actually going to adopt both of the puppies he said, "You guys are grieving, take both of them home, you deserve some happiness!"

I'm not recommending everyone go out and rescue puppies after suffering major loss, trauma or stress. And you can say dogs are not the same as kids, but I assure you my heart feels just as powerful about my furry babies as you do about your children.

Gertie and Gracie, my full of light and laughter, version of twins have been a huge part of saving my life.

Of helping me to save my own life...

Unending love.

Accepting true joy.

Pushing through fear.

Laughing every single day.

Of finding my ever upward.

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.

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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?

Our Fellow Warriors, True Friends, Limited Supporters, and Incapables

We all have the basic needs for love and belonging, and we often times believe that feeling understood goes hand in hand with this need. However, it is impossible to be understood by everyone in our lives. This does not mean we aren’t loved, but rather at times our loved ones just don’t have it in them to really get it.

Or to really get us.

Surviving IVF and living a childfree life sometimes feels like I will never be fully understood.

For the most part, I have been lucky and blessed to have amazing people in my life. Even if they don’t completely get the IVF thing, they work very hard on loving me through it. But, I have noticed a few categories emerge:

 
 

My fellow warriors

Those who have been through some version of infertility or pregnancy loss themselves, even if their journey has looked completely different (especially their outcome).

They genuinely get it.

With them I am truly known.

My true friends (really family).

Those who may have never had to think about infertility, never really been exposed to it and therefore struggle to empathize with the journey but they still try. They ask the questions, sometimes not in the best way, but they still ask.

They truly walk along beside.

With them I am truly seen.

~

My limited supporters

Those who will never ask about it and become extremely uncomfortable whenever it’s brought up.

They do the best with what they have.

With them I am truly loved.

 ~

My incapables.

Those who openly criticize, question and deny what we have been through. Maybe they used to talk and ask about it, but have never had the capacity to quite understand any of it. Not only do they deny the journey, but often times somehow shut down that part of who we are.

They will probably never get it.

With them I am incomplete.

~

This has nothing to do with my IVF journey at all, but rather is just what happens for all of us as we grow, evolve and love.

Relationships change, relationships end, relationships reemerge, relationships evolve.

As I hugged a dear friend good bye today, I am flooded with gratitude for change. The change of life, the change of relationships and how much we all change and grow. A friend who has been in and out of my life for years, some of our falling outs worse than others, but a friend who I know will always have some piece in my life and in my heart.

We've had to recateogrize each other several times in our 15 year friendship.

I use the term recategorize with my clients a lot, referring to the ever changing relationships in our lives as we age. I believe people are meant to come in and out of our lives as we all change. Sometimes these changes warrant a recategorization. Who you thought would always be there may leave your life for a few years and then reemerge. Or they may be gone forever, never meant to be the lifelong friend you had hoped.

Hand in hand with recategorization, we all must accept the limitations of our loved ones. Sometimes, they just don’t have what we need. Accepting their limitations improves our well-being, as we only have control over ourselves. We cannot make someone understand us. Accepting our loved ones' limitations means we realize they just don’t have it to give. We must stop going to the empty well.

Being completely understood by others needs to have nothing to do with who we are or our stories. We must honor ourselves, no matter what our loved ones' capabilities of understanding us are.

We all must do the work to validate ourselves; seeing, knowing and loving ourselves.

Life is difficult and people are complicated, which means relationships take work and are forever changing.

For me, I must accept that there are some who will never understand my journey of infertility or the lifelong losses of a childfree life. And even though this can feel like a complete denial of who I am and may change our relationship, I must continue to speak my truth and live my story authentically for the world to see, because this is simply who I am.

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I must be my truth, not to fulfill the need to feel understood or to make someone get it, but rather to live my authentic truth and light.

To be true to myself.

For that light will reveal my fellow warriors and true friends.

And maybe, one day, that light will grow those limited supporters and incapables into my ever upwards.

There Could Still Be a Moment of...

I've been seeing a lot of reflection on 2013 the last few days. And as this is something I think is helpful for everyone to do each year at the New Year and on their birthday, I'm not ready quite yet.

It isn't the New Year yet, and living in the present moment is something I've fought to do most my life.

Today isn't over, there could still be a moment full of learning, love, awe, surprise, laughter, joy, amazement...

So enjoy today, the last day of 2013, until the very last second.

Tomorrow morning when the confetti has settled, the haze cleared and your spark reignited spend some time looking back on your 2013. And use it to learn, love and grow for the next 365 days.

Happy New Year's Eve!