08 June 2017

Passions and struggles

13 years ago, I took an enormous, scary leap and flew to Europe with two friends to see 4 countries in less than 3 weeks. At the time, I thought it would be a once-in-a-lifetime thing. I would likely never be able to afford going back. But the wanderlust bug bit me hard. I re-prioritized my finances and returned to the UK within a year and continued to return. I ventured to new cities, new continents, new countries. I started a travel blog; I became a paid travel writer. Travel became my thing.

And then, infertility. It’s a nasty, physically draining, especially expensive issue to deal with. As a result, I haven’t been out of the country in 6 years. Until this Sunday. We’re headed back out there. 8 new countries. 7 new languages. 7 new currencies.

And I'm terrified.

Here’s the thing: I’m honestly the most unlikely person to have been bitten by the wanderlust bug, because in truth, I’m a happy little introverted homebody. I may have developed a love for seeing the world, but in the most ironic of twists, I really, really, REALLY hate leaving home.

It's not to the point of agoraphobia. But the idea of sleeping in a bed that is not my own has always sent me into intense anxiety. Even as a kid. My parents always had to pick me up from sleepovers at 3am because I couldn’t stop crying. It has LONG been a struggle of mine. It effects my sleep, it effects my appetite, it effects my health, it effects my ability to think clearly, it effects everything.

It’s not easy to admit that. I completely understand how illogical it is. It feels silly, like ungratefulness, irrationality, weakness, shame. I mean, talk about a first world problem! But these overwhelming panic attacks are also incredibly real and very difficult to pretend don’t exist. They especially affect my immune system; over half my travels have been accompanied by a triple-digit fever. And the more it happens, the more it feeds the anxiety. It's a wickedly frustrating catch-22.

The last couple of weeks of preparation have been rough. Really rough. It’s taking everything I have not to cancel this whole trip, burrow down in my bed, and stay in my happy comfort zone of yoga pants and Netflix. But I know if I give in to the temptation to not face this, I’ll never conquer it. And that scares me even more.

So, I’ve made two decisions: I’m doing this. Even if I can’t stop the tears, I’m doing this. Not saying “I can’t" anymore counts the most when it becomes really hard. And I already know the memories will be worth it. Anxiety and health issues aside, my travel memories are some of my absolute favorite life moments ever.

Decision number two: I’m not hiding this struggle anymore. Most people are shocked to hear that travel is hard for me, because I so fiercely believe in its benefits. But that’s the heaviest part of it; pretending everything is completely normal, that I’m not hearing the loud thump of my heart racing in my ears and struggling to catch my breath over something others find so easy. It’s very hard to explain when your biggest passion is also one of your biggest struggles.

But I also know I’m not alone. Maybe not in this particular issue, but in continuing to put one foot in front of the other amidst fear. We all struggle with something; no one is immune to the hardships of life. And something very cool happens when we put down our pride and stand alongside each other.

So here I stand, admitting this is really hard for me, whether or not you understand it. If you don’t, I ask for grace and patience. If you do, I extend a hand of empathy as we both face – and will eventually conquer – our individual quirks and struggles. They say courage isn’t the absence of fear but persistence in the face of it. Easy to say, harder to do. But still, very, very true.

((deep breath)) Whatever scares you today, we’ve got this.

26 March 2017

I hate Mother's Day

Confession: I hate Mother’s Day.

I’d love to be able to type some kind of eloquent, inspirational string of prose that speaks to my inner strength about how I’m right where I should be in life and I’m blessed in so many other ways and keep your chin up and blah blah blah. But I’d be a big fat liar, because the truth of where I am in my grieving process is that I effing hate Mother’s Day. And I don’t see that changing dramatically any time within the foreseeable future.

Ever since the sobering realization that I will never be a mom, it’s the one day a year I really struggle to stay positive. Normally, I have a firm grip on my reality, a conviction to be optimistic on this new path, even as I carve out what this path might be. But on Mother’s Day? In order to make it through without feeling repeatedly gut-punched, I need a crusty exterior, a coping mechanism of completely ignoring what’s going on around me. So as the world vomits reminders of my life-sentence-level failure from every conceivable corner, I hide.

This Mother’s Day, however, I have to perform. On stage. In a Mother's Day-themed show. Singing songs about how beautiful it is to be a mother. To honor a room filled with mothers. We’re even going to pass out flowers to every mother in the auditorium. I will have a very visible representation of what I do not have. What I will never have, no matter how much I want it. It’s salt in a wound that hasn’t healed, and I have to do the pouring. It is the complete opposite of hiding, and while it exhibits a strength I hope to have someday, I'm not ready yet. I'm not ready yet.

I don't trust that people understand how hard this has been for me. How hard this will be for me. To stand up there and deliver a stirring performance while attempting to forget that every word feels like a knife, and I’d rather be literally anywhere else. I expressed my hesitation to a single person. Their response: “Well, you have a mother, right?” It only reminded me of how forgotten and misunderstood one becomes once they're an "infertile". I haven’t quit the show yet, but I’ve considered it. Multiple times. I won’t split hairs or make excuses: I just don’t want to do this.

Most days, I retain my objectivity to the difference in perspectives. Most days, I understand. Right now? I'm just mad. What stage of grief is anger? Because I’m pretty sure that’s where I’m living right now. I thought I was past that part, but apparently you can get sucked backward. Just the fact that my everyday reality doesn't even register to most people as something to consider makes me indignant.

I don't even have a point to this post. I guess just to throw out into the world, to the very few reading this who can actually relate: you’re not alone. I know you feel like you are - GOD, DO I KNOW IT - but you’re not.

To everyone else, as you flood Facebook with pictures of your adorably misspelled cards written in crayon, your burnt breakfasts, your dandelions picked from the yard, your slobbery kisses and I love you, Moms, please remember this day isn’t easy for everyone. For some of us, this is the hardest day of the year.

Please be sensitive to that.