Sunday, July 31, 2022

How Have you Surprised Yourself?

Friendship has always been extremely important to me so I was really surprised when I began removing myself from unhealthy friendships. I value routines, consistency and I can be loyal to a fault. Once I'm committed to and invested in something it's unnatural for me to disengage, regardless of whether what I've committed myself to is good for me or not.

Because I was brought up in a toxic environment, I had an extremely high tolerance for dealing with toxic personalities. Instead of protecting myself and limiting my interactions with these personalities, I would justify and rationalize irrational behaviors. At times the friendships I was involved with could become infuriating, but I would always make myself available to accept more of the dysfunction. I was so used to dealing with high conflict personalities that I honestly didn't realize removing myself from these friendships was even an option. In the environment I grew up in, I wasn't allowed to have respect or create boundaries so I didn't know how to demand and enforce them.

A few years ago I read a book called The Five Types Of People Who Can Ruin Your Life, by Bill Eddy and it blew my mind! As the saying goes, knowledge is power and had I read this book in my twenties I could have saved myself a lot of grief. A close friend of mine, who was a witness to my unhealthy friendships, repeatedly tried to educate me on the effects that certain personality disorders could have on my overall well being. Unfortunately, her warnings never fully sunk in. When someone treated me in a way I didn't deserve I would make excuses and allowances for the bad behavior. This would only cause people to continue with subtle forms of disrespect that, when challenged, would easily be explained away in a gaslit manner.

I often blame and question myself because I teach people how to treat me. I'm embarrassed when I think about how much negative behavior I allowed myself to entertain. But I also have to forgive myself because the person who was supposed to teach me how I should be treated didn't treat me so well at the time. Toxicity was all I knew, and although it was exhausting to deal with, I became an expert at enduring toxic behaviors.

I've gotten a lot better at protecting myself, but old habits do die hard. I guess I could say I'm still in recovery because it's not always easy to identify when someone isn't good for me until I'm already knee deep. One thing I've worked out is that I seem to be a huge magnet for narcissists. Depending on the type of narcissist I've attracted, it can be difficult to initially recognize their traits. But now I know, and as G.I. Joe says, "Knowing is half the battle."

I was fortunate enough to cross paths with a beautiful human who showed me what I deserved out of friendship. My relationship with her woke me up to the fact that I didn't need to involve myself with anything less. Ever! The key factors in the foundation of our friendship are maturity and respect which were missing in the friendships of my youth. Friendship really shouldn't be so complicated. It shouldn't be draining or exhausting, it should be fun and uplifting. Life is hard enough so it's a true blessing when you find a friend who enlightens your life.

How have you surprised yourself?

Monday, June 27, 2022

The Children's Boutique

My struggle with infertility has unearthed all sorts of unexpected traumatic feelings that were laying dormant inside me. At times it gets difficult to keep all of my fancy new emotions contained as they often take hold of me when I least expect them to erupt. 
 
There is a beautiful children's boutique shop in my neighborhood that I've had to avoid. The boutique is absolutely lovely, but when I walk past it I feel like the ground is being pulled out from under me and as if I'm falling backward in slow motion. The window display is so sweet and nostalgic of my early childhood, that I sometimes can't help but stop and gaze in. I can't stay long, though, because I start feeling like someone is pressing down on my windpipe.

I attempted to avoid the boutique by not looking in when I walked past. I'd close one eye so I couldn't see the shop in my peripheral vision, quicken my pace and hold my breath until I'd cleared the boutique. Playing games with myself kind of added a bit of internal amusement to my sad situation. The boutique is decorated exactly like the nursery I envisioned for my baby, so sometimes it's difficult not to look in and fantasize. But as I stand there staring into the window like a weirdo, my reality always creeps in to destroy my beautiful fantasy and I have to turn and swiftly walk away.

I decided that it would just be best if I walked on the other side of the street so that I could avoid the boutique completely; but I was on the phone as I approached the shop a few weeks ago, so I was distracted. I realized too late that I was walking on the same side of the street as the boutique and had no choice but to walk past it. Although my breaths became short as I neared it, I decided that maybe it would help me to get over my overwhelming feelings if I just went in. 

I stood outside for a bit with my heart hammering in my chest. Mentally I was weighing whether it was really a good idea for me to go in. The door was propped open so I had a good view of the bulletin board hanging at the entrance. It was brimming with an array of beautiful cards and photos of babies that had been sent in by their families. I know what the shop conveys to me; the sweet, pure excitement and joy that comes with adding a new baby to your family. From the abundant display on the bulletin board, it's apparent that this shop is special to people and that it has been there for the new additions to many families over the years. 

I finally forced myself to step over the threshold before I changed my mind, but once I was inside, I wondered if I'd made a mistake. I could feel a heaviness in my chest and the invisible thumbs pressing down on my windpipe. As I took in the racks of tiny clothing, the shelves of books and wicker baskets filled with toys, my mind began to spin a bit.

The owner, who was behind the counter, looked up and greeted me; and when I opened my mouth to respond, I instantly burst into tears. She immediately came out from behind the counter and held me in a long, tight embrace. "It's okay." She whispered. "It's okay." I apologized for becoming emotional and she waved me off saying, "Don't apologize, lots of people cry in here." Instead of her being cautious of this strange woman walking into her shop and bursting into tears, she treated me with such warmth and kindness. Without my fully speaking it she just understood my internal struggle. 

She pulled out one of the tiny toddler sized chairs set up in the middle of the shop and made me take a seat at the tiny table. I really just wanted to leave so that I could escape my feelings. I felt shaky and exposed and I wanted to run out of the shop so that I could breathe again. The shop owner pulled out a tiny chair for herself and sat down with me. She asked me what my name was and introduced herself as Ariena. She told me a story about a recent customer who had also become emotional in her shop. She told me about her life. She asked me about mine. She just sat and talked with me for about twenty minutes until I decided I'd taken up enough of her time. I felt like if I needed to sit there with her a bit longer she would have let me. A few customers came in to browse while Ariena was sitting with me and she knew every one of them. It's no wonder that the bulletin board is filled with love. 

Before I left, she made me promise that I would stop walking on the other side of the street, but after the way my body responded once I'd stepped into her shop, I don't think that I can promise her that just yet.

Shortly after I left the shop, I came across a bright, white feather lying on the pavement. I don't really believe in things like this, but the feather jolted me as if I was hit by a dart. When I got home, I Googled the spiritual meaning of a white feather and this is what I found:

White feathers often show up in your life after a period of disappointment or grief, as a way to provide encouragement and let you know that the universal flow of energy is working in your favor. Many people report feeling the presence of Angels when they find white feathers, and that may be a way that your angels are communicating with you.

How interesting! Ariena definitely fulfilled her purpose as an angel of comfort, that day.

I don't know if I'll ever be fully healed from everything I've experienced over the past decade, but I know without a doubt that everything happens for a reason. My experience with infertility is not in vain and hopefully one day I can use my pain to offer someone else comfort and to help them make sense of their own struggle.

Although physically, I feel like giving up, mentally I'm keeping the faith that one day I will walk into that shop, not to have another panic attack, but to purchase something for my baby; and one day he or she will have their photo displayed on that bulletin board!

Hebrews 11:1 - Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Friday, May 20, 2022

Books Featuring Dysfunctional Mothers

When you think of what the word 'mother' means to you, some of the words that might spring to mind are: comfort, support, peace, safety and love. The truth is that not all of us were blessed with traditional mothering. Some of us were unfortunate in experiencing a dysfunctional, abusive, neglectful, toxic, or narcissistic mother.

In my 20's I went through a period where I read a heap of books that featured dysfunctional family relationships. Reading about unusual family dynamics helped me to make sense of my own experiences, they helped me to heal and, let's be real, dysfunctional families are extremely fascinating.

In continuing to recognize mothers in May, I'm sharing a few of my favorite reads featuring mothers who had quite peculiar methods to their mothering.
 

THE FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC SERIES, BY V.C. ANDREWS



WHITE OLEANDER, BY JANET FITCH



PUSH, BY SAPHIRRE



LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE, BY LAURA ESQUIVEL



A CHILD CALLED IT (SERIES), BY DAVE PELTZER



I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS, MAYA ANGELOU



LYING IN WAIT, BY LIZ NUGENT
 


CARRIE, BY STEPHEN KING



GREY GARDENS - DOCUMENTARY FILM 
(This one isn't a book, but a documentary film and also a movie.) 









Friday, May 6, 2022

Grabbing onto Mom

No matter what's going on in the world around us, my mother has always been fearless. I don't think I've ever seen her be shaken or rattled by anything. Ever. As a person who worries and is anxious about almost everything, I wish the entire essence of her fearlessness would have been genetically passed down to me.

On the Friday of the week when the Rodney King riots began in Los Angeles, there was a concern that riots would also erupt in New York City. As a precaution, all of the students at my Junior High School were dismissed early. As a naïve teenager who lived in my own world, I was mentally removed from a lot of the current events that were taking place. I didn't realize how serious the city was taking things until I reached Third Avenue, which is a heavily (heavily) trafficked shopping area in the South Bronx. Third Avenue is LOUD and consists of music, yelling, buying selling, laughing, eating, crowding, honking and everything that is consistent with noise, but when my friends and I got to Third Avenue that day, there was silence. The shutters on all of the shops were pulled down, some shops were boarded up, and there were very few souls in sight. It was quite eerie and a bit of fear began to creep in.

On Friday nights we went to church and to my mother, this Friday was no different than any other Friday. I'm sure there was a warning on the news alerting the people of New York to stay home if they didn't absolutely have to venture outdoors, so I was a little apprehensive when my mother stated that we were still going to church.

At 6pm, my mother, my two younger brothers and my sister-friend and neighbor, Cherrise, hopped on the subway and headed to the city for the 7pm Friday night church service. We got to church without incident, but while we were on the subway on our way home, the train stalled between the stations. We were stalled for quite some time and because of the heightened tensions in the city, the people in our car began exchanging worried looks and mummering to each other. As a person who absorbs worry like a sponge, a sense of panic began to ignite within me. Cherrise must have been experiencing the same sense of panic because when chaos broke out in the subway car next to ours, she and I both erupted into a tearful, full-blown panic. People were yelling, screaming and banging noisily and Cherrise and I both became unhinged with fear. I grabbed frantically onto my mother who was standing in front of where Cherrise and I were seated, whimpering and crying, "Mom! Something's happening! Mom! Something's happening! Mom!" 

Not once did my mother display any sense of the worry or concern that had spread throughout our subway car. She leaned down so that her face was close to mine and calmly and quietly said, "Calm down, Louise. Calm down. Those people are just annoyed that the train isn't moving." A few seconds later the train began to move, the chaos in the train car ceased and I released the death grip I had on my mother's arm. All of us arrived safely home.  

There were times before we had a home phone when my mother would run downstairs to use the payphone at the end of our block or she would make a late-night run to the bodega for something she'd forgotten to pick up earlier in the day. Sometimes she would return home with crazy stories of seeing someone chasing another person and beating them with a pipe. One of my friends was visiting when my mother was telling that story and she asked, "Weren't you scared that they would see you watching them and come after you next?!" My mother nonchalantly replied, "Ah, he wasn't looking for me."

My mother has just never been someone who is prone to panic and as an adult whose first response is panic, I need her. I need to be able to reach out and grab onto my her with my death grip so that she can settle my unsteady soul. It's a luxury to have my mother within my reach. It's a luxury to be able to call on her because even at my age, thirty years later, I still need to hear her say the words, "Louise. Calm down."

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage, Then Comes the Fertility Challenge??




FIRST COMES LOVE



THEN COMES MARRIAGE




THEN COMES, THE FERTILITY CHALLENGE??


Finding out I was pregnant was and still is one of the most amazing things to ever happen to me. I’d been there to share in the whirlwind of joy of those around me who had ventured into motherhood and now it was my turn!! I was filled with pure elation!

From the moment I saw the second line appear on my pregnancy test my baby became real to me. As someone who mentally lives in the future, I began planning my future with my child. I couldn’t wait to have that fresh baby smell permeating my home. I couldn’t wait to slather my freshly bathed baby with Johnson’s and Johnson’s baby lotion. I couldn’t wait to fill a bookshelf with books that I would read to my baby year after year until they no longer needed me to read for them. I couldn’t wait to shop for maternity clothes. I couldn’t wait to create my baby registry. I couldn’t wait to celebrate at my baby shower. I couldn’t wait to make a space for my baby in my home and in my life. I couldn’t wait to meet him or her. I was just so thrilled that my family was beginning!

My pregnancy lasted 9 weeks where it ended in an emotionally and physically painful miscarriage. I was thirty-four years old at the time. The doctor who diagnosed my miscarriage discovered that I had a large fibroid in my uterus. He stated that the fibroid may not be the reason for my miscarriage but suggested that I have it removed before I try getting pregnant again.

Because I’d gotten pregnant naturally, I never expected to have such a hard time getting pregnant when the time came for me to try again.

After two uterine surgeries, I decided to have a consultation with a fertility clinic since I was now thirty-eight years old and wanted to get things moving along. After my consultation I went through all of my testing and evaluations. I’d been healthy my entire life so I never dreamed that I would be receiving any sort of bad news, but I was wrong. The Friday before Mother’s Day (lucky me), I received a call from the fertility clinic with my diagnosis. They discovered that both of my fallopian tubes were blocked meaning that IVF would be the only way that I would have a chance at getting pregnant.

Three years later, after lots of ups and downs, lots of heartbreak, four uterine surgeries, painful HSG’s, biopsies, lots and lots and lots of medication, 3 canceled and 6 failed IVF transfer cycles I am no closer to being a mother than I was when this all started.

When my infertility journey began, a friend of mine told me, “You are going to be a mother. I don’t know how to explain that you know you are going to be a mother, but you just know.” I knew exactly what she meant because there hasn’t been a day when I have thought of my future and not seen myself as being a mother. Being a mother is just ingrained in me. It just comes naturally to me so how could I not have my baby?

A few months ago, I decided to make a last attempt with a natural fertility clinic. After all of the workups and testing they confirmed what the previous fertility clinic had discovered which was that due to the uterine surgeries I’d undergone, mass amounts of scar tissue had developed which makes it near impossible for an embryo to implant. The surgeries that were meant to increase my chances of pregnancy only rendered my uterine environment inhospitable. Basically, if I do have my own biological child, I will need to borrow someone else’s uterus.

I have so many mixed feelings surrounding my diagnosis. On one hand my life is now free. My body hasn’t been mine for the past four years. My body will no longer be held prisoner by fertility regimens and restrictions. On the other hand, I am floored, I am broken, I am grieving, I am sad. I always, ALWAYS wanted to experience full-term pregnancy when the time was right. I am absolutely devastated that pregnancy will not happen for me.

Two of my fertility doctors stated that I would need a gestational carrier, but I never even considered it at the time because of the cost.

Although it makes me extremely uncomfortable to ask for help, I don’t really have a choice. The cost of surrogacy is financially out of reach for me as surrogacy can range between $100,000 - $150,000 and the copays for egg retrieval are about $11,000. We understand that the amount we are asking for is completely unrealistic, but we have to try.

Today I am forty-two so although I had positive results with my previous egg retrieval, the condition of my eggs may or may not be as healthy due to my advanced maternal age. In the case that we are not able to create healthy embryos, we would then turn to adoption which ranges between $40,000 - $50,000.

We would be beyond grateful if you could help us to achieve our dream of becoming parents.

We understand that just about everyone is going through tough times right now, so for those who cannot donate please give us your prayers. We need them. We need guidance and direction in this journey. We need strength and faith. I’m a little broken. Please pray for my mental and emotional healing. My husband has been an amazing source of emotional support, but please pray for his continued strength.

As this infertility journey is an extremely lonely one, please feel free to share my story with anyone going through the struggle in hopes that they will know that they are not alone.

From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for any help you can offer us.

Love Edward & Louise



Friday, April 10, 2020

Couch Potato Sessions - Office Space


The first Christmas present that my husband gave me when we were dating was a boxed set of Office Space. It included a DVD, a mouse pad, a magnetic picture frame and the famous stapler. I could tell he was excited to give it to me and he promised me that I would appreciate the movie, but I was unenthused and I don’t think I hid my un-enthusiasm well (so ungrateful). The boxed set sat collecting dust on my bookshelf for years, until a day when I was home with nothing to do was in the mood to watch a movie. I finally pulled Office Space from the shelf and, Edward was right, I really enjoyed it.

Lately, Office Space has been on television quite frequently and after recent unfortunate office events of my own, I now have a complete and deep appreciation for this movie. Imagine busting your buns and being overlooked for everything you do. Imagine a coworker doing half of what you do yet receiving the recognition you deserve. Imagine a colleague who didn’t know you or your work ethic being given the power to make decisions on your future within the company. You can’t see me, but there are flames coming out of my nose as I write this. If you’ve ever had your office environment become unrecognizable; if you’ve ever landed in a place in which you were certain you didn’t belong; if you’ve ever experienced undeserving behavior in your workplace this movie will stand with you in solidarity - at least for eighty-nine minutes.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Couch Potato Sessions: The Invitation - Netflix


There isn’t much that I love more than throwing a party. My dinner parties have improved over the years in both menu options and bougieness - Pinterest is my downfall. The prep and planning can be so overwhelming and stressful, especially because I like to kill myself by cooking everything from scratch, but the results are always so rewarding! The house smells amazing, the food is delicious and my favorite people are with me enjoying the fruits of my labor.

One of my favorite authors, Bianca Sloane, recommended the movie, The Invitation, so Edward and I checked it out a few weeks ago. We didn’t know what to expect since the description is short and the trailer didn’t reveal much which was great for us. The more suspenseful the better. Although I loved the ambiance of this dinner party and I loved the house where the party was hosted, this is one dinner party I wouldn’t mind losing the invitation to. It was strange, uncomfortable and disturbing at times – BUT if Logan Marshal Green will be there, I would consider making an exception. 😉