My Three Pillars – The Very Specific Things that Get Me Through My Worst Days

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Hello everyone, Eric here again.

 

And I’m having a bad day. I mean, a really lousy day. One of those days where it feels like absolutely everything is going wrong. So in the midst of all this, I cast my mind back to the toughest days on our infertility journey, and I am reminded of the three things that got me through those days, and they will get me through today, too. And since this blog is all about trying to share what we learned in hopes it will help even one person out there, I thought I would share with you the three things I held tight to during those toughest days, and which I use on days like today.

These are the support structure that keeps me upright when I feel most beaten down; Love, Gratitude and Perspective. I know, I know, that hardly sounds like a new idea. But there’s a saying in the high-tech world where I work (and where every bozo has some “million-dollar idea”) that ideas are a dime a dozen, and execution is everything. So let’s get past platitudes and drill down a bit to the details. Concepts and words are easy, action is everything. So what do I actually DO to ensure those three pillars support me on my worst days?

 

 

Love
1. Explicitly recommit to the one(s) in it with you. In the case of IVF, the ones “in it” were Cathy and I, with everyone else on the outside, as it were. Amidst the disappointment and hurt and heartbreak, it’s easy to ignore (or worse, to inappropriately blame or lash out at) the person right there in the muck with you. Don’t do that. Love them harder. Give more. Ask them what they are experiencing. Talk about how you can help each other. Reaffirm your bond, your commitment, your “we’re-in-this-together-ness.” It can be as simple as taking a walk together each day and saying what you’re feeling, but remember that person, that co-pilot on your journey, has got to be fully and firmly there with you (and vice versa) or your relationship can be irreparably damaged rather than tempered and strengthened by the process.

2. Call at least one person each day that you care about and haven’t talked to in too long. We all have those people, the ones we mean to call but we “just never seem to get around to it.” Get around to it. Today. And here’s the hard part – don’t use the call to go into details about the stuff that’s making your day or week or life difficult. Ask them about their lives, how they’re doing, and what’s happening in their world. It helps to remind you that everyone’s got stuff to deal with, and helps break the myopic view we can all get absorbed in when things are going wrong.

3. Remember how important you are to someone else. Whether it’s a family member who relies on you, a student or colleague, a charity you volunteer for, or the family dog (dog owners really understand what it’s like to be another living thing’s entire world), someone out there needs you. They are relying on your love, support, time or effort. Never lose sight of what you are in someone else’s world. Be specific, and write it down. Giving is part of being in a community, their feedback reinforces your self-worth, and helping others is the best weapon against feeling isolated. Self-pity is self-absorption.

 

 

Gratitude
I don’t know why this works, but as any one of a million books and studies will tell you, gratitude is consistently tied to happiness and feelings of satisfaction in life. And so I tried, and try every day, to be very cognizant of all I have instead of focusing on the one thing we couldn’t seem to have. Again, I hear you say, “yeah, yeah, be grateful, blah blah blah.” So again, let’s get very specific. Dorky as it may sound, I have a checklist. (I’m a former pilot. What can I say? Pilots love checklists.) I reminded myself that even as we struggled to have children of our own, I was blessed:
1. Health – Minor aggravations notwithstanding, I’m in good health and wake up every day ready to think about other things. I’ve been through times where this wasn’t true, and boy-oh-boy, when that’s wrong, we’re reminded just how little anything else matters in comparison.
2. Family – I have both my parents, my brother and his wife and children, and an extended family of loons and lunatics I adore.
3. Friends –Thomas Fuller once said, “If you have one true friend, you have more than your share.” I have a dozen friends, and I name them in my head each day, that I would lie in front of a train for. What man is so blessed in his life?
4. Comfort – I have a job, a safe home and a warm bed to sleep in, and the bills are mostly paid at the end of each month. This wasn’t always true in my life, and so I never take it for granted. Ever.
5. A civil society – this might seem pedantic, but it isn’t. Turn on any news channel and you’re reminded that all over the world, people are displaced, threatened, imprisoned and forced to flee their homes for lack of the simple stability of a civil society and the rule of law. When things go wrong, we see just thin and fragile the veneer of civility can be. I’m always grateful to wake up in a place blessed to be at peace.
There are many personal particulars I (or you) can add. From pets and projects to faith and prayer, your details will vary. But don’t make gratitude a generic concept. Be clear. Be specific. WHAT are you grateful for. WHO are you grateful for. Offer thanks to whatever higher power you prefer. Nobody does it alone.

 

 

Perspective
All my life, my mother has said to me, “This too shall pass.” It took me a long time to realize the wisdom of this little aphorism. Here’s how I make that one concrete. However bad today looks, I cast my mind back to the worst days in the past that I can think of, the ones that seemed like the problems of the day would last forever, that we’d never find a way forward. You know what? They passed. The sun came up the next day. And we’re still here. So, to be very concrete once again, try this:

1. Think back to some of the worst times you’ve had – financial troubles, family problems, the loss of a loved one, a health issue or a breakup.
2. Remember how it felt to there and how it seemed like nothing else in the world mattered but the problem right in front of you.
3. Look through your memory or your diary or your camera roll or your facebook feed, and find a day in the time that followed that was wonderful; a wedding, a vacation, a party, time with a friend or a loved one.
4. Stare at the concrete proof in your own life that whatever that was, you got through it. See? It’s right there in the photos from that wonderful day. You’ll get through this too. This too shall pass.

I know that many times words seem like nothing more than that. Just words. But my hope is that if you can turn some of these words into concrete actions, things you can actually DO, then maybe, just maybe, they become a little more real, a little more usable, a little more help. Anyway, they helped me, maybe they will help you too if, like me, you’re having a really bad day.

– Eric

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