A practical post: Coping tools and thought provoking reads
Hello everyone. Eric here again. This week’s topic: Dealing with stress, frustration, disappointment and uncertainty. What could that possibly have to do with infertility? Ha ha!
We’ve been having a particularly rough few weeks here in Eric-and-Cathy-land – not as difficult as the journey Cathy chronicles in her posts about our struggles to have a family, but a difficult time period for us, nonetheless. What I have found is that I am dealing with this particular bout of “a very difficult time” differently, maybe even a wee bit better (so far at least) than I have some such periods in the past. Why is that?
I’ve been making a concerted effort to explicitly try to understand both the nature of life’s struggles and the ways in which many great people far wiser than I have dealt with those challenges. Like my wife, I mostly head right to the bookshelf when faced with a challenge. Of late, I’ve taken in everything from “Man’s Search for Meaning” to interviews with Thich Nhat Hanh, from “The Work” by Byron Katie to the whimsical-but-wise Notebooks of Lazarus Long, to an ancient Japanese epic called the Heike Monogatari and its famous opening passage.
As these many sources and notions collide and swirl in my mind, I’ve come out better equipped to deal with the emotional challenges we’re facing right now, and perhaps these thoughts may be of help to you as well. I fully realize that none of my recent insights are original. I suppose most insights never are really new – they’re just new to the person having them. In any case, here are a few thoughts that have really helped me of late. Rest assured any useful wisdom is sourced from elsewhere. Any failure to impart anything useful is entirely mine.
1. Life is full of struggle, of suffering, of disappointment, of hurts and fears and bruising of our hearts, and it is often those things and people and dreams dearest to us that have the ability to hurt us most, exactly because they matter so much.
2. Tomorrow is promised to no one. From world events to health issues to random tragedy, everything and everyone we love or hope for can be snatched away, or never come to be, and often we are limited in our ability to change those outcomes, no matter what we do.
3. Despite these truths, most of us are fortunate to have good and wonderful things in our lives. For some, it’s family, for others it may be their faith, their friends, or their work for a cause or purpose much greater than themselves. Some are fortunate to have all these things and more among the blessings in their lives.
Taken together, these things have lately brought me to a point that many scriptures, authors, faiths and sages have all known, but maybe this month I just started to actually get the message. No one’s life is free of trial or tribulation. But understanding – rather than running from – that fact has allowed me to embrace even the hardest times by loving my loved ones more fully, listening and hearing their words and their needs more deeply, noticing more of what is beautiful and precious, explicitly because all such moments are fleeting. I loved this explanation from Mark Epstein, psychiatrist, medical school professor and author of many highly regarded works on dealing with trauma, including the widely applauded “Going to pieces without falling apart.”
“There’s joy everywhere… but the bliss and the joy are in the transitory-ness. Do you see this glass? I love this glass. It holds the water admirably. When I tap it, it makes a lovely ring. When the sun shines on it, it reflects the light beautifully. But when the wind blows and the glass falls and breaks, I say ‘of course’. But when I know that the glass is already broken, every minute with it is precious.”
A wiser man than I to be sure. I am working very hard to see and love and count myself lucky for all that is good, even while the very bad is happening. If you are, like me – lucky enough to have friends and family and faith and hope as you travel the road of infertility, subsequent treatment, and whatever follows – remember all that is precious and good around you, all who are there to support you, and see them, hear them and treasure them, even when times are hard. Remember that those precious moments may not come again, and also too that even the hardest times will also pass. I don’t know if that helps you, but in a very difficult time, it has certainly been helping me.
Peace and fortitude.