Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Lost, Found, Butterflies Abound



My last post was unexpected. I received a Facebook message from a friend asking if I would talk to a friend of hers about the adoption process (something I have done for several friends of friends over the years). That night, I thought about this girl (whom I have never met and have yet to speak to) and her struggle to get pregnant and the difficulty of the decision to move on to adoption. Suddenly, I felt inspired to write a post about it as I recalled my own painful infertility journey; how lost and alone I had felt back then. I thought about how many people really have absolutely no idea what infertility feels like and the strong roller coaster of emotions that accompany it. And so that night I started writing an Open Letter to Women of Infertility Everywhere. By the next morning, I finished it, and published it on my blog and posted it on Facebook.

The outcome of that “Open Letter” has blown my mind away. I wrote it with the intention of helping this girl to not feel alone and with the hopes of shedding light on infertility with some of my Facebook friends who may be uneducated on the topic. But as of right now, it has been viewed nearly 3000 times and it has been shared on several other blogs; on message boards on Babycenter; on Twitter; and all over Facebook.  I even saw that someone did a search on Yahoo specifically for The Courage In Me! AND The Courage In Me is third on the search results! WHAT??? I’m still processing it all.

The “Open Letter” has been read not just in the USA, but literally all over the world… Australia, United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Greece, Germany, India, Malta, South Africa, Argentina (I’m assuming this is by someone I know), Denmark, Belgium, Mexico, Libya, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe, United Arab Emirates, Cyprus, Hong Kong, Philippines, South Korea, Puerto Rico, and Italy.

Like Maggie (my BFF) said to me…infertility is a subject that transcends race, religion, socioeconomic status, class, etc. Unfortunately, it is a universal struggle. It is a topic that is relatable to millions everywhere on this earth.


This got me thinking about all the other posts I’ve written and how else they have been relatable to others. I have had friends reach out to me over the last six months for a variety of reasons due to something I have written about. Old friends have told me they had no idea about the bullying I endured and shared with me their own bullying stories. Friends have written to thank me for writing certain things. I’ve had friends confide in me about the struggles of their own youth and home-life. I’ve had friends share their opinions and thoughts with me after something I wrote resonated with them. Some friends have simply written just to tell me how much they enjoy reading my blog and to encourage me to keep writing.

Six months ago, I never imagined having the conversations I have had with some of these friends. But thanks to telling my story in an empowering way, I have helped heal myself and I have given others permission to do the same. (Just like Iyanla said would happen!) 

*****

The day that my Open Letter went “semi-viral” on Facebook (Is that what you call it if a blog post is viewed 1000 times in 18 hours?), my son asked to talk to me before he went to bed (which is not uncommon for him to request. He is an old soul in a 10-year-old body.) Anyway, he wanted me to tell him more about how my mom died. As he is growing older, he is reaching a new level of understanding of death and causes of death. I explained to him about the Hepatitis C that led to the Cirrhosis. Then, he commented that it had been a long time since I had taken him to the cemetery. He was right. It had been longer than three years and more likely five years since I had gone. My mom is buried in the same city in which I live, but I absolutely hate going. I get nothing out of it, other than feeling like shit being there. That cemetery is also where my baby, Gabriel is buried. Yet another reason to hate going. But my son asked if I would take him the next day after school and I agreed. He also shared with me how much he would have liked to have met my mom and how he wishes she were here. I explained to him that I believe that she is here with us at every moment. We just can’t see her, but she is with us all the time, watching over us.

The next day, I picked him up from school and the first thing he said when he got in the car was “Are we going to the cemetery?” He was so excited to hear that I was, in fact, taking him. I couldn’t believe he had remembered. But he assured me that he had thought about it all day long.

Once there, he helped me clean my mom’s stone and when we were done, he asked to pray. He asked God to take care of her and to keep her safe. He told God to tell her that he misses her and that he wishes he had met her. He asked God to let her know that he loves her and that he wishes her a Happy Thanksgiving. His little face kept watching mine, making sure I was ok. And I really was. It was odd because despite usually hating the cemetery, it was the first time in a very long time that I was fine with being there. The cemetery triggers me, but in my day-to-day life, I am at peace with her not being here anymore, as I have lived 28 years of my life without her – much longer than I ever had her with me. (I say "most of the time" because I do occasionally have sporadic moments of sadness over her absence.)


At mom's grave

Next, we went to visit Gabriel’s grave. Now, that one I admit was not as easy for me. Walking through the baby section of any cemetery is never easy, but especially if you are there to visit your own child, a grave you haven’t seen in about five years. The last time I was there, I didn’t have my daughter yet. And although I don’t specifically remember when I last visited, I know that I was either doing fertility treatments for baby #2 or starting the adoption process. Either way, I was not in a good place.

It’s been 14 years since I was pregnant with Gabriel. Fourteen years is a long time. But it is a wound that still stings from time to time. My son helped me clean the marker. (He was so sweet because he respectfully  asked if I wanted to be the first to wipe it clean since it was for my son.) Then, we each took turns saying some words of love to Gabriel. Even my three-year-old asked Gabriel to protect us and told her “other big bwuddah” that she loves him. When we were done, my 10-year-old son told my 3-year-old daughter to hop on for a piggy back ride and I watched them gallop off through the baby graves. As my little girl giggled and laughed, holding on tight to her big brother, I smiled at the beautiful, bittersweet sight I was witnessing while sitting at my baby’s grave.



My son has no idea I have a blog. He has no idea that I wrote that Open Letter (or what an Open Letter even is). He has no idea that he asked to visit my mom at the cemetery on the precise day that my letter was going “semi-viral”. But I believe that this was not a coincidence. There is a reason that I was at the cemetery as my Open Letter was being viewed another 1000 times that day. Because while I was there, I felt that my mom and Gabriel were letting me know that I’m on the right path; I'm doing the right thing; I'm fulfilling my purpose. They were celebrating with me the success of my Open Letter - and when I say success, I don't mean the number of views. I mean the way in which it has been received; the way in which it has touched people and has made them feel understood and not alone. Because just earlier that morning, I broke down in tears (I went into the big, ugly cry as Oprah calls it) while I read the comments people wrote on my blog and on the various Facebook pages where the Open Letter was shared. But the tears weren't of sadness. They were tears of joy, of relief, of perspective, of suddenly understanding what it was all about. Those comments are what has made this such a huge victory for me. They are what have made me feel that what I have been through was not in vain, if it means that I have been able to help others as a result. There was a purpose behind the pain of not conceiving!

Witnessing my children happy and loving on each other at the cemetery on a day like that one was further validation to me as to how genuinely good my life really is. It was a moment that made me feel immense gratitude for all I have been through and for all that I have because of it. Fourteen years ago, I was at my lowest of lows - feeling like life wasn't worth living anymore, and here I am now, at my highest of highs - feeling like life couldn't possibly get any better. If I’m being totally honest, I find it remarkable that I am that same person from so long ago.

Today, three days later, we had plans to go to the aquarium since my son is on Thanksgiving break. But then circumstances changed and we didn’t go. I am usually a homebody and so is my son. We really enjoy just staying home, but for whatever reason, I was feeling antsy, like I had to take the kiddos out of the house and make it a purposeful day. I couldn’t decide where to go, what to do. My husband kept texting me suggestions. Nothing sounded appealing. I checked Groupon for deals nearby. Nothing sounded exciting. Then I Googled “Unique playgrounds in Orange County” and a list came up. The second or third one down was the winner…A park known as “Butterfly Park”, where butterflies abound among the Eucalyptus trees.

I admit the butterfly park was really more for me than them. The playground area has a typical, small, no-big-deal jungle gym. But oh, those gorgeous butterflies. In the last six months, I have become a passionate butterfly lover, because suddenly to me, every butterfly I see (which is near-daily) is a sign from my mom and from Gabriel that they are with me. Every butterfly I see is a reminder of the huge transformation I have made. Every butterfly I see represents the possibility of change in all of us.

I spent two hours photographing butterflies today. It was my idea of a perfect way to spend my day. As I snapped away, trying to get a decent shot of a flitting Monarch, I suddenly saw FOUR of them appear in the lens, chasing each other around, putting on a show for me. I couldn’t believe it. It was so magical; so beautiful. It even made me weep. (Yes, I am a big, mushy sap that cries over every little thing.) Being there, among the butterflies was not only serene, but also uplifting because once again I was overcome with joy and a deep sense of gratitude for everything in my beautifully, complicated, messy life. I looked around in awe and wonder at how truly amazing nature is and how wonderful life can be. And again, I felt that it was no coincidence that my aquarium plans fell through and I stumbled on this butterfly park on Google. Because once again, I felt that my mom and Gabriel were letting me know with each and every butterfly I saw that they are always with me.

Four dancing Monarchs
*****
This evening I read a quote by Emilio Estevez (weird, I know) that says “We are all wonderful, beautiful wrecks. That’s what connects us – that we’re all broken, all beautifully imperfect.” 

His quote reminded me of two conversations I’ve had (ok, not actual conversations but rather texting and FB messaging) with two separate friends in the last few days about the troubles of our pasts. My two friends and I have had different lives, different experiences, but we have shared similar emotions of feeling broken and feeling alone. What we concluded is that although the paths we have been on may be different, we all share the same destination. We all want to feel whole and to feel connected.

Six months ago when I started this blog, I didn’t have any expectations. I didn’t even know what my blog was about. I just knew that I needed to write. And so I did. But I have received from it so much more than I ever imagined. Because in sharing my story, I received the gifts of connectedness and healing.

As we enter this holiday season, I urge you to see the beauty that surrounds you. Be grateful for where you have been and where it has taken you. Take time to see the goodness in your life. It's there. I promise you. If I was able to find it, you can too. And tell your beautifully messy, complicated story. In doing so, my wish is that you find the connectedness and healing I have found.

Have a blessed and happy Thanksgiving. My heart is full this year. And I thank you for your readership, your comments and messages, and your support and encouragement always.

All my love,
Jackie

 (P.S. All I have been singing for the past couple of days, thinking about what I would write about next, is “What’s blog got to do with it?” in my best Tina Turner voice. I really wanted to make that the title of this post, but it doesn’t really fit...<sigh>…wasted wit.)










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