Musings From the Middle

In both disenfranchised grief and resurrection, it is hard to know where you are. And often times, it feels irrelevant. Post life altering traumatic loss Road is perpetually foggy, no doubt. But is having some sort of proposed road map really going to alter the slog of now?

Those of us steeped in the wisdom of infertility and parenthood denied have garnered a healthy suspicion of life “road maps” anyway, granting them, smartly I suppose, our hard-earned one eyebrow raised.

Leary of the possibility a perceived road map is a mere illusion, the question “yes, but is it a USEFUL illusion?” came to my mind.

In speaking with a wise and experienced friend recently, who gloriously hasn’t lost the capacity to meet people in the places where she herself has been, I was given a road map of sorts, albeit a loose one. Those are the only kind I could probably deal with anyway.

I was able to mark, in conversation (a rarity as we all know), that I am through the hard-core grieving phase and have officially launched my rebuilding phase. Not that there is no overlap, that these places of being are so black and white. They are not. For those who do well with numbers, I’d suffice it to say last year I was about 70% grief and 30% rebuilding, now I’m about 20% grief and 80% rebuilding. And if I were to reassess next month, well, I can’t promise any kind of a consistent ratio.

Being almost 3.5 years out of fertility treatments, I let the possibility into my mind that I’ve got about another three years of rebuilding left to go (likely necessary when EVERYTHING must be overhauled – career, place of living, relationships, social life, allotting time to that which now has meaning and letting go of that which no longer does). And the beginnings of my rebuilding phase have been layered with a debilitating nervous system disorder, I importantly remind myself. THAT just might have been a bit of a wrench.

It then dawned on me that, having just passed the six month mark of my nervous system disorder, I’m in the center of that too (a moderate case of dysautonomia typically takes about 1 year to recover from).

My mind then did something it has rarely been able to do for the past seven years, it skipped around the meadow of possible endings and transitions; perhaps by next spring any residual effects of my nervous system disorder will have evaporated, and maybe just maybe in three years or so things in my life will be a bit more stable, directed, aligned with my current reality, perhaps not so cumbersome. My losses and experiences will always be a part of me, in need of being tended to and integrated into my life, but perhaps there does come a time when the foundation is built, the legwork not so extensive.

At age 45, looking forward to my 50’s might even be a reasonable prospect. At age 42, coming out of fertility treatments, I couldn’t even see 43. 50 was downright black. But looking ahead to it might even be logical, barring any unforeseen circumstances.

“Barring any unforeseen circumstances” has become a staple phrase in my language, much like the CFNBC universal “and they are very nice people” overture to describing how some group of otherwise sensitive, aware and intelligent humans managed to dismiss your infertility and childlessness.

So what is this middle place? Now that I seem to think I know where I am (coordinates always subject to change)……….

It is a place of being so done yet so ready. An energized exhaustion is what propels you forward.

It is quiet AND chaotic.

Your world is rocked by the fact you can see where you’ve been and where you might be going, all at once, for the very first time. Straddle that!

In spite of its vantage point, the middle is still murky. Your past and your potential future are both now interfacing with your somewhat wobbly, ambiguous present, in this respect you feel like a virgin.

It is a place of yearning laced with the pulsation of subtle satisfaction for having made it this far.

The middle can take on a stranded kind of sense as others are seemingly water skiing by your still sputtering doggy paddle.

I always knew the only way out was through, but this concept has officially graduated from theory for me. From the middle, through is truly your only option. It is my every day, every moment reality.

The hard-won jubilance of “I’ve come so far” intermingles, constantly, with the weight of “I’ve got so far left to go”.

And you know what? It’s LONELY in the middle. Lonely, damn it!

So what’s left to say? Greetings from the middle, my dear readers, or from the illusion of it. Whichever angle you prefer.


Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know
His house is in the village though
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake
To only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake

These woods are lovely dark and deep
But I have promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep
And miles to go before I sleep

15 thoughts on “Musings From the Middle

  • I’m looking forward to hitting that latest ratio. I feel like right now it’s 100%/100% on rebuilding and grieving some days – trying to do both at the same time. I told my husband this morning that I want to start getting out of the “let’s wait to do X until Y happens” which is of course the story of IVF treatments – always waiting to do something fun until after supposed baby arrives – and start focusing on pursuing all our other awesome goals NOW. Carpe diem stuff…I don’t think I’ll ever fully “finish” grieving, it’s always a place in my heart, but I don’t want to look back and think about any more time lost because we were waiting for something to supposedly fall into place and make it the “right” time.

    • Sounds like you’re really in the thick of it ALL. As far as the “waiting to do X until Y occurs”, that limbo’s a bitch. It does fade over time but I know this provides little comfort when you’re IN it and wanting it to be gone. It’s not an easy thing to “unlearn”.

      During my all consuming grief phase I seized the day when I could, but not when I couldn’t. Will be thinking of you and your 100%/100% days – that’s warrior mode for sure!

  • I totally get what you’re saying about the middle being lonely. I’m continuing in the same field, same type of job, and that is harder than I thought it would be. From the outside, my life looks pretty much the same, but on the inside it’s completely different.

    • Interesting point from the experience of the outside seeming un-wrinkled while the inside is a full gut and remodel. Our insides are so blown apart, and then, hopefully reconfigured to some degree at some point, that maybe it’s all different in spite of any peripheral samenesses. Thanks for sharing this.

  • I remember the middle. It can be confusing. You feel good, as you said, 80% of the time, but the grief still appears, often just when you’ve been congratulating yourself on how well you’ve been doing. Or at least, that’s what I found. So whilst it was a time that I could celebrate, feeling as if I was getting back to normal, recognising my new strengths and ability to cope, it was also a time that my grief was even more invisible than ever, and when I could be completely floored by it, because its appearance was not as expected as it had been in the dark days.

    I hope that you are able to congratulate yourself and celebrate the 80%, whilst still honouring the 20%, honouring the journey you’ve been through and are still going through. It’s a time to really begin feeling good about yourself. You deserve it.

    • That makes sense, the middle has quite a roller coaster like quality as you describe. I was also thinking that, while there are at least a few dividends in the rebuilding phase and a vague (stress the word vague!!) sense of being headed towards something, finally, the rebuilding experience is about as socially invisible as the grief over children you couldn’t have experience.

      Most people in their forties are not going through life altering changes with career, parenting and place of living, never mind an uninvited overhaul of heart, soul and world view. It’s a very static, status quo, routine time of life for the majority. Thus, the topics of resurrection and self reinvention are also typically met with deaf ears. So, I can’t say I feel good in the 80% of my process that seems to be going into rebuilding these days, but I don’t feel horrible either (except for the nervous system disorder part, but that’s another thing……). Will take your words of encouragement to heart, it’s a gift to have a witness:-)

  • This post and these comments… I feel officially welcomed into the middle, and I feel comforted and much less alone. What a blessing these blogs are! I’m not sure where I am, but I am finally crawling out of the deep, dark, crushing grief and beginning to look around me and rebuild, reconstruct, reimagine different futures. Now I approach the future with very few expectations, knowing that literally nothing is promised and very few things are ever certain. I’ll be happy, but I do think the grief will always be there to an extent. Thank you for sharing your description. It really helps to feel less crazy and less alone.

    • Me too – I’ve had a hard time “knowing that literally nothing is promised and very few things are ever certain” as you say. But this world view can also be liberating. It’s a doubled edged sword, perhaps? Here’s to us as we continue to navigate the ambiguous middle:-)

  • I’m not sure where I am – I feel resolved about not having kids, but I have plenty in my life to overhaul that shouldn’t be there at age 45: I need a house that I love, a job that I like, and I need to rebuild relationships with friends and family members. I’m glad to be out of the “let’s wait to do X until Y happens” limbo phase that EcoFem mentions: leaving that behind was one of the best things about giving up infertility treatments. But I got quite inert and fatalistic while I was in that window (or maybe I’ve always been like that), and I haven’t really shaken the inertia off. I wish I was the kind of person who has a personal renaissance after deciding to become childfree by choice (I tend to think this is what I decided to be, since I decided to stop pursuing parenthood relatively quickly). Not having children makes it easier to take risks (with work/new careers etc) but I find I’m as lethargic and risk-averse as ever about making big changes. I’ve made big progress in that I used to think families (parents + children) were happier by default; I had very dichotomous thinking about childed vs childless lives (I was terrified of being a 50+ ‘spinster’, at one point; I’m guilty of stigmatising myself and my kind) and that has gone now. I do think though that the 40s can be harder (more complex; more ‘angsty’?) in many ways for those who don’t have kids. A couple of my friends who are mothers have told me that they kind of drifted into having children at a time when they were becoming disillusioned with their jobs and wondering what the hell they’d do with their lives. Children provided a distraction (they weren’t JUST a distraction… but they took the focus off their career anxiety and lifestyle hang-ups….). I think we put more onus on ourselves to have more satisfying jobs, more interesting lifestyles and some kind of impressive creative outlet – I really, really struggled with that in my early 40s (maybe it was all in my head, maybe no one else expected it of me). Now, I’ve reached a much happier state – I’m content in the knowledge that I’ll never have my dream career – just working less is my key to happiness now, and with that full-time pressure off, I found I got excited again about things that I had felt jaded & depressed about during infertility (holidays, hobbies, seeing friends). It comes back. I like the quiet now (the quiet that once scared me). So emotionally everything fell back into place, but there are still big changes to make (the house that we now hate, our commutes; probably my job needs to change even if part-time has revolutionised it; things like that). So I have tons of ‘housekeeping’ to do, but feel emotionally OK – I just need to find the energy to get cracking. As for the big 50: yes, it bothers me, and it is just around the corner – I definitely want to be happier with all the practical aspects before then. And I want to 100% own being childfree, by then, because a tiny part of me is still a bit weird about being a childless women in her 50s and 60s (and the last woman without kids in my family). My goal is to own that completely.
    Apologies for the rambling! I hope I stayed on topic for at least some of that! Post got me thinking…..

    • Rants and ramblings are my favorite things:-). Good for you on the world view shifts you mentioned! I totally hear you on the lethargy – mine is slowing ebbing, centimeter by centimeter. It still mystifies me on a level, even though I’m sure on another it’s totally normal. I also find that when I’m inspired and motivated it’s shorter lived than it used to be, it flickers out as quickly as it flickers in. Wonder what that’s all about? I hear you too on the house, work life and relationships not feeling like they fit your reality post upheaval. Mine don’t either on a few levels. Waiting for what is now meaningful to emerge and then acting on it is much harder and more complex that I could have ever anticipated.

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