Adaptation goes hand in hand with moving forward. This thought came to mind as I sat down in late August to write the following blog post for the final day of World Childless Week 2020.
I had hoped to log in and participate in some of the WCW live events, but this week overlapped with a long-planned 2,000+ mile round-trip driving (socially distanced) adventure for my husband’s birthday. We traversed four states to reach Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. With no internet or cell service for much of the journey, I felt both liberated and a bit hyperventilating-y as epic wildfire smoke swept easterly and crept ever closer to us. After a 12-hour marathon drive home I found myself reaching deeper into my reserves. The 2020 nightmare grew more daunting still as I learned a cherished role model passed on. Rest in Peace Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Summer 2020 here in the Sierra Nevada mountains where I live normally brings blue skies with puffy white clouds sailing by. Instead smoke hangs thick and brown grey in the air. Wildfires all around the western United States tore through dry land creating a suffocating, murky haze.
We – the affected – had to adjust, make difficult adaptations and organize necessary accommodations.
The déjà vu feels unmistakable.
Redefining Normal Is What We Do
Redefining ‘normal’ has been a consistent theme in many of our lives, hasn’t it? As one of the ‘grand dames’ in the WCW community, I have become well acquainted with the ‘time to adapt’ signals.
Some of you may have read my earlier work on reconciling my unexplained infertility. My first blog, Coming2Terms, started in February 2007. That was back in the dark ages of the early Internet. This now archived blog contains some poignant posts such as ‘Growing Through Loss’ as well as some resolution posts like ‘Becoming Me.’
Contrary to what I expected when I started blogging, I have become rather adept at moving forwards when life became uncomfortable. Mind you, I rarely welcome or readily embrace the uncomfortable-ness. I know, though, that to survive it, I must do some work.
As we are creatures of habit, redefining normal does not come easy to most of us.
For me, the process usually goes something like this: initially, I resist, then grumble and lament. Finally, I buckle up and get down to business. It has not been so much by choice, but rather by necessity that I … (fill in your favorite metaphor): learned to swim against the tide; zigged instead of zagged or found my inner Sisyphus.
Embracing A Different World
My preferred way to push through the darkness … be it unexplained infertility – or, more recently, a near ceaseless panoply of pandemic anxiety, alarming headlines, or wildfires that threaten my home and my breath … is to reframe.
This begins with acknowledging that what once felt ordinary, expected, routine is no longer.
During the crucible of my infertility despair, for instance, I discovered I was stuck in a cul-de-sac. Once I recognized this, I began to find a new way forward. It was not always easy. I got lost more than a few times. Often, this was because our culture does not know what to do with those of us in the childless community. To be sure, it is maddening to be misunderstood or typecast. Some days our work to demonstrate we are not static or one-dimensional feels never-ending. We may be childless, but, damn it, we are also so much more. Just look around at those participating in World Childless Week.
Amid society’s ignorance about the trauma and losses many of us have endured, however, I learned to forgive. With this newfound power I found it a bit easier to transform and grow. I also discovered through a courageous community of women that infertility and childlessness can be an assault to our identities.
Adaptation Reframing – Step By Step
When I look back and recall the challenges and hurdles that once lay before me, I realized I had to transcend not just the ordinary expectations, but also a significant amount of ignorance and prejudice. I began to see the immense growth and character required of us in a whole new light. To truly transform, I had to find my extraordinary. Embrace adaptation. How?
- — Recognize that more is required of you when you do not fit society’s mold
- — Search out your community (we’re here!)
- — Summon your inner strength to persevere
- — Access and practice your adaptation skills
- — Build your stamina – you will need it
- — Nurture and refine your resilience.
That is not to say I have not found myself feeling stuck in cement at times, or felt myself slipping backwards the past decade plus. But, each time I found myself foundering, I reminded myself that we don’t just heal from suffering, we are changed by it.
As Ernest Hemingway once wrote, ‘the world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.’ I’ve taken great inspiration from reading about those who have grown strong at the broken places. It is through our stories that we instruct and inspire adaptation.
You, too, will become more resilient because, as World Childless Week makes clear, we are not alone in our extraordinariness.
Acceptance and peace … it is there for us.
And if you need a good mindfulness meditation to help access a place of peace, I’m happy to share my dear friend, Sarah’s video. She is one of many strong, resilient and inspiring World Childless Week 2020 participant role models sharing their wisdom this week.