The past week or so I’ve sensed a certain je ne sais quoi. On a personal note, I have been feeling life, identity, belonging in a way that seems natural, nothing forced, no pretending. You could say I’ve been getting a new groove on.
It occurred to me that I’ve been so immersed in my cause (Editor’s Note: for those of you unfamiliar that cause would be raising awareness about the trauma of failed fertility treatment and the stigma of being infertile in a pro-natal society) that I somehow lost sight of where I fit in, where I was in life. I couldn’t see the forest for the trees.
The cause is one I feel deeply about and always will because I don’t ever want anyone to feel as awful as I did a few years ago. Yet, while there remains Pamela the Infertility Awareness Advocate, there’s also a softer side, the Pam or Pammie (depending on how well you know me) who likes to chill, laugh, discover, poke some fun, and live in the moment.
In Silent Sorority I wrote about how I was in search of a new tribe, one made up of those whose identity wasn’t dominated by parenthood, where a “normal” life didn’t involve being tethered by school calendars and regular mealtimes, where small talk didn’t always seem to come back to parenting-related issues. I’ve definitely found my tribe online (go on, give yourselves a hand), and I’ve been lucky to meet a few of you in person. I’ve got a hunch that we’re going to start finding each other more and more in real life, too. We’re not fashionable at the moment, but I think our feisty tribe is standing up and saying, “hey, we’re here!” more often with each passing day.
Lisa raised an interesting opportunity in a blog post called Magazine for Non-Moms, which identified a hole in the market that could be filled very easily. Publishers are you playing attention? I suggested as a title for the magazine: Philia, (φιλία philía), which means friendship in modern Greek. It is a virtuous love, a concept developed by Aristotle. It includes loyalty to friends, family, and community, and requires virtue, equality and familiarity. A goddess, Philia apparently had a temple to her in Athens.
I’m also seeing some new cracks in the veneer on the whole helicopter parenting trend. Sure, a vocal group of mommies and daddies did a great job marketing their lives as the thing, but a FB post from Stephanie led me to this piece, Prof Links Professionals’ Helicopter Parenting to Failed Marriages, Forgone Friendships. Who didn’t see that coming? Sobering stuff there, but I’m not the least surprised. Old Ben Franklin had it right with “everything in moderation.”
I’m also discovering, as I do a little digging, a certain new hipness among our peeps. Have you been paying attention to Elena Kagan? Now there’s someone I wouldn’t mind sharing a beer (or an eggroll) with. I’m also reading a biography of Molly Ivins, a columnist, author, humorist who always signed her books and her letters with, “Raise more hell.”
Now there’s a slogan I can get behind any day! Who are your favorite women within our tribe? What characteristics do you embrace most about our new lives?
16 thoughts on “The “New” New Thing”
A tribe. I like this. I like this a lot. I don’t know that I have a favourite – I’m just happy to finally feel like I belong somewhere again. That I’ve settled somewhere at last. It’s been too long. And far, far too lonely.
Thank God for the tribe.
I am so happy to find my tribe online!
I couldn’t agree more with Kristin – I was lonely for too long…
I just got back from a wonderful writers conference in upstate NY. Interesting that the two “writing goddesses” I studied with — Amy Hempel and Mary Gaitskill — both in their 50s — didn’t have children. Both are extremely fabulous in non-writing ways — among the most feminine women I’ve ever met — and very happy, very engaged with life and love.
At an artist’s community, even when people have kids — they don’t focus on them too much. Some people have kids, and some people don’t, but they’ve plenty else to talk about, and there’s no parental pecking order. So I say here’s to communities that are focused on things other than parental status!
Christina: I love the idea of being “extremely fabulous” … a great stretch goal if there ever was one! I owe you at least one email response. I’ve been mulling over the question of how to handle NY. Will only have Tuesday to do any interviews as I arrive late Monday afternoon and leave Wednesday morning. More on how to “strategize” this opportunity later…
Pamela – First, kudos for being recognized for your book. So fabulous, and well deserved. I visit your blog regularly, and have posted my thoughts on occasion. I love that you are the much needed voice for so many of us.
I wanted to throw out a name for women who are looking for inspiration – Joan Anderson. She did not start out “famous”, but she has made a niche for herself inspiring women to think and believe in themselves, and to challenge themselves to keeping seeking what is true and right for them. She wrote her first book, “A Year By The Sea” about 10 years ago and has written a few others since. She writes about the “second journey” that so many of us here have found thrust upon us. Hers was more traditional in nature in that she found herself an empty nester, trying to figure out if she wanted to remain married after 30 some odd years, wondering for the first time what she really wanted for herself. She set out on an uncertain and rather indulgent course to find that person. Instead of follwing her husband to his job she retreated to Cape Cod and looked inward for a solid year. It’s well worth a read. I had the pleasure of meeting her at a women’s retreat at Kripalu yoga center in Lenox, MA in June. I was initially worried that this three day workshop would be aimed primarily at middle-aged, empty nest transitioners and that my 43 years sans parenthood wouldn’t measure up as worthy. I was wrong. There were women in their 30’s – 70’s all there for various reasons – empty nesters for sure, but also those who were in career transitions, dealing with the loss of a spouse, sibling or parent, women whose husbands had cheated, others who took care of so many others for so many years that they woke up one day not knowing who they were. I thanked Joan for making the weekend about WOMEN and not about mothers. It was an emotionally intense weekend for sure, but eye opening and healing in so many ways.
I am slightly behind you in coming to terms fully with my loss of motherhood, but I am well on my way for sure. The more time I put behind me the easier it seems to get and the more I am able to look outside the infertility “box” and find other interests that motivate and excite me.
I will end with this idea. For a long time I feel as if I’ve hung on to the feelings of loss around infertility. No doubt they are real and very much part of who I am, but I’ve also come to understand that moving on means having to know who you are without that part of yourself – all the years I spent envisioning motherhood is not part of my reality today. To quote a book I read recently, “There is a true ache in the body to walk away from it. A true ache until it is accepted and resolved.” I don’t doubt that my grief will always be a part of me, but I look forward to the day when I can walk forward with that grief nestled in an outlived part of myself knowing I can move on to other fulfilling, inspiring pursuits and passions.
I am so grateful to have stumbled on your blog. Thanks so much.
Thanks, Kathy. Great to hear from you. I’m reading Gail Collins’ book, When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present, and like you I’m struck by the consistent usage of the word women. It feels so much more inclusive and accessible. That stands in contrast to today’s almost obsessive use of the terms “moms” and “mother” that we hear today. It’s also why I go out of my way to drop “infertile” into blog posts — as both a counterbalance and a way to call attention to the jarring nature of hearing it over and over again. The dominant “mom” reference is one I’m convinced we’ll read about 10 or 20 years from now as a characteristic of this pro-natalistic period in society. I’m glad that Joan and the women who joined you at the retreat looked at themselves as women first.
As for your comment about hanging on to the feelings of loss around infertility, you are far from alone. I received a poignant email from a reader who finished Silent Sorority and mentioned the scene about the emotional nature of listening to the Spanish
Composer’s story and symphony with this thought: “I
understand the need to create something permanent out of the grief. For some I
am sure it sounds like self inflicting pain – but for those who have lost
they understand the need to move on but still preserve.”
Her comment really resonated with me as I know I felt guilty about moving on with my life — worried that it meant I’d somehow abandoned the object of my loss. I know now that my losses and the related experiences and emotions will always be a part of me, but it doesn’t mean I can’t find enjoyment in life. We each come to terms in our own way. Best, Pamela
I also use the words “infertile” and “infertility” a lot. And I’ve also been straightforward and fairly open about it whenever the situation allows or the topic comes up. It is painful as HELL, and the isolation makes it that much worse. For folks that are uncomfortable just talking about it, IMAGINE LIFE IN MY SHOES.
On a light note, I have noticed that bringing up my IVF’s and miscarriages is a great way to get off the phone with my mother-in-law in a jiffy!
I am just now brainstorming producing an animated short film about the infertility/IVF experience as a legacy and tool for allowing folks insight into what a devastating experience this all is. I am also framing and hanging pictures of my embryos on the “family wall” in our house. Those were the only little babies I got, but by golly those were my little babies!
THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU PAM.
Pamela, thanks for the shout out! There were some great ideas generated for the magazine idea and I’ve found that, although we want to find our tribe, other women who understand us, we don’t always want to talk about infertility and childlessness. Those are the common denominator, but we are all so much more than that. I am very grateful to have found such amazing women out here in blogland. :-)
Just like the physical cycles of women we spend time with often synchronize, the same must now be true for those we wish we spend out time with in regard to our emotional rhythms. Because that is exactly how I’ve been feeling these days. I am so much more than infertile. These past few months I’ve been reacquainting myself with the other fabulous parts of who I am. It’s been fun getting to know them again, much like rekindling old friendships.
Thank you for the mention in your post! As always, I am so grateful to have found you. My tribe feels powerful and multi-dimensional because you’re in it.
Love the analogy, Stephanie. Reminds me of when I was in the dorm and all the women on my hall began cycling together! It feels so wonderful to see the world in three dimension again. You’ve helped smooth the way with your gentle touch and wonderful sense of humor…looking forward to hearing more about your new adventures.
Totally agree, Lisa. We may share a common denominator, but we’re multi-faceted. One of these days we’ll have to meet. Northern and southern California aren’t that far apart — maybe we meet in the middle?
This tribe is fabulous! And while we all come from many different racial, ethnic, social, cultural, religious and political backgrounds, we share a commonality through the pain we have been through. Infertility is a harsh non-discriminator.
I totally get what you are saying, Pam. Lately, I feel a little like a diamond in the process of being polished. The cutting has already taken place, and little by little the high shine is starting to come through. For way too long I let being infertile identify me. What about that loyal, mischievous and somewhat opinioned girl, who loves to pick up a great book and read for hours? Guess what, I think I found her…thanks for the flashlight!!!
I have seen quite few articles showing up about the negative effects of helicoptering. Maybe we can start getting some of our friends back too.
I’m in Sonoma County almost every month. Sounds like lunch in SF to me. :-)
I stumbled across this almost by accident, but now I am thinking it was more fate. I too am a part of this tribe! Although I have had 8 years to make my peace with it all, I do remember very clearly how painful it was when I found out. I felt so alone and it seemed people just did not know what to say or how to react, so they just avoided the subject. The only person who really ‘got it’ was my older sister who said I needed to grieve. She said that I was to grieve all of my possible children, to let myself be sad for a while, but then to move on. She knew about loss having recently having a stillborn.
I took the time to be sad, realizing the universe has a funny way of making you face your demons – it seemed there were more pregnant women everywhere, kind of like when you buy a new car you suddenly notice the same car all of the time!!! However, after some time and some soul searching I realized that giving birth does not make you a great mom and that if you are open to it the opportunity to give of yourself and nurture reveals itself all of the time.
I have opted to believe that the universe appointed me as an Earth Mother, as I have the ability to love/nurture/support/encourage anyone who comes my way. Embracing that thought just empowered me, as opposed to how I felt…like I was not good enough or like I was being punished. Feeling empowered allowed me to see the bright side of it all: I can always have a sports car; I can hop on a plane in a moments notice and go anywhere without guilt; I am not destined to humm Barney songs in my sleep; I can be certain that my partner stays with me because I make him laugh and he loves me, and not just for the kids; there IS time for me and I DO make the most of it; I can really be present for the people in my life when they need me; and, I can and do love me just the way I am…..these are a few of my favorite things through which I was able to become my own hero in this tribe.
With enough time, some faith, a dash of hope, and a hearty helping of support all of the beautiful people of our tribe will feel just good and become their own hero’s too.
Congrats! I heard you won Resolve’s 2010 Best Book Award! Yay! Been thinking of you lately and wondering what adventures you and the man have been up to.