Losing Relevance

Subtitled “Make new friends, but keep the old.” Ha!

My greatest fear when I was younger was being forgotten.

I think this stems from moving around while growing up and always being the new girl, without a place to really, truly belong outside of my family.  I was great at jumping in the conversation and making friends, but I always worried that once I moved on, people would forget me since I was never there that long to begin with.  And if they forgot about me, that would mean that it was as if I didn’t exist.  If I didn’t exist, then I didn’t matter.

I have grown past most of those issues, mostly due to the geographical stability that I’ve enjoyed for the past 8 years and having the chance to form lasting meaningful relationships, but I’ve realized that this is a continuous lesson I’ll have to face throughout my life.  Because its not always geography that changes our identities.

I was reminded of this as I talked to a close single friend recently.  Although we’re looking from two different angles, I realized how similar our perspectives are.  To her, it seems that everyone is changing their identity from “friend” to “wife/husband” and moving on, where from my view they’re all going from “married couple friends” to “parents”. And that’s a new identity, complete with drastic life changes.  Though dear, I find it harder to find things in common and make conversation with these friends.  “Oh yeah, morning sickness?  I’ve heard its bad…”  “Kids keeping you up late? Tell me about it.” So after a lifetime of me moving on, its my turn to be left in the dust.

I’m sure this is the same way she feels when I talk about my husband.   Yet from my perspective, my relationship with my single friends doesn’t feel as different as she described.  Was I being realistic?

Short answer, no.  I remember this happening once before, in 8th grade, when for the first time a close friend moved away before I did. I came to the realization that maybe I’d had it easy all along, being the one to move on. At least that way I could enjoy new experiences and meet new people without the constant reminder of the past.  There I was for the first time, missing my friend with evidence of an obvious hole where she had been amidst the same, familiar surroundings.  You have less time to mourn what you’re missing when you’re busy with new activities.  I know that when I would move, while I missed my old-location friends and loved to catch up when we could, the reality of how our relationship changed never hit me as strongly and I was not forced to deal with it in the same way as the one left behind.  I always saw my moves as inevitable (thank you, military) and thought our friendship was continuing in the only way possible.  I never really thought about the reality of what it would be like to deal with that obvious change on a daily basis.

This “moving-on” effect feels much more pronounced now that my personal ability to “move on” is stunted by the simple fact that God’s will is not my own and I am unable to change my circumstances (as I’m sure my single friend feels). I literally can’t move on and its not as simple as moving to the same location as my friends.  I can deal and I can find joy in different things, but I can’t move on to where they are.  It really amazes me how similar I imagine this “waiting patiently for parenthood” phase is to Purgatory.  Literally, I feel that I’m tasting a glimpse of what it must be like, watching other souls ascend without looking back (and why would you, you’re now in the light of God!) while we remain, with knowledge of the promise of what’s to come but still forced to bear this cross until its enough.

I often wonder how I will react if/when we get pregnant. I’m almost ashamed to admit that those two silly months where I thought we were (my first month – of many – with a 17 day luteal phase and that silly month I misread a pregnancy test only to get my period an hour later) that of the first few extremely happy thoughts I thought, one of the happiest ones was Thank GOD I’m leaving that awful, awful place!

How quick I was to leave those others behind, so quick to forget their pain and so grateful to be moving on.  But the joke was on me!  I’m still here, forgotten as those others happily ascend onto bigger and better things.  But how can I blame them.

A couple I met the other week said it the best:  The infertility club is the only club you want to get out of as fast as possible!

I don’t want children in order to play “catch-up” with my friends. That’s not my point.  I’m just realizing that being left out of relationships is another unfortunate consequence.  That I am slowly losing relevance with friends that were once close.  I just hope we’re patient with each other as we take on these new identities and are able to remember our similarities, in spite of our differences.  I hope I never become numbed to their challenges and unable to discuss them, though they may involve the very thing I long for. And I hope that at the same time my sometimes sullenness and thoughts on this subject don’t make them uncomfortable, drag them down and make them want to forget about me!

I’m forever grateful for the friends I still have things in common with and the new friends I’m making, even if we all want out of this club :)

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14 thoughts on “Losing Relevance

  1. “I wonder how I will react if/when we get pregnant.”

    Even though I’m now officially in the second trimester (13 weeks 2 days), I still feel like any moment now, someone’s going to jump out and yell, “Just kidding you infertile loser, you’re never going to have a baby!” In other words, I often feel like a fraud. I am so excited to be pregnant, but I sort of feel like, “really?” I was expecting to have to wait much longer, and go through more. So even though I’m no longer “in the club” (at least for now) I can’t help but look back.

    I hope I don’t sound insane or like I’m not happy to be pregnant, because of course I am. It’s just much more complicated than I thought it would be, because I think to some extent I started to identify who I was with being infertile. So now it’s like…I still think of myself, to some extent, as sub-fertile, even though I’m in the midst of a healthy pregnancy!

    Anyway, I think your thoughts on friendships and “moving on” are so true, even if it’s a cause for awkwardness in the process.

  2. This is the most beautiful post I have read in such a long time. And, it touched my heart in a very big way. My ten year membership in the infertile couples club came to an end in October of 2008. I still wake up everyday in shock (and gratitude) but, still very much in shock that it did. With all the joy of having a child, I also lost my best friend due to “leaving this club.” She and her husband had identified me and my husband as the infertile couple that would be a part of their family’s life, but would not have our own children along. It hurt so bad. By leaving the club, I also had to watch a shift in relationships and identity that had been put on us by others. This shift wasn’t always easy for past friends to make. I need to write more about your post because there are so many parts to it that I relate to. For now, I just want to tell you how beautiful it is and how much I am praying for you. Love in Christ, Little JoAnn

  3. single v. married friends

    What a great point and reminder for me. Today and yesterday I have wanted to wallow in pain and the knowledge of another failed attempt….

    But today is one of my best friend’s birthday and she is most definitely single. Every once in a while she will remind her married friends that we are many steps ahead of her but we still have things in common and I hope that remains true as more of my friends have children. The way I see it, we’re all being pro-life in different ways (parents, NFP teachers, etc) and I feel blessed to be friends with all kinds.

  4. I wonder whether this need to share experiences with friends is an inherently female thing? I asked Josh if he thought that it mattered to guys whether their friends get married and have children before they do, and he said that it didn’t for him, and he thinks that he is normal in this area.

    I think that most friendships are fairly shallow and must be centered on shared experience, but I think that there is a chance to have some really great friendships which can exist despite great differences in life situations. That said, there does seem to be something about the “new mom” phase which puts non-mom friendships on hold for at least a few years. And it is very difficult to be close friends with someone who gets married if you don’t get along with their spouse, but that still applies to me even though I am now married!

    All of that to say “good post” and I don’t really have any solid conclusions. Except that it makes me really, really sad that there *is* a particular gap between sub-fertile women trying to conceive and their should-be friends who are mothers.

    • so i mentioned this to my husband and his response was “that guy and his friends must have come out of the womb ready to marry!” and that was a quote! maybe its just that my husband’s single friends are particularly rambunctious (he doesn’t seem to think he’s the norm, but not an anomaly either), but there are a lot of activities that have separated them since we got married. i would actually venture to say that he has less in common with his single friends than i do now! many of his friends don’t understand the concept of having a spouse to consider outside of themselves whereas my female friends can at least understand that, although they don’t have it.

      all anecdotes aside, i would in general agree that female relationships rely more heavily on shared experience(as well as a good part complementing personalities) but isn’t that what relationships are: states of being in relation/related? as we begin to have different experiences it becomes a little harder to relate. not impossible of course, just more difficult. and if i’m honest with myself, more difficult from my perspective than from the other (due to lack of “moving on”), so i should really try to get over myself :)

  5. Really lovely post!
    Though picking up on Rae’s post, friendships can be based on different interest and while I hope that you are exchanging post soon about pregnancy and parenting I found and follow your blog because of the beautiful way you write about your faith journey and love of God’s creation and will.
    As fellow ‘companions on the journey’ please let me know if you are ever feeling left behind.

  6. It’s interesting, because while I can’t relate to wanting but not being able to have a child, I can relate to the friends moving on. It seems as if most everyone around me is having children and we are not. And we are constantly answering ‘the’ question. And we love spending time with our friends with children, but in some ways we do feel left behind. It’s a different life, one we haven’t moved onto yet.
    And then there are those of you, my dear friends, who want, but aren’t having, children at this time. And I can’t relate to you either.
    And those other people who we meet who are not planning children, well, let’s just say those who share our faith/beliefs and are not planning children are few and far between (in fact I have yet to meet one).
    All this to say, while it is a struggle to feel included (it is so important to me as well), I try to be the one who remembers what we have in common when spending time with friends. I celebrate the joys of those with children (and listen to their trials with interest as well). I grieve with those who are sub-fertile (and celebrate when a pregnancy is achieved). And I enjoy shared interests with those who may not believe what we do, but who have chosen to not have children.
    How will this change if we have children some day, I don’t know, but I do know I will focus on the similarities.
    Prayers dear friend.

    • thanks for the reality check and reminders about our similarities! everyone’s path is so unique anyway, i guess we could always complain about being left out, huh?

  7. I have no idea how to follow somone on wordpress, so every time I remember to check back here there are TONS of great posts to catch up on! I love it! This one is no exception. You have such clarity in your writing.

  8. Pingback: What I’m thinking when I hear you’re pregnant « Matching Moonheads

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