Controlling your happiness

I’m sure most of you have seen these studies that reveal that parents report lower levels of happiness than their childless counterparts.  If you are anything like me, the fact that these two articles exist drives you a little crazy for two main reasons:

1)     There parents go again, completely taking for granted what others long to have so much.  How do they not recognize what gifts they have been given?!

And the second, perhaps more upsetting reason:

2)     If there is truth to these findings, does that mean that things won’t get better if/when I ever have children?  Is it actually possible to feel worse than I do right now?

These recent postings by Rae on the philosophical problem of happiness have also had me thinking about this whole conundrum of “happiness”.  It seems that a person’s experience and perceptions of happiness can only be influenced by internal and/or personal experiences, so happiness is inherently a “selfish” or “self-oriented” experience and cannot be based on some cosmic balance of right and wrong.  So, maybe happiness is influenced by some mix of hormones, habits, and personal situation.  But I think I can get more specific on the “personal situation” front.

The results of the articles above as well as the personal experiences I have had regarding the “desire-but-delayed-if-not-denied” fulfillment of being a mother in myself and in others, have led me to conclude that happiness is directly related to the control we have in our lives.

So I guess in order to understand where I’m going here, first we have to consider compared to who are parents unhappier? Compared to those who have chosen to intentionally not have children?  Or compared to those who cannot have children for reasons beyond their control?  I highly doubt that the control group was of the latter category.  I do not doubt that new parenthood has its fair share of challenges.  Being parents involves being completely selfless and putting the desires of someone else entirely ahead of your own, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for the rest of your life.  I believe a large part of the “unhappy” lies in completely being out of control of what that little person does, eats, sleeps, etc.  A major event has literally made you realize that you are not in control of your own life anymore.

Similarly, those of us that are waiting to become mothers and fathers have also had this profound realization, albeit from a different angle.  I do believe that this is one of the major reasons of the psychological stress that women facing infertility: a loss of control of one of the most supposed basic actions of humanity, procreating.   In fact, the only ones that are under this delusion are the ones that are delaying children by choice, aka, the happy ones.  Of course the big myth is that we were ever in control, but I guess what matters to our happiness is our perceived control.  I believe when people finally get pregnant and/or adopt after trying to grow their family, one of the first lines out is “It was all worth it”, meaning “although that time of being out of control and lost was really awful, eventually I regained some control and got what I so desired.”  It makes sense.

It seems that no matter our lot in life, there’s no easy way out.  At some point, you must come to the realization and actualization (because thinking about and living it are two different things) that you are not in control.  And yes, that will rock your world and affect your happiness.  For those of us with the desire imprinted in our hearts to be a spouse or a parent, its the acceptance that you have no control over making your dreams of a family come true.  For already parents, while the feeling of being out of control might not come with the first, maybe it will come with the second or third child.  I think its possible to try to surmount the chaos and feign control with different parenting strategies, just as it is possible to try different fertility treatments to “master” the art of having children, but the truth is still there.

It seems that the most genuinely happy people I know are the ones who are best able to roll with the punches and see the meaning of the bigger picture because on the surface, we can’t control much of what happens.  My dad’s favorite quote is “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react.”  This is where faith and reliance on God become critical to having an inner peace (which may closely resemble surrendering to God’s will) which may not be the same as that “naïve happiness” that you once had, but it will be deeper and longer lasting.

Anyway, these thoughts give me comfort when I think about if and when we’re parents, will we really be better parents having gone through this time?  I think we will be, if not because we’ve already embraced the fact that we are not in control.  Or at least we’re trying to.

I know its a constant battle, but I am curious if there’s anyone out there that’s really been able to do that permanently.  I guess that’s the fun of being human :)

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Making our move

I’m coming up here on 6 months of Creighton charting and I just received my Hilger’s referral in the mail.  It told me pretty much exactly what I thought it would, that my cycles are “functionally abnormal.”  There is a list of tests to continue with, some of which we’ve already done.  In all I’m just feeling very, blah regarding continuing treatment at this moment.

Its no surprise I don’t want this.  Who would want fertility issues, let alone the decisions that come with them?  Nothing is as easy as just deciding that this month we’ll “not abstain” and see what happens.  Although I pray for a different result each time, I guess that’s where we keep finding ourselves, just seeing what happens.  And until we discern that we are really called to do something different, that’s where we’ll remain.  With how strange starting treatment all feels in general I don’t know what it will take me to get the treatment train going (and makes the intentional decision that this month I will do IVF and have my baby this month seem that much more foreign).  Lightening bolts from Heaven?  In the least, definitely more prayer.  I thought I would feel invigorated when I received my referral, which is written by Hilger’s himself after looking at my medical history and charts, and have a new found energy about where to go from here.  Instead, I’m getting an unanticipated feeling:

“Just stay still already.”

I don’t really like it.  I’m an impatient person.  And its slowly being forced out of me.  I want to move forward or at least feel like I’m moving forward, but something beyond me is urging me to just accept it already, right now.  Even with knowledge of what the next steps would be and what specific tests we need to do.  And even while being forced to spend time away from my husband back here in Texas, months which could very well be used to complete the necessary blood tests.  Over these past few weeks I’ve been finally able to see what the reality and pain of this past year have clouded:  mainly, that I have never been able to visualize my family or my future (which is maybe something that God has given me to prepare me for the “unusual path” which may not even involve a family) and that I’ve always felt a draw towards adoption – which I could not acknowledge/talk about last year – even when prodded – but I’m finally realizing that it is true and not a bad thing or just a weird quirk of mine (but in fact is a very, very good blessing as not everyone has this).

Acknowledging these realities has made those recent desperate moments of “I’ll never have kids” seem not quite as bad, although I will always mourn the loss of kids I never had.  Before, when this thought would enter my head I’d feel nothing but despair, as if my life would end if I couldn’t have kids or that it would be pointless.  Lately I’ve been able to reason myself out of that despair by acknowledging that these other options are good options, and not only that, but that they might really be part of my plan.  Leading me to be able to both feel and rationalize that God has not forgotten me but is just working at His own pace.  This. is. huge.

There’s something about sub/infertility that strips away rationality and leaves just a desperate feeling remaining, like you’re lost in the woods and have no idea where to go and you’re out of food.  But now I feel as if I’m lost in the woods with a slight inkling that if I keep walking in this direction I’ll eventually get somewhere, probably not anytime soon, but eventually.  And that’s waaaaay more comforting, although I am not foolish enough to think that I’ll never doubt myself again.

But it is odd that in order to “walk in this direction” right now, I have to stand still.  My own analogies are starting to confuse me!

Anyway, I’m also having issues on how to continue this blog.  I’m becoming increasingly uncomfortable knowing that there are people I know in real life who read this blog who never comment, as if this blog is a one-way window into my life which isn’t reciprocated.  For this reason I’ve had issues with sharing more of the personal details of our journey thus far.  I don’t know if I’ll stop this blog or make a new one or what.  I didn’t anticipate such a personal subject to start to affect my thoughts so intensely and the idea that its replacing real relationships I have is troubling me.  I guess I’ll work through that and decide what to do soon enough.

So, that’s where I am.  And why I’ve been so quiet lately.

Missionary ideas

While taking our Spanish class almost two months ago now, we were fortunate enough to have a week overlap with Eric, part of an amazing couple (with Sarita) who has followed the guidance of the Holy Spirit to come to Mexico on a mission trip.  He was the student that was quick to catch on to the “When God gives us children” reference :)  The best part?  They’re Catholic!

[I actually had seen them at Mass the day we took these pictures, the Sunday before we started our classes and thought they looked like missionaries, but that wasn’t confirmed until the next day.  Small town!]

Anyway, the Baquets are a very sweet couple on an amazing journey right now with their beautiful (understatement) little boy.  They have their work cut out for them as the state of Catholicism and catechesis in parts of Mexico is well, interesting at best, so please keep them in your prayers!  Right now they are working in a rancho where most of the people have converted to Jehovah’s Witness.  We need more people like them willing to teach and serve where called.  We hope to make it up to visit them at some point in our journey here so please pray for that plan to be revealed as well.  They have definitely planted/watered seeds in our minds and it was inspiring to meet a couple so dedicated to following God’s plan for their life.

We know there was a reason we met them.  Please go on over to their blog and give them some encouragement if you feel like it :)

 

PS:  In this video, there is adorable baby footage of their baby and the grand-baby of the couple we were living with in Cuernavaca.  You have been warned :)

Sitting in a tree…

K-i-s-s-i-n-g,

First comes love,

Then comes marriage…

Then comes…

Waiting. A new house.  More waiting.  Wondering.  Fun traveling and attending family/friend’s weddings.  Love. A family divorce.  More waiting.  A family death. Crying. A job offer.  A new NFP method.  More tears.  Doubt.  A graduation.  A move across the border/Gulf.  More traveling. And more waiting.

Sometimes I can’t believe its been 2 years and others,  that’s its been only been 2 years!  Thank you, second year of marriage, for teaching me nice little nursery rhymes are children’s things and we should leave them for the children because they are not the content of actual marriages.  I guess that’s all a lesson I needed to learn eventually. Even though my head knew it, living it is something else entirely.  In real marriages you laugh together and thank God, you cry together and beg God, you find peace together and praise God, and you repeat, together.

Year two included lots of growth that revealed (surprise!) plenty of room for more growth.  All in all, I don’t know if I should say this but, I’m glad this year is over.  It. was. hard.  There were plenty of good times, but still, difficult.  Much more difficult than anticipated.  But we made it.

And if we can make it through this we can make it through anything.

Happy Anniversary, babe :)

My first pilgrimage

This past Sunday we decided to attend Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  I’d been wanting to go since we arrived and took this opportunity to go for the day.  It was a first for both of us to make a trip like this. When we got off the metro there was all sorts of stalls selling any type of religious icon you can imagine and when we turned the corner onto the street we saw this in the distance:

We passed people, whole families, walking on their knees. Up the whole street.  Even little kids.

When we finally made it up to the square, we could see the original Basilica (built in 1709), canted from sinking, and the new Basilica, (built in the 70’s).

The Church was huge.  Before we left we wanted to make sure they had Mass around the time we arrived and boy were we shocked to find out that they have Mass EVERY hour until 7 or 8 at night.  So once we got there we walked around a little and tried to sit as close to the front as possible, which was difficult because it was packed.

We ended up pretty close.  Can you see the image?  Its in the lower right corner of the picture, underneath the giant cross in the goldish-frame.  The Mass was surprisingly personal for being in such a huge location.  And guess what?  I understood the homily :)  I didn’t catch which readings it was and there were wayyy too many people for missals (at least that I saw) but it was clear to me that that the homily was about faith (and checking the readings later confirmed that!).  The priest said if you want to be truly happy, you must have faith and you must be holy.  The problem is how to increase your faith, but that’s best done by prayer.  At the end we all prayer together for more faith and to help make us holy.  The homily was also about abortion and how its easy to loose faith in crisis situations.  I’m not sure if the priest said this but if its any wonder why Christians are against abortion (despite the obvious reasons) consider that if abortion had been legal during Christ’s time, we might not have a Savior.  Its the startling truth.

After Mass we were able to get a closer view of the image of the Virgin by going underneath the altar.  We got confused at first and ended up in the crypts underneath the altar at first (surprise!) but eventually got straightened out by following the masses of people to the Virgin.  Here she is, nearly 500 years later…

I do love the giant Mexican flag (although all the flags of the nations are presented to the side of the altar as well).  For those of you that don’t know the story, Mary appeared to a a young Indian guy, Juan Diego, several times near this exact location.  No one believed him when he told them that Mary told him to build a church.

“Know and understand well, you the most humble of my son, that I am the ever virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the True God for whom we live, of the Creator of all things, Lord of heaven and the earth. I wish that a temple be erected here quickly, so I may therein exhibit and give all my love, compassion, help, and protection, because I am your merciful mother, to you, and to all the inhabitants on this land and all the rest who love me, invoke and confide in me; listen there to their lamentations, and remedy all their miseries, afflictions and sorrows. And to accomplish what my clemency pretends, go to the palace of the bishop of Mexico, and you will say to him that I manifest my great desire, that here on this plain a temple be built to me; you will accurately relate all you have seen and admired, and what you have heard. Be assured that I will be most grateful and will reward you, because I will make you happy and worthy of recompense for the effort and fatigue in what you will obtain of what I have entrusted. Behold, you have heard my mandate, my humble son; go and put forth all your effort.”

After several times, he eventually returns to the Bishop having collected many beautiful flowers from a hill in the dead of winter as proof of seeing her, and when he hands out the flowers that were wrapped in his cloak, the image of the Virgin was imprinted on his cloak.  This is same cloak that is displayed in the Basilica today.

This story is extremely important to Mexicans because the mother appeared to them, the native Mexicans, during a turbulent time in history.  For this reason Mexican’s have a great devotion to Mary.  Even during the independence and revolution many years later, Fr. Hidalgo and others used this image to gather support.  To say that its a symbol of national pride would be an understatement.

Anyway, I have many thoughts about Mexico and its Catholicism and what happens with separation of church/state that hopefully I’ll find time to write about later.

I have to say that this past week was one of my favorite psalms, its too bad I didn’t recognize it!  The Timothy books are one of my favorite books as well.

Reading 1 Hab 1:2-3; 2:2-4

Responsorial Psalm Ps 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9
Reading 2  2 Tm 1:6-8, 13-14
Gospel  Lk 17:5-10

Take 7…about Mexico!

Haven’t done these in a while, but I thought I’d pick up with my 7 favorite things about Mexico (thus far!):

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The Weather. While it might be a tad cold for my tastes, its nothing that a hoodie/sweater can’t fix.  Sunny, perfect, and usually rains at predictable times.  Most importantly, there is ZERO humidity which is a nice break from Texas :)

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Chile Candy. Ok, actually chile anything.  It sounds crazy but I tried some after a friend highly recommended it and let me say, it changed my life.  Love, love, love it.  And yesterday I discovered chile dried mangos!  I could eat these all day!  Its a perfect mix of spicy and sweet (but really isn’t that spicy at all).

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Children everywhere. I have rarely been to a big city that is filled with children.  Scratch that, I don’t think I’ve ever been to a big city with children everywhere.  Here you see families of 6 on the metro.  Its totally not usual to see a couple walking down the street with a child in their arms and their babies little arms flopping everywhere while they’re asleep, just enjoying the ride.  Oddly enough, no strollers, just children!  I love it.  And here its totally normal to comment about how cute someone’s baby is and you can even play with them and people don’t think you’re weird!  Mexicans love their babies, and I love that they don’t mind random strangers joining in as well :)

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They separate the men and women on the metro bus. So when I first heard this, I was really scared because the student who told us that said that it was because the “guys can’t control themselves”.  I sure the best solution would be “Well, get the guys to control themselves” but riding the super crowded bus where everyone is packed closeclose together, is WAY nicer when everyone is female.  It feels much safer, is friendlier (at least for me) and frankly, smells better too :)

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Buses that leave every 5 minutes. We’ve used public transportation the whole time we’ve been here, minus the first few days and when we were lugging our luggage around and rarely had to wait.  In fact, it took as long on the  metro to get to our destination as it did in a taxi, due to all the traffic!  You can even take a bus to another city and you won’t have to wait more than 10 minutes.  I was very, very pleasantly surprised by how efficiently it all runs.

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Fresh fruit drinks. I admit, I shied away from these those first few weeks while I was gaining my “Mexican stomach” but the fresh fruit juices have been an awesome part that I’m just now discovering.  Everything tastes better (even the apple juice!) and I’m in LOVE with guayaba juice!

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The people. Everyone from our the first city we lived in has been more than hospitable to us, and I’ve literally heard the phrase “Mi casa es su casa” for anytime we return.  Unlike other countries I’ve been to (or even the states!) I really feel like these people are serious!  They have made us feel so welcome.  Now that we’re in the big city we haven’t met too many people yet, but we are best friends with the guy in our apartment who owns the pizza shop so he seems like he’ll be hooking us up…he seems a little crazier though…

Our Mexican family on Carlito's 12th birthday. Can you imagine him looking at these pictures years from now and being like "Who were those weird foreigners in that picture that year?!"

Ok, that’s it!  I have more Mexican stories (and favorites…the food!  did I mention the chile candy?!) coming soon, so, feel free to click elsewhere if it starts to feel like a slideshow of my vacation!

Oh yeah, and check out Jen’s for more Quick Takes!