a complicated relationship with optimism.

Hope floats.

My teen years were the late 90s and pop culture philosophy from light-hearted movies about life filled my “quote book”, a separate journal where I scrawled out lyrics, phrases and prose. For some reason this film with Sandra Bullock has always stuck with me. In particular, the closing wisdom:

Beginnings are scary, endings are usually sad, but it is the middle that counts the most. You need to remember that when you find yourself at the beginning. Just give hope a chance to float up.”

I’ve always smiled at the sentiment of these simple sentences. But if I’m being honest with myself, being in the midst of a long and agonizing path to motherhood has me feeling that hope isn’t afloat.

It’s more like a heavy rock that has sunk to the bottom of my heart with no chance of resurfacing. Yet just like a phoenix, hope rises out of the turmoil of burnt out emotional ash to overcome the hardships and angst.

I often wonder if this is where hope metamorphizes into optimism.

Perhaps I should share what has me feeling this way.

I received the refund cheque for our donor egg a few weeks ago. Although we had made the decision to return these sweet little eggs after several failed fertility attempts and my body’s inability to get to a state to receive them (you can read more about my feelings on infertility and our decision to let go in my previous post “waiting for motherhood”) the realization that I’ll never be pregnant or birth a child of my own gut-punched me that day I opened the mail. There was no letter just a cheque. A reminder of the financial, emotional, physical and mental loss that now feels like a hollow transaction.

A refund of hope. A debt of optimism.

It took me several days to go to the bank. The cheque sat under a stack of other to-do’s. It probably sounds silly but that cheque represented something so final – failure, frustration and faded dreams. Even though we had made the decision to stop trying (my mental health, my body and my bank account just couldn’t endure fertility treatments anymore) and I’m doing the work to let go there’s still this little ember of want lingering; a flicker of hope still floating. An overture of optimism faintly playing in the background.

A few days later I went to the bank and deposited the cheque. The teller said, “well this is a nice refund to receive I hope you have something special planned.” She was lovely and oblivious to why my fingers wouldn’t let go of the cheque. I released the small piece of paper. Tears welled up as I watched our plans to become parents disappear back onto my line of credit.

If I wasn’t empty before there’s nothing left in me now.

Have you ever lost hope before? Has being optimistic ever imploded? Like you, I’ve endured hardships that I knew I would overcome. But I have to share with you dear reader, infertility and the beginning of the adoption process have all but ruined me. I’m disappointed in myself to say that I’m losing hope. I’m frustrated to admit that my optimistic spirit is dimming. I’m hurting and struggling. I don’t know how to ask for help. I only know how to write about it and read and listen for signs of comfort.

That’s when an interview with Michael J. Fox on one of my favourite radio programs, CBC’s Q with Tom Power challenged me to reflect on my self-pity and depressing doubt. During the conversation, Fox talks about his complicated relationship with optimism and how he found his way back to it after a particularly brutal year. As I listened I was reminded that hope is an emotion and optimism is a way of thought. I choose how I feel. I choose how I think.

There’s the stuff you plan — the stuff you work toward, the stuff you aspire to, your desires and wishes. And then there’s things that just happen. And the things that just happen are usually of more intricate design and a higher purpose.

Michael J Fox

I want to have hope. I write about it. I believe in it. I lead with it. I’m surrounded by it. But some days I just want to throw optimism and positivity out the window and commiserate and sit idling in my hot mess of misery. I know that sulking is unbecoming yet it seems to be a current mental state as I try so very hard to patiently wait to become a mother. As I try so very hard to participate and fulfil my responsibilities every day only to be all consumed by a yearning for a wildling to call me mom.

And I’m lonely. I live a very full life and I’m grateful for it but infertility and the adoption process is isolating. Other than this forum I don’t talk at length about what we’re going through to start a family. I silence myself in fear of minimizing someone else’s joy. I don’t answer the question “how are you” in depth in fear of downloading onto someone else who needs space to unload the hardship they’re going through. I don’t even go to a yoga class anymore because the simplest sun salutation makes me cry. I’m distant – finding it difficult to be present.

I’m angry. I’m anxious.

And I’m tired. So tired. Of being angry and anxious. Of waiting. Of meditating. Of praying.

Of trying.

Yet despite the fatigue and the constant state of melancholy there’s more rays of light than clouds of grey.

With each day the anger dissipates. It lingers. Letting go of the fact that I’ll never experience pregnancy doesn’t take the pain away.. It does make me more resilient. And stronger. Even when I break. I somehow rise and mend. I’m aware that many people trying to become pregnant, who have lost a child, who have battled postpartum depression or perinatal psychosis are no longer with us. Or they are here and they’re struggling too. I mourn their loss, I grieve for their loved ones.

For those who are hurting – I wish I could take your pain away. Let’s lean on Fox’s beautiful and inspiring approach to sustaining optimism. Let’s let go of what we had planned to understand that the universe has something grand ahead for us. Let’s continue to aspire, dream and appreciate the things that just happen. Let’s grieve the things that don’t happen.

Let’s heal our sorrow in the belief that everything is going to be alright.

So, while I’m over here floating on hope and restoring faith and patience to my withering heart I’ll be dancing the cha cha … untangling my complicated relationship with optimism.

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