On the micro level, the wave follows the cycle. The excitement of starting the cycle, the anxiety of not knowing what will happen, the sadness that comes each time (for me) before ovulation. The mounting frustration and the apex of jealous rage. The huge crying storm that passes with hours of sad acceptance giving way by the morning to tentative peace. And then the cycle starts again.
I spend the bulk of my cycle tottering of the tip of jealous rage. Sometimes I'm riding it so well that I barely notice where I am. Sometimes I'm paying such close attention to not being swept under that I am acutely aware that I am staring too long at pregnant bellies.
But it feels like overlapping the actual cycle, I go through these same emotions at the macro level. My excitement over a new technology or option. We were turned onto the idea of domestic adoption while reading Elizabeth Swire Falker's book. We had only considered international up until that point. So there was the excitement when it seemed like a possibility. And then the anxiety started to crop up--what if it wasn't the right choice for our family? What if we weren't chosen or went crazy during the wait? Then came the extreme sadness of thinking about how I possibly wouldn't know that child from the first second of life (never mind that I didn't get to take the twins home until three weeks...). And then the frustration over cost; the anger that other people we know are having children for free when we have to spend so much money just to become parents. The jealous rage at those who had already been through the process and were happily ensconced with their child. The huge storm of crying that takes place over days. And finally the sad acceptance that if it's the path we need to take, it's the path we need to take. And the peace as I wait in a relatively decent spot, going through my day and trying to keep perspective.
The emotion I have the most difficulty accepting is jealousy. I am a jealous person by nature. And by "I" I really mean all of us. I don't really believe it when people tell me that they don't struggle with jealousy. It makes me want to smile sweetly and say, "oh...you must not understand that word. Jealousy is that emotion you feel when you so desperately want what others have that you turn the anger inward on yourself because you're terrified of the way you're turning the anger out towards others. Hmmm? Sound familiar now?" I think there are people who have better control over their jealousy, but none who go through life without coveting at least once something that others have.
Anne Lamott has a wonderful essay in Bird by Bird that may not provide you with eternal peace, but will, at least, make you feel less alone when you are struggling with your own jealousy. It is an essay about being jealous of other writers and how jealousy is inherent in the field of writing where you are constantly being judged. I have to be honest, I'm thin-skinned and I don't do well dealing with my infertility jealousy and my writing jealousy at the same time. It's quite enough to have my body let me down again and again. It's another to allow myself to be rejected by putting my work out there for acceptance or rejection.
When I'm putting myself through something emotionally difficult, I ask myself whether it's worth it. I asked myself that with infertility. And I came back with the answer that yes, it is necessary. I need to parent. I want to write. Or more accurately, I want to publish. I mean, anyone can write. I'm doing it right now with this blog. And it would really be enough for me if...and here's the jealousy part...my husband wasn't also a writer. I could walk away and take myself out of that emotional wave from excitement to jealousy if I didn't have to observe someone else achieving that old goal within my very house. It's also completely unreasonable to put this on him (I own this entirely and don't think he should change one iota based on my insecurities). It's my own shit and it wouldn't make me feel any better if he stopped writing. It's also contradictory because seeing him productive makes me happy and gives me hope that I can be productive too. And it isn't even a competition where I need to be as successful as him. It's simply the fact of seeing someone achieve my old goal and thinking about how I didn't stick it out that drives me to keep going.
There are numerous lesbian couples where both women try to get pregnant. And I've always wondered what happens in that home when you are eagerly awaiting the birth of your child AND you're mourning your own infertility if you can't conceive and your partner can. You're certainly happy for your partner and you're happy that you're about to become a mother, but at the same time, there is a bittersweetness in all of that happiness because another person close to you achieved your goal. Does any of this make sense? Maybe that's not how it is at all for other people, but I know that's the way it would be for me. And that analogy is how I feel sometimes about being two writers in a house. I wish I had chosen a path with fewer judgments. Maybe I need to go back to school and become a reproductive endocrinologist...
Can I just tell you that with my jealous personality, we are so lucky that I'm the only person who has the chance of getting pregnant in this house?
Anyway, the paragraph in Lamott's essay that helped me tonight falls close to the end when Anne is setting out the pieces of the puzzle that helped her rein in her jealousy when a fellow writer was calling her daily to tell her about her literary success while Anne seethed on the other end of the phone.
...My friend Judy said that the problem was trying to stop the jealousy and competitiveness, and that the main thing was not to let it fuel my self-loathing. She said it was nuts for me to try to be happy for this other writer. I cannot tell you how much this helped. I was raised in a culture that promotes this competitiveness, this insatiability, this fantasy of needing hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, and then, in the next breath, shames you for any feelings of longing or envy or fear that it will always be someone else's turn. I was only doing what I had been groomed to do.I think that first line--the idea of stopping the jealousy--spoke to me. I'm not a fan of this idea that we need to be happy 100% of the time. We were given this enormous palette of emotions for a reason. I don't think it's our job to always try to realign towards happiness. I think it's okay to remain for a while in sadness and explore it as long as we don't allow ourselves to inadvertently board up all the exits out of the emotion.
When I am in this jealous space--as I am right now--I can feel it coming while I'm still ensconced in anger. This whole new attitude of saying "fuck it, I'm not faking it; I have made it. This is it" was born out of that anger and I knew that it would be tested the moment I crested into jealousy. It's a terrible space to be--jealousy. I am angry at myself for my selfish, mean-spirited thoughts. I don't like myself when I am coveting so deeply that it makes me hate things and people that I normally love. It's hard to exist with those extremes but it's also impossible to deny what I feel--I feel these emotions so deeply.
Even when I'm on that wave, I always rationally know that the jealousy is going to break. It will either break because new information will come into play, bringing me into a different emotion. Or it will break because I can only sustain a single emotion for so long. But it's a hard place--to be tottering on that precipice and looking down into the glassy surface of the water below and knowing that I can't simply get off by throwing up my hands and saying, "I don't want to be here anymore." It feels like something constructive should come out of jealousy--that there should be a greater purpose.
Perhaps my jealousy is just as wonky as my cycles.
And if this doesn't constitute airing out all my dirty laundry, I don't know what does. Hopefully, you will not think less of me now that you know how small I actually am in reality.