Thursday, September 07, 2006

You Called?

Alcohol was the all-purpose friend who I turned to when I wanted to celebrate; when I wanted to mourn; when I was sad; when I was happy; when I was lonely; when I was surrounded by many; when it was Tuesday. Knowing that a relationship can be based purely on a mutual appreciation of alcohol and its hollow promise is infinitely frustrating and sad. That I blindly and naïvely denied this for years is even sadder.

In the long run, that’s okay. A few bumps, but then the road really evens out. Goals slide into focus, decisions become easier to make, and relationships change and evolve. Some just fall away. Some slowly disintegrate, like a lone Cheerio left in a bowl of milk. The relationship retains its shape for a while; but then you touch it and its gone.

Not everyone is happy when someone stops drinking. It’s preposterous to think that my own realizations could send minor shockwaves into some people’s worlds. But isn’t that what propelled me in the first place to make my own leap? Isn’t it more preposterous to assume that we aren’t all connected to each other—in good and bad— in some minor but powerful way?

That which remains after the tide goes back out and everything settles down is much sweeter than I ever thought could exist; truly more fulfilling than any drink, cliché as that is. There is a certain clarity that slowly evolves, which, someone told me once, is just as addictive. She’s right. And that clarity forces me to look at life in the harsh and sometimes unforgiving spotlight of truth. No more fuzzy filter. It’s amazing what you see.

In movies, endings and good-byes are dramatic and harsh clean breaks, sometimes with one side confidently striding away from the wreckage while the victim reels in confusion. But it’s not like that. Real-life endings are drawn-out debacles that can take years. They are messy, with tentacles of connections inevitable left behind. There’s unfinished history and certain bound-to-be-awkward future interactions. And then there are moments of false hope, when you think (or pretend) that everything is really fine. But it’s not. And when one person can’t hide behind a drink (or a lie or a shared history or a fantasy future) anymore, it all starts to unravel. The question is, who will realize this first?

We can stop pretending. It will be okay.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

I'd Like To Make A Deposit

Today I paid $150 dollars to feel bad about myself.

I sat in a cramped conference room, behind an ultra large bag of assorted bagels and a sweaty half gallon of orange juice (both untouched) surrounded by women at various stops on the Infertility Superhighway (but all at the IVF stage), and listened to a nurse describe in excruciating detail everything that I already know about Your IVF Cycle, such is my veteran status.

I sat back, comfortably eclipsed by the bag of bagels, and thought I-know-this-already-I-know-this-already. My entertainment for the duration of this not-so-informative course (and distraction for the high price I had to pay for redundancy) was derived from my fellow cyclers, the optimistically hopeless women like myself who find themselves bewildered by infertility and yet still marching on.

I was shocked by the blissful ignorance of some, a crime for someone who is at the IVF stage, universally accepted as the Doctoral Level of Infertility treatments. The woman to the left of me asked basic, ridiculous and even idiotic questions that any woman fertility challenged or otherwise should already know. Improbable questions, for example, about moving a tubal pregnancy to the uterus or the possibility of taking a pill instead of undergoing those painful shots (no and no). She took notes with abandon, meaning without editing a single word the nurse said, and nodded her head vigorously and hmm-hmmed whenever she understood something, learned something, or was surprised by something, which meant she was nodding and hmming pretty much the entire time. And just when I would start to feel a little pity for her and her ignorance; when I noticed her talismans of desperation and vanity, in her fake pink fingernails, her lipliner-lipstick-lipgloss trilogy application and her carefully chosen trend-of-the-moment outfit. she would bark out another inane question or start smacking her gum and hmming again and I went right back to not really liking her.

I like to think that I am so different than she is; that I am not ignorant and loud and so aggressively fake yet transparently miserable. In fact I am diligently trying to portray the exact opposite.

To the right of me was the antithesis. An elegant woman in a crisply ironed expensive shirt with cufflinks and pants that had to be called slacks and 500-dollar shoes took careful (edited) notes. She also took time to scribble thoughtful comments to her partner, equal in all ways, who smiled and nodded at her notes. And if something was redundant to her, you would never tell by looking at her. She paid respectful and rapt attention, the epitome of good breeding and manners. She laughed appropriately, feigned shock appropriately and even rolled her eyes appropriately. She didn’t stand out, which somehow made her stand out all the more. As I watched her, alI could think is, I’m not good enough. I’m not worthy. I don’t deserve cuff links or hope or the baby that always seemed to elude me anyway. Babies are for women like this, who never abandoned their Filofaxes, their dreams, their direction or their dignity; who nod appropriately and hid their disdain and stand out by blending in.

And even when I spoke to this small group, in a carefully offhand way (carefully disguising just how not offhand my comment really was) about the displeasures of a full bladder, a retrieval and a late doctor, I thought I am not worthy of their laughter or attention or even their hope, if they felt so generous to waste such a thing on a complete stranger in a green skirt and a not-very-crisp white tee-shirt with apple juice stains on it.

I am right in between these two women. Living in the gray area, my nose hopelessly (and hopefully) pressed against the glass window of the cuff-linked executive to my right, whose life must be fabulous, must be rewarding, must be filled with Meaningful Moments and a baby inevitably on its way.

And when stork starts dropping off its packages, will the woman on the left of me be a lucky recipient; the woman who is almost too ignorant to not be hopeful and optimistic? Or will it be the cuff-linked executive to the right, the type of woman who gets everything that she wants all of the time, naturally and seemingly effortlessly? Or will it be me, the one smack dab in the middle, in the gray area, who can’t hide disdain or wear cuff links and who can make small deposits of hope into my fertility account from time to time (only to have the account unequivocally Closed until Further Notice when yet another pregnancy tragedy befalls me).