Tag Archives: anger

Aunt Becky, PhD, and the Prayer of Relinquishment

At the end of the race, there are almost always bananas.

At the end of the rainbow, there is supposed to be a pot of gold.

At the end of a journey, a destination.



And at the end of the five stages of grief, there lies acceptance.

I don’t know that I’ve ever grieved heartily and with enough awareness as an adult to really notice any given stage of grief. Not until yesterday… when in less than 24 hours I managed to go from stage 1 (blissful denial) to rapid vacillation between stages 2, 3, and 4 in a torrent of tears and snot (so much snot) before I finally settled into a puffy-eyed, rosy lipped (my lips get very bright pink when I cry a lot) depression.

Puffy-eyed bedtime and only the Chamber of Secrets could provide me solace.
Puffy-eyed bedtime and only the Chamber of Secrets could provide me solace.


So, what happened, exactly? We’ll do it stage by stage.

1. Denial

I had a lovely time on Sunday night, the night before the embryo transfer. My cousin-in-law Megan had her second annual Take Steps for Crohn’s and Colitis fundraiser at UPaint and Party in Wausau. Almost everyone painted a gorgeous picture of a lovely little bird silhouetted against a bright sky flying from it’s cage. My painting somehow got a dementor in it, but I still had a blast. It was nothing but fun and I was in good spirits about Monday’s transfer. Yes, I only had three embryos, but it could be great! That was three chances — making for a potential family of five humans and my sweet Curly girl to boot. I was good.

The dementor just kind of happened...
The dementor just kind of happened…

Even Monday morning, though nervous and stressed about heading out the door a bit late, I was still making The Jerk-based jokes with my family.

Courtesy of my Shabsky.
Courtesy of my Shabsky.

And that’s all I need…

2. Anger

We arrived in Madison a mere 4 minutes late for our scheduled appointment. Big thanks to the state of Wisconsin for upping our speed limits to 70 mph — big help yesterday. The nurse brought us back to the procedure area, same as before, and began to collect vitals, provide information, prep us with our gowns and caps and booties and all that… and I noticed that all the while, she kept saying “the embryo.” Part of me assumed it was because they were planning to just transfer one, which was always the goal. A much darker part of me knew what it really meant though.

There was only one embryo left. Two of the three we had, the three I had been banking on, had stopped developing. Just stopped. We were going to transfer only one because we had only one.

The one. I'm sure someday I'll make Highlander jokes about this. Too soon.
The one. I’m sure someday I’ll make Highlander jokes about this. Too soon.

And that one? Not even ideal. Not sure on the details… and this image means pretty much nothing to me (no wonder they call it a ball of cells, eh?) so I can’t exactly glean anything from that, but something about it not being as developed as it should have been — an early blast instead of a mature/late/something one. I don’t know. It was hard to hear the embryologist over the buzzing in my ears that always comes when I start trying to hold back tears.

I was so unbelievably, inconsolably (even by Valium) sad. And angry. ONE?!?! After ALL THAT?! After all we had been through, all the thousands of dollars and hundreds of injections and ultrasounds and trips and tears and everything… just one. One shot. One sub-par shot.

But we did SO much. We’ve been through SO FREAKING MUCH. And so many people who do NOTHING, absolutely NOTHING, but get it on once or twice have babies all the dang time. ALL THE TIME. Why are they special? Why am I not? Why are they so obnoxiously #blessed and is #cursed even a thing?! Because I obviously am. What’s wrong with me that even with thousands and thousands of dollars of medical intervention this is still the best I can do??? One.

And if that one doesn’t work? There’s nothing in the freezer to try again. Nothing. We have to start over from zero. Physically, emotionally, financially from zero. Do it alll over again. And I know I’m too close, and I know this isn’t where we are yet, but I can’t. I shouldn’t have to! I don’t want to!! It’s not FAIR!!! (Which is truly the worst thing you can say as an adult because by this point in my life I am well aware that life is not fair and nobody every said it would be.)

3. Bargaining

But it only takes one. One is enough. One is better than zero and I’ve prayed and hoped and begged and done everything right. Everything I could do. I would do anything — hasn’t what I’ve done so far proven that? Wouldn’t we be good parents? Don’t we deserve a family?

Even just this weekend, the priest talked about the little boy who made a miracle happen by bringing Jesus his meager loaves and fishes. I’ve brought him mine, haven’t I? With everything I have done, all that I’ve been through… it’s time for our miracle now, isn’t it?

And there it is… the little embryo between the two air bubbles.

embryo ultrasound labeled

Or so they tell me. I wouldn’t know. As far as I’m concerned, this actually could be a print out of an ultrasound from a cow and I’d be none the wiser. But that has to be good, right? That you can see where it is? Inside me? Please, I’ll do anything to keep it there, to make it grow, to let it be life.

4. Depression

But then again, it really doesn’t matter anyway. It’s out of my hands and come next Wednesday, when we can finally test, this will all be over. Yes, pregnancy is a possibility. But really? If after all that, we were left with one embryo. Just the one, just hanging in there, is it really very likely that we’ll be pregnant at all? I have lost my hopefulness, my optimism. The best of it, the stuff on the inside. I have to keep saying to everyone, “Oh yes! It’s very exciting! We could be pregnant right now– not too much longer ’til we find out! Keeping our fingers crossed!!” When really, I know otherwise. I know, you know? And the best news of all — my attitude will not change anything and if ONE MORE MOTHER EFFING PERSON TELLS ME OTHERWISE I AM GOING TO FREAKING LOSE IT. (Oops… that bit might have been anger again.) You cannot visualize or positive energy or pray or wish or hope yourself into pregnancy. It’s biology. And my biology hasn’t really felt like cooperating so far. It is what it is (sorry, Aimee — I know you hate that phrase, but isn’t it the best depressive phrase kind of ever?) and I am where I am and what’s done is done and it’ll all be over soon.

Back and forth and back and forth, sometimes anger, sometimes bargaining, sometimes depression over a frightening number of cycles since yesterday afternoon. And then sometime this morning, as I chatted with my friend Marie (Seth, if we ever do have a baby, her middle name (or even his middle name, to be honest) is going to have to be Marie — fair warning) about normal things, the things we chat about all the time, and I felt my funk start to lift just a bit I started thinking about what acceptance might actually mean. And I realized that Seth’s Aunt Becky had kind of already set me up for it a while ago, believe it or not. Probably on purpose too. She’s super wise and all knowing like that. Like Dumbledore. A doctor even, the good kind, PhD-style like me. Her PhD isn’t actually in theology, although as a self-taught theologian she’s quite impressive, if I do say so myself.

Aunt Becky is on the right -- she says cool things like "academic wonks," is the homeliest in a good way person I know, AND throws groundbreaking bachelorette parties for her colleagues.
Aunt Becky is on the right — she says cool things like “academic wonks,” is the homeliest-in-a-good-way person I know, AND throws groundbreaking bachelorette parties for her colleagues.

A few weeks back she sent me a link to this article about the prayer of relinquishment:

The Prayer of Relinquishment by Catherine Marshall

Maybe I’m really late to the game and this is old news for everybody else, but in this moment, I’m so crazy grateful to Aunt Becky, PhD, for sharing it with me and I can’t recommend reading the whole thing enough if you’re in any capacity inclined toward spirituality. It’s so good.

This is the crux of it all, at least to me and right now:

“…it says, ‘This is my situation at the moment. I’ll face the reality of it. But I’ll also accept willingly whatever a loving Father sends.’ Acceptance, therefore, never slams the door on hope.

Yet even with hope our relinquishment must be the real thing, because this giving up of self-will is the hardest thing we human beings are ever called on to do.”

5. Acceptance

So as Catherine Marshall says Mrs. Nathaniel Hawthorne said once upon a time… why should I doubt the goodness of God?

I wear my bracelet all the time, the one that says “Always.” as a reminder that God is good. Always. No matter what. Why would this moment be any different? Pregnant or not, my life will go on. Pregnant or not, Seth and I will still love each other and we’re really lucky to have that. Pregnant or not, our little family will continue to flourish and decide what to do from there. All I can do right now is accept what is to come, relinquish the notion that I have any control over it, and carry on for the next several days until we have an actual answer to which I can react.

Yes, it’s hard. So so so hard. But as Melissa told me last night, even Jesus got angry. Why shouldn’t I? God gave me all these emotions and I’m free to feel them. They’re not wrong. They’re normal. And this is so hard. It’s no wonder that I feel angry and sad and depressed and worried and even hungry at times. (So so hungry.) We feel things. It’s what we do.


So stages of grief and all that aside… we had an embryo (i.e. the embryo) transferred to my uterus yesterday. At present, it’s a little ball of cells floating in space and the hope is that it will eventually implant into the uterine lining, effectively establishing a viable pregnancy. I don’t know how likely that is or is not. All I know is that on August 5th, we’ll do a blood test for HCG — a pregnancy test (not the pee on a stick kind). A negative is the real thing. Negative = negative. A positive could still be a false positive though, so if we do get a positive result, we have to do another blood test two days later on August 7th to look for rising levels of HCG, which will effectively confirm the positive result. It would be lovely to think that maybe I could look for signs and symptoms of pregnancy in the interim, but with the hormone overload my body is currently going through, I already have just about all of them and there’s no way any sign of actual pregnancy could be differentiated from the craziness happening in my body baby or no… so we wait.

Wait and accept and relinquish and let that little bit of hope in because that’s pretty much all we can do.

It’s almost Easter. But before the bunny, a face-chewing jungle cat.

I’ve written approximately (well, exactly, actually) three unpublished end-of-lent-hello-easter-thanks-be-to-joan-for-all-the-fodder-for-reflection posts. This is the fourth and this is the one that’s actually going to get published and it’s going to be nothing like those other three. Because they were all full to the brim with words, but lacking in genuine-ness.

Delete. Delete. Delete.

We all deserve better than that.

Better than vague-eries. Something more down-to-earth, personal, relate-able.

So let’s start with this morning.

This morning I got my face chewed off. (Metaphorically, of course, I life in Wisconsin where cud-chewing cows far outnumber face-chewing jungle cats.) Right away. First thing. Hello office, what’s the message on today’s page-a-day calendar… BAM.

My attacker, which is an over-dramatic way of saying it to be sure, got POed at the end of the day yesterday, but said nothing, and had all evening, all night, and all of the early morning to whip that anger up into quite the frenzy and went all out first thing. Instant headache.

And over nothing, actually. A case of mistaken identity, in fact. But on account of all the whipping and the frenzying, there was still a lot of yelling and complaining and negativity. And not just to me. Also about me to others. It’s too much! My shoulders are basically attached to my ears. My head won’t stop pounding. And I let it get me all kinds of whipped up too.

So in my next meeting, when I had the chance to vent to someone I thought likely to be understanding, I did. And he said, “speak life! Have you heard that song?”

I had not.

So he pulled it up on his phone. So great: Toby Mac – Speak Life

A snippit of the Speak Life lyrics-- UTT-type material, eh? {source}
A snippit of the Speak Life lyrics– UTT-type material, eh? {source}

The message was exactly what I needed to hear. And then we discussed how we both wished my attacker (over-dramatic, again and as usual) could be happier. Calmer. More at peace.

More able to speak life, whatever that would take.

It was kind of nice.


Before Lent even began, I read a book published by the creator of the Church Health Center in Memphis, TN. I loved the book so much, and I’ve told you about it before. What I haven’t really talked about yet, although I’ve embraced it in its entirety, is the Church Health Center’s focus on the seven virtues described by Paul in Colossians 3:12-14.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, wholly and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you have a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”


Quite frankly, striving toward any one of those qualities hardly leaves room for allowing frenzied anger to become like a Dole Whip at Disneyland (like you don’t know what I’m talking about) and the notion of “speaking life” speaks to that whole heartedly.

Getting angry and whining about it to someone else hardly embodies compassion. Certainly not kindness or humility. And gentleness and patience? Absolutely not. Least of all forgiveness and love. Speaking life does.

And most importantly, in this Easter season, and especially today on Good Friday as we reflect on the crucifixion of Jesus, we would do well to remember that these virtues are exactly what his life stood for. (Yes, yes, yes… I say “we” like I’m being all wise, but honestly, you and I both know that I am the one who would do well to remember this fact… yes? It’s really not that wise, it’s 100% selfish, but there you have it. Anyway.) These are the characteristics that he embodied (love especially, the binding agent) and that he asks us to, at the very least, work real hard toward embodying ourselves.

No matter our spiritual tradition, or lack thereof, I think it’s fair to say that these are virtues we all admire, regardless of our color or creed, religion, philosophy, nationality, shoe size, or handedness. (Fun fact: in chemistry, S- and R- isomers are based on the Latin words sinister and rectus meaning left and right, respectively, because left handedness was considered evil and scary and sinister. Hence, the inclusion of handedness in this list here for all my readers trapped in the 1300s. Fascinating, right?) As such, I think it’s also fair to say that when it really boils down to it, we all want the same thing. Goodness and love, kindness, patience, forgiveness, gentleness and compassion. Light.

And interestingly, at the beginning of the Gospel according to John (because I skipped ahead to the New Testament for an Easter interlude), John describes God as bringer of life and life as the light of mankind. (Math math math… commutative property… if a = b and b = c, then a = c.) So, if God = life and life = the light of mankind, then God = the light of mankind. God is light, God is good.

And that leads me to my second favorite thing to think about when I think about my spiritual life… the notion that God is good. Always. No matter what. (Totally stolen from the brilliant Jeannett at Life Rearranged, which I love so much, but she seems like the type who probably wouldn’t mind and, in fact, would be likely to deny that her seemingly simple phrase completely changed my life. It did though. For seriously.) Like our common ground based on the seven virtues. I think this notion of God being good is also true no matter what, where “no matter what” can equal anything — color, creed, religion, philosophy, nationality, shoe size, or handedness. Always, in fact.

So those are the things I remind myself of every single day. Try to, anyway. I’d love for it to be a bitty little tattoo on my inner wrist, but given Seth’s opposition to me inking anything on my body anywhere and his exceptional willingness to put up with a lot of other crap, I have settled for bracelets:

Mantra Bands on top (you can get them here) and an Etsy purchase below (here).
Mantra Bands on top (you can get them here) and an Etsy purchase below (here).

I’m missing a couple virtues still, but I’m working on it. I’ll find the rest. One glance down and I’ll remember:


One glance down, every day and all the time, I will remember what Good Friday was about, and more importantly, what Easter Sunday really means. I will remember that I have goals, goals beyond those of the workplace or the home or the physical world in general– goals related to my spiritual well-being, goals related to the kind of person that I want to be. One who embodies compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and love. Always.

And in those moments, when I am reminded, I can practice. Alas, I am human, so in this case practice will undoubtedly never make perfect, but it can make me better and I think that’s worth trying for. As far as I can tell, a lot of us are trying.

So when I got angry, angry, angry this morning, someone else whose giving it his best shot reminded me of those virtues. And maybe I’ll get a chance to return the favor. Or maybe not, maybe I’ll get a chance to pay it forward instead. Honestly, compassion, forgiveness, love… that stuff feels a lot better.

And as the Lenten season ends and I stop reflecting on the other-worldly and come more soundly back to earth in the hilarious (because seriously, I’m hilarious, right?) space I occupied on Fat Tuesday and before, I plan to tell you about what Satan thinks of forgiveness. Because I just finished reading his (Satan’s) book about it. And it was le fascinating.

In other words, book review of I, Lucifer coming up very shortly.

In the meantime, Lord give me strength not to destroy my insides with Cadbury eggs!

Happy Easter, my friends!!

The Thing Tim Haight Taught Me, A Long Time Ago

I was in the band starting in 6th grade. I played percussion. I could read music decently well, so I primarily played the bells (the little xylophone-looking thing made out of metal rather than wood) until high school, but also dabbled in drums and other keyed instruments of various sorts (like an actual xylophone).

Any excuse to show off my band uniform– that’s a xylophone, bells on the right. Well, it was a glockenspiel, actually, but same thing.

My freshman year of high school, I officially joined the drumline and played the snare drum when we marched. I don’t know what it’s like to be in any other section of the band because I’ve only experienced what I’ve experienced… but my impression was that drumline was a bit different.

Drumline! My senior year at a football game. See that lady quad player??? The coolest... be impressed by her. Very, very impressed.
Drumline! My senior year at a football game. See that lady quad player??? The coolest… be impressed by her. Very, very impressed.

You see, we had to play cadences (da! dig-a-dig-a-dig-a-da! go!) and keep time while everyone else was marching along between songs. It makes sense, really, since our instruments didn’t require lung capacity (only bladder capacity– those harnesses press down right on your bladder) so we could play and play and play without needing the break everyone else did. Except that meant extra practice, a special drumline coach, and a general level of rowdiness that was disconcerting for a nerdy little goodie-two-shoes like me. Which is what made Tim Haight so scary to me.

Tim was musically gifted, but alternative– to say the least. He didn’t follow the rules and didn’t care if he got in trouble for it (gasp!) and he scared me because people who don’t follow rules and don’t care about the consequences are unpredictable. I made a lot of assumptions about him.

He called me on it one day.

I don’t remember what I had said, done, or assumed or why Tim felt the need to call me on it at that moment, but he said to me, “You know what happens when you assume something, don’t you?”


“You make an ass out of and me.”

Jaw drop, heart stop.

It was a pun (a very, very clever and punny pun!) and it was crazy true.

I had never heard that adage before and I’m sure I reacted to hearing it that time very poorly, but it was a good lesson for me. I’d like to tell you I stopped making assumptions right then and there, but that would be a big fat lie and Tim would probably happen to read this one blog entry and call me on it in front of all of you… so I won’t lie. I do still think of that day from time to time though, and every time I find myself ashamed at the assumptions I continue to make.

Most recently, I’ve found myself making assumptions about other people’s intentions. My therapist called me on it this morning. (I’m not certain, but I suspect Tim may have grown up, changed his name, purchased some khakis, and moved to Marshfield to practice psychology…)

It’s never easy to hear someone else talk about your weaknesses– the things you don’t like about your character, the way you should have acted, the assumptions you shouldn’t have made. But that’s what I pay the good doctor for, so I had to choke it down. And now I’m forced to think about it. Ugh.

Self-awareness can be so obnoxious.

It was a lot easier to live in an assumption-fueled rage.

It shouldn’t be though. Because truly, I pride myself on putting my faith in other people and trusting in them to be doing the things most suitable to their own conscience. At least, I thought I did. But I think when it comes to moments why I feel personally hurt or affronted, I automatically assume that the hurt was intentional. Even though, logically and rationally, I can recognize that that’s probably not the case.

My freshman year of college, I lived in West Wadsworth Hall at Michigan Tech (West Wads!!!) in a hall called Good Intentions… as in what the road to hell is paved with.

The Good Intentions broomball team 2002... cleverly named Cruel Intentions. Because it's the opposite. And opposites are... clever?
The Good Intentions broomball team 2002… cleverly named Cruel Intentions. Because it’s the opposite. And opposites are… clever?

And it’s true. Because despite our best intentions, we still end up inflicting hurt on other people, and no one is immune to that. Myself included. (Waaaahhh!! I’m not perfect!!!!) I have a much easier time forgiving myself for hurting someone with my best intentions, though, than I do forgiving someone else for hurting me– based largely on the assumption that I know their intentions to be malevolent.

(Btw, I really like the words malevolent and benevolent. They’re good words.)

I’d probably be a happier person if I assumed the reverse. If I could think “wow. That hurt. But I trust that to hurt was not the intent, and I can move on” instead.

It’s not nearly as satisfying, of course, because very little feels more satisfying in the short term than self-righteous anger. But it’s probably a lot healthier, emotionally speaking, in the long run. Dang.

I’m certainly not there yet, but having had my assumptions pointed out to me, I can feel something inside me breaking. It makes me feel like I understand why people hold on to power and anger and resentment so desperately though, because it’s painful to let forgiveness and understanding and patience take their place. It’s painful to admit that you were wrong. And nobody likes to be in pain, no matter how temporary.

Tim was older than me and different from me and our paths crossed only briefly, but he was fascinating and he left a mark on my life that I’ll never forget. At 14, I never would have expected his silly words (and a swear word even!) to be so profound, and yet here we are… amazing, isn’t it?