Tag Archives: struggle

A thought exercise (for me) and job offer (for Mindy Kaling).

Guys, I am struggling. All the hormones, all the waiting. The exhaustion — mental and physical. The guilt and negative thoughts. I’m really struggling.

But after an hour of tears in my therapist’s office and the ugly sobbing of so many incredibly unkind words toward myself, Dr. C suggested a thought exercise.

While I can’t quite wrap my mind around self-kindness, to treat myself as though I were a good friend, I can invent a friend and do pretty much the same. (I’m excellent at make believe, which is the nice way of saying lying.) I can invent a friend with a new diagnosis of, say, MS. (She was infertile at first, but Dr. C though maybe that would be a bit too much. So MS it is.) A debilitating and life-altering disease. A diagnosis that affects an individual and his or her partner. Sort of like infertility…

What would I say to that friend?

To my fictional friend, recently diagnosed with MS.

Your life is different now and will always be different. But your life is most definitely not over.

In fact, nothing has actually changed. Instead, you have an answer. It’s a terrible, horrible, no good and unwanted answer. But it’s an answer. And the answer doesn’t actually change a single thing about you.

The MS was always there. It’s a cruel trick of genetics, fate, chance. A cruel trick of whatever it is you believe controls the uncertainty in life.

(Personally, I believe in biology and probability, even when I don’t like it. (And sub-parenthetical, I apologize for being the kind of friend who cites their own blog in a letter to a friend.) But I have to let you chalk it up to whatever it is that you believe in.)

It’s not a punishment or a judgement on your moral fiber, the being that is you. It’s a circumstance. And you are not a victim of circumstance.

You are brave. You are resilient. You are head strong and heart sure. You love and are loved. None of those things will change. They are, like you, unshakable at their core. Because they make up your core.

Yes, there will be bad days. Days when MS feels like the only thing. When it feels suffocating and dark and all encompassing. Those days will pass. And there will be good days, days when you forget MS exists at all. Those days will pass too. Each is only a day. A day inhabited by the same brave and beautiful you, capable of anything and everything. Even surviving, living, thriving.

No one who loved you before loved you because you didn’t have MS. And there’s no reason to expect that anyone will love you less because of it. You are loved for something much deeper than your external circumstances, including what your body can or can’t do — by your spouse, your family, your friends, your dog. Like you, those loves will not change.

But the MS may, and likely will, change your mind and work some magic on your heart. It may increase your capacity for empathy and understanding. Maybe it has done these things already. Yes, it may also sometimes make you feel jealous and ragey and bitter about the able-bodied, unaffected folks around you. But a small price to pay for the beauty and appreciation and opening of heart you get to experience, don’t you think?

It’s not so much that MS itself is a blessing. More so that it’s not a curse or a punishment. It’s not out to get you. It’s not your fault. And because you are who you are, you can take what MS gave you, the cliched lemons, and make some cliched lemonade. Maybe some lemon bars too. Because you’re talented in that way and always go beyond the cliche to find something a little deeper and a little more dusted in powdered sugar.

Yes, MS is forever and it is yours to live with for all that time. But you will. Live. And love. And be happy and sad. Joyful and sorrowful. Grateful and jealous. Brave and scared. Just like everyone else, but also a little bit different than most.

I can’t necessarily understand, but I’m here for you, as your friend, as someone who loves you. And I’ll always be here for you, as someone who tries to understand and never stops loving you. No matter what.



Meant to be a mom or not, I can be a pretty stellar friend. Certainly a better friend than internal monologue-ist (which is not a real thing, I just invented it to make the point that I’m a total jerk to myself). And now, when my own verdict arrives in the near future, I can read the letter above. I can sub out the MS and sub in a state of infertility no longer changeable. And most importantly, I won’t have to go to my crappy internal monologue-ist for her thoughts on the matter. In fact, I may even have to let her go and re-post for the position.

We’ve decided to go in another direction…

Help Wanted — Qualifications: eloquent, Harry Potter fan with good sense of humor. No jerks need apply.

And with that, I suspect I may be trying to hire Mindy Kaling as my internal monologue-ist. She’s even had appropriate experience. This could be excellent.

Couldn’t have found a better picture — results on Thursday. Two days is like forever from now. {Source}

A plastic bag tumbled across the road, and I became ready for 2016. And 32.

A week ago, Seth and I were sitting at a stoplight somewhere between Miami and Ft. Lauderdale on our way to brunch when a white plastic bag tumbled across the road in front of us. When it caught Seth’s eye, he barked at it. A brief fit of barking punctuated by suspicious growls.

To anyone else, this would have been insanity. Random, bizarre, and inexplicable. But to me…

I laughed so hard that tears were streaming down my face and my heart filled to bursting with love for this man and for our little family — me, Seth, and our sweet Curls, whom he was mimicking.


Seth had been working in Florida for a week and I went down for the weekend to join him as a birthday treat and to attend his company’s end of year party. Besides the Miami-style kiss-kiss greeting, which makes me all kinds of awkward, it was just awesome. We ate good food and enjoyed the warm air. We treated ourselves to Godiva truffles after lunch and a nice view from an upscale hotel room. We went to a movie and found an Original Pancake House. We dressed up and drank good wine. We were together.

And together, we welcomed 2016 and my 32nd year.


(Or actually, my 33rd year, right? I mean, I turned 32, which means I’ve completed 32 years… so yeah… hello to 2016 and my 33rd year. But to be clear, I’m not 33. Yet.)

I’m not sure what it’s like for everybody, but for me, with my birthday being so close to the New Year, the two weeks between the rolling over of the calendar on January 1st and the additional candle on my birthday cake on January 14th always feels like a time for reflection and reset. A brief window of time where I prepare to take on what’s next. The notion that was on my mind this time came from Dean Koontz’s latest, Ashley Bell:

“Home is where you struggle, in a world of endless struggle, to become the best you can be, and it becomes home in your heart only if one day you can look back and say that, in spite of all your faults and failures, it was in this special place where you began to see, however dimly, the shape of your soul.”

Until I read (well, heard, actually — it was an audiobook) that line, I had been so over 2015 it wasn’t even funny. I had chalked it up as a bad year and I was ready to move on, forget about it, and never repeat it. I mean, 2015 was hard — it started with our last failed attempt at IUI, was characterized primarily by the physical, emotional, and financial hardship that is IVF, and ended with profound pain at the loss of our baby. So 2015? Goodbye and good riddance.

But then again, as my family briefly grew and then shrank, as my body and heart endured things I didn’t think it possible to endure, I somehow in the end found myself more at home in my life and in my body than I ever had been before.

Same as every year, actually.

Every year does that — it gives me another opportunity to struggle, to do the best I possibly can, and to examine my faults and failures in the context of my growth and my place in this world, ultimately making me a little more at home in my own skin, in my own life, and perhaps more so this year than every before, in my own little family.


I’m currently taking a semester long e-course by Brene Brown through her COURAGEworks website. It’s called the Living Brave Semester and is based on two of her books — Daring Greatly and Rising Strong. At present, we’re really digging into the idea of vulnerability as presented in Daring Greatly and one of the first exercises we did was to identify the values that light our way, that provide us with the foundation for our behavior and guide us toward the person we want to be. After considerable reflection, I believe that for me, those things are connection, grace, and humor.

Although it didn’t necessarily strike me at that moment, when I later considered the fullness of my heart as Seth barked at that tumbling plastic bag, I thought about how it really represented my own personal value trifecta. Yes, Curly is a dog, but she is also our baby and we love her, weirdnesses and all. And we’re connected enough to one another and to her to laugh hysterically at the fact that an unexpected anything seen out of the corner of her eye is enough to make her crazy — even something as simple as a tumbling plastic bag. When Seth barked, I insta-understood. We were connected to each other, to our pup, we expressed our humor, and we gave grace to our darling girl as we laughed. It was just one moment, but one of millions… it is these moments that fill my heart. They are what make this time and place and space and body that I occupy my home.

Re-framing the new year in this way, I can imagine myself inhabiting a spread in 2016/32 magazine, standing on the doorstep of my metaphorical house, a smile on my face, the door open behind me, ready to welcome others to experience the connection, grace, and humor on which my foundation is laid. I am at home, in spite of and because of this last year and all those that came before it, and home is a good place to be — a place to to grow and to rest, to love and to laugh.

Perhaps most importantly, home is a place to weather the storms that will rage around us… and the very next year becomes the place that weathered the storm.

Home sweet home.
Home sweet home.


***Earlier in the week, before I headed to Miami, I talked to my niece Emma via FaceTime. Midway through the conversation, she demanded to talk to my boy. “Auntie Rachel, where’s your boy???” My boy? She got frustrated with me, like she couldn’t believe how dense I am, and explained: “Uncle SEF-Y!” So that’s what Uncle Sethy is to me — my boy. Ugh. That girl gives me a million moments too!