Tuesday, April 5, 2011

What If It's Not Fair?

(I started this last month and felt the need to come back and finish the thought, at least a bit).

I came home tonight after my son's first t-ball game, fairly happy and content in the moment. I was prepared for most of the emotions, but I teared up a bit with a little boy from the other team got struck out on his first try. They are only five years old- I'm not ready for them to be competitive monsters, nor will I be. We just root and cheer all the little souls.

But that's not what I have to write about right now. Nor is the topic the rather overwhelming tides of change flowing my way and my intense scurry to keep up with work, with life, with family, with home repair & sale... these area all things I'll need to get out eventually, but for right now I just keep paddling.

What's on my heart is the battle between faith and reality, between our desires and our despair. I have many unpublished posts that are simply too raw to share. One of them is about my unborn baby girl- the child I have wanted so desperately for so long. I simply don't have the emotional fortitude to capture that story right now, but suffice to say that it's been six years since I bought my first little girl dress, four years since I bought a locket with her name, three years since my son starting asking for a baby sister, and more than a year since my actions & prayers have been focused on her. Actively "trying" they call it. The journey of hope & pain since then is for another time and I just can't go into it yet. So many pregnant right now as my blood betrays me again. Because this is actually not about me and my baby envy, but rather someone else.

I began working with K in 2002, just a few months before I left the job. I didn't get to know her too well, but liked her and got to attend her wedding. Fast forward many years and we reconnected on Facebook. And I started reading her blog and see that we had in common than I had known. I enjoyed pictures of her wiener dog and especially loved seeing her skills at quilting & knitting. So much so, in fact, that I remember showing my mom a picture of a bird quilt that K made. I had hoped, actually, that I could order one from her for a nursery if I should ever get the other baby that I wanted so much.

But more than anything, what made me come back and read was K's humanity and her struggle with infertility. It has been more than six difficult years for her and her loving husband. Grueling and expensive IVF treatments. Rollercoaster emotions and heartbreaking losses. I found myself thinking of her and praying for her to get her baby. And though we haven't spoken in almost a decade and are not close, I cried for her pain when she shared her loss and her despair. And when I've suffered my own loss- when the pain of seeing other pregnant women seemed too much- I could empathize with her own tales of baby envy. And like so many, I started to wonder at God's plan. Why would He allow to many babies to be born unwanted and unloved when these two people were so ready to give their lives to a child?

This summer, I fulfilled a 20-year dream of going to Chartres Cathedral in France. Though I am not Catholic, I am familiar with many of the church's traditions and find some comfort in the rituals. As I stepped up to the small alter of Mary that is dedicated to mother and child, I immediately felt that I must light a candle for my own daughter's soul and for K. I've never done that before, but I made my tithe and carefully selected the two candles. I lit my candle with complete & utter gratitude for my son and I prayed to God that if it not His will that I should have another child to please give that child to K. To be honest, the prayer came up spontaneously and caught me by surprise. Was I really telling God that I would be okay if he didn't give me my heart's desire? It seems silly as I write it now, as if I were doing the prayer bartering that can be so common. But that wasn't it. I wasn't trying to make deals. At that instant, I was subverting my own will for that of a stranger. I can say without shame that this doesn't much happen for me. It's in my heart a lot for my family & those I love dearly, but the intensity in which I wanted God to grant this woman a child was stunning. And as I carefully wrapped my own candle and left K's at the alter, I felt sure that it would come to pass.

But it hasn't- not for either of us. And today I read her blog with tears in my eyes. The last IVF treatment that they will ever do produced a pregnancy... for three days. And now she has the misery of losing a child again.

And it's not fair.

It's just not. And that's what I've been thinking on a lot lately. When I lost my brand new job last year- a job I was so thrilled and excited about, that I thought would literally change my life, I was just so stunned. I was only there a week. Co-workers who didn't even know me lied about me and I was fired. Just like that. It wasn't fair. And frankly, while I have seen the best and the worst of humanity in my 35 years, I was still stunned. I knew God had a plan, but to this day I still harbor the confusion in my heart, the frustration that things are not just and that bad guys sometimes win.

I wear a small symbol in my right earlobe- it's a tiny yin-yang. I keep it there to remind me. In Taoist and ancient Chinese understanding, the outer circle represents everything that can be. The black & white shapes withing the circles represent the interactions of two energies, called yin (black) and yang (white). This interaction is the basis for all. Life is not completely black or white, it says. Things are not simply good or bad, and one force cannot exist without the other. We must live in balance and harmony of the two forces.

Like many, I have adapted this belief into my own life and I have surely Westernized it along the way. This simple image reminds me to seek balance in my life; to honor the actions in our world that we so quickly label good and bad; to seek the pattern beyond our initial understanding. Alas, I am not a monk and I live in the secular world, but there is great wisdom behind this concept that I try to honor.

Last summer, when the wounds were still new, I was telling a stranger the story of my job loss and I got to the end and said, "I'm working on healing, but it has definitely shaken my concept that the world is a just and fair place." I was awarded with a crude, loud, angry laugh and the stranger sneered as she said, "You think life is fair??? Do you still believe in Santa Claus too??"

I was taken aback and none too warm towards the bitter lady. But it was one of those pivotal moments when I was reminded that we have choices on how we chose to navigate life, how we set a course in our heart and mind. To think about "fair" and the thoughts and actions that guide us. Is life fair? Is there balance? Fate or free will? Guided journey or empty wandering?

So many souls have pondered these things for many lifetimes, leaving tombs and words to us on their thoughts. I have so much more to say about it. For now, though, it's time for me to take a few breathes and go love my son. And help make a world where he is free to believe in good. In truth. In fair. Not to keep him from dark, but that so the flame inside of him is strong enough to keep burning when it descends.

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