To the woman who feels like she’s carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders, you’re not alone. I’ve been there. We’ve all been there. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and I hope I can help you. No matter how old you are, where you live, what your political views are, we are kindred spirits.
For me, it’s been a tough past few months of one setback after another. Every single day in February seemed to bring new hardship. A tough, complicated miscarriage (are they ever easy or simple?), an unwanted job change, massive medical bills, the loss of a young friend. A frigid, gray New England winter and a few rounds of the stomach flu certainly didn’t help.
Maybe you’re going through something similar, or maybe you’re going through something entirely different. Whatever your struggle is, I feel that sadness, frustration, jealousy, anger, too. You tell yourself this too shall pass, but it hasn’t passed yet. It doesn’t feel like it ever will. You know that others’ pain is bigger than yours, but it doesn’t make yours any more palatable.
The day an ultrasound confirmed my pregnancy had ended at a mere eight weeks, we were supposed to go to an engagement party 45 minutes away. In my misery I brainstormed a list of all the excuses we could use to cancel. I looked down at my still somewhat swollen belly, rubbed my puffy eyes, and thought of all the reasons I shouldn’t be expected to go. I pictured myself sucking in my stomach and bursting into tears if the word “baby” came up in conversation.
As I imagined myself at the party, I pictured my friend. Newly engaged, she would be wearing white: all aglow with excitement about her sparkly ring, her fiancé’s arm draped around her.
I walked over to my closet and picked out an outfit. Because my sadness has nothing to do with my friends’ happiness. I made a commitment to attend this celebration for them and would follow through on my word. Because that’s what a good friend does. Because I don’t want to be someone who surrenders to life’s challenges. Everyone goes through tough times, whether you know about them or not.
It can be so much easier to dwell on the negative than recognize the positive. Recognizing the positive takes work. For a while I was just looking for opportunities to point out things that were going wrong, so I could tack them onto my list of grievances. I’d walk by a pregnant woman and think, there’s another one! I felt bitter and sad every time there was a reference made to a baby being born—envious every time I saw someone’s belly or ads for maternity clothes.
And then one day I’d had enough of feeling sad. I began focusing my energy on actively pursuing happiness. I began reminding myself daily, sometimes even writing down, all the beautiful things in my life. All the things I am incredibly lucky to have, that I take for granted.
That same day, I walked past a pregnant woman in the grocery store. Previously I would have seen her as a symbol of something I wanted so badly but couldn’t have. I would have only seen her through the downward spiral my life seemed to be taking.
However, that day I thought about what I knew of this stranger’s life. She may have recently suffered a miscarriage, or was enduring financial troubles, or lost a loved one. Even if none of that was true and this was just a happy time in her life, her pregnancy wasn’t what was preventing me from conceiving. Pitying myself or being jealous of her wasn’t going to make me pregnant.
Instead of running to my car to break down in tears, I took a deep breath and asked her how far along she was. She beamed and rubbed her belly as we talked for a few minutes. Instead of feeling sad, she gave me hope. I truly felt happy for her, an emotion I hadn’t felt in a long time.
And that’s what I want for you: hope. When you are down, it can feel like the entire world around you is up. Being happy for others can be tough when you don’t feel happy yourself. But, I promise, the more you can share in others’ happiness, the more happiness you will feel. We are meant to experience the bad so we can fully appreciate the good.
Taking time to mourn whatever you’re going through is important. Talking about it to trusted loved ones helps. Hearing others’ experiences helps. Time helps. And then it’s time to move on. Be grateful for the resiliency of the human spirit. Be grateful for the pain you’ve endured, because now you’re stronger for it. Be grateful for each and every moment, because you never know what tomorrow will bring.