I jumped into this book writing process with both feet once I finally made the decision to go for it. I started posting regularly on Instagram. I began creating an editorial calendar around the content I shared. I got some help to update my website and create a logo. I was doing it all non-stop.
And then I learned that this process that brings me healing and purpose was causing pain to another person. And that broke my heart.
I don’t ever want to cause another person pain or suffering, but here I was doing just that. Unintentionally, of course, but that didn’t diminish this person’s distress.
Of course, as I’m prone to do, I came to the conclusion that I needed to stop writing — stop writing blogs, stop posting content on social media, stop pursuing a book. Cold turkey, stop. And when I did that, I felt like my world fell out from beneath me. Similar to how I felt that day in Joann’s when my doctor called. I was numb and only had energy to do what was in front of me. I was grieving another loss.
As an enneagram two, I have a tendency to drop my wants and desires in order to give someone else what they want and desire. I don’t do this out of love and compassion — I do this because I want the other person to realize how great I am and then say, “no, no, don’t do that, I’ll be fine.” Spoiler alert: it never happens that way.
What really happens is resentment builds and I get angry. Except that anger is a “bad” feeling so then I feel bad about feeling my feelings.
Ah, the shadow side of being a two!
I began to realize that scrapping it all was not the answer. My deep feelings of grief taught me that my writing and sharing on social media is really important to me. I learned that this is a way for me to give something back to the world, a gift gained through this infertility journey. I really didn’t want to let that go.
I also realized that perhaps I was becoming a bit too consumed with this work. That perhaps it would be good to step back a little, to pause, to rest, to reevaluate. So, that’s what I did. I took some deeper breaths. I took some longer pauses. I put my book coursework on hold for a week. I gave myself a little more space — space I didn’t know I needed until I let myself have it.
In my writing community we are given questions to ponder on each week. A picture of wilted flowers was posted with the title: When You’re Feeling Like These Flowers. Part of my response included this:
“I feel a bit like a turtle today… slowly peeking my head out of my shell. Looking around, getting my bearings, wondering where I am exactly.
Tender — my soul, heart, body and mind — all very tender.”
I’ve never felt a certain affinity to animals, other than the ones I keep in my home. I am amazed by animals often. I am clear about which ones I like and which ones I’d prefer never to see again. But, I’ve never had a “spirit animal”. For some reason though, on that day, the image of a turtle came to mind.
I imagined her outside after a big storm, head and legs tucked under shell. I imagined her trying to get a sense of her safety and slowly — ever so slowly — sticking her head from inside her shell. I imagined her looking around to see where she ended up after the momentous winds blew her to and fro. I imagined her taking stock of what was around her and maybe where she would go next.
I imagined her hard shell protecting her and her soft insides feeling safe within that tough exterior. I imagined her body relaxing a bit knowing she was out of danger and now safe to move ahead. I imagined her slow, deliberate steps. I imagined her confidence building as she moved toward her next destination with confidence.
I could imagine all of this so well because I was that turtle, a turtle in the storm.
I told my writing community that I thought I might want an image of that turtle. A friend told me to draw one for myself. Now, I’m not much of an artist when it comes to drawing. But I tried.
Later I knew just who could draw this turtle for me. I asked my brother and sister-in-law to ask my oldest niece to take on this ask. There were no guidelines, just that Aunt Anne wondered if you would draw her a turtle. And, she did. And, of course, I love it.
I just keep learning more and more about myself. My tendency to go to the extremes when I feel threatened in some way. My tendency to sacrifice my needs first. And also, my ability to adjust course and find a new path. My willingness to listen and respond with compassion. My determination to find a solution that works for everyone.
When I was working through some of this with my older brother over text, I thanked him for his willingness to read and respond. I expressed my gratitude for giving me the space to share. He responded, “You’re welcome. You’ll figure it out. You’re almost 40! So wise.”
He was kind of joking, but also quite serious. There is something to be said for wisdom as we age. It requires intentionality and awareness. It requires willingness to admit when you’re wrong and change, if needed.
This whole process was painful but I stayed in it and by doing that I learned, grew and came out feeling stronger and more confident in my identity. Just like that turtle who weathered the storm and ventured back out with a willingness to keep moving forward.