First We Get Really Uncomfortable…

discomfort

Life would be a whole lot more comfortable and easier to navigate if it unfolded neatly or predictably.

Alas, that’s not the case for most of us. Mix in a contentious, complex topic (e.g. the inability to reproduce) and watch the discomfort rise. It’s understandable.

Beyond the biological unpleasantness, there is upheaval to our sense of order and what’s the ‘right’ way to proceed — directly (for those living with infertility) and peripherally (for those made to think about it). Add a dash of conventional wisdom, a little religion, some philosophical differences and/or societal expectation and it starts to get downright combustible.

The latest heated exchange came last week as a result of Justine Froelker’s Huffington Post piece concerning an infertility anecdote. The resulting comments contained judgment, semantics parsing and ‘holier than thou’ sentiments. There were also words of support and encouragement.

Fact is we each possess certain beliefs, touchstones, sources of strength, or ethical frameworks for making sense of the world. Justine, for instance, has a strong connection to her church community. (It’s not something I can personally relate to but I respect the role it plays in her life.)  Bottom line, I applaud her self-awareness, her genuine desire to make a difference in the world and her efforts to help others.

Of course, when we boldly share our infertility survival stories we also invite criticism and commentary — not all of it constructive, kind or compassionate. That’s unfortunate. Setting aside the often inelegant way some have for sharing differences of opinion on infertility’s impacts, decisions and the struggles that result — at least we are talking about it. That’s a step in the right direction.

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It’s heartening to see a new generation of writers, bloggers and speakers openly address infertility and failed fertility treatments. There’s a fearlessness, a ‘here I am scars and all’ willingness to challenge, to communicate the spectrum of emotions, and to give voice to the experience — much more so than there was a decade ago.

I had an opportunity to read Justine’s book, Ever Upward, while traveling last month with fellow blogger Klara.  The book relates Justine’s struggle to make sense of her infertility losses as well as the life-altering impact her failed IVF and surrogacy attempts had on her sense of self, her marriage and her relationships. In chapter 5, Evolving Relationships, she describes how others responded to her need to acknowledge and discuss the impact of failed IVF.  These relationship categories became apparent to her:

  • Fellow Warriors (they genuinely get it — “with them I am truly known”)
  • My True Friends (they walk beside her — “with them I’m am truly seen”)
  • My Limited Supporters (they do their best — “with them I am truly loved”)
  • My Incapables (they will probably never get it — “with them I am incomplete”)

All of the relationships and interactions above contributed to her survival — her healing and continued thriving. Throughout Ever Upward, Justine, now 35, illustrates what will be for many familiar themes and concepts.  She echoes ideas shared by Brené Brown and Elizabeth Gilbert and underscores the importance of not letting shame hold us back, of owning our stories and our truths, of being our authentic selves and ‘daring greatly.’  (Read more responses about Ever Upward here).

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Inside Out: Putting Our Emotions to Work

“Inside Out” features five characters based on human emotions. From left: Anger, Disgust, Joy, Fear and Sadness. Credit Pixar/Disney-Pixar, via Associated Press

Now, taking a page out of Tracey Cleantis’ book, The Next Happy, it’s time for a movie homework assignment — and a look at what our emotions do for us. Not since the movie Up! has there been an animated film I look forward to more.

Here’s why: according to the “The Science of Inside Out” in The New York Times Sunday Review, the movie tackles how emotions govern our stream of consciousness as well as how emotions color our memories. According to the piece, “The movie’s portrayal of sadness successfully dramatizes two central insights from the science of emotion. First, emotions organize — rather than disrupt — rational thinking. Traditionally, in the history of Western thought, the prevailing view has been that emotions are enemies of rationality and disruptive of cooperative social relations.”

Check out this observation from the scientific experts brought in to consult with the creative team:

The truth is that emotions guide our perceptions of the world, our memories of the past and even our moral judgments of right and wrong, most typically in ways that enable effective responses to the current situation.

Sadness guides [protagonist] Riley to recognize the changes she is going through and what she has lost, which sets the stage for her to develop new facets of her identity.

I particularly liked this appreciation of sadness. Paraphrasing from the NYT:

The film’s central insight: Embrace sadness, let it unfold, engage patiently … Sadness will clarify what has been lost … and move toward what is to be gained: the foundations of new identities.

As an aside, the authors’ observation on the motivating force of anger was also illuminating:

Studies find that when we are angry we are acutely attuned to what is unfair, which helps animate actions that remedy injustice.

For more on what emotions can do for you, check out this blog flashback from June 2011: I Was the Elder Price of Infertility Treatment.

What, dear readers, do your emotions help organize for you?

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7 thoughts on “First We Get Really Uncomfortable…

  1. I love the NYT comment you highlighted: “Sadness will clarify what has been lost … and move toward what is to be gained: the foundations of new identities.”

    That is absolutely true for me – these days, of course, my focus is on the second half of that phrase.

  2. I really want to see Inside Out! I might wait until it comes out on Blu Ray since hubs and I feel awkward about going to a kid’s movie without a kid, but we’ll see.

    I lost a little bit of faith in humanity when reading some of the comments on Justine’s piece. It appears that some of the nastier comments have disappeared, but that’s not a bad thing. Not a lot shocks me anymore or leaves me at a loss for words, but some of the comments did.

    If you haven’t already, check out Sarah at Infertility Honesty’s satirical take on the compassion displayed in the comment section of Justine’s article.

  3. […] Finally, Pamela Tsigdinos, author of Silent Sorority and Finally Heard, featured Ever Upward in her post today, called First We Get Really Uncomfortable… […]

  4. I’ve been reading good things about the movie, so looking forward to watching it. I couldn’t read too many of the comments below Justine’s article. For me, emotions help me clarify things: why I feel a certain way and then what to do with it. What do I need to learn this time? Anything I need to decide/let go of to make my life more balanced/healthier?

  5. I’ve been reading through the comments on Justine’s HuffPost piece and the nasty ones just leave me speechless. The amount of hate directed at those who survive infertility is appalling. highlighting a dire need for education.

    I’ve also been wanting to see “Inside Out.” Something to add to my priority list, though, after your review and Loribeth’s and Lori’s.

  6. I’ve read a lot of nasty comments on pieces about infertility over the years, so (sadly) I wasn’t particularly surprised to see them on Justine’s article — although some of them really were pretty nasty. I was very proud, though, of Justine’s class & grace in responding, and of the other infertiles (some of whom I recognized from blogging) who added in their own thoughtful, well-written defenses of what she was trying to say. Bravo!

  7. […] distilling a complex set of ideas into a thought-provoking feature length film. As I first wrote in this post, the team earned high praise for its cultural work showcasing sadness as a organizing emotion in […]

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