VI. “You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings.” – Elizabeth Gilbert
Watching the Seahawks play the Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX was a seesaw of hope and disappointment. In the last two minutes, it seemed like the Patriots had it sewn up, but in the most miraculous bobble catch where the Seahawks player tipped it to himself and caught it while he was landing on his back, they were in scoring position. As a fair weather fan, I wouldn’t typically be as caught up in the outcome but it was three months after my dad’s death and somehow the momentous rise and comeback of the Seahawks, my dad’s team, held a higher message and significance that beamed hope. It seemed like one miracle portended another. But then on the one yard line the Seahawks elected to pass the ball; it was intercepted by a Patriot player and the game was over. The disappointment over a football game was surprisingly crushing. It had been so tempting to tie hope and significance to the outcome.
“I’m sorry” my doctor said during the ultrasound on my 10-week old baby, “I can’t find a heartbeat.” It was my second round of IVF, the first resulting in my beautiful and delightful then two-year-old daughter so my inner optimistic self was shocked things could go wrong. As with the Super Bowl game, I thought that one miracle, my daughter, meant another was on the way. My first thought was, “Oh crap, I feel so bad for him” because my doctor looked devastated. I couldn’t even think about my own reaction just yet. It was the Winter Solstice, the shortest, darkest day of the year and only four days until Christmas and I walked out of there feeling the weight of the day and of the downside of trying. Maybe my life was as good as it gets and I was a fool for giving it a go.
As I meditated every morning in the wake of the miscarriage, I tried to find the flow of life, the pulse of richness to carry me through the day. For a while it eluded me but somehow in the few months after the miscarriage, I was able to let go, for an instant and sometimes more, the hubris that I’m in charge. I sat with that flow for many months, trying not to look for any hope or significance but just accept the outcome without the crushing tightness.
I wanted to know whether the miscarriage meant that I should stop and just revel in the life that I had and I wavered between longing and acceptance for a long time. I was (and am) so grateful for the life I have with my daughter so I didn’t want to diminish that truth by wanting more. When I finally came out the other side of the disappointment, I still couldn’t shake the feeling that my family was not yet complete.
When I think back to that Super Bowl game and the uber story I attached to the outcome, I laugh at the comparison but still find some wisdom in the analysis. My dad, from wherever he is, was rooting the Seahawks on that day and the game loss didn’t mean that there was any less hope or significance in the world. And I could both appreciate the beautiful life I had now with my daughter and want more, even after experiencing the disappointment of the miscarriage. Both gratitude and desire are true and honest paths and I had to find my own balance between them, the one that matched my own willingness and spirit most perfectly. Just because it’s possible doesn’t mean it’s easy.
This Elizabeth Gilbert quote came to show me the wisdom that relentlessly trying is necessary but everything that we get is a blessing, not a guarantee. It took me a long time to understand that participating and succeeding are two different things. I’m more comfortable trying than regretting, so my calculation will probably always lean that way, but I continue to work on accepting disappointments along the way as well.