Some people I read mentioned an argument that took place on Twitter near Christmas. Hurt feelings ignited like flames on candles, burning brightly or fizzling out after a few moments of smoldering. I didn’t see the original discussion, mostly because I’ve been keeping off of social media. (With the exception of blogs; I never do a good job untangling myself from blogs.) So I read the follow-ups, the discussions, the debates and questions.
In the meantime, I was pulling together the Creme de la Creme for the year. Because I read the posts one after the other, reading 10 or 20 posts per sitting, I tend to notice the yearly themes that pop up through the list. Sometimes I wonder if it’s because we read each other’s posts and riff on them, hence why the same themes come up in the same year. Other times I wonder if it’s just that we share a lot of common experiences even if we navigate infertility or loss differently.
I am very fond of this community. It’s my home. I have vacation homes elsewhere in other communities, but this is my base. You guys are my base. I lean on you hard.
But if you take a step back and look at us, we’re a fucking bizarre community. We are connected by pain. That’s it. That’s what is holding us together; raw, emotional pain. And even when we’re not still in the throes of that raw, emotional pain, we still want to be around those who understand that our current lives were born out of that raw, emotional pain.
Pain seems like a terrible foundation for a community. I mean, by default, we are conditioned to move away from pain. To try to work through pain and squelch pain. And pain makes us cranky. It makes us lash out. It makes noise seem so much louder and lights seem so much brighter. When you’re in pain, you can’t forget that you feel like crap. Pain becomes the hand in front of your face, blocking out the view of the rest of the world.
When I put it that way, it makes complete sense that we’d fall apart every few months. That we’d have to constantly rebuild like a phoenix.
I think we have a tendency — maybe because of our pain — to size up everyone else we encounter (including those within our community) to see if their pain measures up to our pain. And I think we hold the inhabitants of our community to an impossible standard that we know we could never reach ourselves: that we will never ever hurt each other.
You may be wondering… since I brought it up… the theme I noticed running through this year’s list. I would probably call it “what you don’t know about infertility.” There were a lot of posts that I read as projected outward: what we want someone to know who isn’t in the experience. But I realized that all of those posts could also be projected inward: what we all want each other to know because our experiences are different just as much as they are the same. We don’t just want those outside of infertility and loss to hear our story and validate it. We want those who are standing alongside us to hear and validate us, too.
I have no good advice. By which I mean, I have advice: read the Creme de la Creme and try to see the ways we are alike and different. Keep your anger off of social media and instead express it privately. Know that everyone else is dealing with their own shit, and that you are often not privy to their shit.
But you all know all of that. That isn’t good, magic advice that can fix a community.
Tomorrow is a reboot of sorts. School starts up again, work starts up again, blog posts will hopefully trickle in (#MicroblogMonday). Maybe that’s what we need every once in a while. A resetting. A reboot. A deep breath, a cup of coffee, a statement of our feelings, and a pause to listen.