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Our Community

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.


1 Karen Sanders { 01.04.15 at 7:16 am }

Amen, sister.

2 Christy { 01.04.15 at 9:00 am }

Beautifully said. And thank you for continuing this work in sustaining this community.

3 A. { 01.04.15 at 9:14 am }

This upheaval contains echoes of a personal situation in which a friend IRL has severed me completely as a result of my pregnancy, and while I don’t have hope for that relationship, your post does give me hope for this one: the community. Everyone has a place here, and like the Unpregnant Chicken said in her post, everyone deserves support even if we struggle from time to time to find ways to offer it without triggering one another’s pain. Thank you, Mel, for always helping us seek that common ground.

4 Junebug { 01.04.15 at 9:39 am }

It’s true. I was reading the Creme de La Creme yesterday and it struck me how brave everyone is to keep going and make it work despite the hardship. I think the support we get from one another also is a binding factor. Unless you have gone through it, it is hard to really get the understanding from family and friends. Happy New Year all.

5 Cristy { 01.04.15 at 10:22 am }

Damn, you are insightful. You’re right that this community is connected by a unique type of pain. Pain that so many fear and very few can understand outright. But you’re right that this is bizarre. We rally around anger, hope for change, beliefs, etc. But usually this stuff silences people.

I’m also not on Twitter, so I only became aware of what happened after the initial shitstorm. I too am hoping there will be a reset. But in the meantime, I’m working my way through the Creme de la Creme list (thank you again for this. It really is amazing that you do this) and seein the theme that you identified come through.

6 Northern Star { 01.04.15 at 11:51 am }

You are the glue that puts the broken pieces of this community all back together. Thank you for all you do Mel.

7 JessT { 01.04.15 at 12:34 pm }

It’s so true that this happens every few months it seems. I agree with your assessment! I saw everything go down (though wasn’t personally upset) and I do think I saw lots of positive conversation and “glue” bringing everyone back together.

8 Lori Lavender Luz { 01.04.15 at 4:49 pm }

Like you, I didn’t know about this episode until it was mostly over. The need to be validated is so strong; we are working in our home on the skill of validating.

My post tomorrow (if I post it) addresses this in a microblog way.

9 loribeth { 01.04.15 at 6:55 pm }

Good point, Mel, and well said. Thanks again for all that you do to unite and sustain us all.

10 Jess { 01.04.15 at 8:49 pm }

So well said and wise–I love the thought of a phoenix. And what good advice, to read Creme de la Creme and look for how we’re similar, how we can support each other, how even though our paths may be different and may end differently, we all need a hug.

11 Elizabeth { 01.04.15 at 10:14 pm }

Uh, totally missed this latest eruption, all that aside this is the wisest post I’ve ever read about the ALI blog commmunity phenomenon. Perfectly on point.

12 Mali { 01.04.15 at 11:29 pm }

Nicely said, Mel.

13 Shailaja V { 01.05.15 at 3:09 am }

Wonderfully said!

14 Valery Valentina { 01.05.15 at 5:48 am }

I like the phoenix.
And it helps to understand that we don’t really want to burn down.
(have to go back to your Harry Potter posts to find what the deal was with the feathers and the tears… healing powers?)

15 DublinGal { 01.05.15 at 8:32 am }

Well written. It IS sad to be connected by pain but also comforting to know that we are not alone in it.

16 D { 01.06.15 at 7:28 am }

I’m so excited to start reading through these. I have never really thought about what really ties this community together (I mean besides infertility and loss) and you are totally right about it. Thanks again for being the one who always speaks from a point of view that has everyone’s best interests at heart.

17 Kasey { 01.06.15 at 3:08 pm }

I did happen to see some of the hurt unfold in real time and was struck by how the community reacted. And I’ve seen some of the other falling aparts. In a way it is hard for me to understand because I feel like while this is a community I identify with, not everyone would see it that way, so I’m kind of an outsider watching. I do look forward to reading this years list and my goal is to make it through the whole thing this time.

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