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More Thoughts on Stopping

Yes, I’m still yammering on about Matthew Quick’s book, Every Exquisite Thing.  You don’t have to read the book to follow these posts and have an opinion because I’m using the book as a springboard to other mental spaces.  If you want to read the other posts I’ve written about this book, you can find them here, here, here, and here.

So there was a very interesting passage on page 147 about choice when it comes to stopping something.

Maybe you only quit when you were too exhausted to continue? Maybe you did what everyone else wanted you to do for so long by playing and scoring goals—you were so strong for others—that you finally just reached a breaking point and, well, you broke. And it was then—and only then—that you were able to quit. It wasn’t really a choice in the end, but like refusing to pay for your friends’ lunches only when you have run out of money.

Unpack this with me because it’s a really beautiful way of stating that not all stopping is equal.  There are people who have every choice in the world and they decide to stop.  There are others who have very limited choices and they decide to stop.  Finally, there are people who don’t really have any choice and they decide to stop.  If that last group didn’t decide to stop, then life would have told them, firmly, that they had to stop.

Because they were broke.

Not broke as in broken and damaged, but broke as in depleted.  Out of energy or cash or options.

I think we treat all stopping as equal.  People believe that because one person chose not to stop that means all people can choose that option, too.  But reading that passage above, it comes down to this: There are people who stop paying for a friend’s lunch even when they have money in their wallet because they’ve decided to use that money for something else.  And there are people who stop paying for a friend’s lunch because they have a dangerously low amount of money in their wallet and they won’t be able to get home if they spend it now.  And there are people who stop paying for a friend’s lunch because their wallet is empty.

Chew on that and tell me what you think.


1 torthuil { 05.31.17 at 7:50 am }

yes, and not all choices are equal: some people have more and better options to choose from, some people find it easier to make a choice, for whatever reason. I don’t know; for me I think it comes down to the fact we HAVE to believe we have some agency over our lives, some control over circumstances, whether that is factually true or not in a specific instance. It is necessary for survival. Actually we don’t just have to believe it, we have to experience it and other people need to validate it.

2 Cristy { 05.31.17 at 8:36 am }

I think this gets to a more complex reality that not all love experiences are equal. It’s easy to judge and say what you would do in a given experience when all that you are basing that assumption on is your life experience. But when you throw in that similar circumstances have different pasts/bases, it’s a whole different platform. We all bring different things into the waiting room and will experience the journey differently.

So I agree. Sometimes stopping isn’t a choice. And even if it is, we cannot assume that it was done flippantly.

3 Sarah Chamberlin { 05.31.17 at 9:37 am }

So nice to see this truth highlighted, thank you! I’ve found that people, both in and not in the infertile community, tend to assume the cessation of our pursuit of parenthood was a well formed, calculated choice. The presumtion being we had gas left in the tank, which we didn’t. Depleted is the perfect description. I always say, if someone is dehydrated and puking by the side of the road in mile 23 of a marathon, are they really chosing not to finish?? There are also people who continue to pay for other people’s lunch even when they themselves are out of money, so, at least we didn’t go that far.

4 Karen { 05.31.17 at 3:43 pm }

This stopping definition – not really a choice but feeling forced into it – was exactly why we stopped trying for our second child. We were quite literally out of energy and hope and desire to put ourselves through any more treatments.

Depleted the exact word to describe it.

5 Sharon { 05.31.17 at 4:14 pm }

Sometimes stopping something is the right and smart decision. I have often felt irked by the attitude (common in the U.S., at least) that “winners never quit” and “quitters never win.” Making a choice to stop doing something, if there is little or no return on the effort being expended, can be a prudent step.

6 queenie { 06.01.17 at 8:28 pm }

We are in the middle of a hard, hard decision that we did not expect to be making, so this really speaks to me today. Thank you.

7 Jess { 06.01.17 at 9:06 pm }

Loving this post right now. Stopping is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and it’s for a zillion reasons but exhaustion figures in heavily. We were privileged in a way to have resources to keep going, but that “never never never give up” mentality had a cost, a steep one. I love what Sarah Chamberlin said about the marathon. To make the conscious decision to stop something when you really wanted the finish line is hard, so hard, but when the cost is so high, whether it’s monetary, physical, or emotional, it’s either that choice or self-destruction.

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