Today was a much better day than yesterday.
I went to the Lehigh Valley Zoo with my friend/co-worker Amber and her little ones this morning. Kids are the best distraction, and it was nice to be included. It was a gorgeous day. The sun was shining and when we finished at the zoo, there was still enough of the day left that I could lounge around watching movies and go for a run when the temperature cooled down.
As I walked through the zoo with my friend and her children, I kept thinking about the last fortune I removed from inside a fortune cookie about 2 weeks ago. I saved it at the time and tucked it in my purse to look at later.
Sometimes fortune cookies are really more like "statement cookies," as my dad calls them, but in this case, the statement rings true.
As I walked through the zoo, I thought to myself, "I am living life forward." And then immediately the rest of the fortune came into my head. You propel yourself forward, one day at a time, one foot in front of the other... and the succession of days becomes life. Events occur, people meet, interactions happen, and the world turns on its axis. Then you look back and understand the things you couldn't possibly understand in the moments.
When I was an adolescent, I developed an eating disorder. I lived forward, journeyed through recovery...recovered...and ended up here. Leading a support group, making YouTube videos about mental health, obtaining an MSW and a license, doing speaking engagements, and helping people with eating disorder recovery.
When I was married to Rick, we tried for several years to have a child. I lived forward, and found that we couldn't. Infertility was a difficult emptiness for me. Now, I've ended up here. Alone. A weird, clean slate for the future.
My life changed on May 18th when Rick took his own life. I lived forward, and every day I try to heal...but I've ended up here...writing...being a voice for suicide survivors. For widows. For anyone who has experienced a loss.
If I attempt to understand my life backwards, I can nod along with the realizations that present themselves. When I look back at the hardships, the tragedies, and the painful times, I can see that plans were laid for me. I can see that opportunities shone through landmark misery.
If I had never had an eating disorder, I would never have gained a deeper understanding of myself. I would never have chosen the life path I chose. I would never have met dozens of the most wonderful people that are present in my life such as my MSW crew, others in recovery who turned into lifelong friends, and fellow eating disorder professionals. I lived forward...and now I understand backwards what I could never see at the time.
Today, as I walked around the zoo with two adorable kids, I was happy. And it made me think about the past hardship of infertility in a new way.
If I had gotten pregnant, I would never have gone to grad school. Grad school was always the "alternate" plan if pregnancy did not happen. I would be in a totally different career headspace. In a totally different job. I would also not have been as mentally prepared (if that's even possible) for Rick's death, because I would not have experienced the deep loss of a child that cannot be and come to terms with it.
If I had gotten pregnant, I would be raising a child all alone right now. I would have a fatherless child with all the pain I feel on a daily basis. I have to admit that there are times I am almost jealous of people who have children after a loss, because they have a part of the person left... they have company... they have something to look forward to... but I also then have to admit that for me, I understand backwards why I was not able to have a child with Rick.
Maybe there is something yet to come. One day. Somehow. After years of infertility, maybe there is some happiness on the horizon for me after all. I suppose I'll have to live forward to find out.