Living with the mess

I don’t tolerate messes well. I keep my dozens of spice jars in alphabetical order. I stack my sweaters in a rainbow. I have even made a career out of neatness. As an editor, I spend my time polishing sentences and organizing ideas.

I’ve always worked first, played later. I have trouble concentrating in messy spaces. Greg sees me as borderline compulsive, though the blanket of dust on our blinds begs to differ with him. Greg is the opposite. He’s always been happy to watch a movie while a pile of dirty dishes makes googly eyes at him from the sink, whereas I would first wash the dishes, wipe the counters, sweep the floor, and then fall asleep 10 minutes after I sat down to watch the movie.

Eleanor changed things, of course. I couldn’t have a clean house all of the time unless I wanted to quit every other pursuit, so I settled for cleaning just the family room at the end of the day. That gave me an uncluttered place to read or watch TV.

When Genevieve died, my life became really messy. Sadness and anger oozed into every crevice. I could not fix her death or tuck it into a closet. I barely remember the first six months after. My brain was so cluttered by grief that I don’t think I had a place to store memories. Gradually, I learned to carry the happiness and sadness simultaneously. Now I can laugh to the point of tears with Eleanor while holding Genevieve in another corner of my mind.

I reached a point last spring where I felt good most of the time. I began to hope and dream again. Then the infertility struggle began, and life became messy again. I’m afraid to make commitments because I’m always running to the doctor for another test or procedure. Delayed gratification is my modus operandi. I will be happy after I get pregnant. I will put more effort into my career after I get pregnant. I will plan a vacation after I get pregnant.

A friend sent me this quote a few days ago: “Everything works out in the end. If it hasn’t worked out yet, then it’s not the end.”

I laughed when I read it, though I had seen it before. My interpretation of this quote is that everything works out in the end because you die. If it hasn’t worked out yet, you’re still alive.

Even with my distorted interpretation, that’s an important message. I always think that I’ll reach a point where life will be perfectly organized. I’ll have two healthy kids, a happy marriage, a career that I’m passionate about, and plenty of money in the bank. And a clean house, pretty please. I probably will have all of those things at some point, but all at the same time? Unlikely.

Tomorrow is my birthday. Here’s hoping that this year I will learn to accept life’s messes more gracefully.

6 Responses to Living with the mess

  1. That’s a good wish to have for yourself. You can leave the wishing that you get everything you desire to those who love you.

  2. Thank you for sharing your story in the NYT. I lost my son, Gabriel. At some point, his heart stopped too. He looked perfect and beautiful on his birthday and it will always be a mystery how he died. I think about him everyday but seldom talk about him because of everything you said in your article. I send you best wishes and hope and thank you again.

  3. You made me cry at my desk for the second time today. The New York Times this time. Wow, you are a talented writer. And I don’t mean that it takes a talented writer to make me cry — they were pretty much separate thoughts. Sorry that I missed your birthday. Happy Birthday. I guess if I were on Facebook I would know things like that. I’m not getting on Facebook, Sarah, but I will try to remember for next year. I have more to say. I’ll send an email.
    Love to all of you,
    Mike

  4. Sarah,
    I just found your blog through the NYT times article you wrote. I partly feel like I am reading my own story. I have a 6 year old daughter and my 2nd daughter was stillborn at 38 weeks. Then I had a miscarriage 10 months later. I am still trying to conceive and your thoughts totally resonate with me. I also have a blog, but I haven’t written since my daughter’s 1st birthday/anniversary. I got tired of feeling like I was always being negative. I may come back to writing. In the meantime I find some solace in reading the blogs of others who are in the same boat (even though I hate that we have to be in this boat). I am happy to have found your blog and I hope that I can read about happy times ahead for you and your family.
    ~Katy

  5. Sarah – I too found you through the NYT article. I lost my little girl last March, she was also stillborn. I’ve had a miscarriage since & we’ve been trying desperately but not succeeding in getting pregnant again. It takes such a toll on the heart. I have heard that quote – “If it hasn’t worked out, it’s not the end.” I didn’t interpret it as death, but couldn’t relate to it at all. I think I would have felt differently before our little girl died, but I’ve become much more cynical – sometimes things don’t work out, and that’s just the way things are. But I do find solace in other things – poems, my husband, our pets, and knowing that there are other women going through the same thing out there.

  6. Dear Sarah,
    I am so sorry for the loss. While I’ve never lost a child, I’m desperately praying for a lil’ miracle to come into me and my husband’s lives. We’ve been trying for almost 3 years now, and it sure has been an emotional roller coaster ride. Everytime I await impatiently for the smiley face to show up on my pregnancy strip..the longest minute of my life..only to be faced with the reality that it’s just not going to happen. I’m realizing that the more I try to take control of my life, the messier my life gets. I’m learning to let go and to trust in the Lord, my savior.