Held In The Heart
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Telling Myself a Better Story

I’m a routine kind of person. When I wake up on a workday, I go through the motions — go to the bathroom, put in contacts, let the dogs out, feed the dogs, let the dogs out again. I shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, make lunch, brush my teeth. I gather my things and drive to work. I go the same way each day. I like consistency, I like routine.

I find that following a routine means I don’t forget something. For example, on a morning when I’m not heading into work, I may eat breakfast at a different time or not shower until later in the day. By not following my typical routine, that means I may forget to take my daily vitamin or brush my teeth. Following the routine keeps my life on track.

Photo by     Joy Livesay

Photo by Joy Livesay

Recently I was down on myself about all of these routines I have. I was beginning to wonder if I was too attached to them or maybe too rigid with my schedule. I was wondering if maybe I should practice letting go and deviating from the routine a bit. (Insert alarm sound here! A “should” had been detected! I repeat a “should” has been detected!)

So, I did. Instead of my usual route home from work, I took a different way and the traffic was horrible. The next day I tried another route and ended up going a way I wasn’t expecting and that led to more traffic. I thought I’d give it one more try and of course, traffic! I sent this text to my husband as I was driving home, barely moving on the interstate: “I have made poor travel decisions all week. Back to the tried and true routine from here on out.”

I’m an ENFJ — although I no longer have the actual numbers for each spectrum, I think it’s safe to say that I’m a very high J. This means I prefer a more structured life — one with concrete plans and firm decisions made now. Of course, I’m not completely inflexible; I can go with the flow and have learned to be more adaptable as I’ve aged. But my preference is for the plan, the decision, the routine. (Except for when it comes to deciding where to eat — that is where I stray from my J-ness. However, once I get to the restaurant, I may look at the menu, but everyone present knows I’ll get the same thing I did last time, and the time before that and...)

I was berating myself about something that is just who I am.

I’m a person who leans toward concrete plans and daily routines. This isn’t good or bad — it just is.

Sometimes, when I’m trying to justify my reasoning for not pursuing medical intervention for my infertility, I tell myself that I like my routines too much to be a parent. That I don’t have the kind of flexibility or go with the flow attitude that’s necessary to be a parent. That my routines and plans and expectations for an ordered life are why I can’t conceive a child.

I tell myself lots of untrue things to try to make this big true thing in my life feel more bearable. But, in the end, all those untrue things make me feel worse. Like I’m not enough or maybe too much.

I need to tell myself a better story. A true story. An authentic story.

The truth is routines are great for parenthood. The truth is I’ve learned to be more flexible and would have learned that even more if I were a mom.

The truth is my personality type has nothing to do with my infertility. The truth is I am enough just as I am.

The truth is our dogs love my routines. They love knowing that after they go out in the morning they get to eat next. They love knowing that when I come home from work we’ll go for a walk. They fully support my routines! And, when I’m not home and my “P” husband is running the show, they go with the flow and eat at whatever time he feeds them. They fully support his loose schedule! Both make them happy. Both work.

Anne and Steve • Photo by     Joy Livesay

Anne and Steve • Photo by Joy Livesay

There may be times that easing up from the routine is good for me. Like, when I’ve decided where we’ll go for dinner and the wait is way too long so we have to go somewhere else. Or when I have a phone call scheduled with a friend and realize it when I’m on the way to dinner and have to quickly reschedule the call. Or when I really wanted to grill out but it’s raining, once again. (I guess most of my flexibility practice is related to food!)

But I also know that my J-ness makes me really good at organizing, meeting deadlines and working head — all things that make me really good at my job, maintaining my small business, and keep me moving ahead on my book project. I’m choosing to embrace this part of me, this part that gives my life purpose and meaning, because at one point I thought my life had no purpose or meaning. I’m choosing to tell myself a better story — one that is true and full of self-compassion.

I’m also choosing to take that same route home from here on out!


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Anne chooses to live a good, full life despite a diagnosis of infertility. Through her writing, she explores the many ways that loss, pain, and grief provide opportunities for growth, healing, and transformation. In paying attention to the ordinary, Anne discovers the extraordinary and loves to share those discoveries with the world. / Read more of Anne’s writings at annebrock.com or connect with her on Instagram.