Swimming against the current

The problem is this: you can’t control it. That’s all. It really is. And it’s a big problem to have in this society; westerners in general and Americans in particular want to believe we can always manifest our dreams through our own efforts. We want to believe there is always a direct correlation between what we do and what good comes to us. We need to believe that. We cannot accept that luck and chance have a pretty damn huge effect on how our lives turn out.

Kate Harding

So, Kate’s not talking about infertility here, but I think the quote is dead on for us as well.  And as a general note, YOU SHOULD BE READING SHAPELY PROSE — especially all of you who are struggling with infertily drug/condition/PCOS induced weight.  Ahem.

I’ve been having a big problem with this lately.  As I’ve mentioned before, I was raised a S.outhern B.aptist, and their worldview, right or wrong, is that our lives are planned out and controlled by a omnipotent and omnipresent god who will give us good things if we do what the church tells us too and give us shit if we don’t.  They don’t use those exact words, but that’s the gist of it.  Now I have multiple issues with this view in and of itself: first, nothing in the bible or any of the teachings ever promised that we would be blessed for following god — in fact, I believe that more often we’re warned that the “world” would persecute us for those beliefs.  I think it’s misleading and a theological fallacy to believe in Santa-Claus-God.  Second, the idea that god has preplanned our lives a) ignores the fact that we have been given free will b) means that it is predetermined who will go to heaven/hell c) gives rise the idea that no matter what we do, it’s because god wanted us to, which leads to abandonment of personal responsibility.  And I won’t even get into the self-contradictions inherent in the rest of the belief system.

No, I’m not off-track.  That’s all backstory. 

So that’s how I was raised.  Given all the psychological effects inherent in being raised in a religious household (seriously — go talk to a psyche major about how it’ll screw with your brain), I can’t get away from the underlying belief without experiencing a tremendous amount of guilt and fear.  Lovely by-products from a religion, huh?  So I’ve spent years, even before dealing with infertility, trying to resolve the idea of god planning out your life with my belief that god really doesn’t dabble in the physical world.  (I lean more towards the deist and/or secular humanist mindset, if you’re curious).  I came to the conclusion? belief? compromise? that god’s plan for our life is more like a map.  There are lots of ways to get from point a (birth) to point b (death); some are better/more direct/more interesting/faster/scenic than others, and lots of twists/turns/intersections/u-turns along the way.  If you are listening to god/living a godly life/in sync with the spirit/however you phrase it, you’ll “know” which turns to take at a particular time.  At the same time, I think that just because you take the “correct” turn, it doesn’t mean that the ride will be all sweetness and light.  Shitty things happen to everyone, just because of our genes, our environment, the people we associate with, and the laws of science.  I don’t believe in miracles, and I don’t believe that god shields us from harm, I don’t believe that he reaches down and physically manifests his presence on this earth.  I think that his influence is manifested through US, through the individual people who choose to do the right thing, who comfort those who are ailing, who reach out to make the world better for everyone.

Yet, even though I can articulate my belief system, I caught myself the other day praying about my job search and saying, “God, I know you have a plan for me; please show me the way.”  And I immediately thought, I don’t believe in that.  Why am I saying it? 

Because I don’t want to admit how much luck and chance are playing a part in this. 

I have fully internalized that luck, chance, genetics, natural selection, whatever have prevented me from having children, and yet I can’t accept that finding a new job is dependent on the same set of factors.  I want to believe that hard work on my part will guarantee success in gaining what I want.  I can’t get over the idea that I am in control of what happens to me.  I can’t get over the idea that if something bad happens, or something goes wrong, it’s my fault.  Which brings the circle back right to where it started: bad shit happened.  I’m not able to have children.  Therefore, I did something wrong.  It’s my fault.  Holy cognitive dissonance, batman! 

Anyway, I don’t have a neat resolution to this; I hope you didn’t follow me all the way this far and are now disappointed over that.  I just wanted to acknowledge that this is an issue that I’m dealing with, and I suspect that there are a lot of other people out there who are struggling with it too.  And, god forbid, that you ever end up on this side of the fence, just know that you’ll spend a lot of time examining what you really believe and adjusting your worldview to match.  Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s not, and sometimes it’ll leave you mourning the loss of faith.


8 thoughts on “Swimming against the current

  1. Very thought provoking post. It is very hard to let go of the control one needs to feel about one’s life. Especially when outside factors are involved. I am often thought of as a person who wants to control the situation, and I often find myself having to make myself “step back” and let others (other people, science, what have you) help out and that is very hard, esp. with infertility.

  2. Being a control freak, I’ve struggled with these issues too. After our daughter was stillborn, my dh & I both found a lot of comfort in “When Bad Things Happen to Good People” by Harold Kushner. His views make a lot of sense to me.

  3. Are you sure you’re not a recovering Catholic? I am, and have felt much of the same searching as you describe here.

    Great use of the Kate Harding quote, too. Lots to chew on here — especially given the similarity in challenges associated with confronting that over which we have no control. Sigh.

  4. I have a hard time accepting that things may be out of my control and happen by chance, and your post particularly resonated with me, as I’ll probably be starting my own job search, and I know being unemployed has made me feel bad about myself in the past.

    I’m not particularly religious, and have never really been taught to think about “God’s plan,” but mother expressed her religious views to me recently. She said, “all things can have a redemptive quality. They may be terrible things, and you may not see the quality immediately, but if you look for it, you may be able to find it.” It reminded of a post I did almost a year ago about how infertility has changed me, which mentioned some good and bad ways. So while I won’t wish infertility on anybody, it actually did provide some small comfort to consider how the experience has provided a few changes for the better. Not that I’ve started going to church or anything!

  5. Sharah – i loved reading your take on this all. It seems like being faced with challenges always tends to make me evaluate my beliefs and purpose – since I need a purpose for just about anything I do- w/o purpose, I have a hard time in a task. It seems senseless w/o a purpose to me. This may seem senseless to some, but it’s just how my brain works i guess

  6. It’s so difficult to have to take a long hard look at beliefs that, up until a certain point, seem so completely second nature. The most important thing to remember no matter what you believe, is that infertility has nothing to do with previous thoughts, words, or actions. Don’t think for a second that any of this if your fault!

  7. I really had to go back and read your post a couple of times. I too believed that it was only a matter of time,faith and positive thinking, and doing all the “right” things so that I could have a child with my husband. And when it didn’t happen, I was stunned beyond belief. I lost my faith for a while. Where was my good fortune? Was I a bad Buddhist? Did I cause this to happen? How can that “bad” or “unhealthy” person over there have a kid, but not me? I felt bitter and damaged and unworthy. I kept asking the question, Why me? Finally I had to accept the answer that so many people in this world do. Life is unfair. Trite but true. And I don’t have any control over that.

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