Sometimes you want to go
where everybody knows your name,
and they’re always glad you came.
You want to be where you can see,
our troubles are all the same.
You want to be where everybody knows your name.
~Theme song to “Cheers”/Lyrics by Gary Portnoy & Judy Hart Angelo
Welcome to the final installment about emotional/mental infertility and how it affects your support needs in the ALI community. If you’re new to the series or would like a recap, here are the previous three posts:
Part I: Emotional/Mental Infertility and Its Impact on the Adoption, Loss, and Infertility (ALI) Community
Part II: How Your Level of Emotional Infertility Affects Your Support Needs in the ALI Community
Part III: House Rules
To review, here are the main points of the posts, with the main point of this post included:
- Your level of emotional infertility and what is right for you should not dictate how and from where other people choose to receive support for where they personally are on their continuum of emotional infertility.
- We are not (and should not be) completely separate groups. We are smaller micro-communities of support within the larger ALI community. As our personal journeys with our physical infertility and how that affects our levels of mental/emotional infertility change, we may need to seek support from different sub-communities.
- Find ways to support each other that doesn’t involve walking on eggshells. Be authentic, and you will find your tribe.
- The power to be thought leaders rests within each of us, especially when seeking ways to create the support we need for our level of emotional/mental infertility.
This one might roam around a bit, but there are a couple of more thoughts that I wanted to communicate, and this series can’t go on forever. Think of the other posts as strands and this one as the braid that threads them all together. When you step back and look at the whole, hopefully we’ll all have something new to look at.
About a month has passed between ALIgeddon and now. New commentary on the posts which began it all have practically ceased. People responded to the Healing Salons and the answers were summarized and shared. It might feel like everything is back to normal merely because the heat of the moment has cooled off. It might be easy to believe that the discussion, time, and distance from the situation has completed the healing process in everyone.
I know this isn’t so. A wound can still hurt even though it’s not bleeding. Consider this comment that Orodemniades left on the last post:
I don’t know if there is a tribe for me out there. And if there is, I don’t know how to find them.
I have to admit I am (still) hurt by ALIgeddon and no longer feel I can…trust…the community at large to have my back. I think that’s why I’ve only read a couple of the Healing Salons – I don’t feel I can be healed.
I can’t even begin to quantify the amount of sadness this made me feel. I couldn’t help but wonder: In the wake of ALIgeddon, how many other members of ALI feel the way that she does?
In all of my reading in various places about the issue, I’ve noticed two major trends:
- The misunderstandings that caused ALIgeddon hurt many people so deeply that they have lost the sense of comfort and trust that they one felt in the community. Because one of the major appeals of the ALI community is the general sense of belonging, knowing that others feel so deeply misunderstood that they have lost that sense of easy trust is nothing short of devastating.
- Though the parents after infertility and loss subgroup was at the center of attention, many other people who feel like they don’t fit exactly within the context of ALI basically came out and said, “What about us? We don’t completely feel like we fit in, either.”
Either way you go, it boils down to this: some of our people in our community don’t know where they fit in; therefore, they’re having trouble finding the right support channels.
Is this to say that they’re not receiving any support at all? Absolutely not. I’d venture to guess that nearly all of the people on the PAIL blogroll have already built communities of support around them on their own blogs. They joined PAIL because despite the support systems that they already had, they still had a need that was somehow not being met. I think that Elphaba‘s creation of PAIL and the droves of people who rushed to join perfectly illustrates my entire series:
When how you are dealing with your physical and/or emotional infertility changes, your support needs may also change. As such, you may need to reach out beyond your usual support network (or leave it entirely) to get the support that you need. If the new support that you need can’t be easily found, you have the power to be a thought leader and create the network of support that you need. You can find or create your tribe.
Elphaba saw a need and created it. As a result, a large group of bloggers received a new system of support. Their needs were fulfilled. As members of this wider community (no matter our status with infertility or parenting), don’t we want that for each other?
We don’t need to wait for someone to open a door and invite us in. If you need something and can’t find it, then make it. Find your tribe.
The theme song to Cheers came to mind because if we’re here in the ALI community, a place where someone is always glad we came is what we want. It’s not about popularity. It’s about being in the company of people who get it. It’s about knowing that you’re in a place where the bonds are common enough to let you know that you’re not alone. It’s about knowing that when you’re 100% authentic, you will be 100% understood.
Allow me to restate the point of the third post in this series, House Rules: Find ways to support each other that doesn’t involve walking on eggshells. Be authentic, and you will find your tribe.
Sometimes we lose our authenticity without realizing it. We don’t write about how miserable we’re feeling because we don’t want to drag anyone down. We don’t write about how difficult it is to parent a colicky newborn or a willful 2-year old because we don’t want to hurt our friends who are still “in the trenches.” When we don’t write about unrest with having made the decision to live childlessly, we’re not being authentic. When we’re not being authentic with ourselves, we miss opportunities for someone to tell us, “I’m going through the same thing; you’re not alone.” We miss chances to find our tribes.
Finding your tribes takes courage. It requires taking an honest look at your emotional needs within this community and then honestly answering whether you feel like they’re being fully met or not. If you find that you have a need that is coming up empty on support, then some type of change needs to occur for you to find that support.
Maybe the change that you need to make is internal. For example, I felt like in order to be more authentic with my writing and the support that I built around myself, I needed to end my old blog and restart in a fresh space. I needed to “rebrand.” For some of you, an internal change might mean keeping your same digs, yet branching out and bravely expanding what you choose to write about there.
The change you make might also be an external change. You might need to reach out and seek out other people who are sharing your same experience and interact with them in their spaces.
Whether internal, external, or some combination of the two, the change begins with authenticity and being honest with yourself and others about what you need.
So where do we go from here? How do we know that true healing is taking place in the ALI community? What I most hope to see is a shift in thinking. Our status with our physical infertility is not fixed and finite. How we cope with our varying levels of emotional infertility is not fixed and finite. Our support communities, therefore, will not be fixed and finite. It seems like that last one should be just as obvious as the first two were, and maybe it is. However, when a sub-group within our community pulled together to fulfill an emotional support need, it cracked such a huge divide in the greater community that we’re still trying to make heads or tails of it weeks later. So, here’s the individual thought change that think will bring a wider sense of healing, acceptance, and progress:
I need to understand that people need the freedom to move within this community in whatever way they need to have their support needs met. I might need to shift and find new tribes if I get to a place where my needs are not being met. It might hurt when people I care about go to places where I am not ready or able to go myself, but I will support them in their quest for the support that is right for them at the time. I know that I might have to change the places where I get support or move away from places where I currently receive support. I hope that the people I don’t visit as frequently are understanding and supportive of me as I leave to find my tribe.
People change, and as hard as it might be for us, we need to give them our blessings when their support needs change in a way that takes them to a “tribe” that isn’t a right fit for us, too.
While writing this entire series, I kept thinking to myself, “People need an accessible way to find and/or create tribes. A way to send out a ‘bat signal’ of sorts.” Finally, I decided to practice what I’ve been preaching, so to speak. I’m creating something to fill what I see as a need.
In case you missed it, in my navigation menu, there’s now a sub-menu called “Tribes.” I’d like to open up a corner of this blog for anyone to use as a tool to announce the development of a new Tribe, add an existing tribe to the Tribe List, and to find Tribes that you might like to be a part of. Consider it a “meeting ground” for support communities that exist within not only the ALI community, but also the blogosphere as a whole.
At first, I was shaping this to fit as a resource within the ALI community. Then it occurred to me that there are tons of other issues out there for which people need support and might not be able to find it. I knew that I wanted to create a community for anyone, no matter their struggle, to be able to find the support they need or have a platform on which to announce it to the world at large.
In House Rules, I stated:
The power to be thought leaders rests within each of us, especially when seeking ways to create the support we need for our level of emotional/mental infertility.
Community-building and innovation is there for anyone who feels driven to act.
If you are one who feels driven, act on it. You never know else’s needs you’re going to meet with the creation of a new Tribe.
Please check out the Tribes page and sub-menu to learn more and to find out how you can help spread the word.
With that, I’ve finally come to the conclusion of this series. The discussion in the series’ comments has been nothing short of amazing. I’d love to hear what you have to say about this post in particular or the series as a whole.