Saturday, November 29, 2014

Overcoming "bitter"

This time of year is strange in so many ways. On the one hand, there's many reasons to sit back and reflect on all the good things that have happened and be offer thanks for family, be it whatever form one considers it. But with the good can come the bad. Though less-than-pleasant memories or moments we wish could have ended differently. Those interactions that ended badly.

I've been thinking a lot about this with all the transition that has been happening. Playing some harder moments through my head and wondering if some situations could have been different. In some cases, the answer is a hard and fast "no." But in others . . . .

The catalyst for these thoughts was hearing about Grey's sister's recent plight. How Thanksgiving dinner was about to be more interesting due to an unexpected guest who was arriving with a mountain of demands and expectations. Hearing only a sliver of what was about to unfold made my hair stand on end. But what got me thinking is when I heard someone accuse this person of being "bitter."

Bitter is a hard word for me. While living with infertility, all my loses and uncertainty for the road ahead, I found this label readily attached to me when people described my mental state. Later on, when the Beats first were home, I was again labeled when I dared to disagree about parenting choices.  I've found that "bitter" is one of those words that can get thrown around for various reasons. There's the classic labeling for someone who is intent on making everyone around them utterly miserable. But I've also learned that someone can accuse someone else of being "bitter" as a way to distract from the self-loathing they may be feeling. Then there's using "bitter" to describe someone who is simply a cornered animal, too wounded and/or scared to behave in any other manner after being attacked. Or someone is "bitter" when they dare stand up for themselves and establish boundaries. In short, "bitter" is one of those words that can easily be misused.

Upon reflection, one thing I believe causes this misuse is a failure to acknowledge different viewpoints. Be it the extreme, where someone sees a situation completely differently from another, to the simple that each and everyone of us views life through a different set of lenses. No two people will see the same event in the same way. Part of this is due to life experience and how we were raised. But the other part has to do with what we bring to that situation. Be it our history, our knowledge and even our morals. Our viewpoints are as individual as fingerprints.

 While in the trenches, I was acutely reminded of how different my viewpoint was from those around me. I found myself avoiding others or certain situations in an effort to guard my heart. The images of the "normal" happy family was at times too much as I was facing an uncertain path ahead due to infertility and repeated loss. The salt in the wound was hearing that my efforts made me "bitter." After all, why couldn't I just be happy that so-and-so easily achieved the family I so longed for? Why cloud their joy with my pain? Why couldn't I just get over myself?

What I've been trying to piece together is how to step away from the accusations and instead step to walk beside someone else. To actually learn to listen, learning from what each interaction. With Grey's sister, her viewpoint and actions are very different from my own, yet I also know that it's due to an upbringing, experiences and hurts that I never experienced. Understanding that is easy. What's hard has been trying to understand the relative she is dealing with in order to be a source of support. To try to understand where these actions are stemming from in order to help alleviate some of the anger and stress that is being experienced.

I'm the first to admit that I suck at this. I'm use to sticking up for myself and asserting myself on the world. Infertility and loss made me all the more so. But now, having the Beats in my life, I'm finding myself wanting to be aware. To truly be more empathetic. To overcome the label of "bitter infertile."


  1. "Bitter infertile" is a horrible label. You could equally accuse others of being bitter about things in their life that didn't go well, but that's not who you are, or who any of us want to be. Some people, however, are naturally bitter. So there will be infertiles who are bitter, just as there will be parents who are bitter too. And it is natural I think to feel bitter about some things. But that doesn't mean we are bitter people. And hopefully we manage to move past them. I think the simple case that you want to be aware and empathetic shows that you are not a bitter person. Ahh. If only others could see this.

  2. I think you're right; that the labels limit our capacity for understanding, or at least our attempt to understand. There are people who are badly hurt, who want to stay in a place of hurt. We can't change the way they want to be. But we *can* change how we perceive them, because that's our choice to make.


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