How do I cope with finding out that I can’t have children?

A couple of years ago I found out that I cannot have children. This is devastating to me as I always wanted to start a family. It’s very difficult to come to terms with. Some days are better than others, but lately it seems like all of my friends are having babies or getting pregnant. I want to be happy and supportive of them, but every time I hear them talk about it, or see a photo on facebook it reminds me of what I cannot have. How do I cope with this thing that I had no say in?


Well-behaved women seldom make history. – Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
13-14-15-19-46 / 28


Hello Diner. Society literally owes existence largely to its ability to have children. Even the Baker Himself was a child at some point–despite being eons old in Fortune-Cookie-years. Because of that, it’s hard not to feel defective and rejected from being part of Humanity Itself. We discussed in other Fortunes how damaging feeling left out is. It’s no wonder it hurts.

What’s great about you, Diner, is that you don’t take out this hurt and unfairness on your friends. You even feel like you want to celebrate with them when you’re not as lucky. Maybe that’s just the privilege your culture affords those fortunate parents; maybe you’re just an incredibly gracious person. Maybe both. Either way, you spend a lot of your limited energy repeating, “just grin and bear it.”

Sucking it up takes its toll. You’re human, Diner; you’re not an effervescent perpetual motion machine of cheer and enthusiasm–however much you may want to be. Be whoever you feel like you need to be around your friends and family, but give yourself permission to be angry and to feel cheated when you need to. I won’t tell or judge. In fact, I encourage it.

That can be as simple and private as not clicking “Like” or leaving a comment on Facebook. Or it can be as direct as asking your friend not to talk about babies when you’re with them, and everything in between. The point is, sometimes you don’t need to be happy for them. Do whatever you feel right and and comfortable doing to enforce those boundaries.

The reminders themselves–the stream of pictures, the pinging notifications of other people adding to the congratulations, and the pervasiveness of that conversation topic–add to how hard it is to cope with your pain. Wish them well and unfollow. You can always add them back into your feed later on.

Discovering that you can’t have your own biological children is a sudden loss that must be grieved. But like losses you have already faced in your life, you know life will, and must, go on–and will get better. You can’t bring back lost loved ones from your past or from a future that cannot be, but you can mourn, pass on what you’ve learned from them, and live life fully.

Spend some time and really think about why you want children. Is it society telling you you’re deficient otherwise? Do you want to nurture and teach someone? Do you want to provide for and protect someone? In each case, there are other ways to fulfill that need: educate, volunteer, adopt. I’m not saying any of those will ever take the place of giving birth and raising your own child, but they are means of getting closer to your life goals with what you have now.

We Fortune Cookies don’t make more of ourselves. We simply explore one problem. Your problem. And we try to do it the best we can. We create. These Fortunes are our life’s work. That’s how we leave our legacy. Show everyone how you’ll leave yours. Good luck, Diner.

I have an addiction, and it feels like the things I used to care about are killing me inside. What do I do?

I have a non drug related addiction that has completely consumed my life. Every spare moment I’m thinking about it and dreaming of it. The world that I used to know has become greyscale and the only color I ever see is doing this activity. My whole life up until this point is now completely washed in shades of grey and I’m not the same person I used to be. I have to go through life faking it…faking like I care about the same job/things/people/events I used to. It’s one big act. I’m nervous that this addiction is just a phase and that I should stick with the people who have been there for me and continue to be there for me and love me, but to be perfectly honest it’s killing me inside. I’m not sure what to do? Do I do a master cleanse of everything in my life: husband, mortgage, friends, job or do I continue faking it…or is there something in between?


You are craving more Cookies.
02-13-21-33-45 / 27


Hello Diner. You put very beautiful words of suffering in this Order. But one word among them tells me the most about what you’re feeling. You call your issue an addiction. That tells me you think any “normal” person would think what you’re doing is overly excessive and that any “reasonable” person would stop.

But that’s not your perspective. You don’t want to stop.

In fact, you want the rest of the world to stop so that the color of your habit can saturate everything else. But you won’t have to decide whether you want to master cleanse your life. Addiction will flush everything for you. Willpower is a limited resource [1], and the more your everyday life feels unnatural, the more quickly you’ll burn through this supply.

That’s what you’re feeling when you say you’re dying inside–the mental exhaustion of keeping up appearances and meeting financial, social, emotional, and occupational obligations. If you feel yourself faking it, it’s most likely the rest of life–particularly your husband–feels it too.

He probably sees how colorless you’ve become.

Your work would go first, since it takes the most willpower to maintain acceptable performance. It’s also the least forgiving. Then the chain reaction of going into debt to afford life and your habit will send you into worse debt. You may then lose your house, since banks are also unforgiving. Then friendships may go. Then possibly your husband.

So the master cleanse is coming whether you want it to or not.

The question is: would you like what’s left over? You can probably imagine what your friends and family would want you to say. But what is your answer, Diner? Don’t worry about telling me what you think the “right answer” is. I’m your dessert, and we Cookies have a rule never to judge our Diners.

Food won’t make demands–unless we become addictions, ourselves.

A perfectly acceptable life for you could be working just enough to afford your habit, some food, and a place to stay. Just keep in mind that addictions also have that tricky tendency of being harder and harder to satisfy, and you will continue wanting it even when it will no longer satisfy you [2]. So this new job would have to give you raises and expect less of you the more you become addicted–if you want to keep this craving satisfied.

Once habits become addictions, they don’t let up until you can no longer mentally or physically support them. Ending addictive behavior are painful and trying ordeals–so (at the very least) you don’t have to worry that this is some phase that fades on its own. Hey, silver lining.

But that also means you would have to think about what to do when you get to that breaking point. Would you be able to survive on your own? Notice I ask, “would you survive?” and not “would you be happy?” At this point, you would be well past that luxury.

Those questions are for you alone to answer. But make sure it’s you, Diner, and not your addiction. This condition is dumb to economics, health, and emotional fulfillment. It just wants more of itself.

We Fortune Cookies don’t have much first-hand experience with addiction, so we can’t advise you on what to do from here. The Opium Wars happened right before we were invented, and our Baker has since kept our ingredients free of Western drugs over this last century. We also don’t eat, have sex, gamble, or feed on adrenaline. Our final trip into your mouth is all the excitement we’ll need in a lifetime.

We just know of addiction’s consequences. We don’t know if the colors come back, or if they remain washed away. But we do know that with three billion users on the Internet [3], you will be able to find at least one person who has made the decision to end this same addiction. Ask them how life is afterward, and decide if quitting is what you want.

Good luck, Diner. I hope that if you eat with us again, we’ll see more color in each other.

References:

[1] Baumeister, R. F., Bratslavsky, E., Muraven, M., & Tice, D. M. (1998). Ego depletion: is the active self a limited resource?. Journal of personality and social psychology, 74(5), 1252.

[2] Goodman, A. (1990). Addiction: definition and implications. British journal of addiction, 85(11), 1403-1408.

[3] Internet Users. (n.d.). Retrieved January 19, 2015, from http://www.internetlivestats.com/internet-users/

How do I deal with my annoying co-workers?

Most of my colleagues annoy me to distraction. Most of the time I don’t have to interact with them much, but it’s a big problem at conferences; I get so drained. Any advice?


The owner of this Fortune is annoyed. You best leave them alone.

01-02-07-13-43 / 16


Hello Diner. We understand this problem completely. Every so often, it would be a late weekday night, and a tired business person would come into the restaurant already irritated from a long day at work. They would be snappy and rude to our waiters and waitresses–being just generally unpleasant to be around. Despite this attitude, our Baker’s Creed is to help anyone we’re served to. While it’s a rule for Cookies never to judge our Diners, we look forward to bonding with someone who is pleasant and kind, stuck in a predicament not of their choosing.

But once we start working, we see that this outwardly horrible person still has fears, desires, hope, and interests, like all of our Diners do. They also worry about being accepted and acknowledged. Their problems, no matter how trivial they are to another person, still keep them up at night.

Therefore, Diner, I urge you to learn about those people you dislike to see if you can connect with them on a more personal level. I can’t say if the search will bring up anything that will resolve the personality conflicts you have with your colleagues, but if you go to these conferences to learn or teach, the least you can try is to learn about these people and possibly show them how to relate to you better.

Doing this will undoubtedly take a lot of energy, but remember that you don’t have to do this the whole time. If you don’t have the energy to deal with people, you simply won’t have the energy to be receptive and learn about them. And that’s fine. This Fortune is all about making these conferences a little more tolerable than they are now. It would definitely help to pay attention to how quickly your mental battery drains and to give yourself breaks if you can take them.

To make sure you have as much energy as possible at these conferences, bring along and do activities that you enjoy and are easy for you, such as knitting, playing video games, or fortune telling. This will help you in two ways: it’s meditative, so it calms you down and re-energizes you; and it’s self affirming, so you feel good about yourself having done them. The night before get something satisfying to eat and enough sleep. If possible do a little bit of exercise. All this will counteract the draining effect from simply being at the conference and in the midst of all that input (your annoying colleagues, aside).

Hopefully this will result in new friendships with your co-workers. After all, negotiating a hard task is easier in numbers than alone. Good luck, Diner.

Note:

If it’s a matter of your colleagues pushing your boundaries when your battery is low, a great way to explain this drained feeling is with Christine Miserandino’s spoon analogy.