Thursday, May 20, 2010

A little perspective goes a long way

Since January, I have worked for a large poverty-fighting organization. And we do really great, really important work, but are still somewhat divorced from the in-your-face realities that exist for the poor here in the United States.

But yesterday? Yesterday was different. I went to an organization that provides housing, food, healthcare and job training services to people in NYC. There are a lot of these organizations and they are mostly doing great work, and the people who work there every day deserve all of the credit in the world for sacrificing higher pay for this important work.

Yesterday I actually got the opportunity to sit down and talk with someone who is homeless. Someone who lived on the streets and in the subway stations pretty near where I live in my apartment. He lived on the streets for 15 (yes you read that right) years, and through the outreach from this program was convinced to come indoors and be helped.

He is polite, charming, well-spoken. He graduated high school. He is 55 years old. He has both a serious mental illness and is an active substance abuser. And for the last 15 years of his life he has lived with a suitcase and his wits on the streets of my neighborhood.

Hopefully, through this program he will get stable housing, treatment for his mental health issues and begin treatment for his substance abuse. But what he said was the most important thing was that he is finally, for the first time in a while, regaining a little bit of what it feels like to be human -- to be seen, and not ignored, to be treated with respect, and not discarded with the trash.

I went back to my office, and someone had sent me this presentation. And the combination of this with my meeting really, really, I mean at a visceral gut level, hit me: I am lucky. I have pretty much won the life lottery by being an upper-middle class American. But yet I complain too much. I whine about infertility, about my husband's lack of meaningful work, and about pretty much everything. Instead I should feel grateful -- grateful that I have a wonderful husband and a supportive family. Grateful for my health, for my education, for my income bracket. Grateful that I do not worry where I will sleep or what I will eat or my personal safety.

I'm not sure how long this feeling will last, but I am going to try to hold onto it for at least a few days. Because sometimes I need a little perspective on what is really important.


  1. Absolutely love it. Your post. The presentation. The meaning of it all. And yes, we should all consider ourselves lucky.

    Thank you for putting a smile on my face :)

  2. You're absolutely right. And it's so easy to lose sight of those things, to become mired in one's own troubles. I consider myself lucky, too.

  3. Hi! Thanks for stopping by my blog.

    I read a few of your previous posts and wanted to share my experience with being diagnosed heterozygous for the a1298c mutation. I guess this is pretty common (1 out of 5 women) and most docs do nothing. But, on top of this I also tested borderline for one of the anti-phospholipid antibodies.

    As a result, my doc has me taking Folgard, low-dose aspirin AND heparin. I know that my doc has a reputation for being a bit overboard, but he also is very successful with women who have had recurrent miscarriages and/or failed IVFs, so that must count for something.

    Anyway, sorry for the long comment, but I know when you're going through IVF any info is helpful info!

  4. I agree that we have a lot to be thankful for, and it is great when you can find those times to reflect on that. Especially when you actually meet or know someone whose life is so much worse than yours. I remember watching video footage of an utterly distraught Haitian woman sobbing and wailing as she mourned the loss of ALL FIVE of her children in the earthquake. That really put my plight in perspective.

    Unfortunately it doesn't last forever, and now I am back to feeling sorry for myself. But I should think of people like that more often than I think enviously about my friends who have kids AND all the benefits of being wealthy Americans.

    Sometimes knowing about people who have it worse makes me feel better, and sometimes it doesn't. In the end, I just hope that a baby will help, and that I'm not permanently destroyed by all this! I don't think so... not yeat, anyways.

  5. You're so right! Thanks for putting some perspective in my life. I feel like I've been so self-centered while TTC. It really helps to get a reality check.

  6. Yep. You said it, sister. Good for you for making a difference in the lives of those who are struggling. Thank you for your work, and thank you for the reminder.

  7. Thanks also for stopping by my blog. I've been meaning to drop by to say hello. Well, hello!

    I try to keep perspective in all this chaos and it's easy enough to dwell on the here and now, but for so many reasons, it could be way, way worse. I often say that these series of events that have shaped my unhappiness aren't the worst things to ever happen to me, because they aren't. They are rough times, difficult even, but nothing like having to live by your wits with a suitcase on the streets of NY.

    I look forward to keeping up with you.

  8. Yes, yes, yes. I really needed this this week. Thanks so much for posting it.

    And by the way, I'm also heterozygous for MTHFR (the C677T version w/ normal homocysteine). I don't think one copy is too big of a deal. My RE prescribed Folgard and I also take baby aspirin. Did you test for all the other clotting disorders too?

  9. It's so true. Life gets so much worse than this. I too am incredibly lucky, and have a fabulous life. And I should try to not take it for granted--just imagining what it would be like to lose any of the things that matter to me--husband, friends, job, house--certainly helps with the feeling lucky.

    That said, I think being dissatisfied is part of the natural human condition, and I think IF is a very special kind of experience, in that most of us can't just brush off the pain we feel. For most of us, it's not about focusing on those parts of our lives that are going well and just trying harder to be happy. Not that you're saying it is, I just sometimes feel guilty for not being able to flip that switch, and have to remind myself that I just can't.

  10. It's so easy to get caught up in constantly comparing oneself to those who seem more fortunate, and forgetting to also compare oneself to those who are truly less fortunate. I try hard to be thankful for all I have, but the natural condition of being human is that of desiring what you don't have, so it's hard to be at peace. I'm trying!

  11. Thank you for writing this. While it wasn't my experience, I have gained some much needed perspective from reading about it. Thanks again.

  12. this post slipped by me yesterday! i think it's human nature to only focus on what you don't have, and we all take for granted the good stuff. when i see a homeless man on the street or hear about ppl who are really sick, it makes me feel like a selfish cow that i'm whining about stupid stuff when ppl are suffering out there. it makes you take stock of all the good and put things in perspective.

    but with that said ... i still REALLY WANT a baby. NOW.