Tuesday, May 25, 2010

This Is Life.

Thanks to whoever submitted my news to the LFCA! That was so sweet of you, dear mystery blog reader. That's why I love you all so much.

I take my last Provera tonight, to hopefully induce a bleed so that I can get started on a Clomid cycle. If you're stopping by for the first time (or need a refresher), I am ovulating on my own, but very slowly. And I'm hopefully coming to the end of a cycle that's been over two months long, with no ovulation but tons of crazy hormonal symptoms. The Provera definitely hasn't helped with the symptoms. I've taken it a couple of times before and have never noticed many symptoms at all. But of course, both of those times were before my body was cycling on its own. This time, I've basically felt like I'm having a bad period for the past six days or so. Which is all the more frustrating because I'm not seeing any blood yet, so there's none of the sense of release that comes with a period. But that *should* be on its way soon.

In other news, my parents, who currently live in Africa, are also going through a really difficult time right now. For a whole plethora of reasons, the biggest one being the migraine headaches/insomnia that have been plaguing my dad for a while. 30 or so years, in fact, but suddenly much worse. Their struggles are beside the point of this blog. But our phone conversations have been very interesting over the past week, as we're both going through really, really tough stuff. We're facing the same kind of emotional ups and downs, struggling with God, wishing things were different, praying for change, and, yes, feeling at times like we're really doing okay. The same kinds of things that most of you are going through. And if you're not going through this stuff now, you either have before or will be sometime in the future. I work at a church, which means that I hear stories all the time of people in our congregation going through awful, painful experiences. Any time I start to think I'm alone in my suffering, I hear another story that reminds me that this world is filled with suffering.

This is life. I actually believe that most of the real stuff in life happens in these hard places. We are formed, shaped, chiseled, molded. We feel like we did nothing to deserve this. But who are we to determine what we deserve? Who are we to claim that we have a right to an easy life? To be honest, when I look at someone who has had an easy life and compare him or her with someone who has endured real pain gracefully...well, the second person is almost always far more attractive and beautiful--in character, that is. Easy lives breed complacency, self-centeredness, and a false sense of control. I would prefer not to remain blind in my illusions of comfort and security.

This post is not meant to be a downer. To me, this stuff is what helps me get through the dark times. What helps me believe that my "up" days are just as authentic and realistic--if not more so--than my "down" days. Even though the "down" days sometimes feel like the only they're the only truth that exists.

Okay. Time to put my recruiting hat back on and get back to my real job. Speaking of which...any of you feel like moving to California and hanging out with kids every Sunday morning for the summer? No? I can't imagine why not. But I just had to check.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

My Excuse for Slacking

Yesterday was a very busy day for me, so I apologize to all you fellow ICLWers--and all of you whose blogs I normally read--that I slacked off a bit on the reading on commenting. I'm playing catch-up today, so it may be another slacker day in Ceejay's virtual world. And a quick post. Which might be refreshing, considering how long-winded I can be sometimes.

What was I doing that kept me so busy, you ask?
Can you tell that the hood's choking me a bit? My gown didn't have the button it was supposed to have on the front to attach the hood to. Those things are heavy!

If you didn't surmise this, I finally graduated yesterday. I say finally because I feel like I've been done for a long time. I turned in my thesis in December, but I took my last class a year ago. Of course, I still haven't received my diploma. But I guess that's what you get with a state school going through major budget cuts.

A couple of rows ahead of me during the ceremony was a woman who had brought her 4-year-old son into the ceremony with her. She had somehow procured him a miniature purple robe and cap! He was adorable. I had to stop and be grateful that I did not have a child yet while working through grad school. And mad props to any single mom (this woman was young enough that I made the perhaps incorrect assumption that she was single and had gotten knocked up as a teenager) who gets a degree of any kind with young kids.

The speakers were...graduation speakers. They spoke many words that sounded inspiring, I'm not sure what they actually said that had any substance. You earned this? You deserve this? Go live your dreams? Please. And sorry for the cynicism. I heard Oprah speak at a graduation once and was only slightly impressed by her, so I'm not the one to ask for opinions on these kinds of things.

But I am happy to have jumped the final hurdle in my education. I think I'm done with school for a little while. I'm sure I'll be back again someday for something. I'm a bit of an education addict. But for now, I'm enjoying the fact that I'm sitting here and blogging on a Sunday afternoon rather than writing pages and pages about John Donne.

Oh, and the best part of this graduation? The gift I received from my very generous in-laws: a Kindle. In general, I do not own very many gadgets. I still have an old-school cell phone and am typing on a ten-year-old laptop. But what gadget could be better suited to an English MA graduate than a Kindle?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Is It Really ICLW Again?

My months are really starting to run together these days. I can hardly believe it's already time for the May ICLW! This is such an annoying cliche, but I seriously feel like April's just ended.

If you're stopping by my blog for the first time, welcome. This is the third time I've participated in ICLW, and I've loved it every time--and have always been happy at how it seems to garner me a few new followers (hint, hint).

Probably what you're most interested is my infertility history, so I won't keep you in suspense any longer. My handsome husband and I only started trying to conceive last July--on our third anniversary, to be specific. Which was a highly unfortunate choice, as it's going to make our fourth anniversary be the day that we officially get labeled "infertile."

At the time, I actually had an inkling I would have a little trouble because of my past history of absent periods (which you can read about here). So I ushered myself--perhaps too quickly but still appropriately--into the world of infertility craziness within a couple of months of going off the (so-ubiquitous-but-now-exceedingly-hated-by-me) Pill.

I quickly learned that I had something called Hypothalamic Amenorrhea. My body stopped cycling because it wanted me to have a little more padding before getting pregnant. I'm very, very fortunate in that this is a condition which seems to be fully reversible in most women, though it takes some time and determination--and weight gain. I quickly gained 10 pounds and, last fall, I was thrilled to be rewarded with my first natural period in over six years! I thought, at the time, that a pregnancy would be just around the corner. But I guess ovulation does not equal pregnancy. Who knew?

Since then, I had two 50-ish-day-long natural cycles and one 40-day-long clomid cycle.  I'm currently on day 59 of my third natural cycle. The One Where Absolutely Nothing Happens.

Because I work for a church, I'm on a cheap-o insurance policy that doesn't even cover an appointment with an infertility specialist. So no REs for me at this point. Instead, I'm faithfully going to an acupuncturist, Katy the Needle Lady, and drinking herbal teas she prescribes. And hoping her promise to get my body back in balance isn't empty.

Oh, and I also just gave up on the One Where Absolutely Nothing Happens. I started a 7-day regimen of Provera on Wednesday night to induce a bleed and then go back to clomid. I'm happy to have an acupuncturist who's willing to work with Western drugs, as much as I hate them.

So that's the True History of My Attempts to Conceive until this point. It's a journey I have dreaded for many years, to be honest. But now that I'm on it, I firmly, wholeheartedly believe that it's happening for a reason--a good reason. One that I will, in fact, look back on thankfully, as unattainable as that gratitude sometimes seems to me now, sitting here stuck in the miry heartache. And I also firmly believe that the best is yet to come. [Cue corny Frank Sinatra song here.]

Thursday, May 20, 2010

I realized that I haven't updated in the past week on what's going on in my infertility world. This past week has actually been pretty tough for me emotionally, so I think I just didn't want to write about it. But here's the quick and dirty low-down in everyone's favorite format (the ubiquitous bullet point).

  • Last Saturday, my acupuncturist told me to wait until Thursday, which would be CD 58, and, if I hadn't ovulated by then, to start taking Provera. I was actually pretty hopeful that I would ovulate, because my ovulation symptoms had returned with a force.
  • Pete was leaving Sunday for a week-long trip, so we enjoyed a bit of a (ahem) twos-y on Saturday before he left. I thought, how perfect would it be if I ovulated at the beginning of this week and got pregnant? Right in the nick of time! I think most of us have had those "right in the nick of time" hopes--that get subsequently dashed hard--because we hear so many stories of that happening. 
  • I spent Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday agonizing over every possible symptom and being devastated over every negative OPK. And for some reason, my body picked this week to go on the fritz in other areas: I've been so bloated, gassy, and crampy that I haven't been able to sleep well at night, my skin, throat, and eyes have been really dry (to the point that one of my fingers cracked open--and we're in May here, folks, not January). I guess that could all be stress-related, but I've never had so many physical symptoms so quickly from stress. My theory is that I had been taking the most recent herb formula prescribed by Katy the Needle Lady for too long, and it was creating excess "dryness" in my "human garden."
  • Part of what I was agonizing about was whether I should wait until after Pete got home to start on the Provera, giving my body one last chance to ovulate and get pregnant, or if I should just give up and start it. I do know of one other woman (a fellow hypothalamic amenorrhea sufferer) who ovulated on day 60 and got pregnant.
  • After spending two hours crying on the phone with my parents and Pete yesterday, I felt more rational and decided I couldn't take the agonizing wait any more. And that I was just kidding myself to think my body might ovulate. So I called Katy and got the clear to start Provera. She also promised that my body would, eventually, get back in balance. I'm choosing to believe her because I don't have any other options at this point.
  • I started Provera last night. Take that, day 57. Of course, my temp shot way up this morning as a result and Fertility Friend decided to give me a dotted-line ovulation. Thanks, dear Fertility Friend. I really needed that reminder. 
Of course, now I have this irrational fear in the back of my mind that I might not get a bleed from Provera, and then I might not respond to Clomid this time. It's just so hard to trust my body on anything anymore. But I've had so many symptoms of rising estrogen that I know I've got to have a lining thick enough to bleed. So by my calculations, I should be ovulating sometime in the next 40 days. Bring. It. On.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

How Infertility Has Brought Out My Inner Hippie

I've joined a CSA.

I've started biking to work.

I only buy clothes that, as far as I can tell, was made by fairly paid and treated workers.

I do yoga twice a week.

Not only do I shop with reusable shopping bags, but I also reuse produce bags and wash out and reuse all my ziploc bags.

I'm a recognized customer at both a natural food store (where I get all my supplements--and we don't need to go into how many of those I'm taking) and a Chinese herb store.

If you need to find me, just look behind your nearest large tree.

Seriously, when did I get to be such a hippie? Please don't tell my father-in-law. I don't want to jeopardize that relationship.

One of the biggest obstacles between me and full-on yippiness has been meat. I've known about the evils of the American conventional meat-packing industry ever since a couple of my college friends decided to start farming grass-fed/free-range animals and began to indoctrinate me with their philosophy on food. But I've held out. I just haven't been able to gather my courage enough to pay $9.99 for a cut of beef that would I could purchase for $3.99.

My coupon-clipping, sale-hunting mother raised me on the notion that frugality was a kind of virtue. Not one of the most important virtues, but a virtue, nonetheless. We lived on less so that we could give more. Sometimes we lived on less because less is all we had.

Since the dawning of infertility in my life, I have gotten closer and closer to making the move towards eating animals that were treated nicely. I've switched to more "natural" beauty products and mostly organic produce and just hoped that eating enough good veggies will somehow cancel out the harmful things that may be coming through my meat. If I didn't have hypothalamic amenorrhea, I would probably just cut way back on the meat. But, because of my HA, Katy the Needle Lady (my acupuncturist) gave me strict instructions to eat meat, and lots of it. Especially red meat. And fewer salads. Please don't hate me because you think I have the most enviable diet prescription ever given. I'm also supposed to avoid cold foods (ie ice cream), sugar, and chocolate.

But this weekend finally put me over the edge. On Saturday, Katy informed me that eating organic/grass-fed/free-range meat was far more important that organic produce. Apparently, she had a former patient whose cycles had gone wonky after she moved from India to America. They couldn't figure out what the issue was until they realized that meat in India is raised the way it's supposed to be. The conventionally farmed meat in America was throwing her whole hormonal system out of balance!

And then I watched Food, Inc (this is what I do when Pete's gone: watch movies he wouldn't want to sit through). I've been meaning to watch this for a while but have putting it off because I knew I wasn't ready. I knew it would send me on a guilt trip that I didn't want. But I finally felt ready this weekend.

And now I hope I never have to buy meat from our evil American conventional meat-packing industry again. That's all I can say. If you're interested, watch the movie. But don't do it if you're not ready to very afraid of the meat aisle in the grocery store.

I also know that's a bit of an over-the-top reaction, and I do plan to be practical and not legalistic. I still have a freezer full of conventionally farmed meat, and I don't plan to throw any of it away. But I'm also finally willing to put a little more money into buying good meat. It may mean that we have to give up the CSA, but I can get organic produce at the store without being locked into to the expensive weekly subscription.

Pete's also calling around to his hunting friends in Montana to see if any of them would be willing to shoot a deer for us. Because you can't get much more free-range than Montana game animals. If that works out, it will save me from being a complete hippie.

What about you, my dear readers? How many of you have significantly changed your eating and shopping habits since beginning the infertility journey? How important do you think food is to our fertility?

Now, back to my meal of organic sweet potato, organic chard, and grass-fed lamb (another treat I get to enjoy while my lamb-hating husband is away).

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Good that Came of Mother's Day

Though Mother's Day was a tough, PMS-y day for me, I did want to come back around and mention something quite lovely that happened on Sunday. I woke up Sunday morning feeling completely down in the dumps. I thought I was prepared for Mother's Day and that it wouldn't affect me too much. And honestly, I'm not sure if the Mother's Day thing was really the reason behind my crappy emotions, or if that just became my excuse for them.

I'm not one of those people that wants to completely cut myself off from others when I'm miserable. That might actually be a decent option compared to what my inclinations are. Instead, I want to pull others down with me. I want the world to know that I'm miserable and to feel desperately sorry for me--and guilty about their lack of misery. On a day like Mother's Day, I want to rain a little on the happiness of all the mothers around me.

Isn't that horrible? I know it's natural and human and normal and all, but I still don't think it's right, and so I'm working on channeling that self-pity into better places--like more compassion and sensitivity for others feeling miserable.

But back to Sunday. I woke up feeling awful and wanted the world to know it. But I also really care what others think about me, so I wasn't about to do anything really overtly horrible and mean. Instead, I posted this simple status update to Facebook:
Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, and Father's Day: Holidays during which those who have unintentionally rub salt in the wounds of those who have not.
I was a little unsure about whether I should post it or not. As much as I wanted to ruin others' happiness, I didn't want them to think I was trying to ruin their happiness. But I thought that update was fairly innocuous, and would perhaps just alert the people who really care about me that I wasn't doing so great.

I got home from church later and saw that I had a Facebook message from my mother-in-law. Actually, it was from my father-in-law's account, which made me really nervous at first because I didn't really want any sappy messages from him. But my MIL likes to write from his account sometimes (I can't figure out why--she has her own), so it was from her. And here is what it said:

You have been on my mind much yesterday and again this morning. Thank you for making my Mother's Day special with the surprise of flowers. They are beautiful. Your way with words is beautiful as well. Your facebook post flows almost poetically while sharing such an ache. Your compassion for and sensitivity to others is a good reminder for us all. May God hold you close to Himself today and give you great blessings.
I started crying as soon as I read it. I found out later that she had been crying as she posted it. Pete told his parents last summer that we were having some issues trying to get pregnant, but we haven't really talked to them about it since. I think, like so many others, they think that we might not want them to bring it up. Or they just feel awkward about it. Their family has never been that great at having conversations about deeper-level issues. (As a side note, why do so many people think we don't want them to ask how we're doing in the infertility department? When I'm feeling down, I desperately want to talk about it, but the last thing I need is the pressure to have to bring it up myself.) So this was the first time my MIL had directly communicated with me about it, and the first time she expressed that she was really hurting for me. 

I can't even explain how much that meant to me. Pete's younger sister got pregnant "accidentally" (of course!) within a year of her wedding, so the in-laws have one granddaughter already. I don't know why, but somehow that fact together with their lack of communication about our infertility had actually left me feeling slightly hurt, though I knew there wasn't any reason to be and completely understood where they were. Pete talked to his mom later that afternoon and just let her know that we do appreciate being asked about how things are going. It's therapeutic to talk about it, and to know people care and are praying for us.

He also encouraged her to call me sometime next week, when he'll be gone (Sunday through Friday). She probably will. And I have to say that I'm actually a little nervous about it. I dislike talking on the phone, and I've never talked to her about issues I'm really, deeply struggling with. So I anticipate some awkwardness, and I hate awkwardness. I also anticipate that I might cry, thus compounding the awkwardness--especially on the phone. But if she does call, I know she'll be stepping out of her way to show love to me, so I suppose I can be a little vulnerable and at least talk back.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Aussie prof finds 99-year-old error in Oxford English Dictionary

In the spirit of collective mourning, I just have to share this with you, my blog audience, since it seems that many of you are as nerdy (in the cultured, well-educated sense of the word) as I am and thus might actually care. The OED is a Bible of sorts for us English majors. One of those sources you feel the need to reference in every academic paper worth its blood, sweat, and tears. So to discover it contains an error is, well, earth-shattering.

[Insert collective sob here].

Aussie prof finds 99-year-old error in Oxford English Dictionary

Monday, May 10, 2010

Fun, 1950s Style

I helped to throw a huge party this weekend. For about 120 people. During which we cooked everyone's meals fresh and made-to-order. I wore a real, live (well, not actually barking) poodle skirt. And roped my husband into reliving his table-waiting days and helping me serve the food.

Let me just zoom in on that skirt so you can appreciate the poodle in all her glory.

One of my coworkers made it for me without me even asking. And yes, that is a real Thunderbird behind us in that first picture. We called in the local Thunderbird Club (I didn't even know such things existed before this party) and asked one of the men if he'd like some free publicity.

The purpose of the party was to appreciate all the volunteers who help us run the children's program I help to oversee in my job. Those of us who get paid to do this throw a huge shindig every year to show those who are not paid how much we love them. We wanted to do something family-friendly this year so the volunteers wouldn't have to find babysitters, so we did a 1950s soda shop and diner. Complete with jello, hoola-hoops, yo-yos, slinkies, bubble gum, and, of course, milkshakes galore.

I paid the price all day yesterday. Exhaustion + Mother's Day + working all morning + having people for dinner + PMS = one tough Sunday. And I could break the PMS element down even further, but I think you all get the point.

And yes, I do think I am experiencing PMS. I had an acupuncture appointment Saturday morning, and Katy (my acupuncturist) seemed to think my period would be on its way soon, since I'm nearing day 50 and my last two natural cycles were around 50 days long. I didn't believe her, because I couldn't imagine getting my period without ovulating. That's never happened to me (in my great experience of 4 cycles), and, more importantly, that doesn't seem to happen to those of us who suffer from hypothalamic amenorrhea. We frequently have really long cycles--or no cycles at all--but I haven't heard of any other HAer who got her period without ovulating.

Then I woke up yesterday morning feeling all my normal PMS symptoms. The menstrual cramps. The extreme fatigue. The backache. The sore boobs. And the crappy emotions. Though who knows if they were due to hormones or Mother's Day. And they're all hanging around today, though no signs of blood yet.

So maybe she's right. My acupuncturist, that is. I definitely felt like my estrogen was surging a couple of weeks ago, trying to ovulate. For some reason, it didn't quite surge high enough, or decided to quit half way, and I didn't actually release an egg--based on my lack of a temperature rise. That's a little frustrating, but maybe fairly common among women just starting acupuncture and herbs? Especially since Katy had me go ahead and switch from the ovulation herbs to the luteal phase herbs last week. I don't know. But at least if I get my period, I can move forward and start the next cycle. I'm so over this one. And Katy wants me to take clomid again, so next cycle should be much shorter.

But. I'm not counting on anything. My body has played tricks on me before. Until I see red, I'm still in limbo land.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Dear Sleep, Thanks for the Memories

I have to start out with an honest admission--I really have no idea what to blog about today. I've just set a goal for myself to try to blog at least twice a week, and I know this weekend's going to be a tad insane, so post today I will. With nothing much going on in my lady-parts, I'm really having to be creative here.

Since I would love to have my default attitude in life be one of thankfulness and peace, I thought it might be a good idea to transfer that to my blog. Set my default post-mood on the gratitude setting. I'm not going to set a pattern of Thankful Thursdays or anything like that, but I will post today about something for which I am thankful.

Sleep. I've been hesitant to write about this because I'm afraid of jinxing things or something, but here goes.

Sleep and I have had a conflicted and angst-ridden relationship for quite a while now. I think sleep is considered Yin and therefore more feminine in Chinese medicine, so I'll call Sleep a she. Maybe I took her too much for granted for the first 19 years of my life. Not that I was never sleep-deprived in high school--I was, in fact, perpetually sleep-deprived--but I never had much trouble falling asleep once I got in bed. Lie down, relax a few minutes, and there she was, ready to escort me through a night of strange-but-rarely-scary dreams, straight through to the morning. If I woke up in the night, it was only to be thankful that I still had a few more hours to enjoy her before I had to get up at the excruciating hour of 5:45am.

Then, at some point when I was around 19 or 20, I started having the occasional night where I had a little trouble falling asleep. Looking back now, I wonder if it was somehow related to the dieting and crazy exercising I did that first summer home from college, when I lost 30 pounds and punished my body into hypothalamic amenorrhea. Throwing my body out of balance like that could easily have other results, as well, at least in theory. But it could also have been that I just had more to worry about.

In any case, any of you who have experienced the occasional sleepless night probably know how it spirals and accumulates. Insomnia is so psychological--it's almost impossible to tell if there's something physical going on or if you're just so nervous about not being able to find Sleep that you keep yourself awake. I was still on mostly friendly terms with Sleep. She came to me without too many issues most nights. But I dreaded those nights when she would hide from me for a while. In my mind, there were few things in life that were scarier or more nerve-wracking. Tylenol PM became my friend. I longed to be one of those people, like my brother, who simply didn't worry about it. Who wasn't phased by the idea of insomnia. Who took Sleep for granted, and therefore never had problems finding her.

A few years ago, I think God decided it was time I face my frenemy Sleep head-on. I had just started grad school and was a bit overwhelmed with how much I had to do, and then I stopped being able to find Sleep easily at all. And I was absolutely panicked about it. Even the mention of the word "insomnia" had always caused me to break out in a cold sweat, and here I was, basically an insomniac. My doctor was quick to prescribe me first Am.bien, which was great but too expensive, and then Traz.adone, a cheap anti-depressant with the side-effect of drowsiness. I took the Traz.adone for two nights in a row, and the second morning, as I was standing in front of our bathroom sink getting ready to head to school, I blacked out, fell out of the bathroom and into the hallway, and hit the door of the hallway closet. My husband says that was the scariest moment of his life. I guess my eyes were twitching a bit for the few seconds I was laying there. I came out of it quickly and it wasn't a big deal, but I decided Traz.adone might not be a good long-term solution.

I won't bore you with all the details of what happened for the next few months. I was depressed. I was terrified. I didn't sleep a single night without some kind of chemical help.

I eventually came out of it. I found some herbal supplements that helped. I found some generic Am.bien online for much cheaper. I began to really believe that I was not in control of my ability to find Sleep, so I couldn't change anything by worrying. And I realized that I really could survive insomnia. It wasn't actually the end of the world, as I had previously thought.

I've been back on speaking terms with Sleep the past few years. I still have days or weeks at a time where she's more elusive, and I have to make use of that Am.bien. Then I have other weeks where all it takes is a little valerian or melatonin.

That is, until starting acupuncture. Let me first just say that the verdict's still out on the acupuncture for me. I'm doing it to have normal cycles and get pregnant, and thus far, neither of those seems anywhere in sight. And my acupuncturist assures me that my other occasional minor...disturbances (eczema, digestive issues, nasal congestion) will also subside. All of those are still alive and kickin', though I have been very...um...regular since starting. But the insomnia? Pretty much gone. Seriously. I've surprised myself with how easily I've been falling asleep for the last 40-odd days since starting the acupuncture. I keep waiting for another bump in the road in my relationship with Sleep, but 40 days is a bit of a record. And not only have I been falling asleep more easily, but I also haven't been waking up as often. Just my nightly old lady bathroom trip. But I used to wake up and feel restless 2-3 times most nights.

The only nights I've had trouble have been either when I'm waking up super early the next morning, which always makes me feel more nervous and pressured about falling asleep, or when I've had irritating...ahem...gas issues.

Like I said, I've been nervous about telling anyone about my new-found peace with Sleep, because I'm afraid I'll lose it by talking about it. But I'm on the record now. I'm very, very, very thankful. Sleep, thanks for being my friend again. Katy, thanks for the amazing acupuncture and herbs. And God, thanks for taking me on this long journey through insomnia. It has been really painful at times, but I really have learned so much about you and about myself through it. And I would definitely still be stuck in my anxiety about Sleep had I never experienced the terror of its loss in the way that I did.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Unending Graduations

Does anyone else find graduation ceremonies mildly depressing? Not in and of themselves. Every individual element is usually quite uplifting and celebratory. But I always seem to find myself sinking into Nostalgemotional Land when I attend graduations--no matter who they're for.

I was sitting way up high in the bleachers at my brother's college graduation on Saturday, next to my husband and behind a girl who had penciled on eyebrows and a tattoo of two creepy eyeballs on the back of her neck (which were staring at me through the entire ceremony). A band of students performed a song near the beginning of the ceremony, and I found myself tearing up because...well, I don't know. The singer's voice was beautiful. The graduates looked so happy. How much I love my little brother, and how much nicer he is to me now than he used to be. My parents weren't there (they live in Africa and just didn't have the money to pay for the trip) and how sad I knew my mom was to miss her son's graduation.

All the babies and pregnant women all over the place in the gymnasium probably didn't help much, either.

I think graduations always take me back to my high school graduation and all the emotions that were swept up in that. Looking around at my classmates and knowing this would be the last time we would ever be all together in the same building. That I wouldn't see most of them ever again. Feeling that something really big and monumental was over in my life. Anticipating living away from home for the first time. Feeling so proud of my class (proud of what? I don't know. Just for being my class, I guess). Being so happy to be finished with high school, and ready to leave home and fend for myself.

It's the same feeling I had when I was eleven years old and boarding a ship with my family to start our journey from Tagbilaran, Bohol to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Seeing the tears on my parents' faces as they hugged so many people that they had sacrificed so much to love and help.

I had a few twinges of this feeling at my wedding, though I was mostly preoccupied with giddy excitement and joy. But some part of me was aware that from then on, my relationship with my family would be solely in the form of brief visits and phone calls. No more living in their house as their child.

The same feeling I had last summer as I said goodbye to my parents a few weeks before they headed off to the next big thing in their lives (Africa).

It feels reductive to simply call these moments bittersweet goodbyes. Yes, they have been the big transitions in my life. But I think what has filled them with such richness and depth is that they have all taken place in the context of great love. The beauty of that love is what frees me to be able to feel nostalgic for my past without any sense of profound loss or sadness. Knowing that what's coming next is good and right--that it's supposed to be what's coming next. And confident that what was beautiful about the past isn't over--it continues and will continue through eternity. What was painful and hard, however, is over and will not return.

But that doesn't stop me from getting teary-eyed at graduations. I've got another one coming up in a couple of weeks--my own. Pete has convinced me to walk in my graduation, even though I completed my MA last December and feel very little connection to the university from which I received it. But he insists that I need closure of some sort, and that I'll regret not doing it if I don't. Which is probably true. If I cry at that one, though, it will probably be from boredom as they call every single one of the 4,000ish graduates in attendance. I'll definitely be bringing a book (hidden under my gown, of course) to help me make it through that one....