inspirational tools to create life balance in your everyday

finding balance in heartbreak – june 2009


Sometimes moments hurt. They might be impossibly beautiful or sad or hard and some part of our heart just opens wide, wider than it might if we hadn’t been swept up in the moment in the first place. Last night when two Canadian Geese flew by honking so loudly and flying so gracefully, my heart felt whole under the weight of impermanence. Behind these two geese, who appeared almost to be flying as one, were a gaggle of nearly twenty others honking in the distance behind them. These geese were flying all akimbo, no lines or partners, just one big splash of flight. They came down low and then high to miss the pine trees and then seemed to flatten out as if to taste the scent of new buds as they headed out over the vines. I stood there in their wake alive in the moment, that so easily could be missed if I had my head in a book or was cutting up the green beans. Instead this moment gets to sit in the pocket of my mind feeding this feeling of faith in the world, reminding me that when it feels like you are flying it alone, often behind you is a gaggle of support. All you need to do is open your heart.

Most of the time however, we live in our heads. The story lines of our lives are on full volume even if the station we’re tuned into isn’t particularly inspiring. Years unfold and we learn about ourselves and those around us through our experiences. When I look back over my life, often my memories are linked by a home that I lived in, a particular job or course of study and sometimes by a struggle that has been louder than the rest of markers of that time.

When I look back over the past three years, I see the markers of our home on the beach in Australia, a wonderful job and community at the yoga center that I managed, our move to America and travels around the country and yet over that, as if painted in the lightest watercolor of blue, is the journey we have embarked on to try to conceive a baby. It was three years in April since we decided with a twinkle in our eyes that we were ready to become parents. We started out with a kind of butterflies in the stomach mixed with a knowing that we were ready. There are memories in that first six months where I look back and can see the certainty of our baby in my mind. Buying a new mobile phone, I clearly remember thinking that I should buy a sturdy phone that can survive being thrown off a highchair tray. I remember looking at pregnant bellies, that suddenly appeared all around me like a field of new daisies, and feeling a camaraderie in our journey together. At the six month mark of trying, a shaving of fear fell into my mind and sat there sharp and tight. As I planned for the future, I moved around it so that it wouldn’t burst the bubble of our future plans. As we approached twelve months, I found new literature to say that infertility was now being based on the two year mark rather than one. My doctors assured me that this was entirely normal and that these things take time. I searched for signs of life in my body each month, a flutter, nausea, some tenderness that I would develop hope from. Each month, my body told me no. Sometimes this felt like a slap in the face, or a compassionate pat on the back or sometimes it was a wave so big that it took me under.

After several months in that second year of big waves, Pete saw that I wasn’t coping well with the repeated crushing of hope. He encouraged me to reach out to a counselor who was able to help me pull apart the threads of confusion and anger and grief that had grown up around our trying to have a baby. At that time, I felt like author Anne Lamott, when she said “my mind remains a bad neighborhood that I try not to go into alone.” In our lives we all will experience heartbreak and grief.  It may be in the form of a death or a dream unrealized or a set of circumstances that we could have never imagined. Amongst the comings and goings of our everyday lives, how do we balance while our hearts are hurting?

Through my journey over the past three years with unexplained infertility, there have been strong consistent tides that I’ve been working with. At first it was the tide of confusion. Peter and I didn’t actually know what was happening. With no evidence from our tests to say that we couldn’t have a baby and doctors assuring us that nothing was wrong, we were unable to get a firm grasp on what was happening to us. In this, I had a hard time talking to friends or family about what was going on. I wanted to hold on to that dream of surprising our loved ones with the news that we were pregnant. Then there came the tide of knowing. We couldn’t hide it from ourselves anymore that even though no one could tell us what was wrong, we knew there was a problem. We began talking to those that were close to us, but I felt so raw around it, that I only could talk to a handful of people in my life. After this third year, although the journey continues to be painful, we seem to have rounded a corner on to steadier ground. Perhaps it is acceptance or perhaps the last three years have taught us to know a strength in ourselves that we didn’t have to begin with.

When I think about balance and my journey with this particular grief, I know that one of the most important things I’ve learned is to be well supported. One of the easiest ways to support yourself is simply to treat yourself kindly. This kindness seems obvious, but it doesn’t come easy. Often during the times in our life when we feel grief or failure, our self talk is something like those evil horses in The Lord of the Ring’s movies breathing down our necks to do better. It gets messy. We would never speak so badly to those around us, so why do speak to ourselves this way?

In times of difficulty or heartbreak, it is particularly important to stop this negative self talk. I’ve found the best way to do this is with awareness. If there is an area of your life where you feel in over your head, start writing down what you are saying to yourself. This begins to create awareness. Ask yourself what these messages tell you about what you’re going through. Is this difficulty bringing up past struggles? Are you feeling anger, fear or sadness? An easy way to get better in touch with your inner voice is to begin journaling. As an avid journal keeper for most of my life, I often know if something is hitting too close to the bone because I will stop writing. Whatever it is that I’m going through, seems too painful to look at. Every time I break the drought of writing, insight pours through. I learn over and over again that getting the thoughts on to the page is a sure way of clearing out some of those cobwebs.

To start making up for some of the not so nice things you may have told yourself, you can start to treat yourself well. It is incredible the difference that you will feel simply by giving yourself a break. Start small. The next time that you have a difficult interaction or day, ask yourself what would you do for a friend in a similar situation. Without creating excuses, that it may cost too much or take up too much time, do this for yourself. When my friends are going through a tough time, often I will send them a card or an email to let them know that I am thinking of them. A couple of years ago, I began using special cards as bookmarks or I would display their covers around our home. I also began to keep a separate folder in my email account that says “special emails”. When I’m having a difficult day, I can go to this folder and read messages from the people that care about me. As I read their words, it is as if they are there, giving me strength in myself again and telling me it is all going to be okay.

Support is something that we can give ourselves, but also something that we need from others. One of the muscles that I’ve strengthened along this path is being able to be honest about what is going on in my life to those around me. There is often a tight cone of silence around infertility and one that I fell into myself. I’ll never forget being on a health retreat and talking to the kinesiologist about what Peter and I were going through. She told me that several other women on the retreat were also struggling with having a baby yet no one had mentioned it to one another. When our bodies fail us in a way that we don’t expect, we internalize this as something that we should have been able to control. Out of this stems shame and then silence. Breaking that silence invites greater support and encourages not only honesty, but also a better understanding from those around you. This understanding paves a difficult path with something more powerful than grief and that could only be love.

This month, if you are experiencing grief or traversing difficult waters, I invite you to support yourself by treating yourself with the kindness you would show a friend and also by beginning to speak honestly about where you have arrived to in your life. Honesty breeds honesty and you may find that the person sitting right next to you has been where you are or that you are the person that can help to make the journey a little less painful for someone that you know.

We all have suffering in our life. Like happiness it comes and it goes and even in the midst of the darkest times in our lives, there can be joy. There are moments where although the path you are walking isn’t the one you planned on, it strikes you open with its beauty and in an instant hope is alight again. Hope and acceptance can go hand in hand. I know that for myself they are both burning bright. Be kind to yourself and know that you are not alone, each of our journeys overlaps. Often I think of the quote that says, “Every blade of grass has an angel leaning over it whispering ‘Grow, grow.’” I believe that each of us also has an angel leaning over us, that whispers that we needn’t grow alone.

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This is a monthly inspiration piece brought to you by author Christina Adler at ‘everyday balance’. If you would like to share your experience with these tools, please feel free to email me by visiting the contacts section on the home page. To subscribe for a monthly reminder for these inspiration pieces, simply fill in your name and email address on the home page under “subscribe to everyday balance.” For information regarding life coaching appointments in person, by telephone or online, visit the ‘for life coaching’ section of this website. Photo taken by Christina Adler in  California.

posted under 2009 life balance

some days


some days draw out
silence in me
a kind of quiet
takes over

and like a babbling brook
over the edges
of my emotions

today seems more grounded
a day where the
words of a friend
arrive vulnerable and raw

reaching out
to create an envelope
for the past

that grief can be rocked to sleep in
and it is on
days like this where everything seems more real
where the quiet cuddles

my words to the page
that I crave those things
most basic
the primary colors of my life

a hot full cup of tea with milk
peter’s giant shoes looking after mine outside the door
the windows swallowing
the sounds of birds into the house

the morning warming up to a hot afternoon
my book in the sunny square of the couch
the Merlot colored yoga mat ready for practice
the laughter of my father coming out of my phone like wind chimes

and the deep blue sheets
which I hang on the line
so that this evening as we sleep
the sun and this warm afternoon

will penetrate our dreams
and although we may not remember
they will surely
lead us back

to presence
amongst the most ordinary
furniture of our lives
and what a gift it is just to witness this

copyright – Christina Adler – 26 May 2009 – Windsor, California USA

posted under 2009 poetry