Part 3: Infertility and The Person You Are Becoming

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This is Part Three in a series on infertility. Click here to read Part One. Click here to read Part Two.

“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

—Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

At the beginning, I got really good at counting to nine.

I was living in the future, skip counting ahead of everyone else, calculating the moment that I could potentially become a mother. October plus nine equaled July. November became August. I knew it was dangerous addition, but it was too tempting not to count it out on my fingers. (Can you imagine, by next summer, we could be parents!)  January passed. Then February. I was getting discouraged—already feeling the twinges of hope and disappointment. But I had faith that it would happen. Every plan I’d ever made had come true. Why wouldn’t this one?

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Lying, Cheating, Stealing and Tolerating Those Who Do.

Most people who know me know that I grew up at West Point, home to the U.S. Military Academy. I tell people it was a lot like living at Hogwarts—huge stone buildings. Young, talented kids in uniform. Skydivers jumping out of planes. The occasional explosion. I got to watch all that magic from the sidelines.

West Point has educated countless leaders over the course of our nation’s history. Presidents. Generals. Business executives. (Dozens of my extremely bad-ass friends.) And one thing that’s always stuck out to me about the cadet experience is just how seriously the Academy takes its honor code.

“A Cadet Will Not Lie, Cheat, Steal or Tolerate Those Who Do.”

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I’ve been putting off this essay because I don’t really want to delve into political waters. But after the events of this week (re: Melania Trump and/or her speechwriter plagiarizing Michelle Obama’s 2008 DNC speech) I couldn’t stay silent anymore.

As I watch the news, I can’t help but feel like we’ve come to a point in American history when people don’t really know what honor is. It seems like all anyone does is lie, cheat, steal and tolerate it in others. Donald Trump cheats workers out of money. Hillary Clinton lies about her dereliction of duty over Benghazi. Police officers steal breath right out of the lungs of black men. Olympic teams pump steroids.

And meanwhile, most Americans look on and sigh. We tolerate it. We shrug about it. We move on. Or, if we’re outraged, we’re only outraged about whatever we’ve decided is the most wrong.

“A cadet will not lie (too much), cheat (too much), steal (too much), or tolerate those that do (too much).” That wouldn’t be a very good honor code because it bakes valuation into the equation. If the bad isn’t too bad, then it’s not that bad.

But there are no gradations of integrity. From the smallest “pop-off” answer that seems easier than explaining the whole truth, to the biggest cover-up designed to protect your ass over all others, a lie is the most basic breach of trust. It’s taking reality into your own hands and pretending you can change it. Ultimately, telling a lie means that you’ve put your own reputation, story, or ego ahead of anyone else.

The same goes for cheating. A cheater believes that personal gain, glory or pleasure is the ultimate prize. A cheater believes that his time is more valuable than yours. A cheater believes his sweat is more valuable than yours. A cheater believes that his pleasure is more important than your pain.

If lying and cheating are products of pride, stealing is the result of insecurity. People who steal don’t believe they are capable of the hard work necessary to achieve. Melania Trump (or her writers) didn’t believe they were capable of original ideas, so they stole someone else’s. Rapists don’t believe they can achieve pleasure or intimacy on their own, so they take it by force. It’s hopelessness, taken to the extreme.

Taken together, lying, cheating and stealing represent three vices that over-value or de-value a human life. Dishonorable people forget the central tenet of American ideology. We are all created in the image of God. We were all created equal.

That’s why honor matters. Because it is the backbone of justice.

Honor is being willing to admit the truth rather than lie, fail rather than cheat, and come up short rather than steal.

Honor is the courage to look a fool.

Honor is the ability to put someone else’s needs before your own.

Honor is choosing the harder right instead of the easier wrong.

Honor is believing there is a right worth choosing.

There are none of us who haven’t broken this honor code. I’m a liar, cheater, and a thief. I’ve done it all. I’ve also asked for forgiveness rather than doubling down on my pride.

My hope is that sometime in the future, we will have leaders in America who do the same.

Just Press Send

I am not a shy person.

Call it extrovertedness. Call it being an Army brat. Call it a desperate need for approval. But if I walk into a room of strangers, I will be the first person to walk up to someone I don’t know, put out my hand, and say—Hi, I’m Claire. What’s your name? I think that actually may be the first full sentence I ever spoke.

Regardless of my desperate need to be liked (see video above), I sincerely enjoy meeting new people. Learning their story. But the longer I live (hello 30, I see you!)… the more I’m realizing that it’s hard to tell mine.

Here’s the deal. For most people, work looks like showing up. Doing a good job. Hoping you get recognized. Leveraging that recognition into promotions or a new gig. Etc. Etc. into infinity. For creative-types, (think writers, musicians, artists, producers) work looks like showing up. Doing what you desperately hope is a good job because there’s no one out there to really compare to when you’re trying to create something new. And instead of hoping you get recognized, you must actively endeavor to be recognized, while suffering myriads of rejection.

So far, I have sent my novel-in-progress to a total of TWO agents. Both have turned it down. One never wrote me back. The other asked me to keep working and try again.

Since then…. (and it’s been about a year)… I’ve been in a hellish hole of self-doubt, unable to hit send. The Army brat in me is dying to reach across the room and introduce myself. The creative in me is desperately trying to find a hole to crawl in where I can avoid disappointment. It’s kind of a cluster-f#$% in my head, if you can imagine.

But today. I’m hitting send. On an email to an agent. On this blog post. Because hey. Why not. What’s the worst thing that can happen?

You don’t like me?

Ha! Do I need to be liked? Absolutely not. I like to be liked. I enjoy being liked. I have to be liked. But it’s not like this compulsive need to be liked, like my need to be praised…