Last month I featured as a guest blogger over at Love from Mim. I wrote about #MyFiveThings and it was the five things I learnt from IVF. You can read it here. If you want. Anyway, one of those five things was that it is sometimes braver to give up than it is to keep going. Just this week I was reminded about this very thought when I was reading a review of the book “Avalanche” by Julia Leigh. Julia is an acclaimed author and Avalanche is her third book. It’s also her first non fiction. It is immensely personal and tells the story of infertility and the subsequent attempts she made to have a baby through IVF. It’s an emotional rollercoaster I’m very familiar with and one that had the capacity to unmoor me from reality.
So much of what Julia tells in her story resonated with me. Guilt over a morning coffee to the relentless mind games thinking you only need one egg, one embryo and it could be the next attempt that you get pregnant. These are moments in my past that shaped my present and created my future but this is where our parallel story ends and our epilogues differ because Julia made that brave and unbearably difficult decision to cease fertility treatment and I did not. Could not. Fortunately it was also a decision I did not need to face. I know I am lucky.
Even in the midst of a toddler meltdown over wrongly buttered toast I know I am lucky.
But it made me think about the idea and sentiment behind giving up. Quitting. Throwing the towel in. All of which sounds negative and like you’ve failed somehow. Society has led us to believe to never give up. Lorna Jane makes squillions in merchandise telling us to never never never give up. Instagram has over 7 million posts of #nevergiveup. I just don’t think it’s that straight forward. Giving up shouldn’t automatically equate to failing. Sometimes it really does take more courage to say “enough” than it is to keep going. Richard Branson didn’t finish high school did he? God, and he’s such a failure. (is there a font for sarcasm?)
I’m forever indebted to the universe that I didn’t have to make a decision to stop IVF treatment so I’m careful not to sound all patronising. In my case I allowed myself to somewhat be dictated by Dr M. We had a bit of an agreement about this so much so that just before my last cycle (now commonly referred to as the Charlie cycle) he said that he felt I had one or two eggs left and that after this cycle we’d need to start talking about my options. Or lack thereof.
Only just in the last few weeks I’ve been thinking of giving up my blog. This is where I learnt the difference between giving up for the right reasons and giving up for the wrong reasons. It’s been a bit of a struggle lately, trying to juggle almost full time work (it’s the recruitment industry which doesn’t do ‘part time’ well), parenting, family, exercise (another lack thereof) and just home stuff in general. Trying to grapple with google analytics and find my own voice has been, is, hard. But here’s the thing. A good bounce rate or not, I really like my blog. I love it actually. I love writing and I love trying to find my own way with it. Why would I give up something that I enjoy just because at the moment it’s hard? Google analytics isn’t the boss of me.
Giving up should be okay if you change your mind, if pursuing something makes you unhappy, if the pursuit turns you into someone you don’t want to be. Or if the reason you don’t want to stop is because you worry about what others would think. The pursuit of a dream is often going to be tough, it might harden your heart but it shouldn’t destroy your soul. The decision to stop something is as painful as it is personal, I’m not going to tell a professional swimmer to quit an Olympic dream, though come to think of it, I do think it would have been sensible if my mum had suggested that at sixteen I wasn’t going to become an Olympic gymnast. There are certain things I wouldn’t give up on though, fighting an illness, fighting to survive if I was sick. I can’t imagine giving up on this but I wouldn’t have a clue how I would react so I’m in no position to comment. But this isn’t about giving up on yourself or losing hope.
I want Charlie to grow up with confidence and a belief in himself. I want him to know the value of working hard, of having a dream and to find what it is that makes him feel good. I want him to learn resilience and to not be afraid to try something for fear of failure. Last year we gave away swimming classes because he was clearly not enjoying them. The instructor tut tutted and harrumphed away but is this because they would miss the fees we were paying or is it because they were concerned that he’d never get back in the water? Who knows. We do intend on getting him back into them, but the timing wasn’t right and we know our son and we know he’ll find his way back to the kick board. If he didn’t enjoy bedtime, it’s not like we’d be letting him stay up all night binge watching Netflix.
Giving up on something is sometimes the hardest decision you could make. It takes courage and spunk. If something isn’t in the right orbit of where you need to be then persisting with it would be unnatural and sometimes you need to be your own voice of reason. Such decisions are so personal, visceral even. We need to rethink this mad notion that calling time out is a weakness when in actual fact it can often show a strength of character.