My friend, C is one of those optimistic people for whom The Secret was already old hat but who was glad for it to make waves and influence others. She’s an odd but loveable mix of sarcasm, and sorority girl; of blood and guts horror movies and Sunday scrap booking sessions. She is goal-oriented and crafty and so it should not surprise you that she has for months been trying to convince me to create a vision board.
Months ago I drove forty miles away with her to visit a special scrap booking store so she could get supplies for her vision board. At the time I was searching for the perfect parchment-like paper to use as invitations for a Hobbit Party so I was up for the trip. I am a pretty dorky arts and craftser myself, but scrap booking has never particularly interested me. But then I’m not one for picture taking, or other life documentation (I suppose this blog notwithstanding). I guess I was never sure what needed scrap book’ed about my life, though I confess to enjoying the accoutrements. I still have that childlike enthusiasm for stickers, and scrap booking companies produce the best stickers.
C’s vision board has a lot of specific goals on it: work accomplishments, a trip she wants to take, attention to herself and aspects of her life. She has it displayed in her house. MJ saw it one weekend night went he went over to watch The Walking Dead – a gory obsession the two of them share without me. She took his assent to looking at the board as proof that we should have one, and began her crusade shortly after.
I don’t have the heart to tell her I am a cynical judgmental person who thinks vision boards are ridiculous. Or in the least, ridiculous for me.
I know there are people – far more open-minded than me – who will say that their vision boards worked. And I don’t doubt that there is something to reminding yourself daily of your goals and wishes. If I were reminded every day that one of my goals was to go on vacation, I would probably be much more likely to not buy something frivolous and unnecessary that day but instead put that same money in a savings account. I know the difference even something like tracking what you eat can have on what you chose to consume and thus whether you lose or gain weight. A great number of the ridiculous things I do are because I’m not thinking, or because I am not thinking about what matters. A daily acknowledgment of what I should be thinking or caring about would help me considerably. But all this really makes me think is that I should pay more attention to what’s going on in life, not that I should decorate a large poster with words and images.
I don’t buy into a lot of the “if you think positive, positive will happen” or other Field of Dreams pop-psychology. I loved What in the Bleep Do We Know as much as the next girl, but I don’t buy for one second that someone born into poverty and violence just needs to “think better” or “think different” so that violence stops happening to them. A lot of it sounds like emotional “pull yourself up by your bootstrap” american dream thinking which didn’t fly for socio-economic realities and doesn’t fly for my mental well-being either. Which is to say that yes, I could be more positive, but no vision board in the world is going to make me pregnant and no optimism in the world is going to convince me otherwise.
Here is what a vision board of a giant baby will not change. It will not change that I am 35. It will not change that I only have one ovary. It will not change that I have endometriosis. It will not change that my estrogen count has been called “too low to sustain a pregnancy.” It will not change my AMH from being, on my best test day, as low as 2.1. It will not give me more eggs. It will not make my eggs better. It will not slow down time, reverse medical procedures, or convince me to get off the Depo and try earlier.
But because I cannot tell C this and ask her to stop with the “vision board” speech, I listen and smile and only shake my head a little and say, “I don’t know, C…”
MJ and I will sometimes have not very productive discussions about our non-existent future children. We will argue over whether our kids can have toy guns (I say absolutely not), or whether any son of ours could wear a dress to school (I say absolutely yes). A lot of times, I’ll say a name and ask MJ, “what do you think?” and we’ll discuss whether we like it or not. On a particularly indulgent day at the paint store before we re-painted our kitchen, I explored the color options and with MJ’s assent, picked out a color for our non-existent future nursery.
It was a bold thing to do. Don’t get me wrong, I have envisioned every inch of that nursery from furniture to wall decorations. The nursery would be the room that is now our library (a library being of course the fancy kind of room you can have when you don’t have children). Often I would sit in the large recliner I inherited from my grandfather, wedged between the russet brown bookshelves and I would mentally paint the walls, hang the mobile of birds, and fold the crib bedding. On bad days I would get too angry and refuse to go into the library, irrationally hating every inch of wall space jam-packed with the books MJ and I love so dearly. But whatever I thought or imagined, until that day in the paint store the thinking had never manifested itself as anything real. Until I took that small rectangular piece of paper with the sample color.
I put it in my purse and took it home with me. For a month I left on the dinning room table and would look at with whimsical wonder, instantly filling with excitement whenever I thought of it. But that was two years ago now. That one piece of paper began to feel silly and foolish; a moment of optimism that became more painful than optimistic. The sample with the color is still in the house, but now it is tucked into a holder where the take-out menus and coupons are kept next to the dinning room table, and you would have to dig around to find it.
I have kept the house and my mind material-free since. There is nothing to suggest the library may one day be something else. I suppose I fear a vision board may have the same effect as that paint sample. But C is persistent, and her belief in her board has risen to an almost paranormal level, a shaman like adherence to the power of the board to make dreams come true. Which is why I decide to blame her, when one day at the bookstore, while looking for an acceptable card for someone else’s baby shower, my hand is drawn to a blank card with the most amazing front image.
I do not care for blank cards, and I especially do not want one for this shower. On this occasion, Hallmark or whomever may speak for me. I do not know what to say and do not care to write what I am feeling. I only want to find a cute card where I can sign my name and be done. So it should be clear that when I grab this card it was never intended for anything other than me. But I grab it. It is stunningly beautiful and features in its cover all the same colors and images I had seen in my head all those days I mentally decorated our nursery. There is the inviting trees of the woods, the soft large-eyed deer, the small happy squirrel, the bright toadstool mushrooms, and throughout ornaments from the tree branches, one carried in the mouth of a bird, made of the same loved color from that long ago paint sample. The bottom of the card has small blocks lined up to spell “baby.” It tugs at every inch of my heart, and some of that old whimsy and excitement bubbles up inside me.
I take the card home and go to the library. I sit in there one night, back in my grandfather’s chair – my grandfather who will never get to meet any kids I might have but who would have loved them, my grandfather who was always my image of strength and wisdom and the kind of person I wanted to be – and I hold the card in my hand and I look around the room and decorate it once again.
If I had a vision board, it would be this card. I am tempted to tape it to the middle frame of the two white windows on the far wall, the only place not covered by books, and a spot that is about the center of the room. I rest it there upright for a bit while I wrap the baby shower gift and sign my name under the pre-printed message of the other card. But when I am done, I think better of it and I take the card and I hide it under a stack of books, one of the many we have for we have long since run out of room on the shelves. It is now buried under those books, and you would have to dig around to find it.
I do not tell MJ or C or anyone else about the card, and I try to forget it, but as the days follow I find that the image comes back to me, like the strum of a song you can’t get out of your head. I never mind too much when it comes along. Sometimes I even think of it intentionally, resting it in a small space of my head before going off to do something else, take a phone call, appear for a hearing, or wash the dishes. It stays with me, and for now – and I know this may not always be true – it is a kind of comfort. A secret wish that only I know, and which has not yet been tainted or ruined and which may even, just maybe still be attainable.
And I listen to C when she talks, and I nod and continue to shake my head a little and say, “I don’t know…” and I do not let on that there is a vision board in my head and it is the most beautiful vision I could imagine.