By Lisa Manterfield
I’ve been taking a fantastic creative writing class at UCLA Extension. Each week, we start off with a writing exercise from a choice of prompts, and last week, one of the prompts was, “I’m tired of pretending my life isn’t perfect.” I almost took the prompt.
It’s not hard to write about the part of my life that is so obviously imperfect: the fact that I wasn’t able to have children. I could (and do) write about that broken bit. But if I took my life apart, I’d find lots of areas that aren’t perfect. Isn’t every life like that? Everyone has challenges, and life would probably be dull without them. But part of the thrill of living is overcoming life’s challenges. Without the obstacles there’s no glory of victory.
My life is flawed in many ways, as all lives are, but it’s also a good and happy life, and on the whole it’s pretty close to perfect. And it’s hard work to keep clinging to the idea that it isn’t. It’s tiring to keep feeling bad about the parts of my life that didn’t work out as planned.
I didn’t get to have children, and it’s true that, for a long period of time, it made my life feel empty and deeply flawed. But that changed over time. I worked to overcome that flaw, to seek and take advantage of the silver linings, to work through my sadness—by writing, in my case—by gathering this community and sharing our stories. My marriage made it through infertility. That’s a victory in itself. And while there are still many challenges in my life, few of them are related to my childlessness anymore.
So, yes, I am a flawed human, with challenges to face, but I no longer wish to pretend my life isn’t perfect, just as it is, warts and all.
(And by the way, I didn’t take the prompt because there was another that sparked an idea. I’m glad I took that one instead, because that exercise turned into short story instead.)