The Harvest Festival of Sukkot is in the beginning of October this year. Not as widely observed as Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur, Sukkot has a lot of symbolism that can resonate with the experience of infertility. The unstable outdoor booths (Sukkot) that people live in represent the fragility of the material world. The biblical seven species are eaten to represent the hopefully abundant harvest (fertility). So if you just take away the idea that the world is both fragile and full of abundance, then please enjoy the fruits of the season and eat some figs, pomegranates, olives, dates, and grapes (wine).
To the more philosphical aspects of the holiday, there is the book of Ecclesiastes with the famous line, “There is a time for everything under heaven.” Those lines have been spun in many ways and often oversimplify what is really a complex, sometimes conflicted and pessimistic, rational attempt to understand life. Many of the themes of the book come up during infertility and other family building challenges. He notes life’s iniquities (infertility is totally unfair). He is very focused on the outcome of the work and toil (baby or not??). Is this worth it? Futility (pursuit of wind) and senselessness pervade the narrative.
This rational pursuit of understanding or meaning is somewhat bound to be unsuccessful if not frustrating. For starters, we are also hearts and bodies. Our bodies in particular carry so much wisdom if only we would listen! You cannot think your way to happiness, which the author eventually grows to experience. You can find pleasure, but you cannot find happiness because you cannot simply choose happiness at will. Nor can you simply choose to have a baby.
You can set your mind, heart and body towards enjoying what you have. That can lead to a level of acceptance which can lead to happiness. This is not meant as a charge to simply say, “accept this and that will cheer you up.” The reality is that there is much to be said for getting out of your head, being present in the moment and looking at what is really around you. You can do what is in your power to pursue parenthood and recognize you are doing enough, which is a level of acceptance. Will that lead to happiness? Maybe. Ecclesiastes would say that search is fruitless. Rather seek to enjoy what you have in the moments you have them.
So there is a time to try AND a time to not try. Set aside a time to weep AND a time to dance. Whatever time it is, whatever you are doing, make the most of that time.
During this season, may you appreciate whatever it is you have in this ever fragile world, and soak up as much of the abundance in your life as you can.