As I continue to seek out and look to connect with as many people as possible I am constantly being rewarded by who shows up in my life. Shannon is the perfect example. I was told about her by a mutual friend and simply reached out to her. To say she is someone you should know is an understatement. I’ll let her speak for herself, but her perspective, insight, and awesomeness make me so excited that our paths crossed. Scary to think that had I not reached out I might have missed out on connecting with such an amazing person.
Here is a little Q&A with Shannon, I hope you enjoy and take a few great nuggets from her inspiring perspective.
Tell me who you are, not what you do. I’m Shannon, aka Shan, Shan-Shan, tinks, babe, and when I’m in trouble, Shannon Marie. I am daughter to two of the coolest humans on the planet, sister to the best set of brotherly bookends, Scott’s wife, wicked proud Aunt, Calla and Lili’s fur-mom, life liver, Infertility Survivor, music lover, horror movie fanatic and Tinkerbell’s BFF. My hair is my “thing” – I don’t care what I’m wearing as long as my hair is on-point. I love, love. Black is my favorite color. Anything creative (i.e. art, music, literature, etc.) is my jam. I’m obsessed with people willing to freely express themselves. I believe in ghosts, past lives, and spiritual connectivity. I root for the underdog. I love the snow, but I hate being cold. And, pretty much anything with swear words is my mother fucking favorite! At what time in your life did you feel like you finally stepped into being the real Shannon? Why? “The Real Shannon” – wow – such an interesting phrase. To me that sounds like I’ve figured myself out or I have come to fruition. I don’t know that I think we ever truly stop evolving. I like to think that I am in a constant state of creation, transformation or reinvention. All those things considered I’d have to say that I came to this realization about 2 years ago. We had just moved to Charlotte from Pittsburgh. I had reached my limit in dealing with fertility treatments, constant doctors’ visits, taking medication and watching my self-worth continue to be diminished because I was unable to get pregnant. I was tired of resenting my own reflection, fighting the pain, and pretending everything was “good”. I decided it was time to stop living in a place of grave unhappiness. For me that meant realizing that I was actually choosing to be unhappy. I was choosing to be a victim of infertility. I was choosing to allow infertility to define me. I was choosing to hate myself for all the things I wanted to be; namely, a mother, and despite being hurt by that fact, I decided to acknowledge that I may always be hurt by it, but it doesn’t have to define me. I can still be happy, and not feel guilty if I’m not sad about our struggle 24/7/365. I can still live a full, exciting, and vibrant life, knowing what infertility removes from it makes me sad, but it doesn’t have to make me a sad person. I can still be someone who struggles with infertility while also being a survivor. To do that, I decided I would create space for my sadness, my grief, my anger, and give it space, but not control. I decided to choose something new. I decided that if I could hate myself for all the things I wasn’t; namely, a mother, I would try to discover if I could love myself for the things I was. At the time, I didn’t exactly know what that meant. I just knew that I needed to try something different. I wanted to be different. I didn’t want to die, and yes, I did ask myself that question - so I needed to find the spirit, the love, purpose, and connection to live. I decided the only person and the only thing that was going to give that to me was me. For me, finding acceptance with myself and deciding –good, bad, infertility, or indifferent- to become my own best friend, start fighting for my well-being, and allow myself to be flawed is probably when I stepped into myself. That self-discovery meant grasping that I am not a cardboard cutout who is expected to know how to handle everything. Owning that allowed me to realize life is constantly evolving and to stop trying to be a static, one-dimensional, person. Owning that helped me to see I may not have all the answers and that’s ok. Owning that helped me to see that trying and failing is not “bad”. Owning that gave me clarity to understand that I may never have control over the good or bad things in life, but what I do have is a say in how I respond to it.
When/how has fear played a role in you living the exact life you want? After struggling to conceive for 5 years, you become pretty equipped to deal with fear and rejection. Hell, you expect it. It becomes a warm fuzzy blanket that you learn to love, because it is usual, familiar, and you start to believe it is comfortable. I’d like to say that infertility was a driving factor as to why I responded to fear the way that I did throughout our struggle, but being honest I can’t really see how that is true. That said – it’s my personal opinion that despite becoming acutely aware to my relationship with fear, infertility is not the reason I responded the way I did to it. I am. I believe my response to fear was not new; it was just brought to light by a traumatic situation. If I look back on all the things I didn’t do, say, or try, it was all out of fear; fear of perception, judgment, or failure. Prior to infertility, I would say that I used fear as a reason not to do something, and these days I look at it as a blinking light that calls my attention to explore something further and consider why I should do it, share it, get rid of it, or even buy it!
What has been your greatest success personally so far? Personally, my greatest success is my marriage. I assume everyone thinks their spouse is the “bee’s knees” but my husband really is a magnificent man. In jest, I often refer to him as my “ride or die homie” but it’s true. He’s the very best friend a girl could ask for and he brings out the best in me. I’d like to think we bring out the best in each other and I’d like to attribute that as one of the reasons we continue to survive infertility together. Infertility is not only a physical journey with constant doctors’ visits (for both), but sometimes surgery, daily medication management, and food restrictions, as well as a mental, emotional, and financial trek as well. It is draining in every sense of the word on an individual, but in a relationship is it very, very, hard as well, because it’s not like a boo-boo. You don’t discover it, dress it with a Band-Aid until it scabs over and not only doesn’t it hurt anymore, but it’s gone. No. When you have infertility you have it, so you deal with it forever. 5 minutes of struggling with anything can be hard, but after 5-years we were exhausted. Getting to a place where we found peace within our struggle was a long road, but we did it and continue to do it together. We fought through and continue to fight through one of the most difficult things in our lives to date. There were a lot of moments where we could have bailed on each other, but we didn’t. We stuck it out. We love it out. We continue to talk it out and I couldn’t be more proud of us. Do you ever feel the pull of “the herd” to change parts of yourself or how you live to fit in with others? Sure. There’s always that element of… “if I follow him/her/them and do it their way, then I’ll be guaranteed success” or at the very least find less resistance or even a path to follow. However, what usually happens is that voice inside my head kicks in and asks me, “What is your intention?” If my intention matches what’s in my heart, which is to share the good, the bad, the raw, the unglamorous, the fun and not so fun truth, then I let that intention lead. If I receive an ugly reaction, that’s OK. As long as I know the intention was good and honest, then that’s enough for me.
If you could sit down with the 70-year-old version of yourself what do you want them to say to you? I wouldn’t want them to tell me what to expect, but I would want them to give me direction or tell me how I’m doing. So, I guess, “I’m so proud of you. You’re doing great. You’re on the right track - Keep going!” -or- “You need to rethink what you’re doing. Refocus. Fuck Fear. Try something new, but don’t ever give up!” What guidance would you give the 20-year-old Shannon? What “they” think about you doesn’t matter. What is coming before you, you can handle. Invest in yourself! Lead with Love – for yourself and others always. Celebrate MORE! Worry LESS! PLAY! What matters most is that you love yourself 1st, trust your judgment, lead with intention, RELAX, don’t sweat the small stuff, laugh, believe in Magic, create, fail often, and have quality relationships.