Hello lovely people
Well, the season has finally turned and we, in the northern hemisphere, are entering early summer with (we all hope!) the promise of warmer days ahead. Despite my horticultural ignorance and negligence, the plants in my garden are sprouting, springing and flowering again and, at the risk of breaking into song, the fish are definitely jumpin’! It might seem totally counter-intuitive but I know, despite all its promise of newness and sunshine, sometimes the turn of the season and the tilt of the earth towards light and emergence can feel like a punch in the stomach for those of us living with the longing for children.
In my dark days I found spring a particularly hard time to navigate. Everywhere nature reminds us that birth, growth and fertility are part of the ‘normal’, every-day run of things. Feeling that I was ‘outside’ of this norm often made me feel like a ‘lesser being’. In the middle of one of those bad times when my anger overtook me, I wrote a poem about spring that I subsequently read out at a writing workshop. It began:
Damn you with your pink and lilac skirt,
your swelling scent, oozing ozone
from the edges of your smirk…
There were some interesting comments! My fellow participants said that we are so used to praising the beauty and potential of spring that the poem seemed almost sacrilegious; that it went against everything we were programmed to feel about spring and summer. Actually, I was aiming for ‘sacrilegious’! Imagining spring as a voluptuous, sensual but entirely smug entity really helped me to express some stuff I’d been bottling up. Writing the poem allowed me to picture and express my anger. Reading the poem out and having it acknowledged helped me to feel that I’d been understood. But reading the poem now and remembering its conception, it seems like grief was calling the shots. ‘Back then’ there were times when it seemed like that small voice would whisper, Today’s a good day – today you are mostly okay. But almost immediately the booming voice of grief would drown out that whisper of emergence.
So, as I always try to do on this blog, I’m asking myself what would the ‘Now Me’ say to the ‘Then Me’? How can I help her? The now me would say this: ‘Think small and think kind.’
Think Small and Kind
Bizarrely, I now realise that for such a long time I couldn’t just give myself permission to feel ‘a little bit okay’…today… in this moment. Then again, I believed I had no right to still be feeling awful one, two, three years on. The Catch 22 of loss! Perhaps this dilemma mirrors society’s relationship to loss and grief. It’s impossible to constantly be tuned in to other people’s emotional life and it’s a very human desire to want our friends and family (and us) to be better, to recover from grief and to do so quickly. Possibly, for all of us, it’s easier to understand the extreme ends of grief: the searing rawness at one end and the ‘I’m totally fine’ at the other. Looking back, I think it felt as though if I admitted I was a ‘little bit okay’ I would be dishonouring my grief and perhaps that others would think I was totally ‘over it’.
I do remember one ‘moment of emergence’ clearly. I was in the changing room at the swimming pool and there was a woman next to me with two children. She was harassed and stressed and the children were playing up, attracting disapproving looks from other women around her. Suddenly I realised I felt sorry for the mother and grateful to be in my own calm bubble, with only me to think about and an hour of unfettered swimming to look forward to. At that moment I felt happy. Then the booming voice of grief: You feel happy you don’t have children? Really?! How can you betray me like this? Boom! Moment of emergence gone.
I wish I had told that voice, Too damn right I feel happy – now, in this one moment – that I don’t have children. What a totally revolutionary thought – allowing myself to rejoice in a moment of emergence, to be able, in one single moment to hold the grief of childlessness and the joy of my freedom in one place! I wish I had written it down and allowed myself the small act of kindness to ponder on that thought for longer.
Now, fifteen years on, I believe those tiny moments of emergence have somehow joined up and on most days I feel at peace with my unfettered status. Do I wish it had been different, that we’d had children? Yes. Do I still hear the voice of grief? Yes, most definitely. But I also have a different, kinder voice that says, You know what? This is complicated – give yourself a break. That voice gives me permission to not only honour my grief one day but to rejoice in my childfree freedom the next.
Honour and Rejoice – Two Sides of the Same Page
In a notebook or a sheet of paper keep two running lists: ‘honour’ and ‘rejoice’. Each entry could be a single line, a haiku, a picture… the choice is yours – get as creative as you like!