This post comes with apologies for the delay in getting my next ‘way’ out to you. Several things came in between my blog and me in the last couple of weeks and they weren’t all negative! I had an amazing and inspiring journey to the far-flung, silvery sky-ed North on a trip to Shetland. I hope you’ll forgive my absence and find this latest ‘way’ gives you food for thought. Take care, my friends.
No One’s Gonna Do It For You
Of all the ‘ways’ I’m going to share in this ‘series’, this is probably the toughest. The realisation that no one is going to come along to show you how to live a life different to the one you planned is a stark one. But for me it was a seminal ‘moment’ in my grieving process. I say ‘moment’ though I can’t remember a precise day or week the realisation came to me. When I look back it was a kind of wave that carried me – one that picked me up far out at sea and which is still carrying me towards the beach.
It’s a huge relief that being childless not by choice is now recognised and widely acknowledged as a source of grief and loss. Support is out there in the shape of forums, blogs, and organisations like Gateway Women who organise regular meet-ups and events and charities like FNUK’s More to Life. So there’s plenty of scope to find solace in our shared experience, to research strategies and find inspiration for new ways of thinking about this life we are creating. All of that provides important input. But for me it’s only a part of what we need in order to move forward. There’s also some facing-up to be done.
The ‘If Only’ Limbo
Tracey Cleantis in her great book, ‘The Next Happy’ describes this ‘facing-up’ as ‘calling the time of death’ on our dream. There is quite an important distinction to be made here. I feel that ‘calling time’ on our dream is not the same as accepting we will never have children. I know that I had let go of the hope of being a parent long before I realised I had to make that very deliberate and painful first step in the walk away from my dream.
Holding onto the dream can become a perversely comfortable place to be – a sort of limbo between forging on with a different life and clinging to the very familiar thought processes that accompany the ‘if only’s’. Being in this limbo often sent me into the depths of despair but I also feel it was a very human way to avoid the pain of admitting that my dream would never come to fruition
Create your own map
There is no magic formula to ‘letting go and forging ahead’. For me it’s almost as though I became exhausted trying to keep the light of my dream alive when so much around me was conspiring to extinguish it. I started to listen to the little voice inside that was telling me I was so much more than my childlessness and – this is really important – that no one was coming to make my life for me.
It was in one moment both exciting and overwhelming to realise I was going to have to be my own pathfinder. I had no map. But I did have a kind of compass – a belief that I was worth the work it was going to take to let go of my dream and to find my own route to a different life. I reckoned that whilst the grief of childlessness
was the biggest challenge I had faced thus far, there was a risk that one day in the future I would suffer an even greater grief at not having lived the life I was capable of.
What I came to understand was that this was my life and my life project. The next step could have brought a monumental shift, a tiny tweak or even no change at all. It might simply have been a new way of thinking about things the way they are.
What is certain is that no one else could have taken that next step but me.