A Change is Coming
Hello my friends. And (very belatedly) a very good new year to each of you.
The eagle-eyed (and probably even not-so-eagle-eyed!) among you will notice that it is over nine months since my last post. Sounds like a confession, doesn’t it? In truth, I have found myself stuck and unable to get, as the great poet Seamus Heaney would say, ‘my feeling into words’. Reading back what I’ve written in all the previous drafts of this post, it’s clear that I was taking such a long run up to saying what I wanted to say that I was getting bored with my writing – so bored I was taking breaks to finish my tax return! So I’m going to cut out the yada yada, say what I need to say and then explain. So here it is:
I’ve grown tired of my childlessness.
As I write that sentence it feels in one moment sad and confusing, liberating and exciting. It is one tiny sentence yet it contains so many layers of hope, loss and discovery. It is the sentence that felt so transgressive to write that I avoided writing anything at all on this blog for so long. So let me explain what that teeny…and huge sentence means to me.
When I say ‘I’ve grown tired of my childlessness’, I don’t mean that I’ve grown tired of being childless and that I wish it were otherwise. Of course I wish I’d been a mother – the child that never was is with me every day. Nor am I saying, ‘Ta da! – that’s it, I’m over this – well done, moi!’ No, the grief is very much still there. It’s just that the part of me I recognize as ‘childless’ has begun to feel different.
I can’t pinpoint any one particular moment in which I realised I was, as I describe it, ‘tired of my childlessness’. Gradually, over the last year, I noticed that I was swiping past all social media posts about childlessness, not opening emails from certain blogs or websites and, of course, avoiding writing this post! To be very honest, I began to feel that any focus on Childlessness (with a capital ‘C’) had become a bit like watching the lift doors open onto a floor in a department store where all the clothes rails are filled exclusively with long, grey cardigans.
I was immersed in that Childlessness-with-a-capital-C for a long time. I read about it, wrote about it, worked with it and campaigned for it to be recognized as a valid form of grief. And I’m so glad I did all that – it was, and still is, a vital part of my healing process. And this blog is an equally important part of that process. For sure, by describing my own journey, I hoped I might help others going through similar experiences. But I also found that writing about my childlessness helped me understand more about my own grief and my own quest to find my place in a world that (it seemed to me) valued above all, fertility and the production of children.
Looking back I now see all the beautifully contradictory things my childlessness has been – and is – to me: a lead weight and a plumb line; an empty hole and a potential space; a wild fire and a beacon; a knife and an edge of discovery; a fog and a lifting dawn mist. All those things demanded my attention, called to me on a daily basis and, necessarily, took energy to engage with. For a long time, that level of engagement was a comfort. In some way, my childlessness ‘held’ me in a kind of constant embrace. Now I feel that my childlessness no longer holds me; I’m strong enough to hold it.
I want to share this new development in my grief with you not out of smugness but because I think it shows that grief and mourning are not static and it proves that it is possible, eventually, to lay them down and rest the heart and mind. I really wish the younger me had been able to know this.
In light of this new phase in my own experience, I’ve thought long and hard about this blog. Should I bow out now and let my words float off into the ether? (A romantic way of saying ‘not renewing my subscription to WordPress’!) Or do I continue to write, communicate and share? When I started Without Issue my vision was to make it a true reflection of my experience, how I found hope and healing – and continue to do so. With that in mind, after all the thinking and exploring I have done over the last year, I’ve decided that I will keep blogging but that my focus will move from writing exclusively about childlessness towards a more holistic blog about creativity, healing, wellbeing and living. Hence the new tagline to the blog: Findings. Discoveries. Pathways.
One of the things I started doing last year was writing a ‘poetry journal’. How it works is that I pick a poetry book from my bookshelf and leaf through the pages until a poem jumps out at me. I then photocopy it, stick it on the left hand page and on the right hand page I write whatever the poem brings up for me. It’s not an analysis of the poem; rather it’s a free-flow conversation with the page. More like a meditation, really. I commit to writing no more than one page. On one of my poetry journal days I found this poem by Kathryn Maris. She has very kindly given me permission to quote it in full here:
Anyway Something Happened
Anyway, something happened
& even the colour of the bedroom
changed from red & blue to hunter
green or something warlike
& I hardly recognized the room
for a split second & felt like a moth
on a wooden ledge (with my wings).
(From Kathryn Maris’ moving, highly original and often darkly humorous collection: The House With Only An Attic And A Basement, Penguin Poetry)
I hope that Kathryn forgives me if I have given her poem a meaning that wasn’t intended in the writing. (That is the wonderful thing about poetry: the way the words produce a physicality that the reader can draw into their own experience). But on that day, on that reading, Kathryn’s poem spoke to me about my own personal sense of transformation – of being not just on a threshold but on a ledge up high from which any movement forward would mean my having to use a pair of wings I suddenly remembered were part of me.
Change is scary. Recognising and acknowledging that something inside me has changed fundamentally, allowing my sense of childlessness to take a step back and letting something else of me to step forward are all terrifying. But I have those wings!