I used to have this notion of the life that would follow my heavy grief and recovery years.
Having never gotten to meet the children with whom I connected deeply and laid my life plans for, I knew grief would have its way with me. I knew that I’d be forever changed, and that the dark night of the soul would occupy many of my days for a time frame not of my choosing.
There was also though, a simmering, underlying part of me that thought I at least was in for an adventure. I was, slowly and oddly, doing new things and meeting new people. Things and people that were the result of my catastrophic journey through trying and then not being able to conceive.
Very early on I had started facing the harsh elephant in the room – that there was not a thing in the universe that could make up for or replace what I had lost. But at least, I reasoned, I was going to somehow get a new life out of the deal. And curiosity whore that I am, I of course found this captivating. To the degree anyone in deep grief and trauma recovery can find anything captivating – on a scale of 1 – 10 I was at about a negative 50.
At the time I couldn’t, in actuality, see into the future but yet there was this supposed new life dangling in the corners of my blacked out soul. It would be filled with creative projects (which randomly ranged from writing books to restoring old Victorian homes), making a living by companioning and normalizing all types of people in their not asked for despair and changing the world in terms of the way not being able to have children is perceived and handled. Or maybe I’d just become a farmer and keep the activism. Either way I would be 24/7 defiant on this front, and associating with other childless women would be the pure solution to my social woes. It was sort of a rainbows and Om version of “We’re Not Gonna Take it” by Twisted Sister, if you will. It also included freedom, travel, disposable income, and all of the other things I’ve been continuously told as to how childless lives ARE. And I assumed this life would, naturally, be on a linear trajectory.
I always thought I wasn’t that active in the bargaining compartment of grief. For those sleeping under their grief theory rocks, Elizabeth Kubler Ross’s five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. And kind of like my subconscious presumptions about my future childless life, people habitually assume that these stages are “supposed” to be linear. Instead, they in fact can happen in any order, simultaneously or not at all, and even circle and cycle back around and around.
In reading about them at some point, I couldn’t note a whole lot of denial or bargaining in my process. I reasoned I must not need denial or bargaining all that much due to my natural excellence in the anger and depression departments. I mean, when you’re so well endowed with anger and depression, who needs denial and bargaining? Leave it for the peasants!
However, this “complete with a new bedroom set” life I assumed now seems like a major attempt at bargaining to me.
While the elements in my conjured from grief bargaining life aren’t so far off from that which I still hold near and dear, it has been next to impossible for me to find any footing amid the perpetual obstacles and challenges that have been thrown my way over the last four years. And thus I find myself in the odd place of shifting out of my healing and recovery life before having gained any traction forward in my outer life. Hello again, liminal space!
I’ve found November’s poignancy extra gripping this year. Especially twilight – nature’s culminating snapshot before slipping into another realm. The last time I can recall being so lured in by November was in the early portion of my trying to conceive days. A few IUI’s in, I’d gape at the twilight and then snuggle into the ample darkness. I was transfixed with the mystery of what was yet to come, sensing there was some kind of deep change on the horizon. Little did I know….
Lately I’m being glanced with all kinds of memories, from instances in my life where I’ve regretted my behavior to flashes of my more innocent baby making days to old friendships to characteristics of my younger self. Characteristics of my younger self that whadayaknow, I still carry and that, now more than ever I’m realizing I quite like and respect. I even woke up one morning with the song Memory from Cats (with which I have no connection to in my life whatsoever) clanging in my head.
With my gardens also ready to morph into their next realms, I found myself busy doing the work that needs to be done in liminal space – clipping dead ends, digging up stuff, cleaning up and moving some things around.
A wise friend I was conversing with on this topic recently offered me the metaphor of a eucalyptus tree. The eucalyptus tree adds to itself a layer of bark each year. Half of eucalyptus species completely shed their dead bark, either in the form of large slabs, ribbons, or small flakes. The other half retain their dead bark which dries out and accumulates, and in some trees the bark fibers are intertwined. A far cry from the often prescriptive trajectory of rearing children and from the conceptually stunted “if not this, then this” life without children scenario.
The things we latch onto that carry us through loss and grief and healing are triumphs. Watching these things fall away or even just shift can disturb one’s already hard fought for identity and sense of meaning.
In a conversation between my outer, more critical self and my inner self, my outer critic commented that after all I’ve been through, how is it I can still feel as though I’ve done nothing and I’m nowhere?
And my inner self’s answer? “You haven’t done nothing. First of all, you survived. You’re now engaged in the self actualization process. You’ve problem solved and adapted enough for ten lifetimes. You’ve distilled in the most naked of ways what matters to you. You took what action you could to make the mess life greeted you with a little less worse for those who follow. And above all, you’ve stayed true to yourself, swimming up raging rivers to do so when you had to. That doesn’t exactly sound like nowhere to me. As a matter of fact, that might sound like everywhere.”
MEMORY (Lloyd Webber/Nunn)
Midnight, not a sound from the pavement
Has the moon lost her memory
She is smiling alone
In the lamplight the withered leaves collect at my feet
And the wind begins to moan
All alone in the moonlight
I can dream of the old days
Life was beautiful then
I remember a time I knew what happiness was
Let the memory live again
Every street lamp seems to beat
A fatalistic warning
Someone mutters and the streetlamp sputters
And soon it will be morning
I must wait for the sunrise
I must think of a new life
And I musn’t give in
When the dawn comes, tonight will be a memory too
And a new day will begin
Burnt out ends of smokey days
The still cold smell of morning
A streetlamp dies, another night is over
Another day is dawning
It’s so easy to leave me
All alone with the memory
Of my days in the sun
If you touch me, you’ll understand what happiness is
A new day