On the way home from one of our Thanksgiving visits, my husband asked me a seemingly innocent question about whether or not I’d be free to do something on a particular date next week. I paused for a moment, tried to think on it, and then had to tell him that without my calendar in front of me, I really didn’t know. I laughed about that and then told him that it was kind of strange that I couldn’t really remember what life was like back when I knew my schedule off the top of my head. I literally could not remember a time where I had fewer things to do, and didn’t feel as burned out.
I know what some of you are thinking. “So what? I never know my schedule either. It comes with being a busy adult.” True. You’re absolutely right. I am a busy person and it only makes sense that my days have to be outlined and scheduled. That wasn’t what unnerved me. What unnerved me, was the revelation about how I’d gotten so busy all of a sudden, and where my motivations were in the things I now do. While I love my job, and I love my service activities, and I love all these little projects I’ve signed myself up for, it became very clear to me that I started them after my life didn’t go the direction I wanted it to, in the time-frame that I’d expected it to.
Now, of course I didn’t realize I was only lulling my emotions into a daze by lumping all these activities onto myself. I thought that I was really just doing all the things I wanted to do. So imagine my surprise when my little band-aid got ripped off recently. It occurred to me last week when a childhood friend’s baby shower pics surfaced on Facebook(which is the DEVIL by the way), that I was the only person left from my childhood and high school circles that was still childless.
HOW HAS THIS OCCURRED?!
I freaked out for a moment.
Okay, so I freaked out for like two days. Same thing.
Anyway, after I was done, I found myself knee deep in emails and project ideas, and new books I just had to read right away. Where I’d usually find all those new things daunting and tiresome, I was so determined to have something to do that I didn’t even slow down to decide if I’d bitten off more than I could chew. It wasn’t until I was lying comatose on my couch with a playstation controller on one side of me, an Ipad on the other, and my laptop open on a snack tray, that I realized I’d gone a bit far.
It dawned on me that for the past six or seven months, what I’ve been doing is telling myself that if I can’t have what I want, I would at least DO everything I want.
Learn to fly a plane? SURE!
Teach a class? Why not!
End world hunger? Give me one second!
Think about where the money is going to come from for IVF? I’d rather not, thank you.
Focus on your feelings about being surrounded by pregnant folks and infants? Not on your life.
So I’d set out on a path of party planning , initiative launching, web design, and becoming service project extraordinaire. Any and every idea that came into my head became one that I not only could do, but WOULD do. And heaven help the person, place, or thing that tried to get in my way.
We all do this to ourselves at some point I suppose. Sometimes on our own, but very often from the words of others. Statements like, “Well, you don’t have any kids. You should travel the world!” or “Well if you had kids like the rest of us, you wouldn’t have time to end homelessness, so its best that you take up that cause while the rest of us trifle with this parenting foolishness,” tend to get us really riled up and raring to go.
From almost every angle, someone is always trying to convince us to look at the bright side of our situation by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps and then hoisting the weight of the world onto our free backs. We start to believe it, and promptly begin throwing ourselves wholeheartedly into activities and projects that we can do, to distract ourselves from the thing we can’t.
Now don’t get me wrong, there is a freedom that comes along with not having children, and if you’re smart, you will take full advantage of it. You will appreciate the awesome of going on vacations without the need to secure babysitters, or of dining out without having to take two “I really just want to play in the sink” potty trips. You will relish in cutting only your food at the dinner table, and of not having to fork over the astronomical day care fees of today’s economy. You do have the luxury of time that others with children can’t seem to get a grasp of, and you probably can devote a few more man hours to developing a cure for cancer than someone with a toddler. Let’s be real about that part.
The lie comes in, however, when we start to tell ourselves that searching for that cure, or enjoying the quiet of our home at 3am, somehow fills in all the little holes. The pressure comes in when we decide that these things have to make up for what we feel we’ve lost. They don’t, and if you try to force it, life has a really nasty way of bringing you back around to what’s really going on.
I enjoy the things I do. I like making a difference in the lives of others. I do. But,…
I am also still mourning the loss of the vision I had for my life. I am still grieving my ability to choose how I wanted my family life to progress. I owe it to myself to feel that. I owe myself the opportunity to come to my own terms, and it has been unfair of me to try and drown out my own voice with all these other things.
I’m in kind of deep at the moment, but I can feel that by the end of next summer, I’ll have removed a few of these bricks out of my backpack. There is a sense of relief in coming to terms with things as they are, no matter how painful, and I’d like to know that feeling. No matter where this road is headed at this point, be it a massive fundraising campaign to raise adoption/IVF funds, or even the decision that our two-person home is quite enough, I have to be willing to look at the map.
And so do you.
It is scary. It is frustrating. It is painful. Yes. You have to keep moving, though. There is another side, and you have to make it over. You’re stronger than the sedative you may want to place on your dreams. You have every right to keep dreaming, keep hoping, and keep planning for every thing in your heart. Don’t quit.
Regina Townsend is the primary author and founder of TheBrokenBrownEgg. A librarian and writer, Regina’s mission is to make people aware and active about the unique concerns of reproductive health in the minority community.