28 December, 2015

#MicroblogMondays: The healing power of time

When I was fresh into grieving, beginning my new no-kids-ever-after life, being around children was a reminder of what we had lost, what we would never have, and so often the pain pierced us completely through.

Since then, twelve years have passed, and I now take great joy in my relationships with children, though sadly those are few and far between. We recently stayed with Charlie, and then a week later, had Charlie and her mum visit us. It was a joy, as our relationship took some new steps, and I think I’ve realised why. I’ve reached a stage where I no longer see (I learned not to let myself) Charlie, or any children really, as my possible child, and therefore I’m not reminded constantly of what I have lost. Maybe too, with Charlie, I see the struggles my sister has, and feel a slight degree of relief that I don’t have to deal with those, or the even worse struggles we all know are coming.

Time does change things for us, and stops (for the most part) the hurt - a fact I would have found hard to believe 12 years ago, 10 years ago, maybe even eight years ago. Now though, I am able to find real joy in being an important aunty to a beloved niece.

24 December, 2015

Childless at Christmas

It is late afternoon on a sunny Christmas Eve, my meringues (not the best I've made, but adequate) are cooling on the rack, and the last batch of mini mince pies (having eaten/given away most of the first batch) is ready to go in the oven. So I'm able to take some time, and think of my blogging friends and readers.

This season is not always easy for those of us without children. I've had two pregnancy losses on successive Christmases, and the next year was the first Christmas after learning, only two months earlier, that we would never have children. That first Christmas, we had a very quiet Christmas with my parents and in-laws, but no siblings and no children. The year after, we escaped to Europe, and so it didn't feel like Christmas, even though we celebrated with my BIL, SIL and niece and nephew. It was an excellent thing to do, because by the next year, two years on, the pain had receded a little, and I could handle a big family Christmas. The fact my father had died that year meant that I was more concerned about my mother being alone, than I was about myself.

These days, I love the big family Christmases. We alternate between my family and my husband's family. Some years we go south and celebrate  Christmas with my sister and her grown-up daughters, and even my cheeky great-nephew (who loves to call me "Great Aunty <Mali>"), and sometimes my other sister and her husband and my niece, Charlie. I love that. Other years we stay here at home, sometimes just with my in-laws and perhaps my husband's childless aunt and uncle, sometimes with one or more of his brothers and their families as well. I love that too, as we don't get to see them very often. This year, it will be quiet, and when I have thought about that, I've been a bit melancholy.

But when I think about it, I'm more melancholy about other things that are happening (or not happening) in my life and family, than I am about not having children at Christmas. Most years it doesn't bother me much any more. But I admit, I do have to make that qualifier, I can't say it never bothers me. It does. For example, I feel sad that I don't have a child who loves my Christmas tree decorations as much as I do. But then, I might have had a child who didn't care! Or who had completely different taste. I visited a friend this morning, dropping off a card and some of my mince pies. She's also childless, and also loves travelling. I looked at her tree, and told her that, after mine, I love her tree the best. We looked at some of her new decorations, some bought on recent travels, all with significance to her and her partner. And it made both of us happy.

This afternoon, as I cooked in the kitchen, I listened to our national radio (as I do almost every afternoon). They were having a Christmas Eve round-up of the year with all the panel guests from the year, and one man noted that this was the first year all his children were living overseas. He had no idea when or if they would ever return to New Zealand to live. My in-laws only have us, and the childless aunt and uncle rely on nieces and nephews. It reminded me that those of us without children are not the only ones who might feel lonely at Christmas. I listened to a carol being sung, that insisted on everyone showing "good cheer." And I felt angry, that this is seen to be compulsory, when so many might not feel this way. (Ironic, given that my Christmas card this year exhorts us all to "Be Merry.")

By Saturday, in just over 24 hours (for me), it will all be over for another year. As I wrote some time ago, on Mel's annual Christmas Survival list, it is really just one day. It doesn't have any power over us. We can enjoy it or not, and move on. That's what I intend to do.

Now though, as I've taken the final mince pies out of the oven, and as I sip a glass of cool white chardonnay, I can contemplate instead the next week or two we have of catching up with friends (first, at the beach, and then, in a vineyard), relaxing and reading books (I have two books to complete to meet my Goodreads challenge for this year), maybe some picnics, and hopefully some nice summer weather. My spirit rises.

Rather than insisting that we all feel "good cheer," instead my wish for you all, for us all, is that we find peace in our hearts, love with partners, friends or family, and renewed hope for the future.

21 December, 2015

#Microblog Mondays: The healing powers of kindness

Kindness played a big role in my healing. I was fortunate to experience kindness from online friends, in an open, loving, generous way that I'd never really experienced before. It was like receiving multiple warm, enveloping hugs full of love, just when I needed them. I think in our daily lives we are often more reserved (this is certainly the case with my family and friends), where we hope that our kindness is evident in our actions, rather than more openly in words or hugs.

Probably like most of us, I am not always kind, although I don't think I'm necessarily unkind either. But I find that when I am kind, my whole demeanour softens, it is easier to understand others and why they do and say the things they do, and it is much easier to forgive. My heart eases, a tense body relaxes, and I find it easier to smile. Kindness - it works both ways.

14 December, 2015

#MicroblogMondays: Out of place

A holiday, however short, is a time away from home, where the problems of life, however large or small might be, don't follow us, and although we know they're still there, we also know we can't do anything about them when we are away. So we try to forget about them, relax, let our shoulders and feel burdens lift, and focus on the present. When we don't have children, travelling can be a blissful escape, helping us forget that we are a little different.

However, we've just spent a week in one of New Zealand's most popular summer holiday regions, a peninsula lined with beautiful beaches and bays, lush bush (forests), and clear waters. Tiny communities see their population swell tenfold over the Christmas/New Year break, as kiwis flock to the beaches, to the camping grounds and baches, but we had strategically planned our visit to occur before the school year had ended.

As we often do, my husband and I debated (hypothetically) the merits of investing in a bach or holiday home, whether we'd choose one right on the beach, or high on a cliff with spectacular views of the bays and islands. As usual, we came to the conclusion that with kids, it would be a blissful paradise, with long, easy, happy summer days as the children swam or explored or played beach or backyard cricket with all the other kids in the area. But without children - or even lots of nieces and nephews - we realised we would be out of place here, too.

A nice place to enjoy an ice-cream, with or without children.

07 December, 2015

MicroblogMondays: Appreciating nature

When I was going through hard times, appreciating nature helped lift my spirits. Now I'm in one of New Zealand's most beautiful regions, surrounded by nature's beauty. We're in an apartment on the side of an extinct (it better be) volcano, with a view of the Pacific, dotted with islands, framed by tree ferns, surrounded by beautiful flowers. My husband and I have escaped here, in search of beauty and relaxation and peace - peace you can't always find at home, even when it is only ever the two of us.

After a couple of days playing with my niece and enjoying the company of her parents, we have fled to this small seaside town. In a few weeks, the town's population will have swelled from 1200 to 12,000, but right now it is relatively quiet. So we plan on a peaceful time taking some walks, taking some photographs, and reading a few books, when we're not exploring further afield. Next week, normal transmission should resume, but for now, I'm chilling out on the deck, appreciating nature and breathing deeply ... with a nice glass of sauvignon blanc.

04 December, 2015

Dropping in to say hi

Apart from #MicroblogMondays - I don't want to end my run of a #MM post on both my spaces all year - I haven't been doing much around the blogs this last week or two. I literally have 24 hours at home, after a very stressful 11 days or so, and I'm leaving again tomorrow morning, so rather than try and catch up with some blogs and posts and not others, I thought a generic note here would be best.

All I can say about the last week or so is that it has made me determined to plan for my old age, and make moves in advance of actually needing them, to ensure that there will be people around me to help when life gets difficult. I have also been thankful that I've been able to spend two weeks focusing on my mother, and helping my sister, rather than worrying about getting home to children. I say that without a twinge or feeling of guilt. (And I've just realised that this time 14 years ago I was pregnant for the first time.)

Next week we're going to have a much more pleasant time, and personally, I think it is well-deserved!