I’m not sure I’ve ever been particularly good at staying in the present. When I was a kid, I would always get excited about things that were coming up, was keen to grow up and escape and see the world. When I was at school I wanted to be at university. When I was at university I couldn’t wait to be working. When I started working, I couldn’t wait for the weekend. Ha! (Kinda kidding on that one.) When I’m at home, I can’t wait to be travelling. And of course, I am sure you can all relate to the idea that when I was trying to conceive, I kept anticipating the pregnancy and the parenthood.
Don’t get me wrong. Anticipation is one of the great joys of life. But there’s a risk that when we focus on the anticipation, on the upcoming event, we forget to live the life we have. And so when we enter our No Kidding childless lives on a permanent, no-looking-back basis, it can be a shock. Because we are suddenly forced into a new reality, and we wonder, "what do we have to look forward to now?"
This thought reminds me of a former infertility blogger who commented some years ago that with the birth of her last child, her “major life events” were now over, and she only had “endings” (eg funerals, departure of her children, etc) in front of her. I’ve always intended posting* about this, and so today I’m going to combine it with my next theme for this No Kidding 2020 project.
For each person, our major life events are different. I remember being saddened (and a bit shocked) that this blogger wasn’t, at the time, anticipating exciting events in her future, independently or with her husband or her children as they grew, that these did not qualify as “major life events” in her mind, or that they only represented loss. And that also, in her mind, I didn’t have any happy or life-changing major life events ahead of me. It made me think about life and its major events, and what they are. For some it might be family/partner-related, or a career event, or career change, or travel, or something completely different.
The thing is that they are never going to be the same, depending on who we are. Some will be positive, and some will be negative, and others that we perceive as negative – such as a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy or not being able to have children – can have a positive outcome. My whole Gifts of Infertility Series focuses on these positive outcomes.
They also don't have to be a major one-off event! (The "Next Big Thing" doesn't have to be big or a thing!) It can be a significant period - of living, learning, simply experiencing life that will stay with you. I found the key was to learn to remind myself - regularly! - to experience what I was going through. Sometimes that means feeling the pain, and grieving. Another time it might be just enjoying the fleeting moments, recognising that these are healing. As I’ve talked about in this series, once I showed up and learned to surrender and appreciate and accept, I could focus on the living. I let go of the what-ifs, and just began to experience my life as it was. When I was able to do this, I found myself in a period of life when I enjoyed a deep contentment. I was in a healthy place, and my life was well-balanced with different sources of satisfying work and volunteer roles, and I was travelling and connecting with people. Circumstances have changed somewhat now, but I look back on that period with real satisfaction. And try to take lessons from it.
In recent years, as our life has changed, I’ve found myself doing a mix of anticipation of travel, and just trying to enjoy my life in between. But I’ve always enjoyed being able to look forward to my next travel adventures. But when COVID-19 reared its ugly head, any thoughts of travel in the next year (or two or three) have had to be dispelled. I haven’t let myself hope for an early# resolution. That’s made life a lot easier. And I’ve been able to focus on my current experience, to live in the moment. And there’s a release and freedom in that. Let go, and just Experience. I recommend it .
* I plan on following up with a list of my own “major life events.”
# I’m currently hoping for a resolution by late 2022. But I’m not focusing on that.
In a No Kidding aside, I have to confess that one of the things I took comfort from in lockdown was the fact that the overwhelming factor in all our lives was COVID-19, and the change in our lives and our countries. We shared the fear for our futures, and felt the solidarity. We were, all, together in this, even if some of us had it a lot easier than others. It was bigger than all of us. As a childless No Kidding woman, it felt good to simply experience this along with everyone else. It felt especially good not to feel so isolated from the rest of society, even as we were all self-isolating.