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.
Your first paragraph described me to a T.ReplyDelete
Your thoughts are helpful to me, as today, I am having to cancel a travel experience I was really anticipating. Not sure when/how I will get to rebook, but what can I do besides go with the flow?
I suppose "major life events" can be narrowly or more widely defined, and with some fluidity in the definitions. These days, the thought of getting to dine in a favorite restaurant without having to worry about safety could be considered a major event! #perspective
I'm sorry you're having to cancel a travel experience. I at least didn't have any active bookings on hand, though we did have plans.Delete
And yes, you're right - we can define things differently, and I do understand what she meant. But I agree - perspective and balance helps us cope.
Yeah, I agree with Lori as I use to be that way too.ReplyDelete
Related to that, I remember getting to the end of high school and hearing others about how the best years of their lives were over and feeling so sad and bewildered by them. To have life be over when you haven't even reached your prime is such a terrible outlook.
Yet I think that's something so many are facing with this pandemic as they are struggling to make sense of what is ahead. A chapter of life has closed and for many they see it as the end of the world instead of an ending to one thing with a beginning coming soon. Finding that beginning means being present in the now. And often those beginnings aren't "big" or "exciting," but that doesn't mean they are any less important.
Yes!! I enjoyed my high school years, but I certainly didn't think they were my best years, even at the time. How depressing to think it was all downhill after 18 years!Delete
Startling and sad to see some people see the arrival of last baby as an end to anticipation. Made me realize you are still barely hanging on the late end of putting bulbs in the ground for spring flowers and I thought how much l love the promise of spring and anticipation that comes out of those dry little (or big) bulbs. The joy and wonder and anticipation of the event of spring. We are all so different in our outlooks. Fascinating.ReplyDelete
Personally, I'm quite looking forward to winter! But yes, spring is only a few months away. Thanks for the reminder, Rose.Delete
Anticipation used to be a major factor for me, too. I only realized that in the last few years. When I was single, I thought that everything would be fine once I found the right man. Then, after I had met my husband, I realized that this "happy ending" as presented so often in novels and films is in reality the beginning of a new phase which brings its own challenges...ReplyDelete
Then came the next goal: everything would be perfect if/when we had kids. Well, that one didn't happen and I finally realized that I am responsible for my own happiness, with or without the one big thing that I wanted to achieve! It was quite an epiphany. I now try to live my daily life in a way that I don't have to wait for something to change in the future. That meant adding small elements that would contribute to my wellbeing like taking Pilates classes, going for walks, gardening, cooking healthy and tasty food, meeting friends... some of these things are not possible at the moment, but I am taking what I can get :-).
Much love from Switzerland,
I'm glad you're enjoying what you have. Love from the other side of the world!Delete
Yes, yes, yes. I remember when I "just began to experience my life as it was," which ended up being a big life event for me. It was last year when I signed up for a sewing class simply because I had the idea, looked it up, and did it. And now, I love to quilt. :)ReplyDelete
Now I'm facing another job change and a big move and this post was perfect for me to read this morning. Show up, surrender, cultivate gratitude, practice acceptance, experience my life for what it is, allow space for deep contentment to take root... You really have written a guidebook with this current series, thank you! <3
That's kind of the intention! Thanks for seeing it that way.Delete
So much to unpack here! Will start at the end and work back. The sense of solidarity you described was very much top of mind for me as well when COVID-19 swooped in and took on our world hostage. It was strangely comforting to know that we were all uniformly uncomfortable and scared. There was a book called Tribe by Sebastian Junger who also talked about this phenomenon. He described people living through the Blitz in London subways who, in later years, missed the camaraderie that living that experience brought to them. There was something unifying in being part of a larger whole -- even though they were otherwise terrified out of their wits.ReplyDelete
As for anticipation, gosh, I am with you there, too. We had several activities, trips and events on our 2020 calendar. We eagerly anticipated all sorts of new adventures. March changed all that. The suspended animation we're now living has been unsettling, to put it mildly.
As for the blogger comment about only having endings in her future after the birth of her child ...damn, that was seriously depressing. Wow. What a pessimistically primal view of her life. Called to mind an insect species that reproduces and then dies. I'd kind of hoped we humans operated at a higher level. What does that say about infertile couples? In her world view, we only have darkness in front of us? Well, I'm here to tell you I see the future much more brightly.
Back to you and your project, love how you've used each word prompt to provide greater context and reflection. Wishing you much joy in your present! xo
Thanks Pamela. Though to be fair, I suspect the blogger herself would now see things differently. She's a very honest blogger, and so said what she thought at the time.Delete
I'm hoping you have some different new adventures this year.
I think maybe this post is referring to me. If it's not, I definitely did write something like the post you described. And I also wrote a follow up post, inspired by this one, that goes up today. Thank you for this post. And for reminding me of the other post (even if mine was not the one you were referring to!).ReplyDelete
I'll admit that it was you - I didn't want to out you - but it was also prompted by another post by another blogger too. But I recognised that it was you at a particular time, and not necessarily reflective (as per my comment to Pamela above) of your views now. I'm so glad you found the reminder useful, especially as you look back now. Sending hugs!Delete