This morning I wanted, and needed, to get out of the house. Weeks of rain and gloomy weather have kept me inside, and it was time to do something fun. So I took myself off to Te Papa, our national museum, where they have an art exhibition of a famed New Zealand painter, Dame Robin White. I didn’t know much about her, though I realised once I saw some of her paintings that I knew some of her work. And I realised too that many other local artists have modelled themselves on her approach to landscape, even though she is very much focused on people in landscapes, to give the paintings context.
Context. Context and perspective. That’s how I come to be writing about an art exhibition here on No Kidding. Many of her paintings had quotes or comments she has made about her work. She has spent a lot of time living and working in the Pacific Islands (namely, but not only, Kiribati – pronounced “kiri – bus”), and noted that whilst Europeans see the ocean as a barrier, the Pacific peoples think of it as a pathway. I loved that change of perspective, and saw it immediately in my own context (which I’ve talked about on A Separate Life this week), as well as in my No Kidding context.
The concept of one thing that is seen both as a barrier, and a pathway, depending on your perspective, immediately made me think of infertility and parenthood. Parents look at having children as a pathway to development, to adulthood, and to living a full life. So do those going through infertility, still hoping to parent. Their chosen life is the end goal. Having children will get them there, they think, regardless of what they do with their lives then. Infertility or childlessness is the barrier to everything – to fulfilment, to happiness, to accomplishment, to love, to adulthood. We know this. I’ve written before about the idea that we, the No Kidding, the ones who came through life without children, are their worst nightmare. Many of us might remember feeling that ourselves. We’ve read those who become pregnant or parents after infertility talking about getting through to the “other side” and leaving behind those who are “still in the trenches.”
Yet for those of us who have also left the trenches, climbed out and put our faces to the light, I see that we no longer see childlessness as a barrier. For me, pregnancy loss, infertility, and childlessness have been a pathway to personal development, understanding, compassion, growth, and freedom. We’ve ridden the waves of loss and disappointment, and discovered that, once we stop fighting them, they work in our favour, carrying us to warmer waters, more tranquil and inviting. They changed our perspective from failure to achievement, from fear to delight, from rejection to an embrace of the present and future.We met others who have also ridden those waves, and we have been enriched beyond measure by our fellow travellers.
Most importantly, we’ve realised that our world views depend on our perspectives. And none of that is set in stone. And learning new perspectives open up new worlds of understanding and exploration and adventure.
PS. Another No Kidding snippet from the Robin White exhibition: One of her famous works is a painting of her son when he was a toddler, with a dead seagull lying in front of it. She said that she was the seagull, exhausted by motherhood and the effort to combine that with her art. Again, it made me think of the writing and thinking that I have done both here and on A Separate Life, knowing that I probably would not have done this if I had had children.