I’m not into New Years resolutions but this year I decided to make one. Not so much a quit this or start that type…more of a quiet mantra that I will return to as the year goes on. This year I want to be resourceful and brave. Because this year I will need to be. There’s a reason I haven’t written for months and I guess I just didn’t know where to start. You see, Mick and I have decided to separate.
It’s mutual, amicable and will be for the best in the long run but here’s the thing…it’s not particularly something that I want to write about because it’s personal and private but it will change how I do everything from now on….including my writing, my parenting and my ability to support myself and Wade. So even though it’s private, it’s kind of relevant to this blog and I’ve been at a loss to work out how to write from now on and still keep some of me for me if you know what I mean. I will answer the obvious question though….it’s not because Wade has Down syndrome. If anything, I think that is helping us stay good to each other during this process.
So, while the details of why we are separating are irrelevant here, I think the range of emotions and feelings I have been experiencing as I go through it reminds me of the feelings I was going through when I was pregnant with Wade. The similarities are so strong that it has given me a new perspective and a new understanding of what it means to face challenges and how useful sad and overwhelming emotions can actually be.
When I was pregnant, navigating social events or even just having a casual chat at the hairdressers became fraught.
There was this giant thing happening in my life which was consuming my every waking thought, and most of the sleeping ones too. I spent my days questioning and analysing my thoughts to try to work out how I really felt about it. It was a personal journey…deeply personal. There were so many unknowns before Wade was born. I couldn’t plan properly for anything as I didn’t know if he would be sick or healthy, if he would have Down syndrome or not or even if he would make it to full term. With every new step came a whole new bag of unknowns and the whole time there was this giant conversation starter growing bigger on my body everyday.
So when you are down the street and someone casually asks…“What’s news?” You may not want to launch into a three hour monologue about prenatal testing and the possibility that life as you know it has suddenly become a distant memory and you are quietly testing your strength and resolve and sanity every day. I’m sure the stranger isn’t really expecting you to describe the rollercoaster of bursting into tears at the sight of a cute puppy one day and smiling proudly to yourself at the thought of holding this baby in your arms the next.
Most days the last thing you want to hear when your head is full of the bees of the unknown, is a complete stranger who knows nothing about you OR your circumstances OR Down syndrome giving a pile of unsolicited advice while you’re trying to buy a litre of milk.
And yet…to answer, “Not much!” feels fake and fraudulent. Let’s face it…it’s a flat-out lie. And I like to respond to people honestly. Putting up status updates like “A lot of weather we have been having lately” when what you really want to write is “I don’t know what is happening I am scared and worried and quite frankly my whole world has changed and I am stepping off into the Abyss…..I have no idea if I can I do it or not and I need answers but they’re not coming and… and…. and….!!!!!).
The other tricky part about navigating social graces when you are pregnant and waiting for answers or a diagnosis is that quite often there is another person involved. There might be a huge difference between how much you want to share with the world and how much they want to….and fair enough too. One half of the relationship may want to crowd source their feelings and reach out to as many kindred spirits they can find while the other may want to deal with it in house. To lock it down until they are ready to share and this can make it harder, sometimes. Where one person feels better for reaching out for support publicly, the other person feels violated or alternatively, when one person feels safe having space and time to work out their feelings and gather information, the other feels lonely and isolated and unsupported.
…and many of these feelings are exactly the same when you separate.
So as I prepare to change tracks again and step out into another new life, I have been thinking about those feelings and asking myself if I learnt anything the first time round that will help. My first thought was that if I have weathered these feelings before, then I shouldn’t need to feel them again.
Why am I feeling scared and anxious and overwhelmed when I have already proven that I am strong enough to handle great change and uncertainty in my life?
Am I a failure for not learning enough that I keep revisiting the same feelings again and again?
Why am I emotionally strung out when logically I know that things will get better in time?
…and then it happened. As it is happened when I was pregnant with Wade. A moment of extreme clarity where all the pieces fall into place and the puzzle of how to manage so many conflicting emotions seemed to unravel.
I’ve moved many, many times in my life and each time I get more and more ruthless with what I will keep and what I will part with. I have a tendency to hoard things thinking that they are too useful or pretty to part with but this time it was different. This time, I was only drawn to things that held an emotional significance for me. Both positive and negative. As I cleared out a cupboard I found a doll of mine from when I was little. She is a My Child that was in stores in the 80s. Every time I see her my heart swells. I have other toys that I don’t want to get rid of simply because I have had them for so long but this doll makes me feel something. I remember how badly I wanted one and how happy I was when she came along. I remember saving money and going down to the store when I had enough. I remember feeling proud that I had earned her. I named her Amy although my reason for that name is lost to the ether. Now that I’m a mum I can recognise that feeling…or I am putting my new capacity of extreme love over the top of the old feeling of excitement….I can’t be sure. Either way it doesn’t matter. Loving her as a child reminds me of loving Wade as mum so she stays.
I decided to put “Amy” in a trunk of keepsakes that I have. I started to go through the trunk and trim down its contents too but as I went through it I found items that caused so many different emotions in me. I came across a gift I was given years ago and as I looked at it I felt shame. I get this feeling every time I look at it and yet, I can’t throw it out. As though I would be even more guilty if I did. It’s a beautiful, original, unique Venetian mask my sister bought for me and carried it around Europe at great expense and inconvenience to her. I loved it when she gave it to me and when I took it home, I threw it on the bed and told myself I would find a place to hang it later. Later never came and I forgot it was there. Then I sat on it and broke it.
Every time I look at it I am reminded of how selfish and inconsiderate I was in that moment. I am reminded of how someone thought of me but I didn’t think of them. I remember the feeling and try to use it to do better next time.
I found photos of times in the past when I wished I’d been stronger and stood my ground or souvenirs from exhilarating times when I was the most free and alive I’ve ever been. I was reminded of people who helped to shape me and experiences that confirmed I was making good or bad choices in my life. I was reminded of the many many times my family has been there when I needed them and how they are there still.
I stared at my wedding dress and photos realising that I just don’t know how they will make feel in the future so I should hold on to them and wait to find out.
It was all of this that gave me the moment of clarity. That the negative feelings are useful and not something to bury from sight or throw away in the hope that you never have to feel them again. It’s the negative, scary, worrisome feelings where we test our metal. Where we find out what we can and can’t do. What we will and won’t put up with and how far we can be pushed before we break.
It’s the memory of those feelings that made me strong enough to reject a real estate agent who came to value the house and looked over it like a dog turd he just trod in. As I listened to him speak I noticed he was sitting on a chair over the exact spot where I was told my baby may have Down syndrome. Where I had curled up in a ball wailing at the news and where a little while later I remembered how fiercely I loved him and wanted him. The spot where I changed forever and learnt more about myself in 10 minutes than I had in a lifetime.
My house…my memories…my life….at least pretend to love it like I do.
It’s the memory of those feelings that is pushing me onwards as more and more unknowns rise up in front of me reminding me that not finding an answer is not an option. It is the memory of being so scared to ask for help then feeling so much relief and happiness when I did.
The feeling that I never thought I would have enough knowledge or courage to take the first step then realising I’d already taken several and they were much like a lot of others I’d taken at one point or another. The reminder that the fear of the unknown is so much worse than the reality a lot of the time.
I was reminded that while I’m prone to crippling anxiety when I don’t have answers in front of me, I’m also prone to doing good research as a result and seeking out useful answers to my problems all in the name of warding off the Big Bad Unknown.
I don’t know if it’s because I’m a parent now or it’s because he is Wade but I understand more since I had him.
I understand that it’s not about crossing my fingers and hoping nothing bad ever happens.
It’s not about avoiding situations that might cause negativity.
That it’s ok if I fall down in a heap under the weight of the uncertainty I’m facing and to worry that everything is slipping away from under me because the only important thing is what I do after that….
What I do to gather myself up and move forward.
Just be resourceful.