snapshots of an idle mind

May 30, 2007

left fields

Filed under: family,life,singlehood — sassinak @ 11:44 pm

.

so yeah.

a bunch of things have happened around me again and as usual i’m reeling for no real reason.

(okay one of my clients is quitting which sucks. and it’s right at the beginning of summer which is my slow time which sucks more. plus i’m the maid of honour in my sister’s wedding which will be SOOO awesome but expensive and i have to pay my instructor liability insurance annually and it’s due and three people went on vacation and…)

someone is falling in love

someone has disappointed me enormously

someone is pregnant

someone is getting married

someone is getting their nose touched up

someone is moving across the country

someone is making me wait an hour for dinner and it’s after ten at night

someone is splitting up

someone is feeling better

someone is heartbroken

someone has a new baby and is a glowing mom

and so on…

and today when i went for lunch with an old friend and i hung out with her and her son and she talked about the time, before she had a baby, when she thought she couldn’t. when she had been visiting with a family and it was so hard to be there because it was something she didn’t think she would have.

and then she did.

she was also the first person ever not to tell me i had lots of time when i expressed regret at my childless state and at the fact that it was likely that it would stay that way. so i thanked her of course.

i mean she’s the first person who hasn’t tried to placate me by saying “don’t worry dear, you have lots of time” and i SO appreciated that.

i mean so much.

you can’t imagine how much…

anyway she nodded and smiled that sad smile and said okay. she said she knew exactly what i meant and that at thirty you had to get a move on. it was time to get the motor on and get going. it’s just that i don’t seem to have a motor to get on.

oh man that was such a bad sexual innuendo that i’m leaving it in there.

and all around me i see people and clients in various stages of barely pregnant to full on parenting mode and it’s starting to get really hard [which is probably why the pregnant ones thank me for ‘honoring their condition.’ *wry smile*] i find that suddenly i am starting to sympathise with single women who abandon their friends once those friends start breeding and having husbands.

or those friends abandon us.

it’s just so hard to see something so fundamental pass you by and not even really have a choice about it. you think you have all this time and then *poof* like magic it’s gone.

and i found myself, today, hit by a stab of such profound mourning that i was astonished.

there’s no way i could do this alone, there’s no unemployment insurance or maternity leave for me, i’m self employed after all. right now i have less than a hundred dollars in the bank, ask me how i can pay for a kid.

i nearly beat on the lady who said ‘there’s always a way’ and i’m looking at her and her family and her husband and thinking ‘yes, yes there is… but it’s harder when you’re alone and self-employed.’

my sister says that people don’t know what to say so they try to be comforting.

i think that’s like allowing your friends to maintain their fantasy lives rather than telling them the truth. it’s easy but it doesn’t make it the right thing to do.

stab of mourning.

i couldn’t believe it. i met my own eyes in the mirror and i couldn’t bear the grief in them.

i just never knew that it was going to hurt this much. i keep thinking that i’ve let it go, that i’ve moved on, that i’ve passed my grief to the universe and then *wham*

fucking left fields.

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11 Comments »

  1. I think it’s hard for me to understand exactly what you feel cause when I see a pregnant woman, I see the stuff I don’t want in my life. But I can understand the type of longing for something, be it the job you love, getting healthier, love…whatever. That I totally get. And I have recently begun to think about how some people change with settling in. How some people whose whole life has been a waiting to exhale when they found the man to settle down with and procreate were just keeping other things in life as placeholders until they could just be consumed by that relationship and that role. And, although I think it’s somewhat crazy and sad, it’s not up to me to decide. And I think that some of those amputations are good. I wonder if I am making any sense to you at all. I could explain better but privately. Anyway…there are some sucky things going on in your life. And then there are some things that are making you see life on a broad picture and bringing some interesting things into focus. I am so there with you. I really am. So much so that I wish I could give you a long understanding cuddle.

    -N

    Comment by Natalia — May 31, 2007 @ 8:47 am | Reply

  2. Sass, I’ve been reading your blog for awhile now and I know how much you absolutely love teaching Pilates and how much it means to you to be independent and self employed. However, you mention that this is one of your biggest barriers keeping you from something else that you strongly desire: having a child. And while I will surely not score any popularity points with this suggestion, perhaps a re-evaluation of what is more important to you in life is in order. Career or family? It’s a decision a whole lot of people have to make (not that it makes it any easier). I myself had to come to terms with that decision when I found out that I was going to be a father. I was in grad school very happily following my dream. However, I realized that 5+ more years of school and even the dream realization itself was not going to be able to support a family. While I never once in my life ever said “boy, I wish I could be an accountant” that is the choice I had to make. Does it pain me to think of the road I didn’t take? Absolutely. However, I have no regrets and I at least have the means, stability, insurance, etc, to afford me the things in life that really matter to me, like raising a family. Life is about compromises. You can’t have everything, so what are you willing to give up to get what you really want? I’m not advocating that you enter the field of accounting, but perhaps there is something more to your interests that can provide you with what you need. Perhaps a health club manager, teaching/coach, or something along those lines? Who knows, maybe you can find a part time position with benefits and still be able to maintain a client base. Make it work.

    As I said, this isn’t the most popular or happy suggestion, but you said you appreciated hearing the hard truths. I know this is getting long, so I’ll leave you with this thought: at the end of the road when you are looking back at your life which will have given you greater satisfaction and fulfillment: having been a mother or having been self-employed doing something you love? Write your dream eulogy then live up to it.

    Comment by John — May 31, 2007 @ 10:17 am | Reply

  3. I know a woman with 7 children who laments the career she never had. I don’t know how old she is, but her grandchildren are adults now. We can’t help but reflect the times we were born in.

    Many women of our times do combine career and family. But for others the career doesn’t quite materialize in your twenties and time slips by somehow. The ability to control conception is a bit of a double edged sword.

    I know what its like to live with a constant background grief that becomes stabs of mourning from time-to-time and never fully goes away. You cross a street and suddenly find yourself crying, thankful that you’re wearing sunglasses. It can drop on you from out of nowhere. But I find its usually related to how satisfied I am with my life at present.

    Grief about one thing can also be a deflection from something else. For instance, often when I’m dissatisfied with my relationship with my partner, rather than feeling that dissatisfaction, I feel grief about my son.

    Birth control is a bit of a false promise, imo. Ultimately we really can’t control something as basic as the creation of life. Not everyone comes to that realization though.

    So I would ask what you really aren’t liking about your present life. What does having a child represent to you?

    And if it really is about having a child, how can you make that happen?

    My sense is that its about having a child and feeling supported in that choice. Having a deep connection with another being (there is no connection deeper than the parent-child connection, imo). Or maybe your own inner child is feeling unsupported?

    Comment by Clarity — June 5, 2007 @ 2:18 am | Reply

  4. The previous three comments are very thoughtful and really quite insightful as they represent three different perspectives but all deliver similar messages. I regret that I cannot replicate that level of self-knowledge. But here’s what my experience as a person in a very similar life situation tells me:

    Your sister is right, people say comforting pablum-like things because they like you, see that you’re upset and don’t want to upset you more or engage in a difficult conversation by telling you that in fact, you’re right. Time IS running out. The lack of honesty sucks, but that’s how humans socialize, and for the most part, I think it comes from a good place. And you’re right—time is running out for you, as your ability to create a family in your preferred way is finite. But you also have to think of how much time you actually have left. Women can give birth to healthy children into their early 40s. Is it riskier? Yes. Are the risks so high that it’s not really an option? No. Even though the chance of having a less-than-perfect child is heightened, it’s by no means prevalent. Chances are you’ll be fine. And chances are that even if you’re not, your child will be perfect as far as you’re concerned anyway. Look at your life seven years ago. Look at your life now. All I’m saying is that seven years is a long time and things happen that you could never have predicted—don’t be too quick to make final statements because you can’t predict the future with 100% certainty. Trust me, I suffer from this kind of thinking and I have the intelligence (like you) to justify WHY I subscribe to it. But even when all the evidence points in one direction, occasionally life throws you a curveball, for better or for worse. So trying not to think of anything, good or bad, as a foregone conclusion is helping me deal a little more with the inherent lack of predictability and stability life serves up. It’s a struggle and I’m not always successful, but I find that it’s a less emotionally-destructive approach.

    I also agree with Natalia—when I see a woman my age who has a truckload of young kids and her life is utterly consumed by meeting the needs of others 24/7 (the kids, the partner, the job, elderly parents, any combination thereof) I don’t feel like crying, other than out of sympathy. While I’m certain that parenting creates the strongest bond known to man and beast, like all profound things, it comes at a steep price, and it’s a price you have to pay for the rest of your life. Just like there’s a price attached to not parenting. You can have very strong connections with others without ever reaching the ‘holy grail’ of reproducing. Having a child does not mean that you are more loved, more mature or more valuable than anyone else. And vice versa. Having a child or not means only that you at some point made a choice (even if the choice wasn’t much of a choice to begin with) and now you must reinterpret your worldview to accord with your situation. This is why many parents wax on as if being a mother is the ultimate life accomplishment–and some are very annoying and condescending, but some aren’t. I think they’ve reinterpreted how they view the world so that it aligns with their reality and helps them to remain positive in the face of the challenges their reality presents. The same goes for those of us who don’t have children—most of us don’t hate children or families, but do not view motherhood as the culmination of a life well-lived. To do otherwise would be denying the validity of our own lives and our day-to-day realities. People need to define their lives in such a way as to reaffirm that their choices are good and right—that does not mean that they should apply their worldview to others (and unfortunately many do) and it doesn’t mean that people who subscribe to a different worldview are wrong or deficient. We’re all telling ourselves whatever we can in order that we can get through the next hour, day, week, decade. We’re all doing our best with what’s before us.

    And even though your choice is severely limited by life circumstances, as John points out, you DO have a choice, even if it is a shitty one. You can have a child. Right now, barring any physical conditions that would prevent it. You can be a single parent, change your career to something you’re less passionate about but is more aligned with your new responsibilities, and know that you made this sacrifice in order to experience the joys of motherhood you have anecdotally and repeatedly heard is profoundly rewarding. You have to ask which is more valuable to you—your freedom or being a parent? Are you ready to put someone else’s needs and interests ahead of your own–forever? And not have these sacrifices acknowledged? If you are, then start now. Get a stable job with benefits, save up some cash and get yourself pregnant. Focus on the end goal. Lots and lots of parent give up on their dreams and their freedom courtesy of the responsibility attached to parenthood. You’re gearing up for a life of sacrifice, so may as well start now and see if you can take it. Because if you can’t, you’ll resent your child and that’s no way for anyone to grow up (as I know).

    Is your situation ideal? No. Many parents have it easier. There’s two of them, they have more money, they’re younger and have stronger social supports. But then there are parents who are alone, poor (as in total poverty), cut off from social networks and there are children and parents that have special needs. They manage. I can’t imagine it’s the transcendental experience parenting has been romanticized as, but they find a way to manage. Your situation is most certainly not ideal, but it’s also not absolutely contraindicated to parenting. Only you can decide what pieces need to be in place before you’re comfortable having a child. But no one is making the decision for you. The decision is totally, 100% yours. Take ownership of that. It’s easy, as I know, to come up with reasons why the decision is out of your hands, and frankly it’s easier to think that way because you needn’t face the fact that your reality is one of your own creation. Sometimes that’s true (e.g. getting laid off or having a health condition), but this choice really is under your control. There’s some comfort in that—especially when you meet men who long to be fathers but really don’t have a choice. As women, are privileged to make this choice—so know that you can mother a biological child whenever you wish, as long as you stay within the physical limits of your reproductive potential. Do you want to wait and hope your situation becomes ‘ideal’, or close to it? It may become ‘ideal’, no one can predict. Do you want to go it alone under less ‘ideal’ circumstances? You can do that for sure. Do you want to opt out of motherhood because it doesn’t feel right under your (current) circumstances? That’s OK too—and in many respects is far more responsible than the vast majority of people who bring life into the world because ‘it’s what you do’. You are uniquely situated to make an informed choice. So think about it, a lot, speak to mothers and fathers and childless people, speak to single parents and attached parents and people who had kids under ideal circumstances and people who didn’t. This is a massive research project. Know what you’re getting into and make an informed choice. And then be confident in knowing that this choice is the right one for you—that way you don’t feel the need to justify yourself, nor do you feel a sense of regret or loss for the path you did not take. So few people do this. You can. So do it.

    And yeah, I’ve lost a lot of friends courtesy of their choice to raise children. We simply don’t have anything in common anymore—not to say that one of us is ‘better’, but there’s no common frame of reference. This is a gross generalization, but I simply don’t give a hoot about little Tyler’s toilet training and they don’t give a hoot about my efforts to garner a promotion at work. I’m sure if I was toilet training a child I would be very interested in hearing about Tyler’s efforts to go potty. It’s so outside the realm of my experience right now that I have no impetus to seek the company of people with whom I have no common understanding. And it works both ways—I doubt a parent struggling with a colic baby gives a shit about how much the commute into work annoys me. It’s all about what your current worldview is. People can be mean, though, when they’re tired or resentful or unsure whether they’ve made the right choice. I can see why some parents have a heightened sense of self-importance—you’d have to in order to stay sane under some circumstances, and if you’re envious of your childless friend’s freedom, you may lash out a bit in an effort to soothe yourself (you know, people only put you down because of their own insecurities?). The same goes for us childless types. We may feel like social misfits, or feel we’ve been denied something fundamental, especially when we’re constantly barraged with ‘family-values’ propaganda, especially when it’s inadvertently delivered by people close to us. We may lash out at them, too, discounting their lifestyle as a self-imposed and very expensive prison sentence. It sucks, because we spend too much time trying to justify our choices to others instead of just making them and not worrying too much about what everyone else thinks.

    But there is hope. When my friend M. got pregnant, I was upset because I thought ‘Well there goes another friendship. I’m losing my friend and I’m going to get even more isolated.’ And while it’s true that M. and I don’t hang out as much as we used to (which is more a function of our jobs than anything else), I realize that both of us can make a choice as to how we wish to deal with our friendship once the terms have changed. I can choose to let my friendship with M. ‘drift’ into nothingness. Or I can choose to accept the new terms as far as my personal limits allow. M. has to make the same choices. It certainly helps that M. doesn’t glorify her experience—she admits that pregnancy is not a walk in the park, that it isn’t a transcendental experience and that she expects motherhood will be challenging and not always rewarding. She and her husband have made a choice to integrate their child into THEIR lives as much as possible, and not force themselves and others to change their lives to integrate the child. M’s pregnancy is not a primary topic of conversation, she made a choice and feels no need to expound upon it. She’s not (in her own words) making a big deal over something as commonplace as reproduction. She’s excited and nervous, certainly, but isn’t glorifying or vilifying it. She’s got her head screwed on straight—this is someone who thought about her options and made a comfortable choice. And as a result, her relationships are preserved and no one resents anyone else. She’s honest enough to say things along the lines of ‘I know things will change, but we’re going to try to minimize it’ and ‘I wish I could drink/smoke/party, damn I miss that’ and ‘It must be easy to let a baby take over your life and make you forget who you are. I want people around who will remind me of who I am. I’m not just a mother. I’m a person too and I don’t want to get caught in a situation where being a mother is the only way I can relate to others’. The fact that she isn’t getting stupid over it makes me want to spend MORE time with her. I’m actually excited about M’s pregnancy. I look forward to meeting her child and hanging out with her and the baby. I look forward to her candour about the reality of motherhood from her perspective, because it’s rare that parents will be honest with you, because to do so may result in having to face the fact that it’s not always wonderful and that there are times when you wish things had worked out differently. M. is the only friend I have who didn’t alienate all her single friends when she got married because she doesn’t feel the need to make a big deal out of her personal choice. She is treating her pregnancy similarly. I respect that and would hope that I would behave similarly should I ever find myself in those situations. I think that a lot of people would be spared from hurt, isolation and resentment if we could accept the validity of our own choices and those of others instead of trying to justify why your choice is superior (which indicates that you question the validity of your choice in the first place). Because really, no one cares what choices you make for yourself unless it has a negative impact on you or your relationships. Try to think like a civil libertarian—respect my choices and I’ll respect yours. This, of course, runs both ways.

    Yeah, so that’s pretty much it for my deep thoughts for the time being. You mentioned you like it when I post essay-length responses, so consider this my gift to you. Feel better, man.

    Comment by Princess Valium — June 5, 2007 @ 12:38 pm | Reply

  5. Princess Valium has just managed to say so many things I have been trying to explain and in such a clear way. Thanks for that PV. That was an amazing comment.

    -N

    Comment by Natalia — June 5, 2007 @ 3:06 pm | Reply

  6. Not every woman needs to have children.

    Sass, you’ve been married before. You could have had children in the context of a marriage. >shrug

    Comment by gabi — June 5, 2007 @ 7:30 pm | Reply

  7. all of these comments are so amazing.

    all i can think of to add is… i’m sorry, sass. i wish for you to have everything you want.

    Comment by terry — June 8, 2007 @ 12:36 am | Reply

  8. It’s been a while since I’ve dropped by here, sass… I’m sorry to see that this is the post! But sad is part of it all too, right? I know exactly what you mean. I’m turning 31 in a week, and have been trying for quite a while to conceive and it ain’t happening. It just ain’t. Friends around me left and right are showing up pregnant. The worst part? They are awkward around me… just like you’ve described… the not-knowing-what-to-say. As if any moment I may break down and cry or punch them in the uterus or something! But the truth is, I do feel like crap everytime they break out their “good news” which makes me feel even worse. It’s hard to be happy for those that have what you dearly want, and can’t. It hurts to envy friends and family. While those who say it are annoying as hell, they are right… time can be a bitch, but there’s still some of her to work with. It may happen, it may not. And that’s where I am. Potentially grieving the death of a dream. Possibly.
    Sorry to hear that you can identify. There needs to be more women like you with kids; if I see one more pregnant teenager smoking at a busstop, I’m going to kill myself. The irony astounds me. Hugs.

    Comment by Sweet L'il Gal — June 10, 2007 @ 8:10 am | Reply

  9. Okay, Princess Valium made ME feel better. I’ve always said that I didn’t want to be one of “those” mothers, when you ask her how she’s doing, she gives you a child update. I’m afraid of losing myself in the child process, but even worse, I risk losing myself in the trying-to-conceive process. I find myself beginning to identify as an individual who can’t reach her goal, and expects disappointment. I think PV’s advice can carry over into so many areas of life. We have choices, we make them, we talk the talk around them, we expect others to understand. Such a well-written, insightful comment…

    Comment by Sweet L'il Gal — June 10, 2007 @ 1:43 pm | Reply

  10. […] the last post “left fields,” i’ve read every comment, taken a lot of them to heart and am doing some long hard […]

    Pingback by erk! « snapshots of an idle mind — June 11, 2007 @ 12:54 pm | Reply

  11. One doesn’t necessarily have such a clear cut “choice” when it comes to creating life.

    Birth control, reproductive technology and life-saving technology give one the ILLUSION of choice. And we do get some limited choice and control with technology — but that’s it – LIMITED.

    Ultimately, issues of life and death are not for us to decide. Life comes and goes on its own timetable.

    Comment by Clarity — June 12, 2007 @ 12:24 am | Reply


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