A rollercoaster does not make a good road

Some days I have to stop everything to just try to remember who I am. Like I’ve lost my grip on my identity, not the words but the essence, what it feels like to be myself. I have to try to remember, is this something I care about? Is this something I stand for? Would I enjoy this?

I’m in recovery mode at the moment. Recovering from grief, from disappointment, from putting life on hold and forgetting who I was. So I’m a little lost. Confused. Withdrawn.

Who was I before grief and the promise of death knocked on our door?

Who was I before I started to define myself by a fertility chart and the likelihood that I might give birth before I can see through any given plans?

I think I once spent a lot of time focused on living my Purpose. I was constantly pushing forward, wanting to do more, be more, achieve more. I was always on a Journey, a path towards who and where God wanted me to be. What could I do next? How could I move forward? Who would journey with me to figure it out together?

And then … I don’t know? I lost steam. A glacier formed over my heart and it took a while to thaw.

But that didn’t matter all that much because I was going to start Trying To Conceive. I was going to Get Pregnant and Have A Baby and Be A Mother. And that was going to happen soon, any month now, any day now, definitely within a year, so why would I need any other Purpose for now? That will be more than enough, thank you very much.

The closest thing I’ve had to Purpose since then was starting the road to become foster carers. I felt that God had given me a mother’s heart for a reason, and I wanted to use it for good while waiting for our own children. But the intensity of that path has not been right for now.

Meanwhile, grief is exhausting. Did you know? I’ve never been so tired as I have in the fortnight since my father-in-law died. And, of course, I thought my exhaustion could be an early pregnancy symptom this time.

It wasn’t.

You know what else is exhausting? Being on an emotional rollercoaster. Disappointment, sadness, anger, devastation, confusion, hope, contentedness, happiness, excitement, suspense. Rinse and repeat. Life is a hard enough road as it is. A rollercoaster does not make a good road.

This month’s disappointment was one of the more devastating I have experienced. Sometimes I will cry. This time it was a lot.

On my roughest day I declined to speak to a close friend because I suspected she would tell me she is pregnant. She is, so, well spotted, Esther. It was still hard to read it in a text message, but at least she didn’t have to hear me sob in response to her happy news.

But it was good to read this today: Why Not Getting Pregnant Was A Blessing In Disguise. The author realised she had put her life on hold to get pregnant, so she made a conscious effort to rediscover the person she used to be.

In short, I hardly recognized myself. I missed the old me; the person I relied on to take action. I’d been so focused on what wasn’t happening, that I lost sight of what was and who I am. So this past month, I decided to use what the “old me” knows all too well and to take action to find the person I’d left behind.

- Anne Omland

It got me thinking about how my life would have been different if we’d fallen pregnant sooner, even straight away.

I wouldn’t have applied for the counselling promotion, and got it.

I wouldn’t have learned what being healthy can really feel like.

We wouldn’t have bought a house.

We wouldn’t have been able to drop everything to be with my parents-in-law while my father-in-law was dying.

As well as – of course – two extra years of having my body to myself, enjoying a child-free marriage, drinking wine and eating seafood and soft cheeses.

What I thought I wanted, what I got instead
Leaves me broken and somehow peaceful

I keep wanting you to be fair
But that’s not what you said
I want certain answers to these prayers
But that’s not what you said

When I get to heaven I’m gonna go find Job
I want to ask a few hard questions, I want to know what he knows
About what it is he wanted and what he got instead
How to be broken and faithful

- “What I Thought I Wanted” by Sara Groves

If, two years ago, someone had given me a Matrix-style choice – take the blue pill for the life I thought I wanted, falling pregnant straight away, or the red pill for the rollercoaster I’ve actually had – which would I have chosen?

That’s easy. Blue pill.

And yet, on this side, I wouldn’t erase the last two years of my life. So it’s a good thing I wasn’t offered that choice.

Playing Scarlet (video recording)

I thought it was about time that a blog about me and the piano featured me playing the piano. I’ve talked about it before, but this time I wanted a video. I’m playing Scarlet by Brooke Fraser, the song I wrote about here, thinking of my father-in-law and wishing he could still hear me play his parents’ piano. Even though he can’t, I know my mother-in-law and parents will still enjoy this.

And there’s a chance that you might enjoy it too, so what the hell.

If you can’t view it in the post, try here.

A semi-normal life

I’m sprawled across the day bed in the lounge room at my parents-in-law’s house. The bed is from the palliative care team, and the idea is for my father-in-law to be in it, close to the rest of the household. But he didn’t like it here. So he’s in his bed, the waterbed he and my mother-in-law have had for years and years. It’s comfortable and familiar, I guess, and there’s privacy. He is sleeping or at least resting, which is pretty much his whole life now. He hasn’t left the bedroom and ensuite for nearly two weeks.

It’s a funny kind of time. Waiting, but still living a semi-normal life. There are plenty of days when we wake up, get ready, go to work, come home, make dinner, go to bed. Then there are the mornings we’re packing clothes into bags so one or both of us can spend the night here. Some books and the laptop and some paperwork too, because we might be here all weekend. Meanwhile, at home, our housemate is alone, usually resting in the midst of her illness, and the chores just aren’t important enough right now. Hopefully we’ll get time to stock up on food for the week of work. If we can eat right most of the time, we’ll have enough health and energy to get by.

We haven’t dropped everything to be here every day, but at some point soon I expect we will. So it’s hard to make plans. All plans are tentative, knowing a family emergency could be just around the corner. But we still make them – dinner with my sister, chill out with a friend, health appointments.

It feels like I’m not doing very much. I’m not, really, when I’m here. I mean, right now it’s Saturday afternoon and the most I’ve done is go to acupuncture, shower and feed myself. If I were home there would be laundry hung on the line and another load in the machine and I’d be juggling half a dozen things in the kitchen and hoping someone else will do the dishes. I’d be noticing the clutter and the floors needing a vacuum and wondering when we’ll ever get that light fitting fixed.

But here, the household seems to be humming along with the attention of my mother-in-law, who is now home full-time as a carer, and my brother-in-law. Short of helping with meals and dishes, it’s just about being here. I think that matters.

Bulbs in glasses

Next to the day bed, my mother-in-law is growing daffodil bulbs in glasses, an idea she got from Pinterest.

It can be hard to engage deeply right now. With everything that’s going on, and a job that requires me to interact with risk and trauma in my clients’ lives, I don’t have much left to offer anyone else. Most of my relationships are one-way right now, with me on the receiving end of a whole lot of love and concern and prayer, and barely able to hear how anyone is going in return.

With my hands and body less occupied with all the things I normally do, I spend a lot of time in my mind. And my mind is often on the various entertainments and distractions contained in my phone. The Emma Approved webseries is my current favourite, with the story reaching its climax over the last few weeks, and the fandom large and creative enough to provide plenty of distraction in the interim, tweets and GIFs and discussions galore. It’s fun to immerse myself in the world of a story I know and love so well. Fun, familiar, and fiction. That’s one of my weaknesses as an INFJ, that I am drawn to superficiality and meaningless indulgences in times of stress.

But not all indulgences are meaningless, I think. I have a tendency to feel guilty about anything that’s not essential, whether because of expense or environmental impact or social responsibility or whatever. In some circumstances, though, indulgence is just good self-care, for being a social worker as well as a daughter-in-law to a dying man. I find myself craving sensations, things that make me more present in my body. Today it’s been the warmth of sunshine; stretching my legs and feeling my blood pumping with a walk; chewing on fresh spelt sourdough bread; freshly washed hair, wearing comfy clothes, and feeling attractive.

It feels like some kind of equilibrium at work. Like I’ve reached the end of thinking, planning, and doing, and all that’s left is being. There’s no guilt in that, because it’s not thoughtlessness that’s brought me here; no, I’ve intentionally chosen to have a quiet, simple life in this time of waiting and clinging to loved ones. Somehow, without meaning to, I’ve transcended the burdens of my personality and freed myself up for the simple pleasures, the everyday moments that are not everything but in so many ways make up a life worth living.