Thursday, 27 November 2014

Of mindfulness and mourning

There was a passage in the book I'm currently reading that snagged my attention and my heart, exactly the way such sentiments do when I encounter them in real life:
Time was when I cooked for four. Time was when I chafed and grew fretful and said 'I can't bear this business of having to think of supper every night'. Time was when I dreamed of all the things I could do, all the lives I could lead if I wasn't tied down, beset, beleaguered. And time was - I'm glad to say - when the clasp of small arms around my neck and the feel of a soft face against my own stilled the restlessness and made me grateful and glad for the moment. 

Glad for the moment.

Although all too often my real life encounters omit that last thought - the only one that really matters - it's a sentiment I think many of us in the ALI community can relate to, we who have longed for the clasp of small arms and the feel of a soft face against our own. No restlessness about it.

We are fond of saying (perhaps to stay the tears?) that this is a silver lining, a blessing in disguise of infertility and loss: that these heartbreaking experiences will make of us more mindful parents. That when the chance comes our way, we won't whine about being tied down, about the loss of glamour or about sticky floors, having to be home every night for dinner at six, about the curtailing of dangly earrings or picking stray cheerios out of the bed sheets. And even if we cannot always keep to our own heroic parental standards of constant gratitude and mindfulness - for we are human, and there will be moments taken for granted - we remain, I believe, acutely aware. Perhaps more mindful than most of just how precious and ephemeral every beautiful moment is, as each new day presents us with new versions of our children, exceeding all the long-held dreams our hearts would conjure. Moment on top of beautiful (or infuriating, or scary, or prosaic, or tedious) moment, as these little beings we seem to have dreamt forth change, develop, astound, evoke pride and gratitude and wonder.

But what if this mindfulness, as much as it reminds us to savour, brings with it such awareness of the fleeting nature of everyday life that it tears us away from the moment, tempting us instead to mourn for that which is passing before we've had the chance to fully appreciate its perfect bounty in the right-here-right-now? The knowledge that every first in their developmental trajectory is matched by a last. Our babies wrenched from our grasp by the children they will become, and the adolescents those will become, and so on, before we have time to say our goodbyes.

Because that, too (at least for me), is the legacy of loss and infertility; each moment fiercely, irrevocably, painfully precious.

I fret over the days that pass too quickly (while also being uncomfortably aware of just how unlike the parenting experience of my firstborn). Five months old! Six months! Now seven! I flail and try to grasp. I chide myself for not making note of each infinitesimally adorable thing. I take hundreds of pictures, and then feel awkward guilt for placing a lens between me and my daughter, capturing rather than living in the moment.

Mindfulness can and does nurture gratitude, but it can also overwhelm with, well...mindfulness. Awareness of just how real it all is. Just how impermanent.

I know it sounds melodramatic, but it's a question I've been ruminating on a lot lately, even before the passage from the book spelled it out for me. Girl Wonder will be my last child, the only one I get to raise. And while the knowledge of that and the arduous road we had to travel in getting her here are vital reminders to cherish each moment of joy, those same moments also encapsulate a strange kind of mourning (albeit one I know I am supremely lucky to experience).

And how do I truthfully balance that in my heart?

Monday, 17 November 2014

#Microblog Mondays: Relative values

 Translation: A cigarette shortens your life by eight minutes. A day of work shortens your life by eight hours.

Unlike their industrious Germanic neighbours in that economic powerhouse to the west, the denizens of this city are not known for embracing a strong work ethic. It's probably fair to say they're more embracing of an eat, drink, smoke and be merry oh-alright-I'll-begrudgingly-crack-the-merest-hint-of-a-smile-but-only-under-duress approach to life. (They're not known for their merry nature either.)

Yeah, sounds about right.

Written as part of Mel's Microblog Mondays. Check it out here to participate.

Monday, 10 November 2014

#Microblog Mondays: Amateur hour

We're unpacking boxes, some of which, given our vagabond ways of days past, have been in storage forever.

She'll soon be into that, my mother - here for a week to help us settle in - says gleefully. (I suspect she's seeking karmic retribution for my hellian toddler ways.)

But she may have a point. Much as it, erm...made me feel stabby frustrated me when smugly pointed out by the rampantly fertile in days past, there's probably lots we don't yet appreciate about the tangible, hardcore realities of having a kid around the house. Not yet.

Before, we could casually, unthinkingly arrange our home with purely aesthetic considerations in mind; display the many treasured items from our travels and adults-only lifestyle of days past. Beautiful, breakable objets d'art. Books with thousands of fascinating, tear-able pages. A universe of off-limits delights for tiny, exploring hands and mouths...  

As first time parents, we slid in under the wire. We are old. But still, we're relative amateurs. We have so much still to learn, (a prospect that excites rather than daunts).

It's true; she'll be into everything and wreaking havoc before we know what hit us.

And that'll be the happiest loss of property I can possibly imagine.

Strictly upper shelf stuff from here on in.

Written as part of Mel's Microblog Mondays. Check it out here to participate.

Monday, 3 November 2014

#Microblog Mondays: Leave-takings and homecomings

The new keys have been collected, the boxes arrived and the unpacking and settling in begins again.

I've hinted that changes were afoot, and now here they are upon us.

And so, farewell to England.

More than a decade after I first set out for these shores as an eager young graduate student, through all my sojourns elsewhere, I always returned to you; you were the closest thing I had to a home outside the country where I grew up.

Although (hardy Canadian that I am), I often bemoaned your rather hysterical response to 'extreme' weather conditions, and your unique, occasionally callous brand of the welfare state, we had a good run, you and I.

You instilled in me an unshakable appreciation for an orderly qeue, and a lifelong confusion over the use of words like qeue vs line, lift vs elevator, pushchair vs stroller. You made me love chocolate. Your quirky neighbourhoods and streets taught me valuable life lessons, took me on many adventures, and consoled and distracted me through ill-advised romantic entanglements.

On your soils, I gained a PhD, a soulmate and life partner, and the most beautiful daughter imaginable; you answered prayers I didn't even know my heart was saying, beginning all those years ago. Here too I experienced the most profound of losses, the most harrowing days of my adult life. In all these, a part of you will rest in my being forever. I cannot look on your gentle countryside without imagining S lingering there in your beauty. This brings me great comfort.

I guess it's fair to say, I grew up under your watchful eye.

And now, here we are, four minus one, to begin anew.

In H's home town, a city famed for schnitzel, strudel and Strauss.

And the adventure continues. The growing continues.

Written as part of Mel's Microblog Mondays. Check it out here to participate.