There are many, many mornings where I wake up and acutely feel the absence of a child. But this morning, as I walked into the foggy forest behind the house and spent 45 minutes photographing dew-covered spider webs, was not one of them. I was out as long as I wanted, heard each leaf hit the ground as I realized where Fall got its name and walked without a plan or path. It was glorious and filled my soul.
This is who I am. This is my best self. My self showing up for beauty and nature and the glory of all of my senses. Thanks be to God. Thanks be to time. Thanks be to the mix that makes me, me.
It has been weeks since I felt untethered. Weeks since I crumbled into emotional dust. Weeks since I hated what I was becoming but couldn’t stop becoming it. I don’t know if the worst is behind me or still to come, but for now, I feel great. I think I may even be better than I was before: calmer, happier, more stable, more focused. I care less what people around me think and more about what I truly want.
So then why does walking through my neighborhood at 5:30, when the mommies are out in full force, pulling their kids toward home, still shake me at my core? Yesterday I went from feeling great to feeling dark in the course of 30 minutes and 15 Brooklyn blocks. It makes me crazy to feel invisible – a woman not admitted into the club everyone else belongs to – but I don’t think that is the real story any more. There is a deeper reason why I can’t let the crazy feelings go, why I can’t stop the stabs of envy and sadness. It’s because with parenting, like so many other things, I did what I do so well – I walked away.
Why do I have so few friends from childhood, college, my 20s? Walked away instead of hanging in. Why has my career been a pinball machine? Walked away instead of challenging myself to grow. The first marriage? Walked. And why am I not a mother? Because I repeatedly gave up when the process of getting pregnant got too tough. When charting wasn’t working, I stopped — didn’t even try Clomid or acupuncture or anything my infertile ladies who really wanted a baby did — and told myself I couldn’t do it without Jeff’s support. Honestly, I was scared of failing and feeling alone and guilty for the one time I was pregnant and had an abortion. And later, when I wanted to get pregnant with Tom and discovered a (completely benign) brain tumor was reeking havoc with my hormones, I walked away again because I was scared again. This time of truly wanting to make a life with the man I love and not being able to do it. The fear of disappointment stopped me cold. And the adoption? Another post for another day, but suffice it to say that if I really wanted to be a mom, I would have a child today. No question.
Walking away has been my defense against getting hurt, being left out or left behind. Of being disappointed or realizing I really am the nothing I think I am: unworthy and uninteresting and unlovable. That might be it. I walk away from love (of friends, of a child, of partners, of my potentially best self) because I don’t think I am worth any love. And I want to make sure to be gone once people realize that. So what now?