18th June 2021 marks 3 years since the publication of my book, Finding Joy Beyond Childlessness so I decided it was time to read it. Yes, I know I wrote it so I’m pretty familiar with the contents, but I hadn’t previously read the paperback from cover to cover. If you follow me on Social Media you’ll also have seen that I’ve been sharing thoughts & quotes & will continue to do so throughout June.
Reading was interesting exercise, there were points when I was tempted to wield my editing pencil, but I resisted & reminded myself that I did my best at the time.
Big picture thoughts
Firstly, I was struck (as always) by the openness, honesty & vulnerability of the brave story tellers who wholeheartedly shared their stories & wisdom so that others could learn from them. A huge thank you to each & every one.
I also believe that the chapters & content are about right & achieve the aim I wanted. If I was writing it now I’d add a full chapter on creativity as experience tells me that it has a bigger role to play in healing grief than I realised at the time. I’d also expand on the concept of following your curiosity as a counter to everything we read about needing to have a purpose.
I’d like to share 3 key themes with you:
1. Everyone can find joy
I’ve said many times, there are as many paths out of the grief of childlessness as there are paths into it. This belief has grown stronger over the years as I’ve met more & more women who’ve made their way out. If you don’t believe me (yet) let me remind you that there are 19 Inspirational Stories in Finding Joy & over 40 on here. Each & every one of these women have found their joy & are sharing their story so you can find yours. But it doesn’t stop there; every week I come across someone else who’s living a happy life despite her greatest dream not coming true.
If you take away one thing from this blog, or any of my blogs it is that YOU ABSOLUTELY CAN FIND JOY AGAIN.
2. There’s not one way to Finding Joy
When I started collecting Inspirational Stories I believed that there were different ways to work your way through grief & finding joy & these determined the chapters of the book. My path included therapy, yoga, writing & creativity. Yours may include some or all of these. Or it may not.
The only way to discover your path is to start moving along it. I encourage you to be curious & try some of the things the storytellers did knowing that just because you’ve started something you don’t have to do it forever. Keep asking yourself ‘is this supporting my healing & bringing me joy?’ If the answer’s yes, keep going & if it’s no come back & try something else. The key is to keep asking the question.
3. It’s all about the story
I believe that at the core of just about everything & one of the keys to whether you’ll be finding joy is the story you tell yourself. As I write at the beginning of Chapter One, What Story are you Telling? ‘There is a big difference between what happens to you and the story you tell yourself about what happened. The story you tell is key because it determines the life you have. If you tell yourself that your life has no meaning and will be miserable, then it will be. However, if you tell yourself – like the women you’ll meet here – that there are gifts in the childless life, and you’re prepared to do what it takes to receive them, that’s what will happen.’
‘Human brains are wired for story. Stories are patterns and our brains love patterns. Uncertainty is an incomplete pattern that the brain doesn’t like so it fills in the gap, releasing the feel good neurotransmitter dopamine into your system and making you feel good. Job done.
Except it fills in the gap with a story, and over time these stories become the ‘truth’. For example, you may be telling yourself that because you are not able to be a mother you’re broken or there’s something wrong with you. Let’s debunk that straight away. This is a story your brain has made up and it could become the ‘truth’ of who you are and how you live. This is a great example of how the story you tell yourself can come true.
Your brain never stops telling stories. Stop reading for a moment, close your eyes and listen. There will be an endless stream of thoughts, ideas, and stories emanating from it. It never stops. Your world is structured around this inner dialogue and the stories it tells. Doesn’t it make sense to first notice what sort of stories it is telling and then change these to stories that help and empower you?’
Your mind can convince you of anything
Do you think that your mind can convince you of anything?
Let’s explore this. Remember a time when you couldn’t make a decision about something, recall how one minute your mind persuaded that it was the best thing you & you must do it, & a few minutes later it decided that you absolutely shouldn’t do it?
Now close your eyes & say in your mind something that you know is not true, like ‘the sky is green.’ Notice that your mind had no problem saying it, so if it can say something which isn’t true, & be equally persuasive on both sides of a decision, why can’t it persuade you of other things like ‘I can never be happy?’
And the stories it tells can be seductive
These stories/beliefs which your mind is telling you are tied into your upbringing & how you live. And, like an old blanket they can be cosy & keep you from hurting. But this unconscious storytelling keeps you stuck in the place of grief, not being able to move forwards.
The good news is that, once you notice them, you can change them. I’d been brought up not to show emotions so, I believed that if I didn’t feel grief it would go away. Believing this kept me ‘safe’ from feeling & also stuck. Once I realised this was a story I’d learned from my parents, I changed it & so began my healing journey.
The media don’t help either & would have us believe that they only way of being happy is if you’re a mother which is absolutely not true. This is why role models & the Inspirational Stories are so important; if you know that others have been successful in finding joy, then maybe you can believe that you can find yours.
Will you change the stories you tell yourself?
I make no apologies for some tough love because I guess maybe the questions should be: ‘do I want to be happy, or would I rather stay in this stuck & unhappy place ?’ and ‘Am I prepared to do the work?
Because this is key isn’t it? You have to want to change & be prepared to do the work. Are you? I really hope so.
Let me tell you about a lady I know who’s had a lot of therapy & help over more than 20 years, yet she’s still in a negative place. Why? Mainly because she doesn’t want to let the story go as it’s cosy & stops her from having to face her feelings. But she’s spent 20 years being stuck & in my mind missed out on so much which life has to offer.
Hearing stories like this drives me to keep writing because I truly want you to know that you can find joy again. So please, please, please notice the stories you’re telling yourself about the possibility of finding joy & start to change them.
‘When you deny your story, it owns you. When you own your story, you get to write your own brave ending. When you deny your pain, it owns you. When you own your pain, it sets you free.’
I’d love to know how this resonates with you so please leave a comments below
You can download Chapter One of Finding Joy Beyond Childlessness when you sign up to my email list.