I am courage,
I am peace,
I am joy.
I am me.
I created this image for World Childless Week. We have a campaign to create a gallery of pictures of wonderful people who aren’t defined by being childless and with the hashtag #IAmMe. There’s a whole range of images, some as bold as mine, others with no face or name just the three words.
Proudly sharing this image and the wording with the world means a lot to me. If you’d asked me a couple of years ago whether I’d be happy to do so, I’d have thought you were bonkers. But now, it’s okay.
The photo was taken a few months ago, along with others for my website and I love to see how happy and joyful I look, and how comfortable I am in my own skin.
When you look at the photo, what do you see?
I hope it encourages you to say to yourself; ‘yes I want to be like that’. Your words would no doubt be different but I hope seeing my photo inspires you to wonder if you could have this too.
And if you’re not yet sure, please don’t dismiss it out of hand, read on to the end and then decide.
Four ways I‘ve changed
As you know I’ve spent much of the past 18 months writing Finding Joy Beyond Childlessness. And because I wouldn’t ask you to do anything I haven’t done myself, I dug deep into the subjects of each chapter, so I’ve worked my way through grief, letting go, self-acceptance, connecting to my body, etc, etc.
And I’ve come out the other side, happy to say that I’m childless and living a very joyful life.
I recently had my last therapy session so I also spent some time re-reading my journals for the last year, noting what’s changed and who I am now. Four things I’d like to highlight are:
1. Processing grief
In the safe space of my therapist’s office and my yoga lessons I’ve processed a lot of the grief I was holding on to. I’ve learned to feel and, when appropriate to allow emotions to flow through me. My yoga teacher Emma observed that I almost look happy when I’m crying, and that’s true because each time I let something go, I feel like I’m shedding another layer of the armour that prevents me from being my authentic self
As I look back I realise so much which used to trigger me, no longer does. Yes other things might come up in the future, but I am now a lot more resilient so what used to take a wave to knock me over; now takes a tsunami.
2. Becoming grounded and anchored
I am an only child, with no children and no parents. This used to hurt a lot and make me feel as though I was bobbing around in the sea at the mercy of the waves and currents.
Now I’ve processed my grief, done a lot of journaling and connected to my body it no longer hurts and the scar tissue is thick and strong. I know who I am and my place in the world and I feel so much more grounded and anchored.
3. Accepting my ‘wonderfulness’
Hands up if you find accepting your strengths and wonderfulness harder than accepting your foibles?
I thought so. This used to be a challenge for me too. A few months ago when a good friend called me inspiring and some other wonderful words I won’t repeat here, my initial reaction was to dismiss them. I then asked myself; what if I could be open to the possibility that her words might be true? And if they were, how would my life change?
Yes I know: these are big, challenging questions. I acknowledged that comments and opinions from others are only what the other person sees and I could believe them or not. My therapist suggested that I frame these as gifts that I can unwrap (or not) at any time. I loved this idea too. So I decided I would believe them and I’ve stored them away in a corner of my heart to bring out in tough times.
Over the past few months I’ve continued to do this and more than that, to fully own these wonderful words. And I can report that it’s made a massive difference, I feel so much stronger now.
4. Sending my story out into the world
In Finding Joy both I and other storytellers describe how helpful it has been to tell our story and send it out into the world.
Writing has encouraged me to be more open and vulnerable, to write things I’ve never previously voiced out loud, all of which has taken my healing to a deeper level. I’ve learned an incredible amount from the storytellers and digging into each chapter encouraged me to question what I’m doing and why.
Of course I’ve wobbled, especially just before publication. For a while the voice in my head was shouting ‘what will people think’ so loudly that I almost cancelled everything. Then, after a few deep breaths, I got in touch with my why and calmed down; telling myself that whatever happened it would be Ok.
And it has been. I’ve had some lovely reviews and great feedback and friends and family who’ve read Finding Joy understand me at a deeper level. There’s something more though, which I’m finding it hard to articulate. Sending my story out into the world has put what happened in its place in the past, so my losses are no longer holding me back from living my best life.
Why did I pick those words?
Courage is one of my values & many friends say they admire it in me. I decided a long time ago that I didn’t want a comfortable life because that would mean staying stuck and unhappy, so instead I chose courage.
I guess the bottom line is these past couple of years I’ve stepped up and owned all of my story and shared it with the world. There were times when this took all the courage I could muster and others taking the next step was the logical thing to do. I can testify that, whilst taking the courageous step might be hard at times, it is a lot more fun than staying comfortable (and stuck).
I chose peace because I feel peaceful all the time now. The work I’ve done in therapy and yoga has delivered me to a place of deep peace both inside and out.
And I had to choose joy, (it’s in the title of my book after all), and more than that can’t you tell I’ve definitely found it? In Finding Joy I describe six ways to find it and for me, the most important is to look. And guess what I’ve discovered? It’s everywhere. And I mean everywhere, especially in small moments. I promise you, once you start to look; you’ll find it everywhere too.
I am me.
I am also a wife, a good friend, a published author (woo hoo), a yin yogi (another woo hoo), determined, fun, warm, persistent, committed, inspiring, nurturing, strong, kind, curious and much, much more.
I will always be childless, in the same way that I will always be an only child who has lost both parents.
But because of the work I’ve done, I can confidently say that all of these have shaped me, but none of them define me.
I’m Lesley Pyne, I’m childless.
I am me.
What about you?
I’d love to hear what you learned from reading this.
Do you believe that maybe, just maybe at some time in the future, you could consider sharing a photo like this?
If so what words would you like on your image, and in the way I accepted my wonderfulness, how could you make them come true?
What steps could you take to let go of your grief, be more grounded, accept your wonderfulness and tell your story?
And before you go, I want you to know that you absolutely can find your joy. I’ve done it and the 19 other women who shared their story in Finding Joy have done it too.
And here’s a video for extra inspiration. This is ‘This is Me’ from The Greatest Showman performed by Michael Ball at the BBC Proms in the Park and backed by Rockchoir. If you listen closely to the words I know you’ll be inspired, and you might shed a tear or two.
You can download Chapter One of Finding Joy Beyond Childlessness when you sign up to my email list.
You can read book reviews and interviews I’ve done here.