What you’ve been through in the past few years has changed you and you will have gained some qualities you didn’t know you had. You might not want them, but they were hard won, so why not use them in your life?
I write about this in Finding Joy Beyond Childlessness: Inspiring Stories to Guide You to a Fulfilling Life and here’s a selection of some of the ways some of the storytellers describe how they’ve changed.
Lisa Manterfield. I’m stronger and more compassionate than I was.
August. I am a more balanced, self-aware, self-loving version of me. I have learned more about myself going through these hard years than I think I ever would have without them, and … I am grateful for the wisdom and insight it has eventually brought me.
Jody Day. I am kinder, more patient, more compassionate and more empathic with all who suffer.
Enza Gandolfo. I feel stronger and surer of myself and less concerned about what people think about me.
Cali Bird. For me, it’s a profound gift of happiness.
Linda Rooney. I’m so much more in touch with myself now, my emotions, my talents and yes, even my flaws.
Liz Ascham. I’ve gained strength and compassion.
I continue to be surprised by how different I am now
As I wrote the final chapters of Finding Joy…, I explored how I’ve changed, both as a result of coming to terms with childlessness and also as I dug deep into the work of each chapter.
Then last weekend I was at a workshop with Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love and Big Magic and one of the women I find most inspiring) where we wrote letters to and from various parts of ourselves including fear, enchantment, trust and persistence.
Persistence is a quality I never previously identified with and here’s how Liz defined it. She explained that it is the life force that keeps us going and gets us through times when we could have given up. Other words we could use are ‘tenacity, resolve, staying power, or continuing to do things even though they are hard.’
Looking at it this way, it turns out that persistence got me through a lot. It encouraged me to do everything within my power to become a mother, and when that didn’t happen it suggested I find others in the same situation. It gave me the staying power to sit through both my parents’ illness and death, and mostly it gave me the resolve to work through my grief so I could come out the other side.
This was a big revelation to me, so much so that when Liz asked who now realized persistence had been with them in their life, my arm shot up on its own and, before I knew it, she gave me the microphone and I was telling my story to the whole room (1000 people).
My final sentence was persistence saying ‘I’ve been here all along, you never noticed me before.’ Which Liz repeated and added ‘it doesn’t get better than that.’
As you might expect, this was huge for me, and I’ve spent the past few days percolating and absorbing this new quality, understanding how it’s been with me all along and how I might use it in the future.
What’s the energy of persistence?
I’ve decided I like the energy of persistence, to me it’s positive, strong and determined, and underneath there’s a voice, or an inner knowing telling me that, despite obstacles I might encounter, this is my path. And perhaps counter intuitively it also comes with a healthy knowing that sometimes you can’t do everything on your own and it’s okay to ask for help. Like this poem from Mark Nepo it’s the voice encouraging me to be the explorer.
So thank you persistence for encouraging me to keep writing so soon I will become a published author and hold my book in my hand.
About a year ago I almost stopped writing because the voices in my head were shouting loudly ‘you can’t do this, what you’re writing is no good….’ etc, etc. And maybe I would have stopped but persistence said ‘keep going because you want to help other women, to hold the book in your hand, and you certainly don’t want to let down all the storytellers who have agreed to be part of it.’
At my lowest ebb, the voice of permission entered the scene to allow me to ask for help. And the help I received at that time changed me more than anything else.
You might guess that this was the time I started my personal yoga lessons with my beautiful teacher and friend Emma Peel. The day after my first session I wrote that I knew something magical was going to happen in her classes, that ‘there will be more tears and more to let go of, and it will be wonderful.’ I couldn’t have predicted it better if I’d tried; I’ve let go of so much and there have many tears, and also a lot of laughter.
I also had two Clean Language sessions with Sheryl Andrews. They are two of the strangest conversations I’ve ever had but they unlocked so much and mostly uncovered the fear that was holding me back. Until then I hadn’t appreciated how much fear was driving both my writing and my life so giving it a voice and bringing it into the open took so much of its power away.
As I look back to what I wrote in my journals at this time I realise just how important these two events and people were to me and how working with them has shaped me and my writing.
So I thank persistence and that voice inside for keeping me going when I could so easily have given up.
What about you?
Do you recognise yourself in my story?
What qualities and strengths have you gained, and which of those have been unnoticed until now?
And what role has persistence played in your life, what has it got you through?
I encourage you to spend a few moments considering what strengths you might have gained. As you say each word, feel how it resonates in your body and the energy which comes with it. For example for me the energy that comes with patience is frustration and negative, so I don’t like it and much prefer to call myself determined.
Here’s a selection of words to get you started: strong, compassionate, kind, understanding, confident, comfortable in my own skin, spiritual, more balanced, self-aware, self-loving, less concerned about what people think, more in touch with all of myself, more realistic, optimistic, contented, accepting of what is, curious, creative, courageous, caring, supportive. And I ‘m sure you can think of plenty more.
Go back and read the quote by Hemingway, notice he says ‘many’ not ‘all’. What would it take for you to be one of the many, and if you listen, what is the voice of persistence calling you to do?
This is an edited extract from my book, Finding Joy Beyond Childlessness. You can read book reviews and interviews I’ve done here.
I’d love to hear from you if this resonated in any way (please leave a comment below).