“Here it comes again, my daily weep. I don’t want to cry again. My chest feels so heavy with that all pervading sadness. I’ve worked SO hard over the last 14 years to push everything I don’t want to feel into a box, why can’t I wave a magic wand to keep the lid closed and make it all go away? Then I might at least have some joy in my life.”
They’re an extract from my journal, written in February 2016.
And now, two years later:
“I feel relaxed and peaceful all the time, deep inside and that’s my norm now. I FEEL a lot, there’s so much going on inside it’s like my body and my skin have come alive. I know how to show feelings on the outside too, both sadness and the incredible amount of joy there is in my life.”
That’s a big change, so much so that I can’t put myself in the shoes of the Lesley who wrote those words two years ago.
So what’s my secret?
For thirteen years after we finished IVF I kept stuffing everything I didn’t want to feel into a box. Grief from childlessness; in it went to the box. Grief from losing both parents; in to the box it went. And as a result of this I was numb, not feeling very much at all.
I was also struggling to keep it all together, and the lid would come off at unexpected and inopportune moments: I kept snapping at Roger out of the blue, I felt sad and listless, and regularly burst into tears. On the outside and to most of my friends I was the confident, capable Lesley that they all knew however, inside I was falling apart. And believe me, I tried really hard to ignore what was happening because I didn’t want to take the lid off and investigate what was inside.
People who loved me told me grief was not an enemy, it was a friend. They told me lovingly that I couldn’t outrun it forever; I would have to take my armour off at some point and there was magic in doing so.
After a while I did what has become my norm. I took my courage in both hands and asked for help.
It started in Vegas
Almost exactly two years ago I travelled to Las Vegas to attend a workshop based on Brené Brown’s book Rising Strong and learned—in my 50s—that feelings are called feelings because you actually feel them in your body. It’s not that I hadn’t felt things before, it was simply the first time I connected what happened in my body with what was going on in my head.
It was also the first time in my life that I cried openly and freely, and oh my goodness did I do a lot of it that weekend!
I remember as we worked round the room talking about grief, I felt a real tension in the top of my head and I wanted to flee. The closer it got to my turn, the stronger this tension became. In the past I thought this was the start of a headache and at that moment I realised, no this is what anxiety feels like. For someone who hadn’t connected these particular dots before, you will realise how massive this was for me.
That weekend was the most transformational of my life and it set off a chain of actions which has lead me to being who I am today. (I wrote about my experiences here.)
Learning to feel.
A couple of months after the workshop I reluctantly started working with a therapist. I say reluctantly because, at the time it felt like the last resort, and not something I wanted to admit to. But it was one of the best decisions I’ve made and has changed me in many wonderful ways. My therapist helped me to open the lid and gently rummage round, and I realised that what was in my box wasn’t as scary as I imagined it to be.
I’ve learned to grieve and am now in touch with my emotions and, for the first time in my life I feel so much on the inside and I know how to express emotions on the outside.
I’ve become a Yin Yogi and developed a lovely relationship with my body.
Both my curiosity and creativity have become energised; I’ve tried many new things, found that I love some I used to do and I have a list of others I want to explore.
I am so much more in touch with myself, and life. It’s as though all my senses have been turned up, there is a lot more happiness and joy in my life and so much to be grateful for.
And maybe the biggest change is that deep, deep inner peace and calmness which grounds me and it’s like all the work I’ve done has brought me home to me.
Oh and I’ve written a book about my adventures.
But that’s not the secret.
I understand. You don’t have to do all of this.
You don’t HAVE to do any of this. You don’t HAVE to change. EVER.
Please understand that what I’ve done specifically isn’t important. But what is important is why I took action.
This is the secret.
In the middle of my sadness, sometimes when I became still, I could hear a quiet voice; maybe it was my unconscious, or intuition, an inner knowing. Whatever it was it was telling me:
“You don’t have to carry on like this. It’s time. You don’t have to be sad and carry your grief round like a ball and chain, you absolutely CAN have a fulfilling life without children”
So I took action, and here I am living that fulfilling life. It hasn’t been easy, but it is worth it.
You can have this too.
You can have this too. I am having this life, a number of my friends are, and the women who so generously shared their Inspirational Stories here and for my book are having this life. We’re not special, we are the same as you.
So please believe that you absolutely can have a fulfilling life without children.
I think you know this already. I believe your unconscious, intuition or inner knowing wants this for you.
Perhaps you’re making too much noise to hear it,or maybe you don’t want to listen because, although you don’t like where you are now (and who you are now), staying stuck is more comfortable than taking action.
What’s your choice, dear reader, stay where you are, being miserable or take action and start to move towards the fulfilling life which is yours for the taking.
And if you’re not sure, be still for a few moments and think about this question from Rumi.
So dear reader, what is calling you?
And what are you going to do about it?
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