Tuesday, 26 January 2016

If I ...

If I turn into that person, that shambling undignified wreck who doesn't love living, who is an embarrassment to myself and my relatives.  If I smell of wee, an I drool and there's no joy to be had from anything.  If I'm reduced to feeding from a tube, cannot walk without help, but importantly, if in all this I lose my faculties, my ability to make decisions or to communicate my needs then don't just let me go, please push me.  Push me down the stairs, or give me leave to find my own route of departure head first down a flight.  Don't let me live like this.

But that's not how it works.  Someone may deteriorate, their quality of life may become eroded, their bodily functions carried out by someone else without their say so, wee in a tube, poo hand balled out, but still, we say, they are themselves, they laugh and talk and react and love, still love coherently and truly, and no, we can't push them downstairs.  It's not how it works.

It's a killer.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Much family

Hmm, what was it I forgot, oh yes, to have kids.

This came up on my Facebook recently, someone who sadly has recently found that something which was / is dear to them, having children, wasn't going to be possible.  This isn't really me dwelling on a subject which is, actually, a non issue for me.

I mean that, really.

I have such a sense of "complete" that thoughts of family in that sense very rarely even skitter past like a leaf past the window.  It's probably because I see family in many of my contacts.  My maternal instinct goes into overdrive when I see people in my life struggling, I feel it for the younger bike riders at work, some of the more feckless older ones too.  I have a sense of family with friends who I love with a passion.  My family is way wider than flesh and blood.  There are people in my life who I'd walk through fire for, and who I know will always be there, in one guise or another, ebbing and flowing as friendships do, but will always be my family and there at the end of a phone.

Don't get me wrong, I feel something when I see what friends are up to with their children, but it's that feeling of pride and satisfaction and enjoyment in seeing their happiness.  It's not in any sense envy.  I don't want their children. I don't really want any children.

My friends, I think, view my life similarly.  They don't want my life, but they like seeing me do the things which perhaps they once did or plan to do in the future.  We're just at different places in the pathway at the moment.  There are so many things I've done, and will continue to do that are barely imaginable in a life with children.  How could I have nipped off to New Zealand for six weeks with a back pack, how could I have climbed the mountains I have, taken a camper van out to Europe for weeks on end, done all the cycling and the walking and the visiting places, the being with people, the festivals, the more kind of <out there> living with children in tow.  How would I be holding down a job which seems to be way more than full time, and working in such an amazing place, involved with amazing people, and at the same time living in the beautiful Peak District with an extraordinary man, and at the same time getting stuck in to an Open University degree.  My life is rich, just rich in a different way.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Nearly 50

Gosh, I forgot to procreate.

This morning, a picture appeared on my Facebook feed - my friends, Nicola and Scott and their wee one, aged a few months old (the joy of being a non parent is people don't expect you to be precise about the ages of their off spring).  Her on her back, legs and arms in classic baby posture, smiling.  You can almost hear her gurgling from the picture - she's got an arm up to pull daddy's hair and he's laughing too.  And this kind of thing is bloody lovely and completely and utterly precious to me.  I'm grateful and humbled, and joyful all at the same time that I get to share in my friends' families, even though, sometimes they are a little alien to me.

I love seeing Liz & Ian's two girls, being brought up, it would seem without a clue about gender stereotypes.  They aren't so much tom boys as just their own person.  Being loved for being who they are, and being allowed to be that person.  Somehow the parenting has also managed to prevent these two little darlings from anything approaching rudeness or violence, without stifling their tiny little person abilities to have a true personality, unfettered by what society might expect.  Love watching these two get older.

I love seeing the photos of my Scottish friends twin boys.  They are always doing something together, the family and the kids - there are bikes, snowy hills, skis, and lots of pictures of rosy smiling cheeks.

I love that the daughter of one of my old work colleagues allows me in on her Facebook too.  She's, I guess 22 now, but I've known her since she was 7.  I share a kind of odd pride in this fabulous young woman with her mum.  I know much about the difficult times, and I'm so bloody impressed at how she bounces back, and gets through with dignity.  I know some heart aches, and can't help but want nothing but the best for her.

Then there are the special children - for some are indeed more special than others.  I have a nephew by blood, a nephew by marriage and a godson by proxy.  These are family.  My fabulous nephew, known from his birth, now coming up for 20.  I like to think I've played a part in what he's become and I love his odd 20 going on 40, forthright, determined eccentricity with a passion.  I'm so appreciative that he still wants me in his life.  He's been going on 40 since he was two years old.  My teeny little nephew, the darling little six year old, beloved by both his separated parents, and loved immensely by all his connected family.  He's my mum's only grandson, and yes, we cherish him.  I just hope he can one day lose the worried expression he's worn since birth!  And of course my godson aged 12.  Let's gloss over the fact that for maybe three years I referred to him as the Devil Child.  He went through a difficult stage.  I am hopeful that he'll stay in my life as he gets older too.

Life is richer for the people in it, and for the children, but my life is not poorer for having none of my own, and I'm not protesting too much here, genuinely I don't feel the loss, like I don't feel the lack of a Maserati.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Over 40

Oh bother, I forgot to have children.  Part 2.

So, as the countdown to 40 began in earnest, so too did the biological clock countdown.  There it was, showing Detonation minus 3.  I think I tried to feel something.  At any rate, I tried to look at a serious decision here, and to feel the sense of urgency.  It was time to think about whether to cut the red wire, the green wire, or just let the damn thing explode.  Because as time went by, there were options if I'd wanted them.  There were men, and it wasn't impossible to contemplate a bit of reproduction along the way.  

But, it transpired, there was no sadness at having been childless and at the prospect of that state continuing, there was no feeling of regret, no empty aching hole of a thing.  In fact, there was mostly just curiosity, and only mild curiosity at that.  Now and then I'd let myself reflect - What would I have been like as a mum?  In fact, the prospect of a somewhat later than average childbirth was alarming.  Imagine having a child who, by the time they approached 18, would have a mum of 65.  I mean, I have every intention of trundling along in this life until I hit a grand old century, so was not anticipating leaving them an orphan at too early an age, but the horror of someone potentially having to take on the role of carer, or at least deal with the kind of issues that brings, even if it's finding another way for care.  That's horrifying.  I'm not selfish enough to think about inflicting that on anyone, let alone someone I love.  

So I didn't cut any wires to see which would neutralise this bomb, and when the big Four Zero came bouncing along, there was no explosion, not even a whimper really.  I suspect the whole thing was a dud and a phoney.  

For what it's worth, I'm not sure what I'd have been like as a mum. I suspect tired all the time.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

No kids

Oh my God I forgot to have kids.

Such is the internet's standard phrase for women of a certain age who have reached that particular milestone without children.  There seem to be a few categories for these certain age women to slot into, if they so choose.

There are <career women> - of whom I don't really know any - those mythological beasts who put career before family.  Who are these people, I find myself wondering, and what do they really think.  I find myself feeling this "category" is not really at all simple or clear cut as that.  In fact, I find myself resentful on behalf of anyone being coralled into this particular paddock.

There are those who <never found the right man>.  Again, I don't entirely believe in this as a nice catch all phrase.  There are plenty out there who felt strongly enough about their reproductive yearnings to get on with their breeding regardless of the right man being available.  There's a long list of possibilities out there - it includes test tubes, but also includes the he'll make a good father or any list of permutations.

There are those who can't - are part of a loving couple and for whatever reasons don't.  Because when you live in the world of women of a certain age without children, this is the "category" you meet most often.  Wonderful couples, made up of two likeable adults, who haven't had children.  My friends include those who sadly, and for many, cruelly, for reasons of physiology, cannot.  They include the very brave couples who have decided not to because one or other or both have a mental health battle ongoing which means they have felt that for them, bringing up children will not be fair on the children, or perhaps will not be possible for them, any number of rationales which I thoroughly respect and admire.  It's a brave, brave decision and a self aware one.   Some are simply in love with their lives as they are, and the addition of children is not even a big debated question, just a decision along the lines of where to live, what car to drive.

And where, at 47 years old, do I fit?  This is why I believe that pigeon holing cannot work.  It's simple but complicated, both at the same time.   I always thought I'd be a mum.  At 27 I met my husband to be, and it turned out he didn't want to be a dad.  He was, in fact, almost passionate about his not wanting to be a father, and his reasons were incomprehensible, it was a visceral thing, so the "rationale" didn't actually matter, it was the outcome which was important.  But having stumbled, in this curious and random world, upon my soul mate, the one I couldn't imagine living without, the decision wasn't actually that difficult.  Provided I got to spend my life with him, having no kids was fine, just one of the things you concede when you're in a lifelong relationship.  I put in there the proviso that I was allowed to have some kind of crisis at the point when my biological clock struck the hour where child free was no longer a free choice but a biological impossibility.  Unfortunately (and even as I type that word, I realise it's a mahoosive understatement word), he died before that biological clock ticked round.

So, at 37 years old I was left a widow.  That was interesting (another completely understated word).  Suddenly the decisions made were no longer applicable in a new world.  The world of curiosity over whether there would be another life companion for me was complicated by the question of children.  In theory I was young enough, what did I really want, what would a life companion want, would my decisions and choices become false, forced, would I have to align with what the world around me expected from me.  And what exactly was that?  How could I possibly tell if, now, in these changed circumstances I wished to become the mum I had thought, back in my 20s, I would be?

Dating seemed to have a weird significance.  Instead of casually getting to know someone, perhaps drifting into a relationship, at the back of my mind was always the question of - if something did happen with this man, what would he want from me.  Would he expect me to be a parent?  And indeed, eventually I found myself, tired, jaded, sceptical of the world, only really wanting to date men who had already had children, who had ticked that box, and were really interested in a woman to be their helpmate though the years, and not looking for someone to be a hatchery.

The older I got, the less pressure, the easier things were.  Once the milestone of 40 is passed, then there's a psychological weight removed, society will no longer have an expectation of you becoming a first time mother, although at the same time, if you did, then people will be happy for you.  That's quite funny really, the external perception that you have fulfilment if you become a mother.  Fulfilment, for me, was already present in who I am, what I do, and the people around me.  People are important, but it's not about filling a hole left by childlessness, no, it's stand alone, the warmth and joy of friendship, the sheer celebration in having people around who get me, who love me, who want to spend time with me.  My celebration in having people around me who I get, who I love, who I want to spend time with, want to know more about, to understand, and to laugh and dance with (we're talking a metaphorical dance here).

Since being widowed, my happiest times have been after the age of 40, after the weight of the question of children was removed, no longer an issue, no longer a question, no longer the ghost which haunted me, even when I couldn't see it.  Now 47, and there's not a wraith of wistfulness about the question.  I might not have kids, but I have it all.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Ten Years

Ten years ago today my husband, and if I might give in to sentimentality for a moment, my soul mate, died.

This timeline is a lot harder than it ought to be.  Surely after ten years I ought to in some way be "over" this.  By this, we're talking the grieving, the mourning, the sadness, the gaping holeness, the overwhelming sense of loss.  Surely by now, I ought to simply be slightly nostalgic, perhaps with a bit of a nod at the past, maybe I should be at the lighting a candle stage.  But actually I'm not, I'm still feeling, right somewhere inside, somewhat mortally wounded, or like a bird whose wing has been irreversibly damaged and will never fly again, and only has the option of hopping, never to be able to have the freedom to simply go away, to settle on sunflower seed heads of choice.

I'm beating myself up about this. Surely, surely, I should be over this.  Should not be in the processing and moving on stage, but should have damn well moved on.  All the indicators would suggest I have, in some way.  I've left the marital home.  I've moved in with a new life partner.  I've changed, I've learned about me since I was left alone.  I'm not the Alison I was, I understand the changed Alison better, and made my own decisions, choices, let myself flower indeed.

I feel guilty sometimes about the change, although at the same time, there's a quiet pride in how I've let myself become a Me of the present, I've not clung onto things which were forged in a past by a couple.  I've let the things which were perhaps more Dave than me, go.  I've allowed myself to experiment, without a jot of peer pressure.

But it's still hard.  The guilt is threefold.  I am guilty of not having got over it.  I am guilty of forgetting some of the past, and I am guilty for having feelings for the past when I have a present, and a partner who somehow deserves to have all of me, not just part.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Inner Parent

My inner parent is a bitch.  She just yelled at me "Step Up".  Which, although good advice, was not delivered in a nice way.  Parents have a lot to answer for.

It is said, in psycho babble terms, that your inner voice echoes the kind of parenting you received as a kid.  I sometimes think I do quite well to function in spite of it all.

Childhood seemed quite nice, but now when I say things to friends which were insignificant and seemed normal to me, I get that look.  The WTF look.

Apparently some of these things are not considered to be normal or kind.

  • making me learn piano even though I wanted to learn drums or guitar - on the grounds that I could not be trusted, aged 10, to remember to take my musical instrument to school on the days I had lessons.  
  • not allowing me to ride my bike to school, despite my younger sibling being allowed to ride his. I wasn't considered safe.
  • telling me I didn't deserve to have nice things.  I still have a doll in a box which my nan brought back from China.  I wasn't allowed to actually play with it because mum thought I'd break it.

My inner parent is a bit wayward, and I try to remind her that being a parent is about nurturing your child not destroying all confidence it ever had.  Sometimes, though, the strength of her upbringing can't help but break through.