I have been told before by a very talented therapist that I have terribly negative “self talk”. By this, she meant the things we say to ourselves—that tiny little voice we hear when asking ourselves what to do or what is right. Mine has always been negative, not on purpose and not as much as it used to be. But it is sometimes humbling to know that even my own little voice doubts me.
I worry about the choices I have made in my life. What if I hadn’t loved him, moved there, taken that job? What if I had done something wiser, safer, or riskier? What if I had actually believed in myself all these years—what could I have done then?
I know I haven’t lived up to my potential. I don’t know a lot of people that would say they feel they have. I understand that part of that doubt is being Type A, and just being human.
But the biggest issue I wonder about often is children. I am 40, not at all where I thought I would be in my life now. On my own, still wondering what the end result is supposed to look like.
There are days when I am with my friend’s children, or even when they talk about their kids, and I breathe a sigh of relief that I don’t have that responsibility, that burden. Even along with the joy I see, it is a level of accountability that awes me.
However, it is easy to say that from this side of things. How will I feel 20 years down the line? Will I feel a huge loss, a huge emptiness?
From the time I can remember playing with dolls as a little girl, I wanted to be a mom. All through high school and college, I saw myself as a lot of things, hoped things for myself, but being married and having kids seemed a given. I had no idea how much nothing is a given then. How could I? I see kids that are high school and college age, and they seem so much younger than I felt then. And I look at them and think of what I thought then, what I believed were facts and expectations, and I now know that in all their eagerness, their beauty, their yearning—they can’t know. It is too much to know the pain that life can hand you, the disappointment. But it is also too much to know the beauty and the realization of a dream. All are grand in measure, at opposite ends of the spectrum. And however you imagine both with a young heart, the reality is still a shock.
What terrifies me is that, at this moment, I am not ready to be a parent. I am barely keeping myself afloat. But at 40, how the hell am I still here—at this point? Why haven’t I gotten it together? I know I have been given gifts in this life, things about me I wouldn’t change…but it all seems so thrown together—scarcely keeping a shape, held together with remnants of tape and fraying thread.
Most of the time, I tell myself I am really ok with the idea of not being a mom. And the certainty I felt about it so long ago definitely began to fade, not just because of reasoning, but as I saw that I wasn’t going to meet the right person in time. Today, even as I write this doubting all of it, I am ok with that not happening for me. I worry more about the future than I do right now.
But one aching, powerful reality does comfort me. Even in times of great longing to know the joys and bittersweet moments of being a parent, I have felt protective of a child that doesn’t even exist. I know that a child is “of” his or her parents. And to be “of” me is a concern. I believe I am a fairly good person (most days), and halfway intelligent (most days), but the pain I take to heart, and the depth to which I feel things is more than I would wish upon anyone coming new into the world. Even though this child’s upbringing would not be the same as mine was, I am a carrier of that upbringing. I know all patterns don’t have to repeat themselves, but the emotional scars I carry would translate somehow.
So even as I worry or rationalize, fret or envision, the larger feeling is protectiveness. Not wanting to spread the doubting small voice any further. Letting it fade, whisper and end with me.
Artwork by Selma Albasini- "Sometimes I Feel Like a Childless Mother". To view more of her beautful work, click here.